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Senate Testimony on Bill C-16

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On May 10th I was privileged to give testimony to the the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-16 along with Meghan Murphy (Feminist Current) and Hilla Kerner (Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter). 

Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee for Bill C-16

Testimony given May 10, 2017 by Paul Dirks for the WOMAN Means Something Campaign
(Five minutes given)


I consider it a great privilege to speak to you today, Honorable Senators, in opposition to Bill C-16. I believe the Bill to  be well-intentioned and yet it puts women and children at risk of sexual violence and, more importantly, removes a women’s right of consent when it comes to her bodily privacy.

Our campaign has done hundreds of hours of research on male violence against women in public spaces. We have logged 255 incidents of the sort that many people say do not exist. These are largely of voyeurism, in spaces like unisex change rooms at pools, gender-neutral bathrooms or, in 29 cases, situations where males have expressed a female gender and perpetrated violence in women’s safe spaces. Let me give you a few examples from Canada

Christopher/Jessica Hambrook (2012): assaulted two women in Toronto women’s shelters, in at least one case after three weeks identifying as a woman.[1]

Darren Cottrelle (2013): dressed as a woman and committed voyeurism in a woman’s washroom at Dufferin Mall in Toronto.[2]

Xingchen Liu (2015): dressed as a woman and committed video voyeurism in a woman’s change room at Leduc Recreation Centre in Edmonton.[3]

Also in 2015, the University of Toronto faced a debacle when they were forced to reverse their decision to make many of their washrooms gender-neutral when at least  two women were victims of voyeurism while they were showering.[4]

We recently did a geographical analysis of these incidents. We compared the level of incidents per population in those regions which had gender -inclusive legislation with those that did not. Regions with gender legislation were 1.8x as likely to have these violent incidents against women than those without. All five of the regions with the highest incident rate per population were those with gender legislation, with Ontario being the second highest, and Alberta fifth. The best data we have available demonstrates that gender-inclusive legislation is associated with increased harm to women.[5]

Target stores make for an interesting case study which corroborates this finding of increased harm. It is well known that in April 2016 Target publicized it’s gender-inclusive policy.[6] In the 13 months since, Target has experienced 8 incidents of sexual violence against women in the change rooms and washrooms of their stores. This was more than all other years combined.[7]

One of the most notable of these incidents occurred in July 2016  in Idaho. Shauna Smith, a transwoman, videotaped an eighteen-year old woman changing. At Smith’s sentencing the Judge, stated, “I, perhaps along with others, thought that Target has now adopted a questionable policy (and wondered) is someone going to come in and victimize someone because of that…You took advantage of that and victimized this young lady.”[8]

But not only do women have the right to be protected in their safe spaces, they have a right of consent concerning their  bodily privacy in places like change rooms.

Stanley v RCMP, 1987  “We cannot conceive of a more basic subject of privacy than the naked body. The desire to shield one’s unclothed figure from view of strangers, and particularly strangers of the opposite sex, is impelled by elementary self- respect and personal dignity.”[9]

Stopps v Just Ladies Fitness, 2006. “Privacy interests are not determined by the lowest common denominator of modesty that society considers appropriate.  What is determinative is whether a reasonable person would find that person’s claimed privacy interest legitimate and sincere, even though not commonly held.”[10]

Bill C-16 removes women’s right of consent concerning their bodily privacy, and overturns decades of jurisprudence on bodily privacy law. This is likely why a majority of Canadians do not support full choice for trans bathroom access. An Angus-Reid Poll in 2016 found that while 84 percent of Canadians approve of transgender rights generally,  only 41% supported full transgender bathroom rights.[11] It is highly likely that support for change room access would be considerably less.

Hon. Senators, we need more protections for women, not less. And above all women must retain the right of consent concerning their bodily privacy.




[4] Two separate sets of incidents at Whitey Hall, and at Sir Daniel Wilson.


[6] “In April last year, Target Corp. published a blog post welcoming transgender employees and shoppers to use restrooms and fitting rooms corresponding with their gender identities. ‘Everyone deserves to feel they belong,’ read the post, which turned half of Target’s red bullseye logo into a gay-pride ranbow.”

[7] Please note that new incidents are being added regularly.


[9] Stanley v. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 1987 CanLII 98 (CHRT), <> . Here quoting York v. Story.

[10] Stopps v. Just Ladies Fitness (Metrotown) and D. (No. 3), 2006 BCHRT 557 (CanLII), <> . Here quoting LivingWell v. Human Relattions Com’n


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