Open Letter on Election Eve

August 29, 2008

On the eve of what will almost certainly be a federal election in Canada, I spent this afternoon sending emails to the Members of Parliament (MPs) I know and to some I don’t.

This is an open letter to all the others, returning, and to all those candidates who are running to be part of the next Parliament of Canada. Among all the decisions, all the issues, all the important matters of state that will roil Canada during the next few weeks, I wish to make a small plea for some Canadians who are not usually considered worthy of attention.

Transsexual and transgender people, for the most part, do not seek the spotlight. We do not run national organizations or publications and are not able to get our message across in the way other marginal people do.

Even the organizations we would look to for leadership in the run up to this election, well, we are on our own, organizationally speaking.

We enter an election in which the serious human rights concerns seem all to be elsewhere. Even the Human Rights Committee of the House of Commons is a sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I had asked one of the MPs I know about holding a hearing on the struggles of transsexual and transgender Canadians as a Congressional Hearing on the struggles of transgender and transsexual Americans in the workplace was held this summer in the United States.

Even if there were not to be an election, it is not quite a given–even from those of you who were so supportive of the human rights of gay and lesbian people during the campaign for equal marriage just three years ago and in the life of this Parliament.

As we move into the election campaign, I want to remind you of the void in both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Transsexual and transgender people are the only marginal population in Canada not to have explicit protections as the people we are, in the legislation itself. We might well be recorded in hate crime statistics under sex, that is as women, or under disability, if our diagnoses for gender identity disorder are still current, if we ever had one, or even under sexual orientation–an interesting interpretation of our identity, which has not the same connection to relationships as orientation does.

And it would be more interesting still given the dismissal of our concerns–and utter silence on our human rights–by a senior official of Pink Triangle Press, the parent of the Xtra chain of gay and lesbian papers in Canada. His three columns on, as well as in Capital Xtra, receive far more profile than anything a trans person could ever write–we are not even part of that discussion. (They are found here, here and here; how can we make our voices heard over this noise?)

Bill Siksay of the New Democratic Party in the soon to be dissolved Parliament introduced two private members’ bills to fill this void. Neither had enough priority even to be debated nor the all-party consent to be voted as a previous private member’s bill had in 2002.

The struggle for formal human rights in Canada has not ended.

This is not the end for once achieved it will permit transgender and transsexual Canadians to join, as equals, in the ongoing struggle for the substantiation of these very rights.

I am fortunate to be able to advocate for issues many cannot. I am able to present this case to you through this open letter, in person and through the media. It is for them I ask you to speak out and for the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Green Party, the Bloc Quebecois and yes, even the Conservative Party to speak out in this campaign–for human rights are never a partisan issue.

I ask you to speak out not only for those who are your constituents, but for all those across Canada who cannot make this request.

Please, in this campaign, break the silence for transsexual and transgender Canadians.

If there is anything I can do to help, do not hesitate to ask.


Jessica Freedman