A Vancouver couple is filing a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint, after learning they cannot get a birth certificate for their newborn daughter that doesn’t identify the baby’s sex.
“She could grow up to be transgender, we have no idea. And if she grows up to be transgender it’s going to be a huge problem in her life.”
Lawyer Susanna Quail and her wife took a step all new parents of newborns do: they applied to register their baby’s birth.
But when they tried to do it without indicating sex, they ran into problems.
“Her birth was registered without sex according to the Vital Statistics Agency, but they told us that they can’t issue a birth certificate without a sex marker because of the legislation that covers birth certificates.”
Birth certificate woes
Not having a birth certificate is not a minor problem.
Quail says it’s a child’s first form of identification.
“You can’t get a passport, so you can’t travel outside the country. You actually can’t get on waiting lists for certain childcare services without a birth certificate.”
Quail says her child is being raised as a girl because that is how she presents, but says there is no good reason sex needs to be on a birth certificate.
“When you go to the doctor, do they figure out what kind of birth control to give you based on an M or F on your birth certificate? No. We know these things about one another in other ways when it’s relevant to know.”
Quail says she has already heard from other parents who are considering joining a possible human rights complaint.
This is not the first time sex designation on birth certificates has been an issue.
Last year a group of activists filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint to have the designation removed from birth certificates of adults who didn’t want it.
Province says Canadian passport rules are clear
For its part, the province says the federal government requires sex designation on birth certificates for passports.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health says it is there understanding Passport Canada is not considering changing that requirement at this time.
This is the entire statement from the province:
The ministry recognizes the concerns of those who don’t identify with their designated sex. That’s why, in 2014 the ministry introduced amendments which make it easier to change sex designation on birth certificates. Now, you no longer need to have undergone gender reassignment surgery to make that change on your birth certificate. This allows people who don’t identify with their designated sex to update their documentation to reflect this — while also following international requirements to designate as either male or female.
However, removing sex designations from birth certificates altogether could cause challenges as international travel document standards require a sex designation of M/F or X on documents, including passports. It is our understanding that Passport Canada may accept a birth certificate with no gender but the applicant would need to provide another form of acceptable documentation containing sex, as that is still required on passports.
From our understanding, Passport Canada is not presently considering accepting anything other than M/F on their documents. Given that most infants or young children will only have a birth certificate as their identification documentation, gender would need to be indicated there for issuance of a passport.