Below are FAQs for LEAF’s mandate update, which you can read more about in this announcement. The mandate can be found here. For definitions, please refer to the 519’s Glossary of Terms or Egale’s 2SLGBTQI Glossary of Terms.
How does this change the work LEAF does? (What does this mean in terms of our specific issues?)
Because it’s not always possible to predict the complexities and opportunities that will arise when organizations expand their work, the complete answer to this question will take shape slowly over time. But we know this much for sure: LEAF’s work to advance women’s equality will continue unabated. In addition, now that LEAF explicitly includes non-binary people and all trans people (not just trans women), we can consider new opportunities for law reform, litigation, or public education that centre non-binary and trans people. This work will be undertaken in partnership and allyship with non-binary and trans-led communities. Finally, updating LEAF’s mandate will encourage us to continue to ensure that the way we discuss gender-based discrimination is nuanced and includes all those who experience gender-based discrimination.
Hasn’t LEAF always done this work?
Not explicitly. From 1985 to 2015, our work centred on cisgender women’s rights. At the same time, many of the legal successes achieved by LEAF – such as the recognition of workplace harassment, or a robust and affirmative definition of consent – have benefited people other than cisgender women as well.
In 2015, we amended our policies to clarify that we work for the well-being of all self-identified women and girls. We adopted this formal policy change to make it clear that our women-centred work includes both cis and trans women.
Now, with this mandate update, LEAF commits to advancing the substantive equality of cis and trans women, trans, intersex, gender diverse, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, bigender, and non-binary people. This is consistent with our thirty-seven years (and counting) of advocacy to advance substantive gender equality for those who face gender-based discrimination. In doing so, we are following in the footsteps of the other national gender-equity organizations who have already made this shift.
While this has been a long time coming given the Canadian human rights landscape and the trend already established by other gender-equity organizations, this is a new chapter in LEAF’s work. It is one that we very much look forward to beginning.
What does “gender-based discrimination” mean at LEAF?
Gender equality is when people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. When someone’s gender identity or gender expression puts them at a social, political, or economic disadvantage, they experience discrimination because of their gender.
At the time that LEAF was formed, the dominant understanding of gender-based discrimination was that it was women who were at social, political, and economic disadvantage in relation to men. This was how LEAF framed its gender equality advocacy.
At the time that LEAF was formed, transgender, gender non-conforming, Two Spirit, and other people also experienced discrimination based on their genders. These identities were invalidated in mainstream society, and the discrimination against people who held these gender identities was invisibilized.
Today, all human rights codes in Canada recognize discrimination against trans and gender non-conforming people as being discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression. These are forms of gender-based discrimination.
In Canadian society, cis and trans women, trans, intersex, gender-diverse, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, bigender, and non-binary people all experience discrimination based on their gender. LEAF is committed to advancing their substantive equality, consistent with our thirty-seven-years (and counting) of advocacy to advance substantive gender equality for those who face gender-based discrimination.
Is LEAF still a part of the ‘women’s movement’?
LEAF was built and powered by women. We are proud to be from the women’s movement and will be forever tied to it one way or another. However, the women’s movement hasn’t captured all sites of gender-based discrimination. In addition to the women’s movement, LEAF is also a part of the feminist movement, which advocates for gender justice and an end to gender-based discrimination.
Are we purporting to have expertise where we don’t have expertise?
The simple answer is that we don’t have the expertise. From 1985 to 2015, LEAF’s advocacy focused on the rights of cisgender women. With this updated mandate, we are making a commitment to do better and include the experiences of trans and non-binary people in our work. We are excited to learn from, collaborate with, and follow the leadership of trans communities and organizations who have long been at the forefront of trans rights advocacy. We look forward to building stronger relationships with and showing up in solidarity for trans communities and organizations.
Why doesn’t your updated mandate include Two-Spirit people?
Some Two-Spirit people – an umbrella term encompassing gender and sexual diversity in many Indigenous communities – also experience gender-based discrimination. As a settler organization working through the Canadian legal system, LEAF will be conducting a learning process in consultation with Two-Spirit organizations and individuals to determine the appropriateness of including Two-Spirit folks in our mandate. LEAF strongly supports the creation of Indigenous Legal Orders. As legal systems based in Indigenous legal traditions, Indigenous Legal Orders have more potential to advance equality rights for Two-Spirit people than the colonial Canadian system does.