What Is Bill C-16?

Bill C-16 represents an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Canadian Criminal Code. Introduced in May 2016, Bill C-16’s is intended to offer protection from gender identity discrimination. Bill C-16 protects individuals from hate propaganda and discrimination within federal jurisdiction.

Previously, the Canadian Human Rights Act offered protection from discrimination on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation. Opponents of the change argue that transgendered Canadians are already protected thanks to these two grounds. However, this equates sexual identity with gender and confuses the definitions of sex and gender. Gender identity is about a person’s own understanding of their gender and how they desire to express it.

To better understand the change, let’s imagine a scenario. An individual gets hired to work for a company that is regulated by the federal government while presenting as a man. They work for a few years, during which they come to the realization that they want to change genders. Once they do so, they are fired. The reason for the firing is not due to the individual’s sexual orientation or sex; it is entirely due to the way they wished to express their gender identity. Before Bill C-16, this would not have been considered discrimination in the legal sense.

To better understand how Bill C-16 accomplishes its goals and what these changes mean for you, we will focus our attention on the three key amendments it has put into effect.

How Did Bill C-16 Affect the Canadian Human Rights Act?

The Canadian Human Rights Act is one of our most important statutes. Created in 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act looks to ensure equal opportunities to any individuals that may be victims of discrimination or discriminatory practices. Of course, the act isn’t perfect. It only offers protection to those who are discriminated against for a protected ground.

The protected grounds that the Canadian Human Rights Act protects include:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Ethnic origin
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Colour
  • Age
  • Family status
  • Genetic characteristics
  • Disabilities
  • A conviction for a pardoned offense

While these certainly do all deserve the added protection they get from being considered a protected ground, they still allow many different kinds of discrimination to occur. As our society evolves, it should be no surprise to see further grounds offered protection.

Gender identity is our most recent addition to the Canadian Human Rights Act. This means that gender identity is now a protected ground.

While the Canadian Human Rights Act helps to ensure equal opportunities, it has its limitations. The protections apply to those who are employed by or receiving services from the federal government, a First Nations government, or a private company that is regulated by the federal government.

How Did Bill C-16 Affect Hate Speech Under Canada’s Criminal Code?

Hate speech is an incredibly dangerous thing, more so now than ever before. Hate speech used to be easier to police and fight against since most people were afraid to speak hate in public. Nowadays, thanks primarily to the internet, there is a rise in hate speech. People are feeling more comfortable spreading their hate.

However, that doesn’t mean that Canada approves of such hate. One of the changes that Bill C-16 makes is to amend a section of the Criminal Code relating to hate speech in order to include hate speech made against a person’s gender identity. While this is a straightforward change, it has led to some confusion.

How Did Bill C-16 Affect Hate Crime Sentencing?

Hate crimes are crimes that are motivated primarily or at least largely by hate. Hate for somebody’s skin color, their race, their sexuality, or something of this nature. Hate crimes are almost always more harshly punished than an equivalent crime that lacks the focus on hate.

Bill C-16 will simply add gender identity to the grounds for determining if a crime was motivated by hate. There are a number of ways that to determine whether hate played a role in a crime, though, usually, the perpetrator makes that really clear through their words and actions.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Discriminated Against For My Gender Identity?

If you have been discriminated against for your gender identity or any other protected characteristic, then you should reach out to an experienced lawyer. They will be able to help you determine which steps you should take to address the situation.