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Conservative bill limiting transgender athletes sinks in B.C. legislature

B.C. NDP, B.C. Greens, independents vote against bill introduced by Conservative leader John Rustad
The issue of trans-gendered athletes entered the provincial legislature Tuesday when Conservative Party of B.C leader John Rustad tabled a private member’s bill that have excluded female trans-athletes from publicly funding sporting events in B.C. Several U.S. states have passed such laws, but a majority of legislators in B.C. voted against Rustad’s private member’s bill. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)

B.C. New Democrats, B.C. Greens and two independents MLAs have rejected the introduction of a B.C. Conservative bill that would have excluded female transgender athletes from publicly funded sporting events in B.C.

Provincial Conservative Party Leader John Rustad had tabled the Fairness in Women’s and Girls’ Sports Act as a private member’s bill, but the bill failed to get traditional unanimous consent for first reading.

Rustad, caucus colleague Bruce Banman, MLA for Abbotsford-South and the B.C. United caucus voted in favour, Tuesday (April 30). But their combined 27 votes was not enough to overcome the 57 “no” votes from government and other parts of the opposition.

Premier David Eby — who has been very critical of the provincial Conservatives around the issue of transgender rights — did not take part in the vote as he was not in the legislature’s main chamber.

B.C. NDP House Leader Ravi Kahlon later called the bill “hateful and discriminatory” and questioned Rustad’s motivation.

“To see the (leader of the Conservative Party of B.C.) use his time in the legislature to pick on kids is reprehensible in my opinion,” Kahlon said. “I have spent my entire life playing sport. I was bullied as a kid and it’s sport that saves a lot of young people and to use our kids and their ability to just be amongst friends and playing something that they love as a political tool…is shameful in my opinion.”

The bill would have limited “participation in a sporting team or event…to individuals of the biological sex that corresponds to the sex classification of the sporting team or event” with an exception for females wishing to compete in male sports. Sport organizations would have been required to classify teams or events as females only, males only or co-ed or mixed, including both females and males. They may also have been able to require proof of an individual’s biological sex.

Notably, Rustad posted the bill online after the vote.

The bill’s wording echoes legislation in several U.S. states limiting sports participation by transgender girls and women. According to the New York Times, the Human Rights Campaign advocacy group tracked more than 800 anti-LGBTQ+ laws across the U.S. last year.

RELATED: B.C. Human Rights Commissioner says trans rights ‘not up for debate’

Meanwhile, Alberta this year passed restrictions on transgender athletes, citing what Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith called “obvious biological realities that give transgender female athletes a massive competitive advantage over women and girls” according to published reports.

Rustad’s introduction of the bill did not specifically mention trans athletes, but noted “inherent differences between males and females, ranging from chromosomal and hormonal differences to physiological differences” in linking the legislation to other efforts to ensure the equality of women.

“Maintaining opportunities for female athletes to demonstrate the strength, skills, and athletic abilities and to provide them with the opportunity to obtain recognition and accolades, university scholarships, and numerous other short- and long-term benefits that result from participating in competing in athletic endeavors in the province of British Columbia separate from their male counterparts is just common sense,” Rustad said.

B.C. United’s House Leader Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops South-Thompson, said first reading is a process vote, not a vote on the merits of the legislation. “The reality of the matter is, we always support first reading,” he said. Stone added that the contents of the bill were not available. “All we had to go by is the title of the bill and and the very short comments made by the MLA, who introduced the bill,” Stone said. “Our caucus was not prepared to pass judgement on the bill and move away from the traditional practice, the precedent of just supporting the first reading, when you have no idea what the heck is even in the bill.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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