Canada is hiding a sordid history of what we can only refer to as state-sponsored homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. For hundreds of years, a policy of oppressing and, consequently, criminalizing same-sex behavior through “hetero-normalization” has existed. Society, in general, portrayed heterosexual relationships as “normal.” In contrast, same-sex relationships were often suppressed and represented as bestial or abnormal by state-supported and criminal-law churches.
Historically, the LGBT community has been the victim of police persecution and discrimination within the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, and the public service. The campaign to identify and get rid of LGBT officials because of their orientation, gender identity, or gender expression began in the federal public service and the military in the 1950s and continued for decades.
However, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited people in Canada have increased significantly in recent decades. Under criminal law, the LGBTQ Community is protected from discrimination and harassment.
The LGBT community’s pursuit of justice continues and requires reparations that have long been forgotten by a succession of Canadian federal governments. Until now, the justice system has played an essential role in obtaining justice for the LGBT community.
Who is an LGBTQ Community?
LGBTQ Community refers to same-sex (lesbian, gay or bisexual), transgender, queer, bi-spiritual. And also those who choose to express or live their identity and sexual preference in a different way from the majority.
It is also possible for a person to identify with several definitions. For example, a same-sex person may also be transgender.
What is discrimination against the LGBTQ Community?
There is discrimination when a person is treated LGBTQ disadvantageously because of his sexual orientation, sexual identity, or his way of expressing his sexual identity.
Here are some examples of discrimination:
- A school refuses to hire a teacher because of his sexual orientation.
- The owner of a dwelling evicts a tenant born woman biologically, but who expresses and dresses like a man.
How is the LGBTQ Community protected in Canada?
Laws protect LGBTQ Community against discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Here are the most important regulations:
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms(“the Charter “),
- The Canadian Human Rights Act,
- The laws are specific to each province and territory.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Charter protects LGBTQ people against discrimination and guarantees them the right to be treated fairly. Section 15 of the Charter protects against discrimination based on several grounds, including race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation.
The federal government and all provincial and territorial governments must enact laws and policies that respect section 15, that is, that are not discriminatory.
The Canadian Human Rights Act
The Canadian Human Rights Act also protects LGBTQ persons from discrimination and harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, which includes transsexualism.
This law protects everyone who works for federal agencies or who receives services from a federal agency. Here are some examples of national organizations:
- rail transportation companies (e.g., VIA Rail);
- Airlines companies;
- television or radio stations;
- Canada Post.
The law also protects people who benefit from the services of a federal agency. If a person who works for a federal agency or who receives the services of a federal agency is discriminated against, he or she may lodge a complaint.
Provincial and Territorial Laws
All provinces and territories have laws that protect people from discrimination and harassment based on sex and sexual orientation. These laws protect people against discrimination and harassment when they:
- are in school
- are at work
- rent a home;
- receive care at the hospital;
- obtain any other services funded by the province or territory.
Gender identity and gender expression are also protected everywhere in Canada.
Key highlights in the history of LGBTQ rights in Canada
1969: Homosexuality is decriminalized.
1981: In Toronto, “bathhouse raids” lead to mass arrest: about 300 homosexual men are arrested. As a result of this event, approximately 3,000 people demonstrate in the downtown streets to denounce the arrests. This event is the starting point of the parades of pride that we know today.
1996 : Discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation is illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Federal agencies are now prohibited from discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation.
1998 : The Supreme Court of Canada upholds the right to equality for homosexuals. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is contrary to the constitution, the supreme law of the land.
1999: The Supreme Court of Canada decides that same-sex spouses have the right to claim spousal support at the end of their relationship. The decision urges the provinces and territories to revise their laws so that same-sex couples are entitled to support, custody and access, adoption, benefits, and so on.
2005 : Same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in Canada.
2016 : A federal bill to eliminate discrimination based on identity and gender expression is tabled. This bill protects transgender people against hate propaganda. In the same vein, discrimination against a transgender person is considered an aggravating factor by judges when determining a sentence. A sentence could, therefore, be more severe for a crime committed against a transgender person if it is proven that she has been discriminated against.
2017 : The federal bill to eliminate discrimination based on identity and gender expression is passed in the Canadian Parliament. Discrimination based on these grounds can now be considered as hate propaganda or an aggravating factor in a trial. On November 29, the Prime Minister apologizes to LGBTQ Canadians.