A Canadian doctor has been suspended for telling a “transman” that she will always be a woman. Dr. Raymond Brière, based in Montreal, has been seeing the unnamed woman for four years, and when she asked for a prescription for testosterone injections, he told her these would make her aggressive, and regardless of pronouns or testosterone, she would still be a woman.
The Medical College of Quebec suspended Dr. Brière for three months, accusing him of behaving in an “inappropriate and disrespectful manner.” In response to Dr. Brière’s refusal to use male pronouns to address the female patient, an official at the College told him that he must respect his patients’ gender identity. If “believes that their gender identity does not correspond to the sex appearing on their birth certificate, they can request that they be referred to by the identity they express,” the College said.
Canada’s laws on gender are primarily governed by the Canadian Human Rights Act, which was updated in 2017 to include transgendered people and protect them from discrimination. At the same time, the Canadian Criminal Code was also updated to target “hate speech.” Critics said this would infringe on Canadians’ right to free speech if it included a requirement to use pronouns that an individual requests.
Brenda Cossman, a law professor at the University of Toronto, argued that it is doubtful that refusing to use specific pronouns would amount to a crime under the legislation, however, she did admit it is possible. After stating that accidental misuse of pronouns would probably not be an offense, she added, “Would it cover a situation where an individual repeatedly, consistently refuses to use a person’s chosen pronoun? It might.”
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has addressed the issue and advised that the best approach is to ask people how they wish to be addressed and respect their preferences. It did not refer to matters of conscience or free speech for those who do not believe gender transition is possible.