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Perspectives — May 2-4, 2017
Perspectives — May 2-4, 2017
May 9, 2017

Diversity and acceptance, preventing genetic discrimination and a national basic income program were some of this week’s highlights.

Government – Senator Grant Mitchell

Diversity, inclusion, acceptance and understanding are core Canadian values. And yet, transgender people in our country currently face an extreme level of exclusion, discrimination, prejudice and violence.

Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, reflects Canada's commitment to equality and freedom from discrimination and violence. The bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate, is designed to provide explicit legal protection to one of the most vulnerable communities in our society.

C-16 aims to provide equal opportunity for trans and gender-diverse people in employment and access to services. It is about ensuring freedom from hate propaganda, and denouncing acts of violence and other crimes when they target people because of their gender identity or expression.

The substance of the bill has been debated in Parliament for over a decade. It has been supported multiple times by majority votes in the House of Commons, and it has been the subject of lengthy committee hearings with dozens of witnesses in the House of Commons and the Senate.

The time has come to pass C-16 and send a powerful message of inclusion and acceptance to a group of Canadians who experience alienation and discrimination that most of us cannot even imagine.

As Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Let us now demonstrate to transgender people that they are welcome and accepted, embraced and protected, and that they can in Canada, of all places, be free to be who they are.

Senate Liberals – Senator Eggleton

On Thursday, the Senate’s Bill S-201, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, received Royal Assent and became law. Canadians will now be able to access the health benefits of the genetic revolution, without fear of exposing themselves to possible discrimination by third parties because of their genes. With this law, Canada joins the vast majority of other Western nations in providing clear, strong protection for Canadians’ genetic information.

This was an initiative of recently-retired Senator Jim Cowan, former Leader of the Senate Liberals. He saw that genetic science was becoming increasingly critical to healthcare, but that Canadians were being left behind because our laws had not kept pace with the science. He heard stories from across the country of Canadians suffering discrimination because of their genes, and of others eager for genetic testing but declining for fear of discrimination.

Four years ago, Senator Cowan tabled his proposal to address this problem. Then, there were some 2,000 genetic tests. Today, there are close to 50,000.

Bill S-201 is an example of the Senate at its best, bringing public attention and a solution to a problem that was directly affecting Canadians’ healthcare, as well as impeding science and innovation. Senator Cowan’s bill was welcomed by Canadians across the country. It was studied closely in the Senate and then the House of Commons, where it was sponsored by Rob Oliphant, MP, before being passed by each Chamber with overwhelming support.

Senator Cowan left a great legacy for Canadians from his years in the Senate.

Independent Senators Group – Senator Dupuis

This week we get a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Senator Renée Dupuis, C.M., Ad. E..

On April 11, 2017 I addressed the Senate to support Motion 51 that encourages the Government to sponsor a pilot project aimed at evaluating the cost and impact of implementing a National Basic Income Program for all Citizens, after consultation with provinces.

Prime Minister Trudeau publicly stated: poverty in Canada has a gender. The poor in Canada are women. A society's true worth is measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable members, who are often among the poorest, as compared to the way it subsidizes its wealthiest members and organizations.

We understand the many significant counterproductive effects of Western society's various social welfare and income security measures, including inefficiency, stigmatization and discrimination.

In the 1970s a public system where the state is responsible for the delivery of social services was set up, accompanied by a change in perspective toward human rights and equality, through human rights laws.

A universal decent income would also help eliminate this stigmatization.

We live in an era of economic inequalities that are growing at a record rate. The gap between the richest and the poorest is widening. Guaranteeing all citizens a decent minimum income must become our priority.