BC alters legislations to recognize gender diversity

The project aims to make government and laws more accessible

PHOTO: Delia Giandeini / Unsplash

Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

The BC provincial government reported on March 10, 2021 that 600 instances of gendered language across 15 ministries had been rewritten to “ensure that all British Columbians have equal access to government services no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or cultural beliefs.” 

Provincial minister of jobs, economic recovery, and innovation Hon. Ravi Kahlon told The Peak in an interview, “Government leads. If the government is not taking action, if we are not reflecting that change, then how can we expect society to do so? We have a responsibility in government to [ . . . ] make sure that everything we do is open and accessible.”

Examples such as “sister” and “brother” have been changed to “sibling,” Kahlon reported to The Tyee. Similarly, “husband” and “wife” have been rewritten to “spouse.” There are also instances of “man made” which have become “human made.”

He understands “we’re the first government to do something like this in Canada.” Kahlon hopes the federal government and other provinces will follow because “as a country we have a lot to do, we have a long way to go.”

Part of Kahlon’s focus is understanding how gendered language affects government and economic recovery through the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “We put a gendered lens on all policies we bring in to see the impacts.” This includes budget reports, legislation, and policies. 

“There’s a lot more work to be done — this looked at all regulations but we know that there’s still going to be more legislations or laws that maybe go further back [ . . . ] so we’re going to continue that work,” said Kahlon.

In 2017, Kahlon was asked by premier John Horgan to report on human rights commissions in BC. Through this process, Kahlon heard stories from British Columbians about the importance of how we are asked to identify on passports and driver’s licenses. He heard it disenfranchised people’s identity. At that point, Kahlon began this project. 

“If you’ve ever faced discrimination, then you understand why this is important,” said Kahlon. “If you haven’t, perhaps you don’t know because your privileges don’t allow you to see that — for us this is front and center. Human rights is critically important.

“Anyone that can find criticism in efforts to make government more accessible to everybody in BC is missing the value of what government means.”