ECHRT honours those passed and those working for a trans-inclusive future

Toronto: November 20th is marked internationally as Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to commemorate the lives of those trans individuals lost to our communities.  Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (ECHRT) joins with those around the world calling for an end to the violence and systematic oppression faced by trans people in Canada, and internationally.

This Trans Day of Remembrance, ECHRT honours the lives lost to our communities, but also stresses the need for Canada to assure a better future for the coming generation of trans people.  Over the last year ECHRT has heard from an unprecedented number of trans youth and children looking for safety and inclusion in their own communities.  We have supported these youth and their families as they face countless challenges, including safety and inclusion at school, access to competent and supportive medical care, and access to government-issued identification reflective of their lived gender.

One clear element of our work this year with trans individuals and their families is that many Canadian schools remain hotbeds of transphobia and discrimination. Egale’s Every Class in Every School report indicated clearly that trans students experienced high levels of unsafety and harassment in our classrooms and hallways:

78% of trans students felt unsafe at school, with 44% having missed school because of these feelings;

74% of trans students have been verbally harassed because of their gender expression;

49% of trans students have been sexually harassed in school within the past year; and

37% of trans students have been physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression.

Experiences in elementary and secondary schools reveal only a fraction of the challenges facing many trans people in Canada.  Access to housing, employment, education and appropriate medical care are but a few of the major areas in which trans people are much more likely to face both individual acts of discrimination, as well as systemic exclusion and invisibility.  The remarkable truth is that trans people in Canada face a variety of hurdles in accessing basic programs and services that many cisgender people take for granted. These challenges can be made even more severe when considering the ongoing impacts of racism, ableism, classism and misogyny on trans individuals across the country.

The impact of transphobia in Canada takes many forms.  In Ontario, the Trans PULSE Project revealed that 20% of trans Ontarians have been the targets of physical or sexual assaults because they are trans, and another 34% have experienced verbal harassment or threats.  These numbers are truly horrifying, and yet we must also recognize that there are so many unheard stories of discrimination, exclusion and isolation that go unreported and unacknowledged in our media and communities.

The stakes of transphobia are not lost on some of our country’s legislators, with whom ECHRT has worked over the past decade toward extending the explicit protections of Canadian human rights legislation to include trans communities.  The most recent effort is Bill C-279, currently before the Senate for review.   This piece of legislation would include ‘gender identity’ as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Code as well as within the hate crime sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code.  On this Trans Day of Remembrance ECHRT strongly urges the Senate to take swift action to protect trans people in Canada, and to approve this legislation un-amended.

Within Canada, Trans Day of Remembrance offers an opportunity to honour those whose passing leaves ragged empty-spaces in communities across the country, while also speaking out against the silencing of their stories.  ECHRT joins voices with trans people and their allies across Canada in a commemoration of those who lost their lives, and to reiterate our commitment to creating a safer and more inclusive country for those of any gender identity and expression.

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