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Ontario Human Rights Commission releases Policy on gender identity

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June 21, 2000

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today released its Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity. The Policy is intended to help the public understand how the Human Rights Code protects against discrimination and harassment because of gender identity.

The Commission’s Policy states that human rights complaints of discrimination and harassment based on gender identity will be accepted under the ground of sex.

Chief Commissioner Keith Norton noted that, "The Ontario Human Rights Commission has been examining gender identity for two years, and it is time to clarify the basic issue of human rights for transgendered people. I made a commitment two years ago that policy work would be developed specifically for this community and we have now fulfilled our commitment". He noted that "The Policy confirms at a policy level what courts across the country have been saying for some time: transgendered people have the right to equal treatment without discrimination."

The Policy was developed as a result of the severe marginalization and stigma experienced by transgendered persons that was reported to the Commission during its consultations. The term ‘transgendered’ refers to people who are not comfortable with or who reject, in whole or in part, their birth-assigned gender identities. It includes transsexuals, cross-dressers and intersexed individuals. The personal characteristics that are associated with gender identity include self-image, physical and biological appearance, behaviour and conduct, as they relate to gender. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person’s sexual orientation.

The Policy seeks to:

  • ensure that all people are protected by the Code;
  • promote the dignity and equality of those whose gender identity does not conform to social norms;
  • raise awareness of gender identity to prevent discrimination and harassment; and
  • dispel stereotypes and myths that foster discrimination and harassment.

Mr. Norton remarked that, "Misunderstanding of transgendered persons combined with hostility towards their very existence are fundamental human rights issues." He added that, "As the organisation charged with the administration and enforcement of the Code, the Commission has a responsibility to forward the policy that the dignity and worth of every person be recognised and that equal rights and opportunities be provided without discrimination because of gender identity."

The Policy is the result of a discussion paper on the issue of gender identity published in October 1999. The paper was based on research, community consultations and interviews with selected officials and health professionals. The paper canvassed jurisprudence, domestic and international legislation, literature, and other human rights organisations’ policies.

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528