Bill to celebrate Transgender and Two-Spirit Day passed by Manitoba Parliament


There was heated debate in Manitoba's parliament on Thursday after politicians passed a bill to declare March 31 as an annual day to recognize Two-Spirit and transgender people.

The bill to introduce a Two-Spirit and Transgender Day of Visibility was passed unanimously in the final vote by the governing New Democrats and the majority of the opposition Progressive Conservatives in the chamber.

But four Progressive Conservatives voted against the law, whereupon Prime Minister Vab Kinew accused them of participating in an “act of hatred.”

“Nobody is asking you to be gay,” Kinew said to the Tories across the room.

“All people are asking you to do is recognize the existence, dignity and human rights of the people in this room,” Kinew said, referring to Logan Oxenham, a transgender NDP backbencher who introduced the bill.

NDP leader Nahanni Fontaine called the no votes “disgusting.”

One of the Tories who voted no said he was not against a day of recognition.

Konrad Narth said he opposed a clause in the bill that says youth have self-determination over their lives, understand the concept of gender identity and “recognize that access to gender-affirming care leads to better mental health outcomes.”

“I have some problem with that, and the voters I represent have some problem with that, with the fact that young people and the terminology that says young people can decide for themselves about changing their identity,” Narth, who represents the constituency of La Verendrye southeast of Winnipeg, told reporters.

Another Tory who voted no, former Prime Minister Kelvin Goertzen, expressed similar concerns.

“The Manitoba NDP's bill … contained language expressing support for youth – often defined as 12 or 13 years old – to be allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery, medical or otherwise, without specifying an age restriction or parental knowledge,” Goertzen said in a statement.

“I believe this is an important public policy matter that deserves both investigation and public participation and should not be included in the preamble of a bill that would otherwise gain support.”

Interim Progressive Conservative Party leader Wayne Ewasko, who voted for the bill, said members of his caucus were allowed to vote however they wanted. Nine of them voted for the bill.

“We had a free vote today and the members of our group respect the voices and votes of the others,” said Ewasko.

Debate over the bill, which passed in the morning, spilled over into question time in the afternoon, with NDP cabinet ministers dodging Tories' questions on other issues and instead criticizing the no votes.

About 20 other bills are expected to receive a final vote on Monday before the legislature's summer recess. One bill would lift the province's ban on domestically grown recreational cannabis and another would make it easier to seize criminals' property.