Transgender Bill C-16, which is expected to pass the Senate before Christmas, will step on religious freedom and free speech, says editorial. Photo courtesy of Krisa Kals, Wikimedia Commons

Editorial: Transgender Bill C-16 is on the wrong track

By 
  • December 8, 2016

Beating the Christmas rush in Ottawa this year seems to mean wrapping up new transgender laws in time for the holidays. It’s hard to find anything merry about that.

The way Bill C-16, the Transgender Rights Bill, is being sprinted through Parliament is alarming and perplexing. Alarming because there seems little consideration of the bill’s potential threat to religious freedom and free speech. Perplexing because of nods from opposition benches which, while politically safe, do injustice to voters who expect Parliament to exhaustively review and robustly debate any legislation that even hints at trespassing on Charter rights.

Bill C-16 is ostensibly designed to make it illegal to discriminate against people who reject their birth gender in favour of a self-declared gender identity, and it extends hate-speech laws to encompass gender identity and gender expression. All people, of course, should be able to live free from hate, discrimination and violence, but Bill C-16 adds gender to human rights and hate-crime laws in ways that suggest it may become illegal to reject transgender theory or refuse to address someone by their preferred transgender pronoun. These pronouns include not only the traditional he and she, but variations on these and, we assume, whatever pronouns may be coined in the future.

What all this means for people who, for faith or other reasons, refute gender theory is unclear. Deliberate acts of hate and discrimination are one thing, but there are questions, for instance, about how this law may impact religious families, communities and educational institutions that teach God created man and woman. Period. That notion is opposed by gender theorists who promote the politically popular social construct that people, including children, should decide for themselves if their gender is male, female, neither or both, a theory refuted by the current and past pope.

“My concern,” MP Cathay Wagantall told the House of Commons, “is that dissent of any kind will be construed as hate speech and could subsequently lead to Human Rights Tribunal hearings or, worse, criminal charges being laid.”

Wagantall unsuccessfully sought a clear answer to the question of whether families would “have the freedom to teach their children and practise their beliefs without being accused of hate speech or being accused of human rights violations?”

Hopefully religious freedom will be respected, but who knows where this is going? That’s why this law seems rash. There are serious unanswered questions. Bill C-16 seems poised to receive a Senate rubber stamp, perhaps before Christmas, without proper hearings and debate.

Eliminating discrimination and hatred are worthy goals, but they should be pursued in ways that raise all human rights, not elevate some at the risk of devaluing others.

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