ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland and Labrador has announced it will allow gender-neutral birth certificates, short-circuiting a court battle with a prominent St. John’s activist.
The Liberal government said Thursday it will introduce legislation this fall allowing for a change of sex designation from female or male to non-binary.
Sex information will still be collected at birth, but people 12 and older will be able to choose an “X” on their birth certificate.
Currently, only the Northwest Territories allows gender-neutral birth certificates, while Ontario has said it plans to do so.
Newfoundland’s move Thursday stems from activist Gemma Hickey’s court challenge of the Vital Statistics Act, saying it contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a news release, the government said it will formally tell the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday that it plans to amend the law in the upcoming session of the provincial legislature.
The government said it will remove the requirement for a statement from a medical professional prior to a sex-designation change for those 16 and older.
It said children aged 12-15 will still require a parent to apply on their behalf, with the child’s consent also required.
In a statement provided by the government, Hickey praised the “historic legislation.”
“Having official documents that display how I identify is of great importance to me and many other non-binary Canadian,” Hickey said. “It ensures that non-binary people are not erased from society and reaffirms what experts have already confirmed: that there are more than two genders.”
Hickey, who runs a foundation for survivors of sexual abuse, has taken testosterone and is transmasculine, but identifies as non-binary. Hickey applied for a non-binary birth certificate in April and is believed to be the first in Canada to do so.
Sherry Gambin-Walsh, the minister for Service NL, said Thursday the government appreciated Hickey’s advocacy.
“Our government believes in equality for everyone. It is important that we remain progressive and continue to empower people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions,” Gambin-Walsh said in a statement.
The government said collecting sex information at birth remains necessary to “maintain vital data that is valuable for a population.”
Ontario’s minister of government and consumer services, Tracy MacCharles, has said gender-neutral birth certificates could be issued in Ontario as early as next year, provided the province can work out bureaucratic hurdles involving other governments.
In British Columbia, Kori Doty, a parent who identifies as transgender and prefers the pronoun they, refused to provide the sex of their child Searyl to the government when they were born in November.
On Aug. 31, the federal government began allowing gender-neutral passports, the latest step in Ottawa’s plan to eventually allow individuals to identify their sex as “X” — that is, unspecified — on government-issued documents.
The initiative stems from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to better reflect the gender diversity of Canadians.