POLITICS

NDP, Transgender Community Urge Federal Government To Change Travel Regulations

05/17/2017 04:31 EDT | Updated 05/17/2017 04:31 EDT

OTTAWA — Jennifer McCreath thinks carefully before making plans to get on an airplane.

McCreath, a 43-year-old transgender person in St. John's, N.L., wants to change a long-standing regulation that prohibits airlines from transporting anyone who "does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification presented."

It's a cause the federal NDP has been pushing for five years, and one for which Justin Trudeau expressed support before becoming prime minister.

randall garrison

Randall Garrison, the NDP's critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues, said the long-standing regulation has nothing to do with safety. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

"It all comes back to the notion of equality," McCreath said in an interview, citing the deep historical connections between the Liberal party and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Ultimately, access to air travel or any type of transportation is ... a fundamental service that's out there. It just sends the wrong message."

The Liberal cabinet has the ability to change the regulation immediately, said Randall Garrison, the NDP's critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues

The regulation has nothing to do with safety, and does little more than subject transgender Canadians to public humiliation and obstructs their fundamental right to travel, Garrison said.

"If he supported removing this discriminatory regulation then, why as prime minister has he taken absolutely no action?"

Trudeau himself raised the issue both in the House of Commons and on Twitter in 2012, when he was an opposition MP. "This government keeps pushing its agenda of intolerance and hopes we don't notice," Trudeau tweeted at the time. "This is just wrong."

Asked Garrison during question period: "If he supported removing this discriminatory regulation then, why as prime minister has he taken absolutely no action?"

The question came one day after Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduced a new passenger bill of rights, a response of sorts to last month's sensational viral video showing airline security forcibly dragging a passenger off a United Airlines jet.

The Liberal government is looking at the transgender issue, Garneau responded. "We will have more to say in due course."

All Canadians should be able to travel without worry they'll be barred by an airline official, Garrison noted.

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