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NDP MP accuses Conservatives of sabotaging transgender rights bill

OTTAWA - The New Democrat MP behind a bill to protect transgender Canadians from discrimination is accusing a group of Conservatives of trying to sabotage the legislation through procedural stalling tactics.

Randall Garrison's private member's bill was sent back to the Commons from the Justice committee this week unamended and without an official report, despite efforts by the NDP, the Liberals and Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay to strike a compromise.

Garrison accused the other Conservatives on the committee of running out the clock in order to ensure the compromise did not get reported back to the Commons.

"I was very disappointed because I sought compromise across the aisle, we worked with members on the other side, and had enough votes in committee and in the House to pass this bill," Garrison said Tuesday.

"A few members chose to use the procedures to frustrate that process."

The legislation would change the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

Garrison brought forward changes to the bill so that more Conservatives would support it, removing the term "gender expression" and providing a definition for gender identity. Those amendments passed with the help of Findlay.

But ultimately those changes were not reflected when the bill was sent back to the Commons on Monday after 60 days at the committee.

Last Thursday, Conservative MPs opposed to the bill brought up several objections and procedural questions that ate up most of the time allotted for clause-by-clause consideration and votes.

One Tory MP who doesn't normally sit on the committee, David Anderson, attended the meeting and took up large chunks of time raising objections to the definition of gender identity.

"Many of the definitions we hear are being made up by those who lobby on this; they're not definitions in law and they're not found in legal documents," said Anderson.

Colleague Brent Rathgeber also challenged the definition, saying it would be difficult to determine whether someone was actually a transgender person.

"With respect to gender identity, I challenge the sponsor of the bill to differentiate between individuals who are genuinely in need of this protection and I readily admit those individuals do exist and individuals who might raise it as a matter of convenience," said Rathgeber.

Some Conservatives and the socially conservative group REAL Women Canada have suggested pedophiles might take advantage of the legislation to lurk in women's bathrooms, later using the defence they are transgendered.

Garrison said he drew the definition of gender identity from principles laid out in international law.

Ultimately, the committee's last meeting on the bill ended without MPs being able to conclude their clause-by-clause study.

It will be up to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to decide whether he'd allow the same amendments passed at committee but never reported back to be raised again and debated in the Commons.

"It's clear that both sides feel the bill can be improved," said Liberal MP Sean Casey. "Why we would send it back to the House without having a chance to discuss those amendments is frankly beyond me."

Conservative MP Kyle Seeback reminded the committee that the opposition tried to tie up a government law-and-order bill in committee by debating it for nine hours.

"I find it quite rich for someone to be saying that what is happening here today is frivolous and vexatious."


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