Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rights code beefed up to include transgender, poor folks

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THE province's human rights code will be changed so transgender Manitobans and those with a "disadvantaged social status" will be protected from discrimination, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Wednesday.

The changes bring the code up to speed with what exists in other provinces and were requested by the province's Human Rights Commission, the body that hears complaints of discrimination.

Swan, who introduced a legislative amendment Wednesday, said other changes include how the commission does its work, such as expanding mediation provisions, allowing for joint Manitoba Human Rights Commission proceedings on similar complaints and allowing the commission to sit in smaller panels.

He said the changes will protect people who have a social disadvantage, or are perceived to be undereducated, underemployed, homeless or living in inadequate housing, from being discriminated against.

Swan said in practical terms it means they cannot be turned away from renting an apartment, taking a taxi or riding on a bus if they can demonstrate they have the ability to pay.

"They show that they have the fare, that they have the money to go where they want to go, and yet they're refused entry to the bus or taxi, that's something the commission could consider to be discrimination based on somebody's social disadvantage," Swan said.

Quebec has had similar legislation for decades.

Swan added while discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation has been on the books in Manitoba for about 25 years, it was time to include Manitobans who change their gender.

"The commission has been very clear that if it can go out and can expressly talk about protection of transgender people, that will make it safer for (them)and their families," Swan said.

Ontario is also in the process of bringing in legislation to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2012 A5

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