Comment: The Canadian rule which bans transgender flight

Published: January 31, 2012

Canada is now officially a transgender no-fly zone.

This is the result of new rules, introduced last July, but only now coming to light, which state that an air carrier “shall not transport a passenger if … the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents”.

The reason that it has taken so long for this provision to percolate through to public awareness is that it was introduced not through formal legislation before the Canadian legislature, but as part Identity Screening Regulations, implemented unilaterally by the Ministry of Transportation, in support of Canada’s so-called Passenger Protect programme.

Its impact will be felt first by members of the Canadian transgender community, who may only change the ‘sex’ designation on a Canadian Passport, on provision of proof that surgery has taken place, or will take place within one year. This, it is argued by blogger, Christin Scarlett Milloy, means that non-operative transgender persons, gender nonconforming (genderqueer) persons, and the vast majority of pre-operative transsexual persons will find it literally impossible to obtain “proper” travel documentation.

However, there is likely to be some degree of impact on trans persons from any other country travelling through Canada on documents that fail to meet these new criteria.

A petition calling on the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to have these regulations set aside has been launched on change.org.

Meanwhile, cynics are speculating whether this move is ill-thought accident – or a rather more sinister piece of revenge by Conservative MP and Minister for Transport, Denis Lebel.

The change to regulations took place shortly after the federal election in 2011. In the previous parliament, Bill C-389, a bill to amend the Human Rights Code to explicitly enshrine protections against discrimination for transgender people, had successfully passed in the House of Commons, only to die on the Senate floor when the election was declared.

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