In June 2016, Adrianna Diaz was in a minor traffic accident. She phoned the police to file a report. Diaz, a Concordia undergrad in software engineering, said the responding officers were “very nice” and accommodating.
Then, Diaz said that as she was retrieving her photo ID, one of the officers happened to spot her health card. When Diaz received a copy of the police report a month later, she discovered that the officers who had filed the report had identified her as a man.
That’s because, at the time, Diaz’s health card still displayed an “M.” Despite moving to Quebec from Mexico seven years ago, and obtaining her permanent residency status in 2014, Diaz was not a citizen at the time of the accident. Article 71 of the Civil Code of Québec requires residents to be citizens in order to change their gender marker on legal documents.
Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) is hoping to change that. For more than five years, the CGA has been working to challenge parts of the Civil Code of Québec, such as article 71, which the centre says violate the rights of trans people.
In a press conference on Nov. 20, the centre announced that court dates for the lawsuit have finally been set for winter 2019. Multiple hearings with the Superior Court of Quebéc will take place from Jan. 7 to Feb. 1.
In total, the CGA is challenging 11 articles of the Civil Code of Québec. These include article 59, which prohibits people without citizenship from legally changing their name, and article 146, which compels nonbinary people to identify as either male or female on “certificates of birth, marriage, civil union and death.”
The laws being challenged fall into four broad categories, each of which will be heard on a different day: laws concerning trans youth, trans parents, nonbinary people and trans people without citizenship.
In addition to academics and psychologists, members of the trans community will testify at the hearings, including representatives from each of the four communities.
“These laws prevent the integration of trans people into society, and they contribute to the marginalization of trans people,” said Dalia Tourki, a trans advocate and public educator with the CGA.
“We’re challenging those articles because they violate values and principles of integrity, safety, freedom [and] right to privacy that are guaranteed and protected under both the Canadian and Quebec charters,” Tourki told The Concordian.
Quebec is the only place in Canada that requires residents to be citizens in order to change their name or gender marker, even those who have undergone surgery. “Because they do not have a citizenship yet, they have documents that do not match who they are, and that creates a lot of troubles and a lot of discrimination,” said Tourki.
The history of the lawsuit dates back to 2013. In August of that year, the centre filed a human rights complaint with the Commission of Human Rights and Youth Rights, arguing that article 71 of the Civil Code of Québec violated the rights of trans people. At the time, article 71 stated that any person wanting to change their gender marker had to be a citizen 18 years or older and had to first undergo gender reassignment surgery. The rules requiring applicants to be legal adults and undergo surgery were abolished in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Although the complaint was refused on technical grounds, the centre filed a lawsuit the following year.
The lawsuit faced many delays before being granted a hearing. Although the changes to article 71 in 2015 and 2016 were important legal victories for the trans community, Tourki said the CGA’s lawsuit had to be rewritten after each modification. This is because the lawsuit would not be allowed to proceed if it included challenges to laws that no longer existed.
Diaz is now an interim member of the CGA’s board of directors. “I always admired their work, I always found support [from them] as a Concordia student,” she said, adding that she hopes to be voted in as a full member during the centre’s next general assembly.
Tourki said the CGA will focus on its current lawsuit before contemplating any new ones. However, Tourki said “there are still a lot of things to do for the full integration of trans communities into society, for sure.”
Photo by Ian Down.