03/15/2017 03:10 EDT | Updated 03/16/2017 10:49 EDT

Nunavut Protects Transgender Rights In Unanimous Vote

While transgender rights are being taken away in the United States, even from students, the Nunavut government has showed it will stand up for its trans citizens of all ages by voting unanimously to protect their rights.

On Monday, every Nunavut MLA voted in favour of Bill 31 which adds gender identity and gender expression to the the territory's Human Rights Act.

"[The act] will make clear that Nunavummiut who are transgender have the same right to live a full and productive life as anyone else in the territory, free of discrimination."
— Justice Minister Keith Peterson

"The Ontario Human Rights Commission has found that people who are transgender routinely face discrimination, hatred, and violence, simply because of who they are and how they live their lives," Justice Minister Keith Peterson said in legislature.

"To include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination will make clear that Nunavummiut who are transgender have the same right to live a full and productive life as anyone else in the territory, free of discrimination."

Peterson invited Iqaluit residents Catherine Lightfoot and her 17-year-old trans son, Kieran Drachenberg, whom he thanked personally for his support, to watch the bill pass its third reading. Bill 31 has to receive assent before becoming law.

Last year, Drachenberg wrote a blog post about his transitioning experience.

Never did I hear a bad word said about me or to me -- I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t teased, I wasn’t ostracized by the student body. To be honest, I believe that being in the North actually has benefited me in this area- I can’t say for sure that the people down south would have been as accepting and open-minded, but a part of me strongly believes that they probably wouldn’t have.

While I can’t speak for everybody, as everybody has a different coming out story, for me, coming out as LGBT+ has so far been a positive experience, one that I am ever thankful for.

I’m thankful for my supportive parents and family, and for my friends, and for the open-mindedness of the school faculty and students, and for the community as a whole, for making my experience as being LGBT+ so positive so far.

After the amendment passed, his mother expressed great pride in Nunavut for taking a step to protect trans rights.

"To come in this short a period of time and be ahead of the Government of Canada is huge for where this territory is moving as far as I'm concerned," Lightfoot told Nunatsiaq Online. "As a parent we all want to make sure that our kids are safe and we’re looking out for their well-being."

Her son told the local news site that passage of the bill has made him feel more comfortable with his identity.

"It makes me feel safer, more protected and more like a proper citizen of Nunavut," Drachenberg said.

The Yukon is also working to enshrine the rights of its trans residents.

On a federal level Bill C-16, a similar amendment to add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate crimes legislation, passed a second reading. The bill is currently with the senate.

The government has proposed changing the Vital Statistics Act by "removing a requirement that a person have sex reassignment surgery before they can change the gender on their birth registration" as well as adding gender identity and expression to their territorial Human Rights Act.

UPDATE: On March 15 New Brunswick, the last remaining Canadian province or territory to not legally protect trans citizens, announced they would also be updating their human rights legislation to include gender identity and expression.

"We want to make sure that transgender people, if they are discriminated for whatever reason, that they have recourse. They can go to the Human Rights Commission and be protected," said minister Donald Arseneault in a news release.

Subscribe to our podcast

Follow us on Facebook

Also on HuffPost

Transgender Heroes