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Bill to mark transgender and two-spirit day passed by Manitoba legislature

Dozens gather at the Manitoba Legislative Building on March 31, 2024 to bring attention to the Trans and Two-Spirit Day of Visibility (Daniel Halmarson/CTV News). Dozens gather at the Manitoba Legislative Building on March 31, 2024 to bring attention to the Trans and Two-Spirit Day of Visibility (Daniel Halmarson/CTV News).
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There was acrimony in the Manitoba legislature Thursday as politicians passed a bill to designate March 31 an annual day to recognize two-spirit and transgender persons.

The bill to establish Two-Spirit and Transgender Day of Visibility passed a final vote with unanimous support of the governing New Democrats and most of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives in the chamber.

But four Progressive Conservatives voted against the bill, prompting Premier Wab Kinew to accuse them of engaging in "an act of hate."

"No one is asking for you to be gay," Kinew said to Tories across the chamber.

"People are just asking you to recognize the existence, the dignity and the human rights of people in this very chamber," Kinew said, referring to Logan Oxenham, a transgender NDP backbencher who put forward the bill.

NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine called the no votes "disgusting."

One of the Tories who voted no said he is not against a day of recognition.

Konrad Narth said he is against a clause in the bill that says youth have agency over their lives, understand the concepts of gender identity and "appreciate that access to gender-affirming care means better mental health outcomes."

"I have some issue with, (and) constituents that I represent have some issue with, youth and the terminology of youth being able to make the decisions on altering their identity," Narth, who represents the La Verendrye constituency southeast of Winnipeg, told reporters.

Another Tory who voted no, former premier Kelvin Goertzen, expressed a similar concern.

"The Manitoba NDP bill ... contained within it language that expressed support for youth -- often defined as young as 12 or 13 -- to have sex-affirming procedures, medical or otherwise, without any stated limitation to age or parental knowledge," Goertzen said in a statement.

"I believe that this is an important matter of public policy that deserves both study and public input and not to be inserted into the preamble of a bill that otherwise would find support."

Interim Progressive Conservative leader Wayne Ewasko, who voted in favour of the bill, said his caucus members were allowed to vote how they wished. Nine voted to support the bill.

"We had a free vote today and our caucus members respect each other's voices and votes," Ewasko said.

Debate over the bill, which was passed in the morning, spilled into question period in the afternoon. NDP cabinet ministers deflected Tory questions on other topics and instead criticized the no votes.

Some 20 other bills are expected to go to a final vote Monday before the legislature's summer break. One bill would end the province's ban on homegrown recreational cannabis and another would make it easier to seize property from criminals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.

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