Victoria, British Columbia
Astrid Neilson-Miller, a gender-fluid high school student in Victoria, B.C., read through B.C.’s laws on information privacy and realized that the language wasn’t right. The two laws – the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Personal Information Protection Act – both use “he or she” over a dozen times, language that Astrid thought was inefficient and did not properly protect all people.
Also, the laws state that when the government provides information about a person through a freedom of information request, the government is supposed to withhold information about that person’s race or sexual orientation – but the laws don’t say anything about gender identity.
Astrid is part of a group for transgender youth in Victoria called the Trans Tipping Point Project.
With the help of the other members of the Project, Astrid developed concrete goals: first, to convince the provincial government to change all the instances of “he or she” to “they” in both of the privacy laws, and second, to convince the government that the freedom of information requests should protect information about gender identity.
The Trans Tipping Point Project is supported by adult facilitators. Those adults helped the youth email provincial ministers to request meetings; in their emails, they stated what they wanted to talk about, and what they wanted to change. And some of the ministers wrote back! Once the youth scheduled meetings with the provincial ministers, they wrote up agendas and documents for the meetings too.
The Trans Tipping Point youth met with a government representative and told them about Astrid’s suggested changes. The representative listened to what they had to say, but didn’t commit to anything. The youth didn’t give up. They kept meeting with Members of Legislative Assembly from different parties and suggesting their changes. Eventually, one of the representatives thought the suggestions were so good that he decided to include them in a private member’s bill in the B.C. legislature! On March 15, 2018, the representative introduced the proposals – and some of the Trans Tipping Point youth went to the legislature to watch him do it.
Introducing the bill doesn’t mean it becomes law – it means that the members of the legislature then have to discuss it and vote on it. But Astrid and the others learned that it’s possible to make direct suggestions to their government representatives and to be heard on the issues they care about!