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Evangelical leader accuses Tories of helping push NDP bill on gender

Social-conservative crusader Charles McVety is seen in Toronto on 26, 2005.

Donald Weber/Donald Weber/The Globe and Mail

A leading voice of social conservatism has accused the federal Conservatives of helping to fast-track an NDP bill that would extend human-rights protection to people who identify themselves as belonging to the sex they were not assigned by biology.

Charles McVety, an evangelical leader and Christian activist, says the legislation introduced by New Democratic MP Bill Siksay would permit men to walk into women's public showers and washrooms on the pretext that they self-identify as a woman.

The most surprising aspect of private member's Bill C-389, Mr. McVety said, is the apparent willingness of the Conservatives, who fought against same-sex marriage as recently as 2006, to allow it to pass unimpeded through the House of Commons.

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The bill, which would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act, was expedited through the Commons justice committee, he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"They rushed it through. I can't divulge the person, but we have word from someone in the government who said there was a deal made with the NDP," Mr. McVety said.

The committee sent the bill back to the Commons without amendment on Nov. 3. Even if the Conservatives oppose it when it is read a third and final time in the House, it is likely to be passed into law with the support of the three opposition parties.

Some Conservatives have said they believe the wording of the bill is unclear.

Pamela Stephens, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, said there has been no deal with the NDP, and pointed out that the human-rights law already provides legal protection for people experiencing discrimination related to their gender identity.

But the government has not strongly denounced the bill.

"As adults, we can handle these things," Mr. McVety said. "But my daughter turned 13 on Saturday, and I don't want some guy showering beside her at the local swimming pool."

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The worst-case scenario, he said, would be if someone like convicted killer Russell Williams, who photographed himself dressing in women's lingerie, could demand protection under human-rights legislation after being found in a gender-restricted space. "That would absolutely horrific."

But Mr. Siksay, who says transgendered and transsexual people face significant prejudice and sometimes danger as a result of their gender identification, called Mr. McVety's arguments a red herring.

"I think this is Mr. McVety being his alarmist best, once again, when it comes to an issue of human rights, equal rights, for minorities in Canada," he said. "There is nothing in this bill that will change our understanding of appropriate behaviour in public washrooms or in gendered spaces."

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of voyeurism or inappropriate sexual contact in a public space can report the matter to the people who manage that space, or to the police, Mr. Siksay said.

"I think right now, all of us use public spaces, public washrooms, and use them successfully and appropriately with transgendered and transsexual people. We just don't know because it's all happening appropriately," he said.

As for the allegation that the Conservatives and the New Democrats have made a deal to push the bill into law, Mr. Siksay said the government has given the legislation no special treatment.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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