How bill C-16 is promising to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ Canadians
November 28, 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an unprecedented apology to the LGBTQ+ community in an address to the House of Commons. The verbal statement presented by an emotional Trudeau spoke to name a Canadian history of “state sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection” according to his address, but the apology didn’t stop there.
He continued on expressing his apology and with this apology comes 145 million dollars in compensation. 110 million of which is dedicated to the “compensation for LGBT civil servants and 15 million for historical reconciliation, education and memorialization efforts” according to a CBC news report written by Kathleen Harris.
The official government apology not only acknowledges a “collective shame” for the mistreatment of LGBTQ+ communities over the course of Canadian history but more optimistically, represents a hopeful “turning point” for the protection of LGBTQ+ by the Canadian government.
Trudeau commented that prior to recent advances in policy to protect LGBTQ+ citizens, “our laws made private and consensual sex between same sex partner a criminal offence, leading to unjust arrest, conviction and imprisonment of Canadians.” Trudeau, whose apology follows his comment to the UN General Assembly earlier this fall that Canada is “a work in progress” represents a responsibility to the intentional and uncompromising protection of LGBTQ+ individuals under Canadian Legislation.
Of course with every announcement there is scrutiny and this responsibility does not appear to be taken genuinely by some. Andrew Scheer a Conservative MP and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons commented that, “it is fashionable today to look down on the past.” Regardless of the trendiness, the government is reconciling and acknowledging past wrongs, and crimes. What this apology represents and enacts are not merely limited to words.
Bill C-16 is not just a bill. “It is a long overdue statement of the formal equality of trans and gender binary Canadians” according to Brenda Cossman and Ido Katri of The Globe and Mail.
This Bill whose status declares that it “has received Royal Assent and is or will soon become, law." Bill C-16 is “an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights and the Criminal Code.” The amendment will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, effectively protecting citizens who identify, as LGBTQ+ from hate speech and other such criminal activities. “Provided by the hate-speech and hate-crime provisions of the criminal law.”
The Bill passed a third reading in the Senate in June of last year after being introduced a year prior. In that light, Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology and admission of guilt on behalf of the present and prior Canadian government is not a first step, but rather a turning point that represents a series of steps and a commitment to future steps.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant declared that “it’s very important that we start here, but that we don’t stop here.” Bill C-16 is then perhaps an excellent indicator that such progress won’t stop there. All this to mean that the political progress on LGBTQ+ affairs is not just empty words and photo ops. It’s legislative, it’s validated by federal and provincial governments, it’s real.