July 25, 2016 MLA Marvin Hunt

M. Hunt: I rise to speak to the amendments to the B.C. human rights code.

I am a proud Canadian. I’m proud of our nation and that it was established on the principles of freedom and liberty. I, like every other member of this House, abhor discrimination.

I am proud of the long history of freedom and liberty which began in 1215 with the Magna Carta. The great charter, if you translate it into English, is simply a practical solution to a political crisis faced by King John in England. But it began a process which remains the cornerstone of our constitutional monarchy. It enumerates a set of fundamental values that challenged the autocratic rule of the king and provided a form of governance that has proved highly adaptable in the following centuries.

Its core principles were echoed in 1791 in the United States Bill of Rights, in the 1948 universal declaration of human rights and, of course, in 1982, in our own Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Now, lest I give the impression that the 1215 document was perfect, I hasten to add that nearly a third of the text was deleted or rewritten within the next ten years. Almost all of the clauses have been repealed over the years as time and life move on. But as most famously stated in the 39th clause, all free men have a right to justice and a fair trial.

But what is justice? Who decides what is fair? Well, let me quote Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill spoke in the chancellor’s address in the University of Bristol, July 2, 1938:

“There are few words which are used more loosely than the word ‘civilization.’ What does it mean? It means a society based upon the opinions of civilians. It means that violence, the rule of warriors and despotic chiefs, the conditions of camps and warfare, of riot and tyranny, give place to parliaments where laws are made and independent courts of justice in which over long periods those laws are maintained. That is civilization, and it’s the soil that grows continual freedom, comfort and culture.”

“When civilization reigns in any country, a wider and less harassed life is afforded to the masses of the people. The traditions of the past are cherished, and the inheritance bequeathed to us by former wise or valiant men becomes a rich estate to be enjoyed and used by all.”

That is my Canada, the nation that was built on hundreds of years of common law — not just in Canada but in English common law as well, over 800 years of it.

What is the motto of the RCMP? The law is right. Not the king. Not the Prime Minister. Not the Premier. Yes, not the B.C. Liberals or the NDP, for that matter. That’s our heritage. Not that the king or the government has all power and gives some rights to the people but that the citizens have all of the rights and give a few of them to the government. If they don’t like what we’re doing, they’ll kick us out at the next election and get rid of the bad laws that we’ve created. We are not a police state, but we have chosen to obey the law because we see the wisdom in it.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for a speech that he made
on November 19, 1863. It lasted about two minutes — obviously shorter than the one I’m making — and has been referred to as the Gettysburg address. It ended with his hope that “this nation, under God, should have a new birth of freedom and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Now, many people think this was original and this applied to the United States of America, but in fact, that’s not the case. It’s actually a quote authored in 1384 by John Wycliffe — yes, almost 500 years before Abraham Lincoln. That’s the heritage of our legal system.

Now, some may wonder why I’m taking my time to give this history lesson. Well, before us today are some amendments to the B.C. human rights code. There are members of the LGBTQ community who feel that they are not covered by the code because their situation is not specifically mentioned in the code. But in its decisions, the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Tribunal have consistently confirmed that the definition of “sex” in the human rights code includes transgender persons.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

In 1998, B.C. human rights decision, Sheridan v. Sanctuary Investments, the deputy chief commissioner concluded that discrimination against a transsexual constitutes discrimination because of sex. Recently, in the case of Dawson v. Vancouver Police Board, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that when Ms. Dawson, a postoperative, transgender woman, was referred to with male pronouns, it amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex.

The courts are clear in their decisions. Transgender people are clearly included in the B.C. human rights code. Now, the Jews aren’t mentioned in the code, but they are covered. Bahá’í are not mentioned in the code, but they’re covered. Chaldeans are not mentioned in the code, but they are also covered. They all have suffered persecution, have been discriminated against and even murdered, but they are not specifically…. They are all covered by the code even though they’re not mentioned in it.

It’s my opinion that these amendments are not necessary. Transgender persons are covered. But just like the Magna Carta has been changed over the centuries in its wording and the principles remain the same, so too the B.C. human rights code may change with these words, but the principles remain the same.

My only concern is: how many more unnecessary changes are we going to make over the years because there are people who, unfortunately, feel the pressure and the pain of being discriminated against? But today, we all want to again confirm that we all abhor discrimination.