Controversial Gender Pronoun Laws In Canada


Jordan Embrey, Writer

There has been a lot controversy recently surrounding a bill passed in Canada. I’ts called Bill C-16 and it puts gender expression and gender identity into Canada’s human rights code. The idea is to keep people from discriminating against LGBT people. Sometimes people intentionally call transgender people by the wrong pronoun, which can make them feel harassed or invisible. This bill is attempting to prevent this by criminalizing gender-based harassment. The controversy surrounds the fact that even if someone unintentionally calls someone by the wrong gender pronoun they can be punished.

Since the passing of the bill, people can be accused of a hate crime and be fined or even serve jail time for using the wrong gender pronoun. Someone with positive intentions could accidentally call someone by the wrong pronoun and could be accused of something as serious as a hate crime. Cases of this are already occurring in Canada, for example, The Independent says a teacher was suspended and faces a disciplinary hearing for calling a transgender student a girl instead of a boy. The teacher claims that she was not given instruction for what pronoun to refer to the student as, but because of the bill, the teacher can face gender-based harassment and could be fired. There are many different opinions on this subject and now people are talking about whether or not this law should be implemented in the United States.

Student Reed Player said, “I think the bill is a good idea, although there need to be some changes before other countries start adopting it. The way the bill is written seems to allow people who make honest mistakes to be punished, which defeats its intended purpose. So I think if some changes were made I would support the United States adopting this bill.” 

Student Will Spiegel said, “I do not agree with the bill. I think that too many people will overreact and say that they are being harassed. I also think that it will not bring light to the people who are actually having serious problems with harassment. So, for this reason, I think that the bill should not exist in the United States.” 

A transgender woman, who chose to be anonymous for this interview, said, “I believe, the law does 3 things: 1. Not let someone discriminate based on “gender identity or expression” in a federally regulated industry. 2. Add “gender identity or expression” to the human rights code as well as the hate crime category. 3. Add “gender identity or expression” to section 718.2 of the Criminal Code. Basically, this says the courts should take into account if you commit a crime (like assault) based on “gender identity or expression” just like how if you assault someone just because they are black, it’s a hate crime. So if you saw me on the street in Canada, and called me dude or man, while I was presenting as a female, this law is not meant to penalize your free speech. If we were in court and you used a hate term (calling me dude or man or sir) purposefully, I’m sure the judge would correct you and advise you to be professional and follow the law of respecting my pronouns. I honestly wish we had that law in Alabama (Cali does have protections) as a trans-feminine person. Gender identity or expression should not be prohibited grounds of expression. In California, I cannot be denied housing, employment, or medical treatment because I am transgender, but in Alabama, I can.  And that sucks, because that lack of protection is what keeps me in fear for my job, safety in my apartment, and keeps me in fear in public places.  I worry about my physical safety, being harmed or disrespected or publicly embarrassed because of my gender identity.”

There are obviously many different views on this subject. According to Huffington Post, a poll taken in Canada shows that 84% of Canadians agree with the Bill; however, this is a new bill so only time will tell if it is successful in the intended objective of lowering discrimination.