Editorial: Tired arguments against human rights

It was sad last week to see advocacy groups coming out with tired arguments against human rights legislation designed to protect transgendered people.

As the Toronto Star noted, critics of NDP MP Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act were raising the prospect of sexual predators dressing up like women in order to peep on ladies’ rooms.

“Imagine a young girl - your daughter or granddaughter - goes into a washroom and finds a man there,” the paper quoted Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes as saying. “How is the young girl to determine whether or not the man in the bathroom is a ‘peeping Tom,’ a rapist or a pedophile?”

The group REAL Women of Canada chimed in with another offensive line: “What about women who don’t wish to share the restroom with a disturbed male?”

Certainly, people are entitled to their beliefs and to express them, but it’s too bad such groups go so far with such insulting rhetoric every time equity-seeking advocates try to bring about change in society.

If someone is a rapist or a pedophile, we have criminal laws to deal with such behaviour that no human rights provisions will sanction. What Siksay is trying to do is protect people who have long faced discrimination and who, beyond being able to use the appropriate bathroom, deserve to live their lives free of prejudice.

Whatever one’s opinion on Siksay’s proposal, it’s clear that if groups like the Campaign Life Coalition and REAL Women had their way, so many of the changes that have come about in recent years - gay marriage being the most obvious example - wouldn’t have become reality.

So far, society has functioned well with it, so why should we listen to these groups’ veiled attempts at justifying continued discrimination?

Other commentators, such as Paul Tuns, who wrote about Siksay’s bill in Catholic Insight this month, at least take a more cerebral and reasoned approach to the issue. Instead of raising offensive rhetoric, he spoke of the bill as an example of using the law “to force others to accept” the beliefs of transgendered people.

In his view, the proposal would hinder religious rights by introducing “a forced kind of baptism, a gender reassignment surgery imposed, not on the body, but on the legal code.”

Tuns’ proposition is debatable. Rather than forcing beliefs on people, it’s arguable that Siksay’s bill amounts more to allowing them to live and let live given that one group’s freedoms don’t necessarily impinge on the rights of others.

Tuns, at least, uses logic, something that was lacking in the comments of the Campaign Life Coalition and REAL Women.
- Glenn Kauth

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