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Commission involvement in gender identity issues

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The Commission has been aware of gender identity issues as far back as 1984. The Commission has received complaints from transsexuals in areas such as access to services, employment, lack of OHIP coverage for sex reassignment surgery, and access to medical care. However, the Commission has not specifically tracked the number of complaints connected with this issue.

Since the early nineties, informal and formal dialogue with various representatives of the transgendered community has resulted in somewhat different approaches to and understanding of human rights issues. However, the Commission has never had a consistent, approved policy direction in this area with which it could address gender identity issues.

In March 1998 at a conference held by the International Foundation for Gender Equality, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton discussed the application of the Code as it relates to transgendered people.[5] At that time, a commitment was made that the Commission would undertake policy development in consultation with the transgendered community. The public accountability framework for the current fiscal year includes policy work on transgendered issues and human rights.[6]

Policy development and meetings with the transgendered community took place pursuant to Section 29 of the Code, which articulates the functions of the Commission, including the obligations to:

  • forward the policy that the dignity and worth of every person be recognized and that equal rights and opportunities be provided without discrimination that is contrary to law;
  • promote an understanding and acceptance of and compliance with this Act;
  • develop and conduct programs of public information and education and undertake, direct and encourage research designed to eliminate discriminatory practices that infringe rights under this Act; and
  • examine and review any statute or regulation and any program or policy be made by or under a statute and make recommendations on any provision, program or policy that in its opinion is inconsistent with the intent of this Act.

[5] Keith C. Norton, The Rights of Transgendered Persons, unpublished (March 27, 1998).
[6] See the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Annual Report 1997/1998 (Toronto: 1998) at 30.

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