News / Ottawa

Trans rights activists protest on Parliament Hill

Rally comes as Senate hears from opponents to new bill.

Sky Leaf WanderingTurtle, a self-identified trans queer, speaks in favour of Bill C-16 on Parliament Hill on Wednesday.

Dylan C. Robertson / Metro

Sky Leaf WanderingTurtle, a self-identified trans queer, speaks in favour of Bill C-16 on Parliament Hill on Wednesday.

Transgender activists from Ottawa and beyond gathered on Parliament Hill on Wednesday to voice their support for Bill C-16, a federal law that would encode gender identity and expression into Canada’s human rights laws.

The rally came on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. But it was called because of a controversial opponent of Bill C-16, who spoke Wednesday to the Senate committee studying the bill.

“Bill C-16 is about enshrining necessary rights and protection for our community. It’s about realizing that this is more than just pronouns; this is about our very lives that are at risk everyday we walk into public,” said Joshua M. Ferguson a non-binary transgender person who was visiting from Toronto.

Ferguson was among roughly 125 activists gathered on the Hill to show their support for the bill.

Fae Johnstone, a Carleton social-work student who has sit in on all six hours of testimony, organized the rally because of witnesses “who are speaking from a place of bigotry” to the Senate.

“We wanted to rally to support C-16, but also to just take up the space and say ‘Hi, we’re here; these are our rights you're talking about,’” said Johnstone, who identifies as a “non-binary femme.”

Following the rally, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson spoke to the Senate’s legal committee about why he opposed the bill.

Peterson noted that the federal justice department had linked to the Ontario human-rights code online, which says people can be punished for harassment over intentionally using the wrong pronouns — and then removed that hyperlink in December.

Peterson said he was “not a discriminatory person” but said he opposed the "unbelievably dangerous” bill because it would lead to professors facing a "re-education committee" and jailing people over "government-mandated speech."

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