City council unanimously passes new transgender protocol

City council voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a protocol governing how the city treats people who are transgender and gender non-conforming.

The protocol includes rules saying they can use the public restrooms and change rooms based on their gender identities. A lawyer specializing in transgender rights told councillors Monday that the protocol put the city "on the cutting edge of best practice." 

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said those who came forward to speak to council Monday about their struggle and their pain did so "bravely." He said the protocol will "make our city better."

"It was a fascinating day to be here, to listen to the … stories, the lived experience of many people in the community that have struggled with their gender identity and how that's reacted to in our broader community, the kind of accessibility that's been denied them in the past," Eisenberger said.

Coun. Aidan Johnson, who's helped to coordinate the effort, thanked all of the speakers and the 200 people who came to city hall Monday for a discussion of the protocol.

Johnson called it an "incredible privilege of my life" to work with members of Hamilton's community of people who identify as "transgender and non-binary, Two Spirit communities" to create the protocol.

Coun. Doug Conley asked for clarification from staff about showers and change rooms, and hinted at an "incident" at Valley Park rec centre in his ward.

"I just want to ensure that privacy for all people is going to be there," Conley said.

City Manager Chris Murray said he would look into the incident and work with Conley to figure out an acceptable resolution.

"I have a lot of confidence in the document that's in front of you, and how we're going to move forward," Murray said. "I do believe we are very much on the right path."

The lawyer who testified Monday, Nicole Nussbaum, said the protocol will "really echo in terms of leadership around the world.".

The city had to establish a protocol after an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal settlement. In 2014, a transgender woman tried to use the women's washroom at an HSR terminal. A guard stopped her and directed her to the unisex washroom. The woman filed an Ontario Human Rights tribunal complaint. 

Ultimately, all the councillors at the table voted for the protocol. Coun. Judi Partridge and Coun. Rob Pasuta were absent.

Street hockey vote passes

It took about 60 years to get here, but on Wednesday, Hamilton city council voted to make street hockey legal again on streets with speed limits of 40 km/h or less. They voted 11-3 in favour. 

Generations of Hamilton kids have been playing street hockey, says Sam Merulla, the Ward 4 councillor who pushed for the change. This just puts it on the books.

Street hockey has been illegal since the 1950s, Merulla says, for liability reasons.

Also at council: 

Here's what else was on the agenda:

CBC Hamilton reporter Kelly Bennett was tweeting live from the meeting. Follow her at @KellyRBennett or see her tweets below. (On mobile? Click here.)

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photo of City council unanimously passes new transgender protocol

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