back to top

The Senator Who Killed The Last Trans Rights Bill Says He Hasn't Changed His Mind

The Senator who successfully derailed the last transgender protection bill says his feelings have not changed.

Posted on

Don Plett, the Conservative senator who engineered the death of the last transgender rights bill, says his views have not changed.

"You know my feeling on transgender rights, they haven't changed since the last time I spoke about it," Plett told reporters on his way into the Senate.

Plett was opposed to the last transgender rights bill and managed to delay it so long that it died on the order paper when Parliament had to rise for the last election.

He was asked Tuesday if he will try to defeat the bill just announced to make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people.

Things are different this time around. Previously, Plett was opposing a private member's bill from NDP MP Randall Garrison. This time it's government legislation. Plett highlighted that distinction and hinted he may give up the fight before it even begins.

“The bill is now a government bill so I will have to look at it and determine what routes I’m going to take," he said.

"My views on the issues have not changed, they probably will not change, but because it is now government legislation obviously a lot of the rules have changed.”

Senator Don Plett, who led the moves to kill the last trans rights bill, says his feelings haven't changed. #cdnpoli

By making it a government bill, the Liberals essentially guaranteed it will pass the House of Commons. But two similar bills have passed the House only to die in the Senate.

Can the Senate kill this initiative again? Well, it's extremely complicated.

On the one hand, the Conservatives have lost the iron hold on the Senate they had last time. They control only 42 of 105 Senate seats.

On the other hand, the Liberals may not have control either.

Justin Trudeau's Senate reform plan means he appoints independents, rather than Liberals. Even the existing Liberal senators were kicked out of caucus and operate as "Independent Liberals."

So there are three types of senators: Conservatives, Independent Liberals, and Independents. If this seems like it doesn't make any sense, that's because it doesn't.

Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, who is transgender, speaks along side Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, right, as she announces the transgender protection bill in the foyer of the House of Commons.

No one really understands how the new, semi-reformed Senate is supposed to work. But between the Independent Liberals, who supported the bill last time, and the new Independents, it's likely this time the trans rights bill will pass.

For one thing, there's no election looming so it won't be easy for Conservatives to just stall the bill like they did last time.

For another, the Senate would bring a lot of heat down on itself if it blocks legislation passed by democratically-elected Members of Parliament.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.