Vancouver (Feb. 23, 2011) - Vancouver Board of Education trustees, on February 21, voted unanimously in favour of Vice-Chair Jane Bouey's motion of support for Bill C-389, which adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The bill also adds gender identity and gender expression to the Criminal Code sections dealing with hate speech and sentencing for crimes where hate was a motivating factor.
The motion states the Board will express this support to senators, who are considering this bill now that it has passed third reading in the House of Commons.
Chairperson Patti Bacchus expressed pride in the board's motion: "Our Board is acutely aware that the recent Canadian study by Egale Canada, determined that 95 per cent of transgendered students feel unsafe at school, and that two out of five are actually physically harassed due to their expression of gender." She also pointed out: "the majority of students who are harassed for their gender expression actually identify as straight."
Gender expression can be as simple as wearing pink. Pink Shirt Day started when two Grade 12 students in Nova Scotia - David Shepherd and Travis Price - heard that a Grade 9 student in their school had been harassed, threatened and called a homosexual for wearing pink on the first day of school. Shepherd and Price bought 50 pink shirts, and e-mailed friends to get them on board. The next day, hundreds of students showed up wearing pink clothing. It then became a provincial phenomena, Canada-wide campaign, and is now an internationally recognized day.
"Students who don't feel safe find it difficult to learn, and often drop out," Bouey said. "That is exactly why in February 2004 the Vancouver School Board passed groundbreaking policy that all students and employees, whatever their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to learn and work in an environment free of discrimination and harassment.
"I was proud to participate in the development of that policy at the time. Our Board is one of very few across the country that lists gender identity as an area of protection for students, and staff. But once transgendered students leave our schools they are guaranteed no protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act or under the Criminal Code."
The motion urges the Senate to consider how Bill C-389 will make Canada a more welcoming, safer, and inclusive place for all citizens, particularly for transgendered youth who may constitute a small minority of the Canadian population but disproportionately drop out of school because of harassment and may then face poverty, discrimination, harassment and hate-motivated violence.
For more information, contact:
Trustee Jane Bouey, VBE vice-chair: 604-345-4246