Bill C-16

Systems of power tend to enforce laws such as human rights by asserting that everyone is equal. The key is not to ignore difference, but to recognize it. Human rights laws should rightfully evolve and take an intersectional approach of race, class, and gender into consideration. Mallika Henry states that “human rights ideas are not fully indigenized, even though this might make them more readily accepted… assumes that all people have equal rights, although all do not have equal needs” (Henry, 2006, p. 49). Specifying fundamental differences in needs in Bill-C16 is one step forward to embrace our differences and underscore that everyone has rights that they deserve depending on how they identify.

The summary of Bill C16 reads:

“This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination…

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.” (Parliament of Canada)

However, Jordan Peterson argues against this Bill in favour of his right to freedom of speech, claiming that the new law would effectively force  him to suppress or say things that he doesn’t want to suppress or say (Karasik 2016). His argument for this relies on the fact that he thinks the language used in Bill C16 is not very precise. Peterson claims that the bill simply adds the phrases “gender identity or expression” and that these terminologies are vague – even though his analysis of the Bill points out the definitions clearly within the legislation – without actually specifying the need for recognizing appropriate pronouns  (Will, 2016).

Peterson thinks that such legal protections as Bill C-16 go ‘too far’ in terms of accommodating non-binary and transgender people (Yun, 2016). However, legal expert Kyle Kirkup refuted these claims, instead saying that the Bill serves a dual purpose of “allow[ing] trans people a means with which to seek redress under the law… [and] the symbolic function of letting trans people know that the government recognizes them” (Craig, 2016) and advance their human rights in a practical manner.

Read on to the next post for the University of Toronto’s letter in response.

Sources

Craig, Sean (2016, September 28). U of T professor attacks political correctness, says he refuses to use genderless pronouns. National Post.  Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/u-of-t-professor-attacks-political-correctness-in-video-refuses-to-use-genderless-pronouns
Henry, M. (2006). Human rights in the college classroom: Critical thinking about their complex roots. Peace & Change, 31(1), 102-116.

Karasik, D. (2016, November 7). I’m a left-winger and I support Jordan Peterson. Toronto Sun. Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/2016/11/07/im-a-left-winger-and-i-support-jordan-peterson

Parliament of Canada. (2015). Bill C-16. Retrieved from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca /esl/refugees_teachers_guide.pdf

Will (2016, October 4). A Response to Jordan Peterson. SkepchickRetrieved from http://skepchick.org/2016/10/a-response-to-jordan-peterson/

Yun, T. (2016, October 3). U of T Community responds to Jordan Peterson on gender identities. The Varsity. Retrieved from http://thevarsity.ca/2016/10/03/u-of-t-community-responds-to-jordan-peterson-on-gender-identities/

Image credit: http://skepchick.org/tag/bill-c-16/

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