‘We deserve to be recognized’
Court to hear N.L. activist’s bid for non-binary birth certificate this fall
A Newfoundland and Labrador court will hear the case of a transgender activist vying for a non-binary birth certificate this fall.
Gemma Hickey appeared in the province’s Supreme Court in St. John’s Friday to set a Nov. 22 date for arguments in a challenge of the Vital Statistics Act’s change-of-sex designation provision.
Hickey is taking legal action against the Newfoundland and Labrador government to have a gender other than male and female formally recognized on such documents.
“I wanted to send a message out to people that are different, who don’t fit into an eitheror category,” Hickey said in a phone interview after the hearing. “It’s important that people have the space to be who they are, and express that through gender. We deserve to be recognized.”
Hickey applied for a nonbinary birth certificate in April and is believed to be the first in Canada to do so.
Hickey, who runs a foundation for survivors of sexual abuse, has taken testosterone and is transmasculine, but identifies as non-binary.
Hickey’s lawyer, Brittany Whalen, said she is waiting for the provincial government to file a response in the case this fall.
“We’re prepared to make arguments,” Whalen said in a phone interview. “Ideally, we’d like to see not only Gemma receive the birth certificate that Gemma’s looking for ... We’re hoping to change the legislation.”
Last month, the Senate passed a bill that protects Canadians from discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
Whalen said she plans to address Bill C-16 in her arguments.
According to Hickey, Service NL has said the non-binary birth certificate application cannot be processed until the federal government weighs in on the issue.
Ottawa has not indicated whether it will seek intervener status in the case, Hickey said.
“I just felt from the beginning that I was getting the runaround from the province,” Hickey said. “This is a human rights issue.”
A spokesperson for Service NL said the agency is working with its provincial and federal counterparts to review issues surrounding the representation of gender identity on official documents.
Marc Budgell said in an email Friday that Service NL does not comment on specific filings made in the Vital Statistics division for privacy reasons.
Joshua M. Ferguson, an Ontario-born filmmaker, has applied to have a change of sex designation from male to nonbinary. Currently, Ontario offers gender-neutral options for drivers’ licences and health cards but not for birth certificates.
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.
Hickey said since applying for a non-binary birth certificate, messages of support have been pouring in. There has been some pushback, Hickey said, but society’s ideas about gender are changing, and the government has to keep pace.
Gemma Hickey stands on the steps of the Supreme Court in St. John’s, N.L., on June 23. A Newfoundland and Labrador court will hear the case of a transgender activist vying for a non-binary birth certificate on Nov. 22.