Cheri DiNovo

Cheri DiNovo

File this one under “unintended consequences” for Lesbians, Gays, and Women’s Rights advocates living in Ontario. MPP Cheri DiNovo announced Friday that bill C-389, “Toby’s Act”, the 2012 bill she sponsored which intended to protect the rights of transgender persons, actually makes all same-sex gatherings illegal in the province. This will come as some surprise to many lesbians and gays who often exercise their rights to assemble freely in meetings, conferences, and social groups with other same-sex persons.  In addition, DiNovo claims the right of Ontarian women to assemble in any same-sex gatherings: whether they be reproductive rights orgs, Islamic faith gatherings, or lesbian support groups- has been eliminated by her bill. She has appealed to the Ontario Human Rights Council to back up her legal position.

DiNovo made her announcement in response to male complaints surrounding a small group of feminists holding a female-only meeting in a Toronto art gallery. DiNovo characterized same-sex meetings as “reprehensible” and vowed to use Toby’s Act to eliminate and prosecute current and future same-sex gatherings of women or lesbians in the province. “I’m hoping that now under Toby’s law, this will be considered illegal.”

Somehow I doubt this was the intent of the women, lesbians and gays who supported DiNovo and the passage of Toby’s Act. Like Washington State’s Colleen Francis using that state’s non-discrimination act to exercise his “right” to expose his penis to schoolgirls in women’s locker rooms, Toby’s Act had the unintended consequence of eliminating the rights of women, gays, lesbians, muslims, feminists, to hold same-sex gatherings. Presumably this also eliminates the rights of transgender people to assemble in sex-segregated meetings, although DiNovo has not yet clarified that point. Planned Parenthood Toronto sponsored “Breaking Through The Cotton Ceiling” seminars for transgenders to strategize how to convince lesbians to accept sex with penises. The “cotton ceiling” in that case referred to the underwear of lesbians. These public meetings were restricted to male transgenders only.

Canada faces another set of unintended consequences with Bill C-279, the Federal Gender Identity Act, which is set for a vote in the next legislative session. This bill, like Toby’s Act, purports to eliminate discrimination based on “Gender Identity”, which is the right to identify with the social role of the opposite sex.  Obviously this proposed new legal “sex-role” status is problematic for those – such as feminists and progressives- who believe stereotypes based on sex are antiquated, sexist, offensive, (not to mention they sanction inequality for women and girls). Many feel the government should not promote the belief that citizens should look/behave/think certain ways based on our reproductive sex (or our identification with the opposite sex). But what are the other, specific, legal consequences of Bill C-279, which like the erosion of women’s and gay rights to assemble caused by DiNovo’s Toby’s Act, might not become apparent until after the law is passed?

According to Senator Nancy Ruth, the first lesbian Senator in Canada, we already know what some of the unintended consequences of Bill C-279 will be. From the DailyExtra:

“Women and girls in Canada are not protected from hate speech under the Criminal Code, and this bill does not rectify that when it could,” Ruth said.

 “For 35 years, across numerous bills, Parliament has told the girls and women of Canada that, despite alarming rates of violence against girls and women, violence that typically includes hate speech, they are not worthy of protection,” she explained.

 “The omission is not an oversight. In 1985, the federally appointed Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution said that there was ‘ample evidence’ indicating women were the targets of hate material. The committee recommended that the Criminal Code hate laws be amended to extend protection to women, but no Parliament has done that. Why? I have spoken before in this chamber about this gap in the law,” she continued.

 “This bill will privilege men who choose to become women over women who are born female,” Ruth said. “While I do not question the good intentions of the sponsor and the supporters of the bill, I simply do not understand how they could advance this bill without including all women. Passage of Bill C-279 will mean that only if a woman is born a man who later chooses to identify as a woman will she receive protection, but a woman born a woman will not receive the same protection.

Senator Ruth has proposed an amendment to Bill C-279 which simply maintains “sex” as a protected status along with “gender identity”. This will prevent sex-based protections for women from being eliminated by Bill C-279, in the way that Toby’s Act inadvertently eliminated the legal rights of women and lesbians to free assembly.

Senator Nancy Ruth

Senator Nancy Ruth

Women of Canada must not lose human rights in order to protect the rights of transgender people, due to sloppy lawmaking. The battle to reclaim women’s human right to assemble- that DiNovo claims was lost by the passage of Toby’s Act- will now start its long winding legal trail towards correction, after the fact. With Bill C-279 we have an opportunity to correct an unintended consequence before it occurs, and we have a lesbian Senator making a stand for our rights, right now. Do not leave her standing alone. She needs your support on this issue. Please organize to support Senator Ruth’s amendment now. Create awareness of the issue among women’s groups and legislators. Write letters to the editor. Contact her office and ask what you can do to help.

Let us protect the rights of all Canadians. Including the rights of Women and Girls.


[bolding by me-GM]