1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Canada, U.S. heading in opposite directions as Trump says ‘No’ to trans troops

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

The Canadian Forces says it is pressing ahead with improvements to its transgender policy, even as U.S. President Donald Trump looks to bar transgender people from military service south of the border.

Trump surprised many Wednesday when he announced on Twitter that he was reinstating a ban on transgender people serving in uniform, after the previous Obama administration lifted the ban last year.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” he wrote, “and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

The announcement sparked concern for the hundreds of trans members already serving in the U.S. military, and accusations that the president was exaggerating the challenges of accommodation.

It also cast a light on the Canadian Forces, which lifted its own ban on transgender people and LGBT members following a court case in 1992 — a fact the Forces highlighted on its own Twitter account Wednesday.


National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said work continues on an update to the Canadian military’s transgender policy, which first came into effect in 2012.

While many of the changes are expected to be technical in nature, it is also expected to give commanding officers and units more guidance when it comes to such basics as bathrooms and showering.

The update, which started last year, is expected to be complete in the fall.

Related stories:

Pentagon may not have been aware of Trump’s decision on transgender military members

We got this: Trans advocates, celebrities react to Trump’s military decision

There are no official figures for how many transgender people are in the Forces, but estimates put the number at about 200.

Le Bouthillier also said the military has paid for 19 sex-reassignment operations between 2008 and October 2015, at a total cost of around $309,000. That works out to about $16,200 per operation.

While the costs do not include any hormone therapy, Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College, said many service members receive such treatment for various conditions — not just sex reassignment.

By comparison, Veterans Affairs Canada spent nearly $20 million on medical marijuana last year.

Okros also said he was unaware of any negative impacts that allowing transgender people to serve in uniform has caused on operations or the military’s overall ability to do its job.

Through an Access to Information request, CityNews discovered that Cadets Canada has been dealing with the issue of transgender cadets since at least 2013.

Cadets Canada is a youth program aimed at children aged 12-18, where they learn leadership, teamwork and citizenship skills and attributes through one of three separate branches- the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Cadets.

Documents obtained through Access to Information reveal that there have been several openly transgender cadets since 2013 – and that it seemingly posed no problems or obstacles until it came to training camps, where cadets have to share showering and sleeping accommodations. In the absence of a formalized policy, senior staff were quick to work out solutions for sleeping arrangements and showers, being sensitive to the needs of the transgender cadet, and their peers.

In an April 2015 email, a Colonel writes: “The number one concern is the safety of this cadet and all others. We do not want to create a negative experience for all concerned.” Later adding: “Our program accepts all applicants and this cadet is just another cadet with individual needs,” before working through where the cadet in question would sleep.

A May 2015 email reads: “We need to put a policy in place… we need to be prepared to accommodate these Cadets as long as it does not cause us or cause them undue hardship.” A policy was developed and implemented in 2016.

The policy directive reaffirms the organization’s commitment to providing a discriminatory-free environment, but also addresses the logistics of shared sleeping and bathing quarters:

Use of Washroom/ Showers
5.3 Any cadets, including those who are transgender cadets, may use the washroom / shower that best correspond to their gender identity. All adult supervisors are responsible to ensure that there is adequate washroom / shower facility space available; this may mean providing a single space facility or setting up a schedule for use of an existing space in order to accommodate all cadets.

Sleeping Quarters 
5.4 It is incumbent on the adult supervisor to make arrangements for the transgender cadets in order that they are not discriminated against. This may include, depending on the location and availability, a separate sleeping arrangement away from the group in order to accommodate the cadet. Corps / squadron / CTC COs will, at all times, exercise discretion and be considerate of what state of the transition the transgender cadet is currently going through before making a decision.

Canada is one of 18 countries that currently allow transgender military personnel, which includes Israel, Australia, Britain, Germany and France.

“The disruption factor is not a major issue for these countries at all,” Okros said. “So some of (Trump’s) objections are based on concerns or exaggerations that aren’t borne out.”

Randall Garrison, who serves as both the NDP’s defence critic and its LGBTQ critic, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to denounce Trump’s “despicable” comments.

“Service to one’s country is of the highest honour. Transgender people who are currently in the military and those who wish to serve are, in many ways, the bravest of the brave,” Garrison said in a statement.

“Prime Minister Trudeau must denounce this policy immediately in order to demonstrate that Canada not only respects human rights but that we will stand up against discrimination.”

The Liberal government sidestepped questions about Trump, however, as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office noted transgender military personnel have been allowed to serve openly for 25 years.

“Our position on their valuable service in the Canadian military has not changed,” spokeswoman Jordan Owens said in a statement.


  • No comments have been left yet, get the conversation started!

Leave a Comment Below

Sign in to comment.

All fields are required.

Want to embed media into your comment? Just paste in a URL in a separate paragraph to the page where you would normally view the media (like on YouTube) and it will automatically be embedded into your comment.