Joint statement – Trans visibility starts by upholding trans human rights

March 28, 2024 – Ottawa (Ontario) – Canadian Human Rights Commission and Office of the Federal Housing Advocate

To mark International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, the Interim Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, and the Federal Housing Advocate, Marie-Josée Houle, issue the following joint statement:

On International Transgender Day of Visibility, we celebrate trans people and their accomplishments, and we call on Canada to do more to uphold their fundamental human rights.

Every trans person should be able to live free from discrimination as their true, visible selves.

Today is also an important reminder that every trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary, and gender-diverse person deserves to be who they are, in every part of Canadian society.

Trans people have a right to feel safe and be themselves at school and where they work, to have equal access to housing and healthcare, and to receive services that meet their needs, including homeless shelters.

The recognition of trans rights in Canada has come about through the brave and determined efforts, activism and advocacy of trans, as well as Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people, even as they have had to contend with discrimination and violence in their own lives and communities.

The reality is that trans people in Canada continue to face barriers and discrimination simply because of who they are. In recent months, we have seen legal and policy changes in Canada that have forgotten or ignored the human rights, health, and safety of trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender diverse youth. We have also seen an increasing normalization of views in public discourse that can sow the seeds of intolerance, which in turn can have devastating impacts that put fundamental human rights at risk.

A key example is how trans people are experiencing some of the most egregious right to housing violations across Canada. They are over-represented in almost all aspects of poverty, housing insecurity, and homelessness, and are disproportionately impacted by violence and trauma linked to precarious living situations.

Canada must do better to uphold the human rights of trans people. These are the most basic fundamental rights we all share — to be free from discrimination, to have equal access to housing and healthcare, to take part in work and education.

These rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Canada has recognized housing as a human right in domestic law. Canada has a responsibility to uphold its human rights obligations, for every person across the country.

We all have a responsibility to ensure trans people feel safe being visible.

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Quick facts

  • A survey conducted by the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network found that almost half (43%) of the gender-diverse participants reported experiencing discrimination from landlords or property managers on the basis of their gender identity. Meanwhile, 41% reported experiencing discrimination or judgement from staff at homeless shelters or drop-ins.
  • Trans PULSE Canada, based on quantitative survey data from 2,873 trans and non-binary people found that “housing barriers manifested not only in lived experiences but also in anticipation of mistreatment. Half of participants anticipated discrimination in obtaining housing ‘because of who they are.’”
  • In a literature review on adequate housing for Indigenous Two-Spirit, transgender, non-binary and gender diverse people, the Native Women’s Association of Canada found that systemic discrimination, including intersectional discrimination based on gender identity, perceived sexual orientation, and Indigenous identity, was one of the main barriers to the implementation of recommendations that would ease barriers to housing for these groups.

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