Election 2015: LGBTI rights at home and abroad — Canada’s major federal parties respond

This is the first in a series of blog posts being published by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ahead of Election Day on October 19, 2015.

Recently, we sent a questionnaire to the five major federal parties, asking their position on key questions related to HIV and human rights. Four out of five parties responded. Their responses are shared here, along with our comments. See www.aidslaw.ca/election2015 for more information.

5 October, 2015

In Canada, the human rights of trans people are still being violated, including through lack of access to appropriate health care, denial of appropriate identification documents, and ongoing discrimination, harassment and violence. Meanwhile, legal protection against discrimination and violence based on gender identity or expression is still incomplete under Canadian law.

Around the world, at least 80 jurisdictions still criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy, and many more have other laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In many parts of the world, LGBTI people are routinely arrested, denied basic job protections, health care, housing and parental rights, while many have been brutally attacked, tortured or even murdered. In 2015, we came together with a group of civil society organizations in Canada to form the Dignity Initiative, to strengthen both international solidarity work by Canadian civil society groups and Canada’s foreign policy commitment to defend human rights for LGBTI people internationally.

We asked major political parties if they would

  1. support full legal protection in Canadian federal law against discrimination and hate crimes based on gender identity or expression; and
  2. endorse the Dignity Initiative’s Call to Action and work to implement its recommendations. Here is what they said.

All the parties that responded were in support of federal legislation that protected the rights of trans people:

  • The New Democratic Party recalled that it was an NDP MP who introduced Bill C-279 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination and recognize hate crimes motivated by transphobia. The NDP said that, if elected, it would “pursue these changes.” 
  • The Bloc Québécois recalled that it voted in favour of the bill and will “continue the fight against discrimination and hate crimes based on gender identity or expression.” 
  • The Green Party went further, saying it will not only amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to prohibit gender identity and gender expression as grounds for discrimination, but also repeal “the shockingly homophobic section 159 of the Criminal Code.” (That section maintains a discriminatory age of consent for anal sex on the books, and should be repealed; it should be noted that it has been declared unconstitutional by a number of courts across Canada.) 
  • The Liberal Party of Canada made no specific reference to Bill C-279 but mentioned that “our Leader has committed that a Liberal government will introduce government legislation that will ensure that Trans rights are defended fully and completely.” 

On the matter of global efforts to protect the human rights of LGBTI people, the Green Party, Liberal Party and the NDP all expressed support:

  • The New Democratic Party said it “supports the Dignity Initiative’s effort to spur such urgently needed international pressure.” 
  • The Green Party provided its explicit endorsement of the Dignity Initiative’s Call to Action and mentioned specific actions it would take to defend human rights for LGBTI people abroad: “Our efforts must include building relationships with activists and defenders of LGBTI rights, exerting diplomatic pressure where necessary to ensure LGBTI rights are respected, and supporting LGBTI refugees.” 
  • The Liberal Party promised to “work with groups like the Dignity Initiative to protect and promote human rights around the world.” 
  • The Bloc Québécois mentioned neither the Initiative nor its recommendations. 

The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to the questionnaire.

For more information: