Gender Identity & Expression protected against discrimination under Ontario Human Rights Code
On June 15, 2012 two new grounds of discrimination were added to the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code).
Part 1 of the Code lists the 17 grounds of discrimination covered, including gender identity and gender expression.
That same year, an important case involved the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services(1) and a section of the Vital Statistics Act written in 1978(2). The Act stated in order to obtain a birth certificate with a sex designation other than the one assigned to him or her at birth a person must undergo “transsexual surgery.” They must also provide medical certificates from two doctors. Those doctors must certify that “transsexual surgery” was performed on the person and that as a result of the surgery the sex designation on the person’s registration of birth should be changed.
The case’s Vice-Chair, Sheri Price, wrote in her decision:
“… that Ontario birth certificates reflect the sex assigned at birth unless a person has and certifies to the respondent that he or she has had ‘transsexual surgery’ is substantively discriminatory because it exacerbates the situation of transgendered persons as a historically disadvantaged group, and thus perpetuates their disadvantage.”
Price concluded that requiring surgery adds to the disadvantage and stigma experienced by members of the trans community. It also reinforces the stereotype that transgender persons must have surgery to live in their self-identified gender. The decision in this case confirms that gender identity should be recognized based on a person’s lived identity and not be dependant on any surgical procedures.
The Ministry adopted a new criteria: Individuals need to provide a note from a practicing doctor or psychologist (including a psychological associate) stating that they have treated or evaluated the person and that the change in designation is appropriate.
Workplace policies are changing too. Organizations have implemented new policies with respect to the collection of personal information identifying a person’s gender, access to washrooms, change rooms and other gender-specific services and facilities, as well as dress codes and uniform policies.
Whether trans, female, male, gender non-conforming or somewhere else on the spectrum: Everyone has a right to define their own gender identity, to express their gender, and to be treated with dignity and respect.
Locals 175 & 633 supports causes that are important to our members. This also means bargaining progressive contracts such as first-of-its-kind agreement language for workers at a Toronto Community Health Centre. The language provides anti-discrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. It also provides access to equal benefits under the duty to accommodate for transgender, transsexual and gender variant employees. Plus, it requires anti-oppression training for all employees.
Your Union strives to ensure that every member can go to work in a discrimination-free environment. If you experience or witness ANY discrimination, bullying, hate speech, or any other violation of a person’s human rights, please speak to your Union Steward or Union Rep immediately.
1- XY v. Ministry of Government and Consumer Services 2012 HRTO 726 (CanLII)
2- R.S.O. 1990, c. V.4 (“the VSA”)
3- OHRC Gender Identity & Gender Expression Brochure
Published in the October 2015 issue of Checkout magazine.
Read more articles from the UFCW Local 175 Legal Team!