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The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed internationally on November 20 in memory of transgender and transsexual persons who have been the victims of transphobic violence.

To mark this important day, CUPE is calling on members to contact their MP in support of Bill C-279, a private member’s bill that would amend the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada to include proper protections against discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. The bill was put forward by New Democrat MP Randall Garrison.

Garrison’s bill is the same one introduced in previous parliaments by former MP Bill Siksay. Last year, after many years of work, Siksay’s bill was finally passed in a historic vote by the House of Commons and slated to become law. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Senate when the federal election was called.

This is a population that faces constant discrimination everywhere they go and in everything they do,” said Garrison. “Trans people have serious difficulties accessing housing, health care, employment and protection under the law.  Not only are Trans people subject to serious discrimination but they are all too often victims of violence.”

He expects the new bill to come up for debate in late February.

We are optimistic about the bill.  We are expecting most of the other opposition members to support the bill as well as the five returning Tories who previously voted in favour.  This means that we have to find a dozen more among the new Conservatives and I am optimistic with help from organizations like CUPE that we can secure the votes we need.”

In a joint letter sent in September to all CUPE chartered organizations, CUPE National President Paul Moist and former National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux explained the importance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Trans people in our workplaces and communities are among those most at risk of experiencing physical violence as well as more subtle forms of discrimination,” said Moist and Généreux. “Serious gaps in human rights protection and in access to services reflect and intensify this exclusion.”

Events to mark the important date will take place in most Canadian cities, with CUPE members participating in many of them.

This is the thirteenth annual observance of this important date. It began following the murder of Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman, in Allston, Massachusetts. Her death inspired the web project Remembering Our Dead, and a candlelight vigil in San Francisco the following year, which would evolve into the internationally celebrated Day of Remembrance.