On May 3, one day after Trans Pride Day in Montreal, the Centre for Gender Advocacy launched legal action against the Superior Court of Quebec to invalidate legal discrimination against trans and intersex individuals in the province.
This is not the first time gender markers have been debated about in Quebec. Last spring the PLQ challenged the then Bill 35, which sought to strike Article 71 and 73 from the Quebec Civil Code. Both articles required prerequisites to changing gender makers.
Later that year, Quebec’s National Assembly passed the bill, now known as Law 35, striking down the previous amendment that required name and sex changes to be publicized. However the prerequisites to change gender markers were not amended.
Despite the adoption of Bill 35 in November 2013 by the Quebec National Assembly, trans and intersex people still must undergo modification surgery that leads to sterilization in order to change their gender marker on identification, according to Article 71 of Quebec’s Civil Code.
“We’re asking the court to see, based on the Canadian and Quebec Human Rights Charter, to say that those requirements are discriminatory against trans and intersex people,” Gabrielle Bouchard, Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy explained in an interview with Forget the Box.
“Not only would people not have to be surgically modified, but they would be able change their gender marker before the age of 18, which is hugely important.”
Bouchard added that it would also strike the requirement of being a Canadian citizen. “You have people who are leaving their country and trying to make Quebec their home, and it makes it very, very difficult for them to meet the citizenship requirements when you’re stuck with social and structural barriers that prevent you from being a true participant in this society.”
The case aims to end mandatory gender assignment at birth, instead hoping to make it optional for parents to assign a child’s gender at birth.
When asked why the Centre is bringing the lawsuit forward at this date, Bouchard explained, “It’s because people are dying – if you want something longer, it’s because it is necessary, because conversations with the government hasn’t lead to any significant changes yet.”
“We know that the suicide rate amongst trans people is over 40 per cent […] that’s huge, those [suicides] are always about structural and social barriers, never about the gender identity, but through the difficulties to be able to be who you want to be.”
After a 2012 ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal which found such legal requirement to be discriminatory, Ontario is still the only province that does not require surgery to change gender markers.
Bouchard explained that Ontario was forced to strike the surgical requirement from gender marker changes after losing a human rights case, adding that British Columbia was also taking action e to change the requirements.
The Centre has been at the front of the fight for trans rights in Quebec. Back in August 2013, the Centre filed a complaint against the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, stating that these gender articles were discriminatory.
The Commission ruled in favour of the Centre, however Bouchard stated that the Commission followed this by stating, “Yes we see your case is valid, we can see there is a need but technically we can not do anything because as a centre you cannot ask for something without having someone who has lived the discrimination.”
“We would have had to represent someone who had lived [through] discrimination, and we can’t do that for all trans and intersex people in Quebec. We had to have a case and we didn’t feel comfortable actually asking someone to put their life and their privacy and their identity on the line to be able to do this – which is why we are doing this case right now as a Centre, so no one has to be the sole bearer of the cost,” Bouchard explained.
When asked what the next steps were for the case, Bouchard explained “we’ve just started a marathon. Let’s say it this way, those court cases can last up to two years,” adding that a hearing date would be set in October.