‘We de­serve to be rec­og­nized’

Court to hear N.L. ac­tivist’s bid for non-bi­nary birth cer­tifi­cate this fall

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

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.

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