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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Northwest Territories Prohibits Transgendered Discrimination

[YELLOWKNIFE, CA] - The Northwest Territories has become the first region in Canada to prohibit discrimination against transgendered people.

As part of the territory's new Human Rights Act, a person cannot be discriminated against because of their gender identity.

Brendan Bell, the member of the legislative assembly who headed-up the committee that drafted the bill, said it seemed only logical to including gender identity in the new law.

Zoe Raemer, a spokeswoman for OutNorth, the Territories' gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights group, said she is happy with the new legislation.

"I think it's a very positive step, and the government of the Northwest Territories is showing real leadership in this area," Raemer said.

"We didn't have to argue to get sexual orientation or transgendered included in the list of prohibited grounds."

A transgendered person is anyone who is born one gender, but feels they are of the other gender.

This includes people who have had a sex-change operation and those who live their lives as the opposite sex without surgical change.

John Fisher, executive director of EGALE, Canada's national transgendered rights group, hopes the N.W.T. law passed last week will lead other provinces to take action.

"The inclusion of this ground sends a message loud and clear: discrimination against transgendered people is just plain wrong, and must end," Fisher said.

"Hopefully, this initiative by the Northwest Territories will encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit."

While most members of the legislature were in favour of the change, North Slave member Leon Lafferty wondered if the law would give transgendered women the right to use a men's washroom.

"I sort of have a problem," Lafferty said. "How we can protect people and their privacy."

But, Katherine Peterson, the legislature's legal counsel, dismissed Lafferty's question.

"I would think that it's appropriate for the employer to require that you use the facilities appropriate to your biology," Peterson said. "And until that biology changes through the miracles of science that's a reasonable requirement."

The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Commission have both recommended that discrimination on the grounds of gender identity be prohibited.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has implemented a policy to accept complaints based on gender identity, although it has not been incorporated into law.

In addition to extending rights to transgendered people, the new bill bans publication of hate materials and extends protection from discrimination to grounds of social condition, political belief, political association and family affiliation.

The next step in the N.W.T., Bell said, is to set up a human rights commission -- a task he expects to take at least a year to complete.

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