Honouring Lost Lives, Seeking Justice for the Living:

OFL Statement on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, 2012

Since 1999, November 20 has been recognized as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day to reflect on the lives of transgendered people who have been killed due to prejudice or hatred and to ensure that their names are not forgotten. The day is also dedicated to raising public awareness about hate crimes committed against transgender people and the discrimination, harassment and violence that is too often a part of their daily lives. Vigils are held around the world to express love and respect for transgender people in the face of national indifference and hatred.

The gender identities of trans-identified people often don’t conform to broader societal expectations, forcing them to live at the intersection of systemic oppressions. For transwomen and people who are racialized or have a disability, transmisogyny, racism and other forms of hatred can fuel additional stigmatization, harassment and violence.

Transgender people experience significant harassment and discrimination in education, employment, housing and access to services. As a result, they are more likely to experience acute economic insecurity, homelessness, and poor health while facing significant barriers to receiving updated identification documents which are often vital for accessing government support.

“Ontario society has a long way to go before the transgender community can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with gender-conforming people and proclaim that they have equal access to social equality and justice,” said OFL President Sid Ryan.


However, due to the work of courageous transactivists and human rights advocates, and the strong support of the Ontario NDP, important progress is being made in advancing the rights or trans people. In June, 2012 after its fourth introduction before the Ontario Legislature, Bill 33, the Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression Act, 2012 (commonly known as “Toby’s Act”), was finally passed into law. 

Introduced by NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale – High Park) and sponsored by Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre) and PC MPP Christine Elliott (Whitby – Oshawa), the Bill enshrines into the Ontario Human Rights Code protections for trans people that are equal to those currently afforded to Ontarians based on sex, religion, race, sexual orientation, and a number of other factors. Similar to the Bill C-279, which is currently before Federal Parliament, Toby’s Act affords protections with respect to public services, housing, employment and access to government facilities. However, Bill C-279 goes a step further in seeking to extend hate crimes statutes in the Criminal Code to cover gender identity and expression.

“Legislative change is an important step, but it is only one of many steps to achieving true social and economic equality for the LGBT community,” said Ryan. “With laws that reflect our inclusive values, the responsibility lies with each of us to create positive space and challenge homophobia and transphobia, and other forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, ableism, and classism.”

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled in April, 2012 that the Government of Ontario’s regulations on changing the designated gender on a birth certificate requiring complete gender reassignment surgery were discriminatory. This historic ruling means that, as of October 2012, applications only require a signed declaration and a note from a doctor or psychologist. The only caveat for changing a birth certificate is that the applicant must be 18 years of age.

“We continue to gather for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance to celebrate the lives of the trans people who are killed each year by those who harbour fear and hatred. We must work together to educate and help others understand transgender identities to bring an end to the ignorance and fear that is at the root of transphobia,” said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. “Let us work together to create a just society in which all people are respected, accepted and welcomed without prejudice based on gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, social class, economic situation, ability, or age.”

On this day, The Ontario Federation of Labour adds the voice of over one million unionized workers to those around the world who are joining the European Parliament in calling upon the World Health Organization to stop classifying transsexual people as mentally ill. Transgendered people must receive the medical help they need to transition without depending on a mental health diagnosis that serves to stigmatize and facilitate further violence.



Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 100 Lesmill Rd. Toronto, ON M3B 3P8  (416) 443-8888

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