12/08/2014 06:01 EST | Updated 02/07/2015 05:59 EST

Saskatchewan amends human rights code to explicitly protect gender identity

REGINA - Saskatchewan passed legislation Monday that clarifies its human rights code and explicitly protects transgender people under law.

The amendments to the code include prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.

Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said the changes bring Saskatchewan in line with other provinces.

"Gender identity was always included in the code under the general definition of sex and sexual orientation," he said, adding that this offered the transgender community implicit protection.

"We've really made explicit what was otherwise implicit in the code to begin with," he said.

Wyant said the bill sends a message to the transgender community that their rights are enshrined in law.

"This really gives them the comfort that they have the protection," he said.

Jai Richards, who identifies as transgender, said there was too much room for interpretation under the code before making the amendments.

"It's really important to me that this change in the human rights code was finally brought into law," he said, adding that the issue first came to light almost a decade ago.

Richards, who is a counsellor in Saskatoon, added that there still needs to be education on transgender issues.

"We always know that laws pass first," he said.

"I certainly transitioned in a place of privilege, but that doesn't happen for most people and so most of the people that I work with, that has not been the case."

The legislation also repealed an exemption that had allowed landlords to refuse to rent a suite in their home or the other half of their duplex to someone based on the prospective renter's sexual orientation.

"We've also amended the code to ensure that roommate situations were left unchanged," Wyant said.

"People who share an accommodation, a kitchen, or a dining room, or a shared entrance are still able to choose who their roommates are."