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Government testifies at CGA trial

by Mina Mazumder February 12, 2019
Government testifies at CGA trial

Provincial testimony focuses on trans parents, gender markers

The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) trial continued on Feb. 6 with government representatives who spoke about the legal system, how names and gender markers are changed, and the status of trans parents in Quebec.

“We can put ‘filiation’ to replace the two [parental identities],” said Jonathan Boisvert, the interim director of expertise and jurisdictional activities, who testified at the Superior Court of Quebec on behalf of the Directeur de l’état civil. Using the word “filiation” would mean a person is being designated to a child.

Boisvert added that this change would be administrative, and it would help trans parents remove “mother” or “father” from their child’s birth certificate. They could request a copy of their child’s birth certificate with the term “filiation” to maintain neutrality. However, both parents would have to change their title to “filiation,” regardless of gender identity.

The CGA first filed the lawsuit in 2014. They argued that 11 articles from the Civil Code of Québec violate trans rights under both the Québec and the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms. These include article 59, which prohibits people without citizenship from changing their name; article 62, which obliges a minor to obtain parental approval before changing their name legally; and article 71, which requires residents to be citizens in order to change their gender marker on legal documents.

The trial began with Defendant Lawyer Sophie Primeau asking Boisvert general questions about the administrative and operational changes at the Directeur de l’état civil concerning name and gender marker changes.

During his testimony, Boisvert said the parent of a newborn child is obliged to submit a confirmation that they are the parent of the child to the Quebec government as soon as possible.

According to the Directeur de l’état civil, the current law states that a birth that takes place in Quebec must be reported to the Directeur de l’état civil within 30 days. Once this step is completed, “it is possible to establish the child’s identity and filiation, to access various programs and services, and to obtain a certificate or a copy of an act of birth.” Once the birth of the child has been entered in the Quebec register of civil status, parents must “verify that the information about [their] child and the birth is the same as that on the declaration of birth, and immediately inform the Directeur de l’état civil of any error.”

In addition, for a person “to qualify to change the sex designation appearing on the act of birth, the person concerned by the application must hold Canadian citizenship and be domiciled in Quebec for at least one year.”

Boisvert told Hon. Judge Gregory Moore that the Directeur de l’état civil is presently developing procedures to allow trans parents to change their parental designation on their child’s birth certificate.

Plaintiff Lawyer Audrey Boctor told The Concordian that the Directeur de l’état civil revealed they would allow people to request a copy of their birth certificate that does not display their gender.

Lou Taj, an intern at the CGA, said this action is not enough. “It’s not legislative, it’s administrative,” said Taj. “The problem with administrative decisions is that they can be reversed at any moment. There is no legal obligation to [change] it.”

“I would like to have the option of writing ‘parent’ when I’ll have kids,” said Taj. “I would also like to have more choice on gender markers.”

Taj felt that the government was making administrative changes to compensate for the current laws. “We would need a legislative change to be able to have ‘parent’ on the [child’s] birth certificate,” they said.

Taj added that having the word “filiation,” could be more confusing to some people. “It would be a cause of more discrimination if the person looks at your paper [and] doesn’t even understand what ‘filiation’ means,” they said. “Parent is more of a common [word].”

Michael Lubetsky, a lawyer from Egale Canada, an advocacy organization aiming to advance equality for Canadian LGBTQ+ people and their families, said that his organization is one of three intervenors in this case.

Lubetsky said that Egale supports the conclusions sought by the plaintiff lawyers. “[Our] goal is to help the plaintiffs demonstrate to the court that the impugned provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec and of the regulation respecting change of name and other particulars of civil status violate the constitutional rights of trans, non-binary, and intersex people, and their families.”

After the court hearing on Feb. 6, Taj felt a sense of despair. “I could maybe understand that the government is trying to [change] some things but I really feel like it’s not enough,” Taj said.

The trials will continue next week with the more government testimonies, followed by the closing arguments from Feb. 25 to 27.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

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