June 13, 2023

Not every legal development or decision with relevance for 2SLBGTQI people in Canada makes the front page. To make it easier for community members and advocates to keep up with legal news in Canada and around the world, Egale publishes a monthly roundup of case law and news items related to 2SLGBTQI people and issues.  

This month, trans people and advocates for all equity-denied groups won an important victory in Hansman v. Neufeld. Meanwhile, we continue to observe the attacks on gender-affirming healthcare in the US with concern. In Europe, Lithuania and Estonia have taken important steps toward the full legal recognition of same-sex couples, and the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Romania to create an avenue for same-sex couples to formalize their unions.  

Case Law 

Hansman v. Neufeld, Supreme Court of Canada 

Heard October 11, 2022; decision dated May 19, 2023. 

  • The case concerned a 2018 defamation suit in which Barry Neufeld, at the time a school board trustee in Chilliwack, British Columbia, sued the then-president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, Glen Hansman.
  • Egale acted as an intervener in the appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), providing expertise on the vulnerability of trans people in Canada and proposals on how anti-hate speech (called “counter-speech”) should be treated in the context of defamation law.
  • Neufeld had made a series of homophobic and transphobic comments regarding British Columbia’s inclusive SOGI curriculum, and Hansman responded with forceful criticism, including publicly calling for his resignation and referring to his comments as being close to hate speech.
  • Neufeld sued Hansman for defamation, and Hansman applied to have that suit dismissed under British Columbia’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation.
  • The court of first instance found that the public interest in protecting Hansman’s expression outweighed public interest in allowing Neufeld’s litigation. The British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) overturned the ruling. A 6-1 majority of the SCC has now overturned the BCCA’s decision.
  • The Hansman decision represents the first time that the SCC recognizes the specific vulnerability and marginalization of trans people in Canada. The recognition of the right to equality without discrimination based on gender identity will be crucial in future cases involving the rights of trans people in Canada.
  • The SCC also decided that courts should be more likely to dismiss defamation lawsuits based on comments that promote the dignity and equality of marginalized groups. That means that people can feel freer to call out bigoted and hateful speech or behaviour.

Gillies v. Bluewater District School Board, Ontario Superior Court of Justice 

Heard March 8, 2023; decision dated May 1, 2023.

  • Ontario’s Divisional Court rejected an application for judicial review of a decision of the Bluewater District School Board denying the applicant permission to speak at a Board meeting. The applicant had requested permission to deliver a presentation against flying the rainbow Pride flag at Ontario schools during Pride Month.
  • The court agreed with the Board that the applicant’s proposed presentation had little to do with the rainbow flag and was in fact a veiled attack against allegedly “harmful transgender ideology”. The text of the presentation denied the existence of trans people.
  • The Board had denied the request in accordance with its Human Rights Policy, which recognises the worth of every individual and promotes inclusiveness. The court found no errors in the Board’s reasoning. 

Canadian News 

After months of conflict, Ontario’s York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) votes against flying Pride flag 

  • YCDSB trustees voted 6-4 against flying the Pride flag at its headquarters during the month of June.
  • Over the past two months, the police have been called to three different YCDSB meetings to deal with homophobic and transphobic disruptions, according to the CBC.
  • YCDSB students, as well as community organizations, have voiced their disappointment at the decision, pointing out the negative effects on school climate for 2SLGBTQI students.

Federal government to provide emergency funding to Pride festivals after Toronto Pride sounds alarm over increased security and insurance costs

  • Unanticipated increases to the costs of insurance and policing have jeopardized events at Toronto’s forthcoming annual Pride celebrations.
  • The federal government will be providing Fierté Canada Pride with up to $1.5 million, which they will be able to distribute to local Pride organizations that request assistance.
  • $750,000 are intended to be split between Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver Prides, according to CTV.

New Brunswick makes changes to 2SLGBTQI inclusivity policy in schools 

  • The government New Brunswick has made changes to its policy on gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, rolling back progress made to foster safe and inclusive learning environments for 2SLGBTQI students. 
  • Policy 713, in effect since 2020, aims to support 2SLGBTQI youth by establishing minimum criteria for safe learning environments.
  • The changes to the policy are as follows:
    • Official school records will not use students’ preferred names or genders if they diverge from those assigned to them at birth if the students are under the age of 16 and have not obtained parental consent for the change.
      • If students don’t want to come out to their parents, school staff are now instructed to refer them to social workers or mental health professionals. It is unclear what purpose this is supposed to serve. 
      • According to CBC, there is no clear instruction regarding the use of students’ chosen names and pronouns unofficially. The previous version of the policy instructed staff to respect students’ names and pronouns. 
    • Students’ right to participate in activities, including sports, that are “consistent with their gender identity” is no longer contained within the policy. 
    • The policy now seems to mandate that gender-neutral washrooms should be “private”, presumably meaning single-stall. 
  • New Brunswick government officials including Premier Blaine Higgs have brought up unrelated anti-2SLGBTQI talking points in relation to the policy review, indicating that the government is responding to homophobic and transphobic moral panics. 
  • Community groups and New Brunswick teachers have voiced profound concerns about implementation and student safety surrounding the new policy.  

Trustees in Manitoba’s Brandon School Division vote to reject a proposal to remove books with 2SLGBTQI content from school libraries 

  • The Brandon School Division rejected a proposal to remove “inappropriate” books from school libraries, which according to the proposal would have included all books about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
  • A large number of people came to the meeting to support 2SLGBTQI people, as well as a smaller number who were in favour of the proposal.
  • The homophobic and transphobic leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, was also present, according to the CBC.

International News 

United States 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs ban on gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on gender-affirming care for adults 

  • Florida’s Republican governor announced to jubilant crowds in Tampa the legislation would “permanently outlaw the mutilation of minors” – a narrative rejected by all credible medical associations.
  • According to Reuters, at least 14 other American states have enacted similar bans. DeSantis has also signed bills restricting use of washrooms by gender, targeting drag performances, and severely limiting the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. 
  • Gender-affirming care for adults in Florida has also been severely curtailed, including by mandating in-person visits to physicians (and not nurse practitioners) in order for patients to receive transition-related care.  

Nebraska legislature bans gender-affirming care for people under 19 and severely restricts abortions past 12 weeks of pregnancy  

  • The bill bans all gender-affirming care for people under 19, including puberty blockers.  
  • It also makes it a crime for medical professionals to provide abortion services after 12 weeks of pregnancy, with narrow exceptions.
  • The abortion ban was added onto the anti-trans bill as an amendment only two days before the vote. This clearly illustrates the relationship between the restriction of the bodily autonomy of 2SLGBTQI people and of women and other people who can become pregnant.
  • The bill has been condemned by groups including the Nebraska ACLU, according to CNN.  

United Kingdom

British Cycling, the governing body for cycle sport in Great Britain, announces new gender participation policy for competitive cycle sport 

  • The new rules create two categories: One called “Female”, which is open only to people who were assigned female at birth and who do not take testosterone; and one called “Open” for everyone else, including trans people of any gender and cis men.
  • This discriminatory policy, like others that try to use assigned sex at birth as a proxy for athletic ability, has been criticized by transfeminine cyclists and other 2SLGBTQI community advocates.  
  • The policy will be reviewed annually.


European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) finds Romania in breach of same-sex couples’ human rights 

  • Same-sex marriage is explicitly banned in Romania and there is no form of legal recognition (like civil unions) available to same-sex couples.
  • The ECHR is an international court tasked with interpreting and applying the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been signed by nearly every European state. Its decisions are binding. 
  • Twenty-one same-sex Romanian couples brought a challenge to the ECHR in 2019-2020, alleging Romania’s ongoing denial of legal recognition led to discrimination in healthcare, medical insurance, property rights, and employment.
  • The Romanian government has three months to decide whether to request a referral to the European court’s highest chamber.
  • The ECHR has previously made similar judgments in the cases of Italy and Russia, establishing that states have a duty to provide some form of legal recognition (even if it isn’t marriage) to same-sex couples. 


Civil union legislation passes first reading 

  • After a series of failed attempts, a piece of legislation that would create the institution of civil unions for couples of any gender composition in Lithuania has passed its first reading in parliament.  


Marriage equality legislation passes first reading 

  • Estonia, which has allowed same-sex couples to enter into registered partnerships since 2014, is set to allow two people of any gender to marry one another effective January 1, 2024.