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Nova Scotia minister seeks to clarify rights of transgender people

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry takes the stand in the afternoon session at the Police Review Board hearing at the Holiday Inn Express in Stellarton, NS, in this Oct. 5, 2010 file photo.

PAUL DARROW/The Globe and Mail

Nova Scotia's justice minister tabled amendments to the province's Human Rights Act Tuesday that would clarify the rights of transgender people.

Ross Landry told a news conference in Halifax that the changes would see gender expression and gender identity included in the law.

"I believe our community must be a place where all Nova Scotians know they are accepted," said Mr. Landry.

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The changes would allow transgender people to file human rights complaints based on their identity in cases where they believe they have been discriminated against on the job or in the community.

The change was pushed for by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project.

Kevin Kindred, chairman of the group, said although transgender people are able take discrimination complaints to the province's Human Rights Commission, they are often dealt with as cases of sexual discrimination.

He said the change would send an important message to society at large.

"It's not necessarily creating new rights, but it's creating a new understanding that discrimination against transgender people is covered by the Act," said Mr. Kindred.

Kate Shewan is a transgender person who believes the proposed change will help lift feelings of marginalization.

"This feels like we are being recognized as part of the whole community and it feels good to be included there and treated with respect."

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If the legislation passes, Nova Scotia would join Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories in specifically recognizing transgender people in its human rights legislation.

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