Transgender rights to be protected in Nova Scotia Human Rights Act

Gender identity and expression will have same status as sex, disability and other protected grounds

Transgender Nova Scotians' right to equality and fairness will be made clear with proposed amendments to the province's Human Rights Act.

The amendments, tabled on Nov. 20 by Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry, will add gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds in the Human Rights Act.

Nova Scotians denied an apartment or job because they are transgender will be able to file a human rights complaint on that basis. Before, they would have had to file a complaint based on sex or disability.

"For too long, transgender Nova Scotians have faced discrimination, threats, insults and physical violence. This is not acceptable, and we will not tolerate it," .said Landry. "Making this change is the right thing to do. Transgender Nova Scotians deserve the same legal protection that the rest of us take for granted."

Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have specific references to gender identity in their human rights legislation.

"We know that trans people face harassment and discrimination, and also that fear of such discrimination holds people back from leading full and healthy lives," said Kevin Kindred, chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. "Affirming that trans discrimination is illegal will go a long way to alleviating that fear."

Kate Shewan said people's attitudes toward transgender Nova Scotians are improving, and these amendments will help.

"Transgender people are often worried that a gender transition could lead to rejection by friends or family, or the loss of their job," said Shewan, a transgender woman who has transitioned over the last three years. "My hope is that this will lead to changes in public attitudes and greater acceptance in society."

The amendments were introduced on Nov. 20 because that date is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international day to remember people killed as a result of transphobia.

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