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B.C. Human Rights Commissioner says trans rights ‘not up for debate’

Govender issues statement prior to rallies across B.C. opposing SOGI curriculum, related policies
Kasari Govender, B.C. Human Rights commissioner, here seen speaking after releasing the final report on her inquiry into hate during the COVID-19 pandemic in Vancouver in March 2023, has issued a statement that says the human rights of trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people are not up for debate. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

B.C.’s human rights commissioner Kasari Govender says the human rights of trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people are not up for debate, full stop.

“Denying the existence of trans and gender diverse people — including calls to erase trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people from our province’s curricula — is hate, and hate should have no place in our community or in our schools,” Govender said.

“Trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people don’t just have a right to exist — they have a right to thrive, to be loved and to have their human dignity recognized, represented and respected, as we all do.”

Govender made these comments as part of a statement denouncing a series of planned rallies Sept. 20 across B.C. and Canada. Their organizers calling themselves 1 Million March 4 Children say they are “advocating for the elimination of the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

Several counter-rallies are also planned and a number of organizations including BCTF and BCFED have issued statements of support for SOGI curriculum and solidarity with 2LGBTQ2SAI+ communities.

They also have received support from Premier David Eby.

“Without hesitation, I denounce threats, hate and violence against 2SLGBTQIA+ communities,” he said in responding to a letter from BCTF’s president Clint Johnston. “We are seeing a concerning rise in incidents where trans people are being targeted with threats and violence in person and online.”

Eby also addressed students.

“We may not have met,” Eby said. “I may not know your name and I may not know your favourite music, but I want you to know this: I accept you for who you are in every way. My job as premier is to ensure you all have a safe learning environment, so you can pursue your dreams.”

A 2023 poll by Ipsos found almost eight out of 10 Canadians believe transgender people should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing and access to businesses.

Looking across the globe, Canada has consistently ranked among the strongest supporters for trans-rights, behind leaders such as Spain and Argentina, but ahead of other western countries, including the United States, where a coalition of religious voices and their political allies in the Republican Party have passed a rising, increasingly restrictive number of laws aimed at trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people.

RELATED: Advocate calls for supportive policy and funding ahead of Transgender Day of Visibility

However, recent months have seen several development that have caused alarm within Canada’s trans community and its allies.

Despite warnings of violating Charter rights, New Brunswick’s government has restricted the rights of children under the age of 16 to use their preferred first names or pronouns at school and the recent policy convention of the federal Conservative Party saw delegates pass a series of resolutions (and presumably future government policies) denounced as anti-trans.

According to Statistics Canada, of the nearly 30.5 million people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household in May 2021, 100,815 were transgender (59,460) or non-binary (41,355), accounting for 0.33 per cent of the population.

Govender touches on the universal aspects of protecting trans rights in her statement.

“When we stand together against anti-trans hate, we stand together against all hate,” Govender said. “In recent years, trans people have become the focus of a surge of disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate. This is not only about hate on the basis of gender identity; these rallies are an affront to human dignity, expression and rights for all of us.

I condemn these rallies for their attempts to erase and marginalize trans and LGBTQ2SAI+ people. In our schools, in our communities and across our province, there is no space for hate.”

Govender paired her statement with an appeal to Eby to implement a dozen recommendations following the release of a report into the causes and solutions to hate.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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