'Political correctness authoritarians have narrowed the scope of acceptable thought and discourse,' politician says
By Deborah Gyapong
Caption: Senator Don Plett
As Senators began debating Transgender Bill C-16 Nov. 28, a Conservative Senator is urging his colleagues to give the legislation a "thorough and rigorous vetting process."
However, as Senator Grant Mitchell led off debate, all five Senators who spoke, including Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, praised the legislation. Senator Duffy and Senator Mobina Jaffer cited examples of children who believe they are a different gender than their biological sex, asserting the legislation will protect them and give relief to their parents.
Senator Mitchell took aim at those who decried the subjective nature of gender identity. "There is also the argument that transgender identity is too subjective a concept to be enshrined in law because it is defined as an individual's deeply felt internal experience of gender, yet we of course accept outright that no one can discriminate on the basis of religion, and that too is clearly a very deeply subjective and personal feeling," he said.
Senator Mitchell defined "diversity, inclusion, acceptance and understanding" as "core Canadian values.
"And yet, in what we all hold to be a remarkably open and inclusive society, transgender people face an extreme level of exclusion, discrimination, prejudice and violence," Senator Mitchell said.
The Nov. 28 debate was adjourned and could resume again any time within the next 15 days, as along as any Senators wish to be heard. Senator Don Plett will be among those raising concerns about the bill.
In a Nov. 21 statement to the Senate, Senator Plett noted Bill C-16 passed third reading in the House of Commons with no recorded vote Nov. 18. It had passed the House Justice Committee with no public hearings.
"Political correctness authoritarians have narrowed the scope of acceptable thought and discourse in terms of academia, and by extension the general public," Senator Plett said.
Bill C-16 would add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Similar provincial legislation such as the Ontario Human Rights Act is interpreted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to mean it would be discriminatory in places of employment or education to not use the pronoun adopted by a transgender person.
"Legislation that has serious implications on freedom of speech, and for the first time in Canadian law, compelled speech, cannot be passed so flippantly without thorough public discourse, debate and consideration," Senator Plett said.
Senator Plett cited the example of University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson who has emphasized the importance of speaking and acting in truth. Professor Peterson, an expert in the psychology of totalitarianism, has warned compelling people to use terminology that violates their conscience or their common sense is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes.
"I challenge my colleagues to not be silenced by baseless character assassination, to not be silenced by those who want to throw out labels of bigotry and new phobias dreamt up (every other week) in social science departments in order to silence dissent," Senator Plett said, urging those who find the topic "difficult" and who oppose it behind closed doors to "let your voices be heard."
The Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA Canada) wants to ensure Senators hear the voices of Canadians opposed to the legislation. It has published a Policy Report for Parliamentarians on its website http://www.arpacanada.ca that outlines the concerns Christian citizens and organizations have about gender ideology and its potential harm for those with gender dysphoria, especially young people.
"We can protect people against bullying, harassment, and violence without embedding contentious, unscientific, 'progressive' gender ideology in law," says the ARPA Canada site. "We simply cannot affirm that everyone has 'the right to define their own gender identity' and to have others affirm them in that."
"We do not consider 'behaviour that reinforces traditional gender norms' (leaving out bullying and other cruel treatment) to be ignorant or confused," ARPA says. "Refusing to use 'non-binary' gender pronouns such as 'ze, zim, zer' is not bullying or harassment. We cannot set aside the truth that people are male or female. It would be unloving to do so."
The ARPA policy document urges state actors to "maintain the scientifically accurate term 'sex' based on biological reality. It opposes any sexual reassignment surgery on children under 18, noting those who have the surgery have higher rates of suicide. The practice should be abandoned for adults as well, ARPA says.
It also opposes all hormone treatment of children. ARPA's document says parents should be informed by educational and medical authorities when a child is struggling with gender identity.
The state must provide "ample room for civil society to respond to this issue," it says.
"Parents, the medical profession, churches and other community groups must have the freedom to address gender dysphoria in their families and communities without threat of enforced ideological conformity by the State," the policy document says. It urges provinces to abandon laws that make it illegal to help those with gender dysphoria identify with their biological sex.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is monitoring the Bill C-16, which affects federal jurisdiction, including crown corporations and federally-regulated sectors such as banking and telecommunications and would prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
"Gender identity/gender expression has already been legislated or read in to most provincial human rights codes," said the EFC's director of public policy Julia Beazley in an email. "Most areas of potential conflict for the EFC's constituency would arise at the provincial level. Our focus has been on helping affiliates respond to the issue under provincial legislation as this is where it would be most likely to impact churches, camps and schools."
While the EFC believes everyone should be protected from expression advocating genocide or inciting hatred, Beazley raised concerns the Criminal Code provisions "not impact the freedom of religious organizations, institutions, communities and individuals to maintain and express their understanding of human sexuality."
"We want to be sure that there is no potential that teaching or expressing differing/religious views on gender and sexuality could be criminalized," she said.