Nearly all opposition members stood up to cheer and applaud when the results were announced. While the entire NDP and Bloc caucuses voted for the bill, five Liberals abstained and seven voted against. Six Conservatives voted for the bill, including four cabinet ministers, while one minister abstained.Most of us watching this bill were pretty surprised to see six Conservative MPs - John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Shelly Glover, Gerald Keddy, John Moore and Lisa Raitt - vote in favour. While everyone points out that Baird is an openly closeted gay man, I'm not sure that's ever caused him to do the right thing before.
Some observers speculate that individual Conservative MPs now feel more free to vote their consciences, because nothing progressive will get through the Conservative-controlled Senate. This may be so, but the passage of Bill C-389 through the House of Commons is historic nonetheless. I believe it signals that the rights of transgendered people will eventually be written into Canada's law, whether or not it happens through this particular bill.
“When I first ran in 1993, I ran on the issue of LGBT rights,” [MP Hedy] Fry says. “We just got sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act [back then], and now that ‘T’ that I said was missing got put in.”
Fry says she is proud to have been in the House for votes on issues of sexual orientation, same-sex marriage and now trans rights, which she hopes will get swift passage in the Senate.
“Hopefully we’ll see things change in society,” Fry says. “When something becomes normalized and legal in a country, society begins to change its attitude toward those persons, and hopefully we’ll see some of those suicide rates dropping for transgendered persons.”
Bloc MP Nicole Demers, who spoke in support of the bill during second reading, expressed a mixture of joy and disappointment after the vote.
“I’m always shocked when I see people getting up and voting against human rights,” Demers says. “That shocks me. That angers me – I don’t know how, in 2011, we still have to teach people about those things, and when I see people from Quebec, like Christian Paradis and Jacques Gourde, getting up and voting against that – I’m saying to myself, my God, where have we gone wrong?”
I must mention that Bill Siksay, the bill's sponsor, is also personal and political supporter of US war resisters in Canada. He's one of the MPs that make me proud of Canada and of the NDP.