Trans Equality Now: Canada’s unions call for urgent action

November 20, 2023

Canada’s unions mark Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) by calling on the federal government to implement all 29 recommendations from MP Randall Garrison’s White Paper on the Status of Trans and Gender Diverse People, published earlier this year. The 29 recommendations will advance the civil, political, and socio-economic status of trans and gender-diverse peoples in Canada. 

TDOR is observed every year on November 20. This year’s TDOR theme “Trans Equality Now” highlights the urgent need for legislation that protects the trans community and advances their rights. Trans and gender-diverse people are experiencing ongoing and increasing levels of violence and discrimination, including a push by conservative politicians for dangerous and discriminatory legislation. 

“Right-wing decision-makers are using dog whistle tactics to attack trans and gender-diverse people. They’re using human rights as a wedge to distract voters from their failure to deliver relief on the very real affordability and other challenges facing Canadian families,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “But while they play politics with people’s lives, the impact of their actions is very real and dangerous for trans and gender-diverse people, especially young people. The federal government has a duty to uphold trans rights in Canada, like they promised to do in Bill C-16. Without concrete action to put these measures into practice, they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” 

In 2023, there has been a significant uptick in legislated transphobic violence, namely, the rise of so-called “parental rights” policies and legislation in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which undermines the safety of trans and gender-diverse children. Governments in Ontario and Alberta have expressed interest in similar legislation.  

“These governments are setting an alarming precedent, made worse by other Conservative leaders across the country looking to copy them. In Saskatchewan, Scott Moe went so far as to use the notwithstanding clause to push through this regressive legislation,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the CLC. “This shows that he knows what he’s doing is not only wrong, it’s unconstitutional. We need urgent action at the federal level to protect trans and gender-diverse people from further attacks by leaders who are stripping away their human rights.” 

Here in Canada, and across North America, we’ve also witnessed a marked increase in violence against diverse gender expression, like  right-wing protests and threats aimed at shutting down drag-queen story events and targeting schools, school boards and libraries. 

Along with discrimination, trans and gender-diverse communities also face staggering social and economic disparities. In 2020, trans women and men were more likely to experience poverty than their cisgender counterparts, and more than 1 in 5 non-binary people lived in poverty – more than twice the national rate. Poverty, housing and food insecurity are among the key contributors to poorer health outcomes. These outcomes are even worse for trans people of colour.

Last year, the government released Canada’s first-ever 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan, and while this was a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done. 

“It’s not enough for federal leaders to acknowledge what is going on; they need to act. We know that 2023 has seen unprecedented anti-2SLGBTQI+ legislation and violence globally,” said Bruske. “Trans and gender-diverse people in Canada can’t afford to keep waiting. The federal government must take concrete steps to address these issues, now.” 

Get involved:  

  • Sign the #TransEqualityNow petition to tell the federal government they must act now.  
  • Learn more about how to support trans people in your workplace by downloading the CLC’s Workers in Transition Guide

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