05/23/2012 04:15 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Poor and transgendered to be protected under Manitoba human rights code

WINNIPEG - Manitoba is expanding its human rights code to cover gender identity, homelessness and the poor.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and "social disadvantage" — a broad category that includes low-income earners, the homeless and people with little education.

"If somebody is looking for an apartment and they can show they can pay the rent, but because they've been unemployed for a period of time, the landlord simply decides on that basis alone they're not going to rent to them, that could be something the (human rights) commission could consider," Swan said.

The same protection would apply to a homeless person who is turned away by a taxi driver, as long as the person shows they can pay their fare.

People who have undergone or are to undergo gender reassignment surgery would be protected as well from discrimination in the workplace, the housing market and elsewhere.

The province's human rights code already forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, marital status and other factors. People who feel they have suffered discrimination can file a complaint, and offenders can be ordered to pay compensation or provide other remedies.

Swan said Quebec already has similar protection for the poor, and Ontario has recently introduced protection for transgendered people.

The human rights commission indicated to the province that it was interested in covering transgendered and low-income earners, Swan said, so the government has set out the new protection in law.