Canada May Ban Anti-Transgender Speech With 2 Years in Prison

(Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, February 8, 2016.

Canada's Liberal Party government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced a bill that would ban transgender discrimination, including both gender identity and gender expression, with up to two years in prison for violators.

The bill seeks to amend the Canadian Criminal Code to expand existing "hate speech" prohibitions to include any public speech or communication that "promotes hatred" on the basis of "gender identity" or "gender expression," and also the Canadian Human Rights Act, to cover transgender people.

"As a society, we have taken many important steps toward recognizing and protecting the legal rights for the LGBTQ2 community – from enshrining equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act," Trudeau said in a speech, announcing the bill on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17. "There remains much to be done, though. Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination, and violence for being who they are. This is unacceptable."

He added: "To do its part, the Government of Canada today will introduce legislation that will help ensure transgender and other gender-diverse people can live according to their gender identity, free from discrimination, and protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes."

In July, Prime Minister Trudeau plans to march in the Toronto Gay Pride parade.

"This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination," the bill's summary reads. "The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence."

The draft of the bill is reportedly inspired by an unsuccessful proposed legislation defending the rights of transgenders which was tabled last year by lawmaker Randall Garrison from the New Democratic Party, which is secular and pluralistic.

Canada's law already bans anti-gay "hate propaganda."

In 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Christian street preacher for distributing fliers denouncing homosexual behavior. The court justified the conviction on the grounds that he used "vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred" against homosexuals, according to The Daily Caller. The court held that the pastor's religious freedom did not excuse him from violating "hate propaganda" laws.

In the United States, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released a legal enforcement guidance in December 2015 saying business owners who fail to call transgender people by their preferred name or pronoun or bar them from using opposite-sex bathrooms may be fined as much as $250,000. The "guidance" also outlined various actions that should be considered violations of the New York City Human Rights Law and listed the consequences for businesses that violate the law. If businesses refuse to call transgender employees or customers by preferred newly created pronouns such as "ze/hir," or if they refuse to call a biological male "her" or "she," they will be liable for paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.