Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen growing awareness of transgender individuals and the barriers they face in our society. In response, schools, businesses, governments and other organizations are stepping up efforts to ensure everyone is treated fairly, regardless of gender identity or gender expression.

As a hospitality provider, you know that providing a safe and welcoming environment is key to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Do transgender customers feel welcome and included when they walk through your door?


Last April, Target earned widespread praise for its strong statement on diversity and inclusion. When transgender individuals have a positive experience in your establishment, you’ll earn the support and loyalty of their friends and family as well.

A recent incident at a Montreal restaurant underscores the importance of having policies in place to ensure that transgender staff and customers are treated with respect. It’s not only good business practice and the right thing to do, it’s the law.

Discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression is implicitly or explicitly prohibited by federal, provincial and territorial governments via their respective Human Rights Codes.

This means that even if gender identity and gender expression aren’t explicitly included in the code, they are implicitly recognized under other grounds. For example, the code may recognize discrimination based on gender identity to be a form of discrimination based on sex.

Here’s where to find more information about laws across Canada:

British Columbia / Alberta / Saskatchewan / Manitoba / Ontario / Quebec / New Brunswick
Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island / Newfoundland / Northwest Territories / Nunavut / Yukon

In November, 2016, the federal House of Commons passed Bill C-16, which adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Both the CHRA (which applies to federally regulated activities across Canada) and the Criminal Code will be amended if the Bill passes in the Senate.


Genderless Washrooms

Gender-neutral washrooms are a growing trend and an effective way to make all customers feel welcome. However, provincial building codes, municipal bylaws, or food premises regulations/legislation often specify how many and what type of washrooms restaurants must provide. Some laws and regulations specify that they must be clearly marked “men’s” and “women’s”. Restaurants Canada is involved in discussions with provinces looking to upgrade their building codes to allow for gender-neutral washrooms.

Gender 101

The issue of gender identity and gender expression may be new to you and your staff. Here are some things to know, as well as resources if you’d like to learn more.

Many people use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Here are some definitions that explain the difference:

Sex (n): The medical classification of people as male, female or intersex.

Gender (n): The social classification of people as masculine and/or feminine. Whereas sex is an externally assigned classification, gender is something that becomes evident in a social context.

Gender Identity (n): A person’s internal and individual experience of gender. This is a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither or anywhere on the gender spectrum.

Gender Expression: How a person publicly presents or expresses their gender. This includes behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language, voice, name, and pronouns.

These definitions are reprinted from the Media Reference Guide, Discussing Trans and Gender Diverse People, published by the 519 and Rainbow Health Ontario. It’s recommended reading for anyone wishing to learn more about transgender people and issues.


More Resources

Check out Egale Canada Human Rights Trust for some options around corporate training. There may be other programs and resources in your local community.

Here are some great tips from GLAAD on how to be an ally to transgender individuals.

And this document from the UK government offers a great list of best practices for serving transgender customers.

Contact Us

If you’re a Restaurants Canada member, we’re here to help! Contact Paul McKay in Member Services: pmckay@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649, ext. 4225.

Not a member? Join us to access exclusive information and resources to build your business. You can join online or speak to one of our member services representatives at members@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649, ext. 4245.