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Like 'men talking about abortion:' Trans groups troubled by lack of representation on Que. committee

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The members of Quebec's new committee on gender identity issues share a few things in common: they are experts in their fields, highly accomplished, and none of them are transgender.

It's a reality that has not gone unnoticed by advocacy groups in the province.

"I worry that it may come from a lack of respect or recognition of the importance of our voice," said Calvin Lachance, coordinator of ASTT(e)Q, a Montreal-based peer support program for the transgender community.

"I do not want to paint that whole committee as, you know, immediately disrespectful, but it does point to a lack of consideration. I mean, there's no doubt about it. And that is concerning," Lachance told CTV News.

On Tuesday, Quebec Families Minister Suzanne Roy unveiled the members of her "committee of sages," as she dubbed it on social media, tasked with "painting a portrait of Quebec's reality" as it relates to gender identity.

Nurse and administrator Diane Lavallée, former president of the Council on the Status of Women and former head of the FIQ nurses' union, was named chair.

She's joined by Dr. Jean-Bernard Trudeau, former deputy director general of Quebec's college of physicians, and Université Laval law professor Patrick Taillon.

While all are highly respected in their spheres, neither Lavallée, Trudeau, or Taillon specialize in issues related to gender identity -- nor are they openly trans or non-binary.

Suzanne Roy defended this fact in an interview with French-language news outlet TVA on Tuesday morning.

"It's not a committee of diversity; it's a committee of analysis, of reflection," she said, specifying that the panel will collaborate with the Conseil Quebec LGBT, a collective of over 70 LGBTQ2S+ groups across the province.

But this argument doesn't sit well with advocates like Victoria Legault, executive director of trans support service Aide aux Trans du Québec (ATQ).

"It would be just unacceptable to see, for example, a group of cisgender men talking about abortion, you know, we wouldn't accept that. But we often do when we talk about trans people," she said in an interview.

"[There are] some experts that have real knowledge on trans and non-binary people that are not trans or non-binary people, and even those are dismissed by the government to be part of this committee."

Calvin Lachance made a similar point.

"It would not have been difficult to find a researcher, or a nurse or someone who had worked in policy, or someone who had worked in the government, or someone who had worked in any number of these sectors that are relevant to the project, that was closer to the community," he said.

PRESERVING RIGHTS

The committee was formed in response to a turbulent summer of nationwide demonstrations against discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

"The committee's work should provide food for thought for the government, which is increasingly called upon to take a position on sensitive issues relating to gender identity, which deserve carefully considered responses," explained Suzanne Roy at a press conference Tuesday.

A report of the findings is due to come out in 2025.

While one of the project's stated goals is to analyze Quebec's relevant policies in sectors like health, education and sports, Lavallée stressed that there is "no question about rolling back the rights of trans and non-binary people."

But it's not a comment Lachance finds entirely reassuring.

"They have said that they want to ensure that our rights as of now are not rescinded, which I also found quite troubling -- to sort of, quote-unquote, preserve what we've gained as a framework that looks backwards at what we've gained rather than forward as what we need as a community," he explained.

"Things like financial instability, poverty, workplace health care, discrimination, housing, discrimination, access to resources. I mean, none of these were addressed."

Victoria Legault fears the committee was formed to appease the public's concerns about gender identity at the expense of real trans people.

"We don't feel like it's going to benefit us at all. I know the government was saying, 'we are doing this to have an open conversation about it and to reassure part of the population.' But the thing is, there's a lot of hate right now towards the communities, the people from our communities -- it feels heavy since the last couple of months. And we just think it's going to put some oil on the fire."

OPPOSITION REACTS

The committee's lack of trans and non-binary representation and expertise was also noted by Quebec's opposition on Tuesday.

"We would no doubt find it strange [...] a committee on the future of the French language with no Francophones. It's a bit peculiar that we're debating such sensitive issues without bringing the voices of those concerned to the table," Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told reporters.

"However well-intentioned and intelligent the members of the committee announced this morning may be, we can't claim that they are experts on these issues," added Marc Tanguay, interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he would have preferred a broader consultation.

"It's a way of proceeding that doesn't suit us," he said. "It doesn't take anything away from these three people, but, from my point of view, on issues like this, you have to hear everyone, and then you have to do it transparently."

With files from The Canadian Press. 

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