Nova Scotia protects transgender rights in proposed amendments to Human Rights Act

Gender identity, expression would be protected grounds

Nova Scotia has proposed amendments to its Human Rights Act which would make clear the right to equality and fairness for transgender people in the province, said the government.

The amendments tabled Nov. 20 by 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."

People's attitudes toward transgender Nova Scotians are improving, and these amendments will help., said Kate Shewan, a a transgender woman who has transitioned over the last three years.

"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. "My hope is that this will lead to changes in public attitudes and greater acceptance in society."

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