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Budget 2023

Inquiry--Debate Adjourned

October 17, 2023

Hon. René Cormier [ - ]

Rose pursuant to notice of Senator Gold on March 29, 2023:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future, tabled in the House of Commons on March 28, 2023, by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on March 29, 2023.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today on the occasion of 2SLGBTQI+ History Month to speak to Inquiry No. 5, calling the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled A Made‑in‑Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future.

Tabled on March 28, 2023, the budget announced the creation of a new action plan to combat hate, which includes measures to combat hateful rhetoric and acts to build more inclusive communities, a measure eagerly awaited and essential to 2SLGBTQI+ communities in Canada.

According to the UN, hate-related incidents are on the rise and reflect a global trend. The main culprit in this very worrying phenomenon is hate fomented online, specifically on social media. According to the thematic report by the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, over 70% of those targeted by hate crimes or hate speech on social media are from national ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and gender minorities.

Unfortunately, Canada is not immune to this trend. According to recent Statistics Canada data, hate crimes reported to police and committed on the basis of sexual orientation increased by 64% between 2020 and 2021.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the data don’t take into account crimes targeting gender identity or gender expression, nor the fact that daily hateful attacks and microaggressions on social media are all too frequent. These attacks are often found inadmissible by the police, but they’re nevertheless very damaging.

Why is this hatred growing? Disinformation, lack of education, prejudice, fear, intolerance and polarized discourse are certainly some of the factors behind this phenomenon.

In Canada, the current polarization, disinformation and intolerance surrounding the rights of trans children and young people are real vectors of hatred. It is extremely troubling, but not surprising, that this debate is framed as a fight that pits parental rights against the rights of trans children.

This is precisely the rhetoric used by the American “Save Our Children” movement led by singer Anita Bryant in the 1970s. This movement was formed to abolish measures preventing discrimination against gay men and lesbian women in Florida.

The completely disturbing statements made by this movement at the time — such as “. . . homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit. . . .” — had repercussions beyond the borders of the United States, and unfortunately still resonate in 2023.

Currently, it is mainly the group Moms for Liberty that is fuelling this rhetoric in the U.S. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, this is a far-right group that identifies itself as part of the modern parental rights movement.

In Canada, this movement is spearheaded by Action4Canada, an organization that played an active role in two controversial measures: New Brunswick’s revised Policy 713 and Saskatchewan’s parental inclusion and consent policies.

According to Action4Canada:

The LGBTQ have been hijacked by radical activists who are attacking the core freedoms and rights of all Canadians. . . . Their objective is forced compliance and acceptance of their adult sexual proclivities and ideologies.

This group claims that sexual education hurts minors and threatens the traditional family unit. It claims to act on behalf of our children’s well-being.

If there’s one thing to rally around, colleagues, is that not the well-being of our children?

Instead of considering a child coming out at school instead of at home as a parental failure, let’s think about the ways in which we can help families be safe and loving spaces that nurture the development of every child, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Of course, it is absolutely legitimate for parents to be involved in their children’s development, but let’s not lose sight of the cornerstone of that development: the children’s safety and well‑being.

Also, instead of focusing on the negative consequences of gender-affirming care, let’s recognize that exploring one’s gender identity is an integral part of child development and let’s enhance the positive aspects of this care.

Zakary-Georges Gagné, a two-spirit person, transfemme and francophone who works on creating safe community spaces for Indigenous and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, said the following, and I quote:

For young people and adults alike, having access to gender‑affirming care, simply knowing that we can access it, is an immense source of support.

To me, having access to gender-affirming care means having access to greater safety and the power to identify myself with confidence and pride in every space I occupy. To many, having access to this care is life-saving.

Let us not forget that the recognition of a child or young person’s identity, whether gay, non-binary or trans, is an important factor in their well-being, and that questioning the existence of trans identity is extremely damaging and can lead to hate speech towards these young citizens.

Colleagues, let’s not forget that in 2016, through Bill C-16, the Parliament of Canada recognized the diversity of gender identity and gender expression by amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

In addition, every province and territory has laws that cover discrimination on certain grounds, including gender identity and sexual orientation, and has adopted other measures to protect sexual and gender minorities.

New Brunswick, the province I represent in this chamber, adopted a policy in 2020 aimed at making schools more inclusive.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with young queer people at the Université de Moncton who shared moving personal accounts of the positive effects of this policy.

Here’s what one young person had to say, and I quote:

When I came out as a trans person in high school, the support of my teachers and classmates was monumentally beneficial to my mental health. Things weren’t going well at home, so school quickly became my safe haven.

However, the Government of New Brunswick amended its Policy 713 last August to make it more restrictive and to require parental consent for first name and pronoun changes at school.

What can be said about the Government of Saskatchewan’s worrisome Bill 137, which has the same objectives and invokes the use of notwithstanding clauses for certain provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code?

Honourable senators, yesterday, I met with the mother of a trans child who is also a teacher. She spoke with great emotion about the learning curve she experienced when her child told her that he was trans and described the hateful comments he had endured.

After a long journey as a mother and a teacher, here are the three things that she learned and that she shares with all parents and teachers.

She said that parents must truly listen to their child as they express the real suffering associated with their coming out.

Parents must also educate themselves, look for information and accompany children on their journey. Schools and some community organizations that work in this area can provide support to parents who ask for it.

Finally, she said that teachers must clearly identify themselves as allies if they want to properly support trans children and listen to them when they talk about the challenges they are facing in announcing their gender identity to their parents.

This mother and teacher told me that teachers who have identified themselves as allies support trans youth in their journey toward talking to their parents when they feel safe doing so.

There are solutions, colleagues, to reassure worried parents and ensure the health and safety of trans children. There are solutions to counter the growing hatred in our country against the 2SLGBTQI+ community. This will undoubtedly require education and more action, and, as parliamentarians, we must speak out. Silence is not an option.

In this context, I welcome the future action plan to combat hatred that the federal government announced in the 2023 budget. This plan is needed for all Canadians. I hope that substantial funds will be available for its implementation.

In conclusion, I cannot pass over in silence the intolerable hatred and violence suffered by 2SLGBTQI+ people in refugee camps in Kenya and elsewhere, and I vigorously denounce the humanitarian disaster and the barbaric crimes currently occurring in many parts of the world.

Colleagues, let us work together to fight hatred and bring peace to our schools, families, our communities and in the world. Thank you, meegwetch.

Hon. Flordeliz (Gigi) Osler [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Inquiry No. 5 and the need to bring visibility to hatred towards 2SLGBTQI+ people and communities.

To start, let me share with you a moment in time that speaks about the impact of language. It was fall 2019, and I was giving a keynote address at a national medical meeting. I began the address by introducing myself as Dr. Gigi Osler and that my pronouns are she/her.

After I got off the stage, a colleague who was in the audience told me they had witnessed the person in front of them turn to the person beside them and say, “I never heard that before,” when I used my pronouns.

At the time, and still to this day, I am unclear if the person didn’t know what I meant when I used my pronouns or if they truly had never heard someone introduce themselves as she/her. Nevertheless, I was struck by how those five words — “My pronouns are she/her” — could start a broader conversation and raise awareness about how using gender identity terms such as pronouns can signal courtesy and acceptance.

In Canada, the acronym 2SLGBTQI+ represents two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex — and the “I” of intersex considers sex characteristics beyond sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — and, finally, the “+” includes people who identify as part of sexual and gender-diverse communities who use additional terminologies.

“Cisgender” refers to a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. “Transgender” refers to a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Although “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research defines “sex” as:

. . . a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. . . .

Sex is typically assigned at birth and is usually categorized as female or male, typically based on external anatomy.

In contrast, gender is a social construct. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research defines “gender” as:

. . . the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender identity is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time. . . .

Inclusive language matters when it comes to countering 2SLGBTQI+ hate. A 2022 research study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined suicidality among sexual minority and transgender adolescents in Canada. The study found that compared with cisgender heterosexual adolescents, transgender adolescents showed 5 times the risk of suicidal ideation and 7.6 times the risk of suicide. The authors highlighted the need for inclusive prevention approaches to address suicidality among Canada’s diverse youth population.

Words matter because lives are at stake.

Both the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Medical Association recognize that gender identity is a health issue and that people’s expression of sexual orientation and gender needs to be supported.

While Budget 2023 supports comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and education through the commitment of $36 million over three years to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Fund, more intentional commitments to counter rising 2SLGBTQI+ hate are needed.

Finally, I offer congratulations to Logan Oxenham, who is believed to be the first openly transgender person elected to the Manitoba legislature in the October 3 provincial election. MLA Oxenham wants to use his first-hand knowledge of navigating the health care system as a transgender man to bring about positive change. Transgender and gender-diverse people have long been under-represented in political office at all levels of government, and he wants to “. . . amplify voices who have traditionally not been heard in places such as the legislative building.”

The election of a transgender MLA provides much-needed visibility and representation for the transgender community in Manitoba. It sends a powerful message that transgender individuals can and should be active participants in the political and decision-making processes that affect our communities.

Bringing visibility to hatred and discrimination against 2SLGBTQI+ communities is an ongoing effort that requires the active involvement of individuals, communities, organizations and government bodies. By raising awareness, recognizing the root causes and implementing solutions, we can strive for a more inclusive and accepting society in Canada.

Thank you, meegwetch.

Hon. Andrew Cardozo [ - ]

Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to join the discussion on 2SLGBTQI+ rights as raised in the last federal budget.

I want to take this opportunity to address a very specific policy here in the Senate, which is the recent decision by the Long Term Vision and Plan working group to have gender-neutral washrooms in the new and renovated Senate buildings. While surprisingly there has been some resistance, I am pleased to observe that the mainstream of the discussion was squarely based in the year 2023, and not in 1923.

I want to be as clear as possible as a senator in this chamber: I’m in favour of gender-neutral washrooms.

These washrooms will accommodate transgender Canadians and gender non-binary Canadians, the common word being “Canadians.”

As a bonus, as with most forms of accommodation, many other Canadians will benefit from and appreciate the measure. I speak of this as if it were the brand new invention of the private washrooms. Here is the thing. While accommodation is always a good thing for the reasons of human rights and respect, it almost always benefits other people beyond those who need it most.

Let me give you two examples. Back some 30 or 40 years ago, when buildings and sidewalks were being built to be more accessible to people in wheelchairs and those with mobility challenges, I became acutely aware that these measures were of great assistance to parents with young children. While I stayed home to raise my kids for a few years when they were little, there were countless times when those facilities made it possible for me as I lugged around two little kids and a stroller.

Facilities for people with disabilities greatly assisted all parents and caregivers of young children, who are much larger in number than those using wheelchairs. By the way, we are still not at 100% in terms of accessibility.

As a second example, when I was at the CRTC, one of the initiatives that we were working on was television closed captioning for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Today, subtitling on television remains a very successful program that pays for itself through advertising and sponsorship, and it is widely used for the benefit of all who are patrons to bars, pubs and restaurants, as well as gyms and health centres. So, colleagues, the next time you find yourself reading subtitles on a TV screen at an airport, remember to thank the pioneers of this service — your fellow Canadians who are deaf and hard of hearing.

I will suggest the washrooms that accommodate “others” was probably a raging debate in this Parliament a century ago, two years after the first woman was elected to the House of Commons and seven years before the first woman was appointed to the Senate. The debate for an appropriate number of washrooms for women has been going on in the decades since, but I can just imagine the male fragility that yelled and hollered about having to give up their washrooms for their female colleagues, who they probably didn’t believe belonged in Parliament to begin with. And here we are, 100 years later, and at last we have a solution. It takes us a while, but we can get it done.

I want to congratulate Senator Tannas and the Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee as well as Senator Moncion and the Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee and all other senators who have approached this with openness and respect.

I’d like to make one last point on minority rights, and this is my plea to all parliamentarians. Let me paraphrase what President Biden said a few days ago about hate. There is some deep hate in our society at all times that is just under the surface and just needs oxygen to give it life. In our debates as parliamentarians, let us be careful not to give oxygen to the darker forces in our society.

I understand that we are often dealing with issues that are new to some, complicated or threatening. As parliamentarians, perhaps we can do our best, when discussing complex and emotional issues, not to feed the darker forces in our society, even if it could bring short-term political benefit to some of us.

To those who don’t like the idea of a gender-neutral washroom, I say: Come on; join us. Let’s be respectful and welcoming to all, be they parliamentarians, staff or visitors. Parliament is the home of all Canadians, not just some Canadians. Trust me; you’re going to like the private washrooms. Thank you.

Hon. Mary Coyle [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to share my concern and some thoughts about the rising incidence of hate toward 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada, and children in particular, by speaking to Inquiry No. 5, which draws attention to Budget 2023 and, in particular, the importance of the development of the National Action Plan on Combatting Hate.

Honourable colleagues, last Thursday, a headline in The Economist magazine declared, “The culture wars have come to Canada.” The article was about the so-called parental rights movement’s influence on education, laws and policies in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, which take rights to privacy, safety and health away from trans children and youth and put educators in a very difficult position.

Colleagues, honestly, I am still shaken from my own encounter on September 20 with the front line of the divisive and polarizing culture wars. As I was trying to cross Wellington Street to get to my East Block office, I came across two groups of people separated by lines of police officers. On the south side of Wellington Street were people dressed in rainbow attire with signs encouraging people to teach love, not hate; to protect trans kids; and stating that trans rights are human rights.

In Canada, we know gender identity and gender expression are prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. So I was okay. Across the street, on Parliament Hill, were people who had come to protest as part of the 1 Million March 4 Children. There I saw signs like “Boys, boys, girls, girls;” “Hands off our kids;” “Parents know best;” “Democracy not dictatorship;” and “Leave the kids alone.”

This may seem innocuous, but there was a dangerous subtext. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, by using a phrase like “parental rights” — which many parents would find natural and unobjectionable — as a stand-in for anti-trans rights and anti-child rights, the movement drives not only anti-2SLGBTQI+ activists but also concerned and misinformed parents to endorse that philosophy and join that movement.

I was profoundly disturbed by what I was witnessing. It felt dangerous for 2SLGBTQI+ people and kids. It felt dangerous for parents who appeared to be caught in a web of deceit, and it felt dangerous, frankly, for Canada.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a Queen’s University expert on extremism says:

Anti-COVID stuff and anti-vaccine stuff was like a bug light to so many different movements. And now all of those movements are listening to whatever that next issue was going to be, and following it.

He predicted the shift to 2SLGBTQI+ issues. In that Toronto Star article, Bruce Arthur wrote that “protests like this are like a thermometer of societal health, and the fever is rising.”

In their article, “How the ‘parental rights’ movement gave rise to the 1 Million March 4 Children,” Professors Mason and Hamilton of Mount Royal University explained how the parental rights movement is not new. In the 1970s, in the U.S., “parental rights” and “protecting the children” mantras were used to oppose protections against discrimination for lesbians and gay men. Today, that “parental rights” movement in the U.S. is fuelled by Moms for Liberty, a known anti-government extremist organization with ties to White nationalists, including the Proud Boys. Groups like Action4Canada have taken up the parental‑rights torch in Canada. They are calling for the end of inclusive curricula and restricting the use of chosen names and pronouns in schools.

The two groups behind the 1 Million March 4 Children are Family [Heart] Freedom, which targets educational content on sexual orientation and gender identity resources, and the Hands Off Our Kids organization, a moniker clearly meant to evoke grooming and pedophilia, which is protesting so-called LGBTQIA+ ideology, whatever that is, in schools.

So, colleagues, what do we do about this? First, we need to listen to the people most at risk of harm and act accordingly. Alex Harris, a transgender student in New Brunswick, said the protests and discourse are creating a scary and dangerous environment for queer students. While his parents are supportive, he knows other kids who would be at risk of physical abuse or being kicked out of the home if they came out to their parents.

Second, we need to call out the people and organizations leading the so-called “parental rights” movement, shine a light on their true agenda and debunk the disinformation they are feeding to parents.

At the same time as we do that, though, the Canadian Anti‑Hate Network warns:

Framing all parents who desire to be actively involved in their children’s lives and who are personally troubled by the idea of another adult knowing things about their child that they themselves do not, as bigots and bad parents, does not help schools be safer . . . . It only drives them further into the . . . “Parental Rights” Movement.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network suggests that we focus on shared values, such as all children deserving to be safe and supported, and therefore, if all children deserve to be safe and supported, we should all think about the needs of the most vulnerable when we make policies that affect them.

The third point is the importance of communicating clearly the evidence about sexual orientation, about gender identity and expression and about measures that work to make our schools and communities safe and inclusive for everyone. Thank you to Senator Osler for starting us off with some of that evidence today.

Fourth, and importantly for all of us here in this room, is the matter of politics. The last thing that vulnerable children and youth need is to be pawns on a political chessboard. In writing about the Saskatchewan situation, The Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne said this:

But then this isn’t about the parents, or the children. It’s about politics. It’s about pandering to obscure fears and broader resentments . . . .

Colleagues, I change my tone now when I say that I also concur with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association when they say:

In Canada, people are compassionate and decent; Canadians care about rights and freedoms, about evidence-based policy, and about the well-being of children.

I was so happy to hear that, today, in the Nova Scotia Legislature, many members from all parties spoke about protecting the rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people in that legislature. That’s wonderful news.

Honourable senators, it’s time for us all to stand with our 2SLGBTQI+ brothers, our sisters, our children, our grandchildren, our colleagues and our neighbours. Let’s come together in unity here in this upper chamber of Canada’s Parliament to pledge right now our commitment to respecting and upholding their rights as dictated by the laws of our land — and because it is the right thing to do.

And let’s ensure that Canada does not get dragged deeper into someone else’s culture wars. Let’s make sure the government develops a robust anti-hate action plan with effective mechanisms to combat any current and future threats to the safety, well-being and rights of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians.

Honourable senators, I hope you will all agree we need a Canada where everyone can flourish without fear. Thank you.

Hon. Rebecca Patterson [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today on Inquiry No. 5, which calls the attention of the Senate to the 2023 federal budget entitled, A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future. You will find that my comments dovetail very nicely into what my colleagues have said.

In this budget, the government proposed to introduce a new action plan to combat hate by the end of the year. However, we can’t pick and choose who will be excluded and left to be targeted by hateful conduct.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, gender identity or expression is protected against hateful conduct. This includes 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, which is why they must be included in this plan.

As many of you are aware, there are ever-increasing reports of targeted threats and violence against the community, particularly transgender people. Here in Canada, we have seen 2SLGBTQIA+ people attacked. We have seen protests against drag storytime, pride clubs in schools and even the raising of pride flags. We’ve seen the erosion of young people’s ability to safely self-identify. These all stand in stark contrast as reminders that we must remain vigilant in protecting society’s most vulnerable.

Senators, most of you have heard the term “woke,” which was originally used by the Black community to refer to being aware of racial and social injustice. However, as we’ve recently seen, wokeness has been used as a label to attack 2SLGBTQIA+ rights as divisive or extreme. Those opposed to the fundamental rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ citizens often label themselves as anti-woke.

I spent my previous career upholding the rights of Canadian values at home and abroad, and I ask you the following: When is it ever okay to deny a fellow Canadian their rights because they don’t fit into a heteronormative, cisgendered identity? Every Canadian has the right to live as their authentic self.

Thank you.

Hon. Brent Cotter [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Inquiry No. 5 to draw attention to the budget entitled A Made‑in‑Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future.

Specifically, I want to speak to the importance of the national anti-hate action plan announced in the 2023 budget, and its impact on 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.

I enjoy hearing myself speak — it’s conceivable that some of you do as well, but I think you and I would be better off today if I didn’t, and instead listened to the thoughtful, insightful and moving remarks on this issue being delivered by senators in this place. I’m honoured today more to be listening than to speak.

This is an issue that is both deeply personal and profoundly universal for many of us. As we gather in this chamber, we must recognize the urgency of the matter and the responsibility that we bear — as representatives of the Canadian people — to give voice.

The human rights of all individuals are universal and indivisible. As stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Yet, for many in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, this fundamental truth remains elusive for them. Hate crimes, discrimination and violence against these individuals persist, both within our borders and beyond. In 2022 alone, the Trans Murder Monitoring report indicated that there had been 327 deaths globally — 95% of those murdered being trans women. Most of these victims were marginalized, further underscoring what we already know: Hate manifests most among those of us who are pushed to the edges of our societies.

Canada is not immune to these challenges. A 2020 study in Canada found that trans Canadians were more likely to experience violence and inappropriate behaviours online and at work. In 2023 alone, we have witnessed hate-motivated vandalism of pride flags, hate-fuelled protests and even the exclusion of pride flags from municipal properties and from the tape on hockey sticks.

Sadly, this past year, we’ve also seen a significant and insidious rise in the politicization of discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity of Canadian youth. Some of you have spoken to this already. Several provinces have rolled out or are considering legislation targeting the treatment of gender‑diverse youth in our education systems, and I want to primarily speak about young people in the remaining part of my remarks.

My sense is that this politicization of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens is concerning and, indeed, unacceptable. A study was pointed out to me by Senator Cormier, which helps to illuminate this concern. It was a study of student wellness for New Brunswick. It polled students from grades 6 to 12, or children aged 12 to 18 — those are hard years for many of us, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

I want to read out a few sobering findings, if I may: The first will be the average response among students, and then the response provided by LGBTQ2+ students. Students were asked if they felt lonely most or all of the time. The average response rate was 28% said yes. For LGBTQ2+ students, 51% felt lonely most or all of the time. These are messages of alienation and vulnerability, I think.

With respect to difficulty sleeping most or all of the time, the average was 65%. For LGBTQ2+ students, it was 80%. In regard to the ability to communicate in the communities, and if people in those communities can be trusted, 55% of students said yes. Of the LGBTQ2+ students, 42% said yes. In regard to if you can ask for help from neighbours, the average was 66%. For LGBTQ2+ students, it was 53%.

In every one of these cases, there was a statistically significant difference in the wrong direction for support for these vulnerable young people. The evidence is clear, and the need for heightened protection of minors has been clear even in the Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence, which has stated unequivocally that “Recognition of the inherent vulnerability of children has consistent and deep roots in Canadian law.”

Let me offer an aside: You hear this debate between parental rights and children’s rights, and maybe the argument being advanced is that somehow parental rights should trump children’s rights. Well, let me tell you what we do in every province in this country: We have laws that protect children — I have an audience of one back here.

Thank you, Senator Simons.

We have laws, so much so that it is an obligation that if you — as a citizen in this country — discover that a child is in need of protective services, you are obliged to report that to the authorities. If you fail to do so, you commit an offence. So be damned with this line of argument that somehow children’s rights have to be modified.

In this society, to our credit, we place them on a very high pedestal, and we should not stop.

Senator Cotter [ - ]

Internationally, Canada has been a vocal advocate for the rights of marginalized communities, and we’ve engaged constructively at both bilateral and multilateral levels, worked closely with civil society organizations and supported international assistance programs that advance the human rights of queer and transgender people.

Yet, as we reflect on these statistics and our efforts, are we doing enough? It seems to me that the answer, unequivocally, is no. We must do more.

This is why I want to, once again, highlight the importance of consultation with the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in the development of the national anti-hate action plan announced in the budget. Through this work, and the work of so many Canadians, we will create a Canada where every individual is free to be themselves, particularly for young people to grow up to lead fulfilling lives without fear or prejudice.

Thank you.

When cold and calculating Republican strategists began using anti-trans rhetoric as a wedge issue in American politics, whipping up imaginary fears about trans women lurking in bathrooms, or fears about library books turning straight kids gender-queer, I rejoiced that we lived in Canada, where, I naively believed, such craven and cowardly politics would never take hold.

When I looked to Britain and saw trans-exclusionary feminists, including the once-beloved children’s writer J. K. Rowling, of all people, attacking trans rights, I felt grateful to live in Canada — a country of inclusion and compromise, where gender identity and expression are protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But, as I look out now upon Canadian streets, where protesters are tearing down and stomping on rainbow flags, when I look at Canadian social media, where people are equating LGBQT activists to Nazis, my heart sinks.

The furor being whipped up around this question is shocking and scary. The angry, hateful protests in our streets are bad enough. The paranoid and despicable actions of certain provincial premiers who are willing to run roughshod over Charter and privacy rights, the better to posture as “family values warriors,” are, in their way, even more frightening.

Can you imagine the anger and disgust that the late Peter Lougheed would feel to learn that his notwithstanding clause is being used — not to protect provincial rights, but as a pre-emptive threat to bully and intimidate literal schoolchildren?

In Canada, no school board is taking away parental rights. No caring teacher, or librarian or school counsellor is forcing, or luring or seducing Canadian children into being trans. Gangs of queer activists are not roaming the country lopping off teenagers’ breasts or genitalia.

In Canada, with its public, not-for-profit health care system, no one is making money by tricking kids and parents into getting hormone therapy or top surgery. Canada’s physicians tend to be conservative — in the best and most honourable sense of the word — and in this country, no families with underage children are being rushed or pushed into gender-affirming care. No dramatic medical steps are taken without lots of psychiatric and medical assessments and lots of therapy and conversations.

The “save the children” rhetoric being weaponized so recklessly by anti-trans protesters and their allies, on both the left and the right, is the rhetoric of the moral panic — of the witch hunt. It’s the same language that was everywhere in the public discourse during the “satanic panic” child abuse scare in the 1980s.

It’s the same language used at Salem, or when medieval peasants worried that their children were going to be stolen by the Roma or the “fair folk.” And it’s language that anyone of Jewish descent should recognize with a shudder — because it is the precise vocabulary of the anti-semitic blood libel, the thousand-year-old canard that Jews kidnap Gentile children to use their blood in religious rituals. In no week more than this week should that shock and horrify us.

No wonder the Anti-Defamation League in the United States has documented evidence of anti-trans hate campaigns that explicitly link the trans movement as part of a giant Jewish conspiracy. Telling people that their children are in danger, that some menacing, mysterious group of outsiders wants to steal or mutilate, or somehow convert their kids — my friends, that is propaganda with a pedigree: a dark and bloody pedigree. For thousands of years, across cultures and continents, it has been the go-to tactic to incite a mob.

And it works, because it plays on every parent’s darkest terrors. Of course we love our children. Of course we want to protect them. Of course we want to ensure that they share our values, that they conform to our hopes and dreams for them.

But we cannot let hatemongers turn our love for our children, and our fears for their happiness, into a political weapon to divide our country. And we cannot let partisan operatives, who don’t even truly care about the issue but who see it as a handy political tool, exploit vulnerable children and their families as a way to win votes.

I have not always been comfortable with the ambivalences of this issue. I owe a lot to my daughter’s friends and to my friends’ children who identify as non-binary, gender queer, gender fluid, two-spirited and trans. I’ve come on a journey with them, watching them fight for their rights, their identities and their mental health. And I’ve watched their parents, my friends, wrestle with their own confusion, doubt and discomfort.

The gender binary is so engrained in our popular culture. It’s the first thing we ask about any baby: Is it a boy or a girl? The idea that someone could be either, or neither, or both confounds us because most of us were brought up in a binary world. I’ve watched and seen some kids playing with identity, experimenting with their pronouns, names and presentation, exploring the limits of gender norms and then deciding that they’re not trans or gender queer at all.

You know what? That’s okay, too. Adolescence should be a time to experiment, push limits and ask hard questions about who you are.

For some people, this is probably just a phase, or a fad, or a way to challenge their parents. And you know what? That’s also perfectly fine. However, for many, gender transition has been a literal life saver — something that has given them peace in their own bodies, has made them know themselves for who they truly are and saved them from depression, despair and self-harm. Who are we to begrudge individuals that right to individual choice?

Now, I am a fairly ordinary and boring middle-aged “cishet” woman with she/her pronouns. Perhaps I’m not exactly conventionally attractive and perhaps, because I dare to do conventionally masculine things like, say, give speeches, write newspaper stories, have opinions of my own, or — gasp — be a senator, I have been bombarded for years and years with transphobic hate on social media and in my email inbox, a truly never-ending stream of people who think it clever social commentary to compare me to a drag queen or a trans woman. It is hateful. It is hurtful. It never stops. And I am, as I said, a “cishet” senator, with all the privilege and social protection in the world. I can scarcely imagine how much more frightening and hurtful such attacks are if you are queer or trans, and when they come not from mean strangers on the internet but from real people in your real life, especially if those people are members of your own family.

When we talk about not “outing” gender-queer teens by revealing their pronouns to their parents, that’s what we’re talking about here. We’re not just protecting kids who aren’t quite ready to talk to their families, who are sorting through their own confusion and trying on different identities. We’re protecting youth who might legitimately fear physical abuse or even homelessness.

My friends, these are not easy questions. They are complicated and emotional, and they speak to the core of human identity: what it means to be human; what it means to be a parent; what it means to be a family.

In a multicultural, pluralist country, where freedom of religion is also a protected Charter right, we need to have careful, thoughtful, heartfelt conversations around these issues. That is precisely why partisan tactics, designed to foment fears and anxieties around trans identity and parental rights, particularly targeted at immigrant and religious communities, are so corrosive and so dangerous.

We won’t be able to negotiate these difficult moral and ethical questions if we’re caught up in a moral panic, blinded by our fears or manipulated by those who want to play us off against each other to serve their own dank ambitions.

Thank you. Hiy hiy.

Hon. Stan Kutcher [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support of the development of a national anti-hate action plan that was announced in Budget 2023.

I want to thank my colleagues for speaking out on this issue today, and I want you to know that it is a privilege to be able to stand here with you.

I, like many Canadians, am significantly concerned about the rise of hateful rhetoric, including public displays of hate speech toward 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada.

In September, demonstrations held across this country amplified discriminatory, harmful and false messaging about 2SLGBTQI+ adults, youth and children. Most of these messages contained disinformation that has been regurgitated for decades to advance political agendas that resist social progression and respect for basic human rights. One happened right outside my office, and I and my staff were dismayed by the slogans being chanted and the signs being held.

Following the demonstrations, Senator Cormier and I filmed and released a video on social media, denouncing these hateful messages. We shared a message of kindness, compassion and support for 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians and their families. We spoke about the rights of all Canadians, regardless of whom they love and how they identify.

On Twitter, our message of allyship was met with some of the most hateful responses I have personally experienced. Although there were many, I will share one comment about me, left on Senator Cormier’s post, and I will censor certain words and ask you, colleagues, to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Let me assure you that your imagination may not go to the places the actual words did.

Look at these two [blank] clowns! Just absolute [blank] mongers. Stan, you are a dirty, filthy, [blank]ing pedophile. You are a vile, worthless [blank]ing loser. You know it too, you know that you are an absolute piece of [blank]ing [blank].

Colleagues, according to the United Nations, hate speech is:

. . . any kind of communication . . . that attacks or uses . . . discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group . . . based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.

The Canadian Criminal Code defines public incitement of hatred as “. . . communicating statements in any public place . . .” that “. . . incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace . . . .”

This comment on our video was only one of many that met these criteria.

I am deeply concerned about two things. The first is the digital technology that allows this kind of hateful language to be posted in the public space without regulation, without consequences and, perhaps, even encouraged. Indeed, my staff registered complaints about a number of similar posts, only to be told that they were considered to be within “normal” limits of the use of this platform.

Colleagues — really? This type of hate speech is considered to be “normal”?

Secondly, I am deeply concerned about 2SLGBTQI+ youth and young people who are exposed to this abuse and the potential it has to damage their well-being and mental health. Think of how you would feel if such abuse were directed toward who you are as a person. I am certain that no one in this chamber would consider such verbal slagging to be anything but damaging.

Numerous research studies have found that lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, suicidality and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. As a psychiatrist who has a robust professional knowledge in this domain, I can safely say that much of this mental torment is the result of the prejudice, discrimination, hate speech and harassment they face both online and in person.

Targeted hate speech is spread and repeated with the end goal of preventing 2SLGBTQI+ people from freely participating in our society. Colleagues, it denies their identity. It turns them into caricatures that are deemed to be less than human. We are only too aware of how the process of dehumanizing others turns out. It is the false touchstone that leads to discrimination, violence and even worse.

Those who post hate speech online are telling us that some of our children, family members, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens are not worthy of our respect, that they are not worthy of our love — that they are not worthy, period. Colleagues, this is simply wrong. This is not what we want our Canada to in any way condone. As leaders, we cannot stand idly by and let this happen. We cannot let hatred fill our streets and become the norm in our social discourse. We have a responsibility to act, and we must use that responsibility fully and vigorously.

We cannot remain silent, because silence can mean consent and silence tells those who are spreading hatred that they can do whatever damage they choose to do — that there are no consequences for hateful and harmful behaviour. So, I will repeat to you here some of the words Senator Cormier and I spoke online several weeks ago:

Children and youth have the right to safe and nurturing environments where they are supported by their peers, by their caretakers, at home and at school.

We also said:

All people deserve to be loved, accepted and cherished, not despite, but regardless of who they love, how they identify and how they express themselves.

Honourable senators, I do not think that any platform in Canada should tolerate the promotion or spread of hate speech. I do not think that any Canadian should be subjected to hateful attacks for any reason, including the colour of their skin, their place of origin, whom they love and how they identify themselves. That is why I support the development of a national anti-hate action plan.

Colleagues, in my opinion, every person living in Canada deserves to live a life free from prejudice and discrimination, where they are free to be who they are and where they are free to love whom they love.

Thank you.

Hon. Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia [ - ]

Honourable senators, it is my privilege to rise to speak to Inquiry No. 5, which draws attention to the budget entitled A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future.

In response to an increase of police-reported hate crimes, including the hate faced by 2SLGBTQI+ communities, Budget 2023 has included plans to introduce a new action plan to combat hate in this country.

We live in a time of increased polarization, with the rise in hateful messages and misinformation targeting many, but in particular our queer and trans communities, fostering fear and isolation. The federal government recognizes this, and steps have been taken, including the development and implementation of the 2SLGBTQI+ plan. The plan in 2022 helped advance equality and the rights of community members throughout Canada and is helping several queer and trans organizations and communities across the country build resilience in the wake of increasing hate.

Just this past August, in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the federal government announced funding through the action plan to two local organizations, First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre and the Quadrangle LGBTQ Community Centre, whose respective goals are to support, among others, Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQI+ communities. The projects receiving support are focused on ending gender-based violence and providing affirming health care.

The 2SLGBTQI+ communities contribute immeasurably to Newfoundland’s cultural fabric, arts and business communities. They are our friends. They are our family. They are our neighbours. They continue to play a leading and ongoing role in the broader movement for their rights and acceptance in our country through advocacy, education and visibility. Colleagues, we must stand by them.

In May, the Newfoundland and Labrador Queer Research Initiative launched a collection of rare documents and photographs detailing the province’s LGBTQ+ past. With credit to Sarah Worthman, the non-profit’s Executive Director, the new archive tells the hidden stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender-diverse Newfoundlanders and Labradorians throughout our history. As Ms. Worthman eloquently stated in an interview, “. . . it’s much harder to hate on someone that you know as opposed to someone that you don’t.”

In my own career, I have witnessed the devastating impacts on the mental health of 2SLGBTQI students — students who are stigmatized by name-calling, microaggressions, marginalizations, exclusion and sometimes violence.

The implementation of this plan to combat hate is an essential next step to continue on the progress that we’ve made. This plan signifies a continuing commitment to tackling the systemic issues that have perpetuated discrimination and violence against these communities. It recognizes that in order to secure a prosperous future for all Canadians, we must confront the hatred and prejudice that undermine our values of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

The significance of this plan extends far beyond its immediate impact on hate crimes. It goes to the heart of what we stand for as Canadians — a nation that values the dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of who they are or whom they love. By addressing hate, we are not only helping safeguard the lives of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians, but also reinforcing our commitment to building a society where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.

Honourable senators, I look forward to seeing the development and implementation of this plan with specific measures to combat hate as we move towards a more equitable, inclusive and, hopefully, prosperous future for our 2SLGBTQI communities and other marginalized groups. A prosperous future in the truest sense is one where every Canadian can live their lives authentically without the fear of discrimination or violence.

Thank you, meegwetch.

Hon. Renée Dupuis [ - ]

I found my colleagues’ speeches inspiring today. I want to very briefly speak to Inquiry No. 5 by Senator Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate, about the action plan to combat hate announced in the most recent budget tabled by the Minister of Finance. This budget is entitled A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future. I would add “for all” — not just for the middle class, but for all classes in Canada.

I remind honourable senators that the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended exactly 10 years ago to remove sections that protected groups that are discriminated against and that are the subject of hate speech. I refer you to subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, entitled “Hate messages,” which says, and I quote:

It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act refers to the groups against which discrimination is prohibited. The grounds of discrimination are as follows:

. . . race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

Honourable senators, I’m impressed by the speeches I’ve heard today, and I hope to be just as impressed by the actions this chamber takes.

Honourable senators, we’re all lawmakers, and we need to put this section back in the Canadian Human Rights Act. I encourage Senator Gold, who initiated this inquiry, to convince the government that an action plan is all well and good, but that action plan must be comprehensive and must include concrete measures so that people subjected to hate, which is discrimination, have recourse under the law. Thank you.

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