BC Government: Not discrimination to have gender markers on birth certificates

“The government claims the right to be wrong, knowing it is trans and intersex people who have to bear the burden of their mistake,”

says Kori Doty, one of eight trans and intersex complainants in a human rights case to have birth certificates issued without “m” or “f”.

Yesterday, the BC government filed a response in the case of Cunningham v Vital Statistics Agency.  In their Response, the Ministry of Health is stating that putting gender markers on birth certificates, is not discriminatory.

“The government knows that the current system of designating gender at birth for a document that follows you throughout life is predictably incorrect for many trans and intersex people. The government knows exactly how much hardship and danger these systems can cause in our lives. It is thoroughly disappointing that they are choosing to ignore this, while fully aware of the risk of harm that this choice leaves on those impacted”

says Doty.

Doctors assign the sex of a baby as “m” or “f” based on an inspection of the baby’s genitals at birth.  This assigned sex is recorded in the birth registry of the Vital Statistics Agency.  When a Birth Certificate is issued, it contains the gender marker “m” or “f”. Science now knows that one’s gender is determined by one’s innate sense of themselves.  That is called ‘gender identity’.  One’s gender identity may or may not “match” one’s genitalia. and one’s gender identity does not develop for years after birth. Some people have a gender identity that is neither “m” nor “f”.  Some people labelled “m” identify as female; and some labelled “f” identify as male.

So: the doctor assigning “m” or “f” is sometimes wrong.

The birth certificate based on the doctor’s guess is also sometimes wrong.

Misgendering identity documents contributes to the severe mistreatment and discrimination that trans and intersex people experience.

“We’re not saying we want gender taken off all ID. What we are saying is that when you assign sex at birth, you will get it wrong in some of the cases. Until you can ask someone what their gender is, you cannot know it. Getting it wrong discriminates against trans and intersex people”

says Felix Gilliland, one of the Complainants. The Complaints say that putting “m” or f” on birth certificates is a violation of privacy and inexcusably exposes trans and intersex people to harm.

Milan Halikowski, a 13 year old Complainant says “Having a gender marker on my birth certificate has directly impacted my life in a negative way. It has caused my exclusion and bullying in sports, school and in my daily life. I thought the government’s job was to help keep kids safe and the current policy puts us at risk.”

The Complainants are now waiting on the BC Human Rights Tribunal to set a date for Hearing.


TAS In the News

Trans Alliance Society News Coverage 2013-2015

Tri City News

Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly


Christian Post

MercatorNet: The end of single-sex higher education


NYT: Dems Too Far Left? › 2.0: The Blogmocracy

Remove gender from birth certificates, B.C. urged – BC Local News


Morgane Oger | Media Mornings / Democracy North

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The Source




We get it, Barbara Kay | Daily Xtra

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Montreal Gazette


Dear doctor: Did you just identify the gender of that baby? Youre a bigot.


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Trans rights at forefront of 2015 Vancouver Pride parade | Daily Xtra


Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly


How trans-friendly are Vancouver schools a year after policy passed? | Daily Xtra

Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly

Transgender blood donor turned away in Vancouver – British Columbia – CBC News

Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly


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UPDATED: Contentious debate after BC Liberals booted from Vancouver Pride parade | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk

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Pride 2014 parents: Morgane Oger on being a transgender parent – Straight.com [Archive] – Transgender Canada Forums

Link / Pride 2014 parents: Morgane Oger… – Politwitter

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Trans rights at forefront of 2015 Vancouver Pride parade | Daily Xtra

British Columbia Considers Removing Sex from Birth Certificates – Life975


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everyone’s LGBTRSTLNEMP3withaside of mayo — the expanding moral circle | WonderCafe2

Local transgender rights activist applauds Jenner interview | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk

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Boy Meets Girl :: SteynOnline

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to consider striking gender designation from birth certificates – 24News.ca



Calgary Herald

Montreal Gazette

Canada: Activists Push to Abolish Legal Gender Classification | News | teleSUR English



Blog: Bruce Jenner and the culture of insanity

British Columbias Human Rights Tribunal to consider eliminating gender from birth certificates – Stormfront

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National Review Online

Christian Post

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to consider striking gender designation from birth certificates

Barbara Kay: Sorry LGBT, sex and gender are not the same

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Ne plus inscrire le sexe sur les certificats de naissance | Phare Ouest | ICI Radio-Canada Premire

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Should birth certificates be gender neutral? – Home | The 180 with Jim Brown | CBC Radio






Yahoo News


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BC Trans Advocacy Day

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Another Voice (Rev. 18:4): Canada ‘Considering’ Dropping Gender From Birth Certificates — Attack

On Gender About ‘Minion-ization’

A Dip in the Gene Pool


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Blog: Bruce Jenner and the culture of insanity

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Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly

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Why organizations need to pledge their support for trans equality to march in the 2015 Vancouver Pride

Pride marches are wonderful and happy times when the queer community converges to celebrate and demand to be respected and treated just like everyone else. They are part party, part oversexed extravaganza, and part political action. They have always been political and will hopefully stay that way in spite of the apparent domestication of some of the LGB part of LGBT communities which are increasingly accepted into mainstream cis (not trans) hetero (not gay) normative (presumed normal) society.

In this year’s Vancouver Pride March, organized annually by the Vancouver Pride Society,  the requirement to pledge to support equal rights for transgender persons was added. Any organization wishing to participate in the march is required to pledge their support and everyone is encouraged to pledge. The Trans Equality Now web page explains the pledge.

For a number of organizations, the pledge’s request that the explicit protection already afforded against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation be extended to gender identity and gender presentation.

And this is important. The very real need for this legislation is well known and pride is a wonderful vehicle for making the point and showing a social litmus test of exactly who is willing to step up and admit they are unable to agree to help end the discrimination on the basis of gender identity in law.

Those organizations are run or supported by closed minded persons who, in fact, wish that society continue to discriminate on the basis of gender identity. They hide behind sweet words and pledges to change in the future, but their DNA is discriminatory against trans persons.

Needing to make a choice between participating in the pride march and irking the bigots in their midst is an added bonus of the pledge.

Society needs to know who the Bad Guy organizations are so we can protect it against their contagion. After all, they are the ones that are problematic and damaging. They are the one who discriminate against people on the basis of gender identity. and during the 2015 pride they will see they are wrong and that the vast majority of Canadians do not agree with their narrow, focused, mean viewpoint. It would be better not to have to take this route but sometimes calling people into the circle falls on deaf ears.

Note: The progressive members of organizations which are too regressive to sign the pledge and live up to it that wish to march in Pride are invited to join the Trans Alliance Society for the march. We welcome anyone who has signed the pledge to participate as themselves in our float. Our float designation is AS17, which means Staging Area A, South Side, position 17. We will congregate starting at 10:30 (the space opens at 9:30). Please contact the Trans Alliance Society chair at chair@transalliancesociety.org to let TAS know you will attend.

Explicitly Add Gender Identity to the BC Human Rights Code List of Protected Designation

Morgane Oger, Chair, Trans Alliance Society chair@transalliancesociety.org  

Issue/Problem and Public Policy Solution

The BC Human Righst Act needs to be updated to provide the same explicit protection for gender identity and gender presentation that it affords for sexual orientation.

In British Columbia it is not widely known that even though gender identity is not explicitly mentioned in the human rights code, it has been interpreted to be synonymous with sex since a BC Human Rights Tribunal decision in 1999.

Unfortunately, because the BC Human Rights Code was never updated to reflect this legally binding decision, it is not widely known that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is in fact against the law in BC. Whereas the protections offered under the Act are widely known, the jurisprudence around it are accessible only to sophisticated organizations and the transgender community.

This omission contributes to a situation where transgender persons who know their rights find themselves in conflict with the British Columbians who do not believe them and have encountered no readily available information on the subject.

As a result, conflicts arising from misperception of what is acceptable behaviour towards transgender persons cause a load on the courts that could be avoided. In addition, knowledge of the law would reduce violence against transgender persons who report significantly higher incidents of violence than cisgender (non-transgender) persons.

Including gender identity and gender presentation would reduce this problem by clearly confirming to British Columbians that transgender persons are worthy of the same protections as everyone else and that being transgender is not an acceptable cause for discrimination. It would confer on transgender persons the clear entitlement to live a normal life free of impedance.

This is the very strategy that the federal government cites as reasoning for including sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996, long after it was no longer illegal to participate in “homosexual acts” in Canada:

“This inclusion of sexual orientation in the Act was an express declaration by Parliament that gay and lesbian Canadians are entitled to “an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have…”

In other words, the inclusion was not merely procedural, but also informative.

We therefore request that the minister of justice update the BC Human Rights Code to include gender identity to the protected classifications, alongside the other protections that it offers against discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons”

Research and Evidence

Transgender persons need additional protection

The public service alliance of Canada reported in April 2014 that survey data from both Canada (transgenderPULSE Project) and the United States (National Center for Transgender Equality) illustrates the difficulties experienced by transgender and gender-variant persons:

  • 97% of transgender people have been harassed in their workplace;
  • 26% lost their job because of gender identity;
  • 36% have had suicidal thoughts in one year (2011);
  • 13% said they were constructively dismissed for being transgender;
  • 10% have attempted suicide.

In 2011, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust released “Every Class in Every School,” a report on the first national survey of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Canadian schools. The transgender students surveyed consistently reported the highest rates of harassment:

  • 74% said they had been verbally harassed because of their gender identity;
  • 49% reported being sexually harassed;
  • 37% said they had been physically harassed.

Ongoing human rights violations in BC

In its March 2015 decision against the Vancouver Police Board following a complaint of discrimination from a transgender woman, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal issued the following order to the

 The VPB has engaged in systemmic discrimination of trans people concerning their identification. Within one year policies are to be adopted by the VPB that allow identification of trans people without discrimination. Officers are to be trained in the implementation of these policies

The Canadian mindset is already supportive

The protection and inclusion of persons of diverse gender identities is already a priority for a number of institutions and societies in Canada.

British Columbia’s Ministry of Education is working hard to incorporate gender identity into the curriculum in order to teach the next generation of British Columbians how to avoid injustice towards our transgender citizens.

The BC K-12 curriculum includes a social justice component called Making Space Which lists as a core goal of “addressing injustice faced by those who historically have been and today frequently continue to be marginalized, ignored, or subjected to discrimination or other forms of oppression.”

Additionally the Vancouver Board of Education implemented a renewed sexual-orientation, gender-identity policy in 2014, ACB, which clearly supports transgender and gender-variant students, staff, and stakeholders without exception. In Vancouver schools, self-identified gender identity is the only gender identity.

Similar policies which explicitly recognize transgender and gender-variant students according to their self-identified gender are in place in a number of other school districts in BC.

The City of Vancouver’s trans & gender variant working group is currently working to implement the recommendations of the Vancouver Parks Board Board working group recommendations. Already implemented at parks board facilities.

The province of British Columbia allows Birth Certificates gender marker changes since 2013. Citizenship Immigration Canada now accepts self-identification of sex designation (gender marker), blurring the distinction between gender identity and sex designation.

In addition, adult identity documents such as driver’s license and provincial identity cards are being issued in British Columbia to transgender individuals who have a gender designation which may or may not match sex designation on a birth certificate.

Because of this, there is now an enforcement difficulties where a person’s identity documents matching gender identity may not match foundational identity documents. In other words, British Columbia is already in a situation.

The Canadian Bar Association sent a letter in support of federal human rights bill C-279 extending rights to transgender persons in the Charter of Rights and Freedom and the criminal code. This is the federal equivalent of the BC Human Rights Code.

The right thing to do.

The evidence of the need for additional protection is well established, and the ability of human rights law to teach citizens is well understood.

Knowing it would help and that it is needed, explicitly adding gender identity and gender expression to the protected classifications in the BC Human Rights Code is the right thing to do today.

Canadians: how to change your sex designation in provincial or federal documents by jurisdiction (Male, Female only)

Last updated: 03 June 2015

Note: This post was changed from an opinion and position piece to a factual piece for a number of reasons.

“You may apply to change your gender designation on your BC Services Card, driver’s licence, EDL, BCID or EIC. Gender is listed as “Sex” on all these cards, as well as your birth certificate. ” – Change your Name, Address, or Gender – Province of British Columbia

“Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is now accepting provincial or territorial documents such as an amended birth certificate showing a new sex designation or a legal/court order recognizing the person under a different sex designation or gender identity.” Establishing gender for citizenship applications – Government of Canada

The following information was taken from a survey of information provided by provincial and federal information sites in Canada for the purpose of instructing transgender persons on whether they can chance their provincial or federal documents to the appropriate sex designation based on their self-identified gender or sex.

Note: As of May 2015, none of the provinces, territories, or federal sites mention sex or gender designation that is neither Male or Female.


– Birth Certificates: ?
– Identity Documents: Changeable
– Implemented

Service Alberta issued a notice of enhancement of regulation related to “change of sex”;

“Effective immediately, an enhancement has been made to the Operator Licensing and Vehicle Control Regulation and the Identification Card Regulation affecting the change of sex on these cards. With these changes, transgender Albertans may submit one of the following to update their sex on their drivers licence or identification card:

  • an amended birth certificate, or

  • an amended record of birth, or

  • an affidavit and a letter from a regulated medical professional.”

British Columbia:

– Birth Certificate: Changeable
– Provincial ID: Changeable
– Implemented
– Basis: declared gender identity

BC provides the following instructions on the BC ID information page:

“B.C. residents are required to keep their personal information current in order to continue to qualify for health care coverage.

There are a few life events that could require an update to your personal information – getting married or divorced, legally changing your name, moving or changing your gender.”

“B.C. is the first jurisdiction in Canada to revise its legislation to remove the requirement for transsexual surgery in order for an individual to change their gender designation on their birth certificate.”

Changing Your Personal Information


– Birth Certificate: changeable
– Provincial ID: changeable
– Implemented
– Basis: declared gender identity

Vital Statistics Agency of Manitoba says:

“Manitoba recently changed its legislation to remove the requirement for transsexual surgery to change the sex designation on a Manitoba birth registration and birth certificate. A person whose birth is registered in Manitoba may apply for this change through an application that includes a statutory declaration and a letter from a health care professional (physician, psychiatrist, surgeon, nurse practitioner, psychologist or independent practice psychological associate).”

The link to a template for a letter of a health care professional can be found here. The instructions to the care professional include the following:

Vital Statistics Agency relies on health care professionals to exercise their professional judgement in accordance with their experience, expertise and contact with the applicant to determine whether the applicant’s sex designation on their birth registration should be changed.

North West Territories

Nova Scotia

– Birth certificate: Changeable
– Provincial ID: Changeable
– Implementation ongoing
– Basis: declared gender identity

The goverenemt of NS published the following statement as part of a press release April 8 “Amendments to Vital Statistics Act Introduced” :

“Amendments introduced today, April 8, will remove the requirement for Nova Scotians to have sex reassignment surgery to change the sex designation on their birth certificate.”

“Amendments include:
— eliminating the requirement for sex reassignment surgery to change the sex designation on a birth certificate
— requiring a self-declaration from the applicant stating that they have assumed, identify with, and intend to live in a gender identity that corresponds with the desired sex designation
— requiring a letter of support from a person with a professional designation as defined in regulation (like a doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist)
— requiring minors under 16 to have parental consent. The letter of support must be from a doctor or psychologist that has treated or evaluated the applicant and must include a professional opinion that the minor is able to understand the impact of the decision.”



– Birth certificate: Changeable
– Provincial ID: Changeable
– Implemented
– Basis: declared gender identity

Service Ontario provides the following instructions, which are also available on their info page here:

“As an adult, to change your sex designation you will need:

As a child, to change your sex designation you will need:



– Birth Certificates: Changeable but onerous
– Identity Documents: Changeable but onerous
– Implemented
– basis – proof of specific surgery

Note 1: The government of Quebec publishes very little on the matter of change of sex in French or English.

Note 2: Santé Trans Health, an organization whose role is similar to Trans Alliance Society, reports that proof of transsexual surgery is required in Quebec before a change of designation is issued:

In order to meet the requirements in Québec, a female-to-male transsexual needs to have taken hormones and had a hysterectomy. A male-to-female transsexual has to have taken hormones and undergone a vaginoplasty.

The website of the Directeur de L’eta Civil (English, French) offers the following instructions:

Application for the simplified forwarding of information relative to the change of name or designation of sex




“Transgender Canadians can now self-identify on citizenship documents without sex-reassignment surgery” – National Post

The Citizenship and Immigration website provides the following information:

“New instructions are currently being developed. It is anticipated that they will be posted by spring or early summer 2015. The current instructions will be amended to remove the requirement for proof of sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and to provide a list of acceptable documentary evidence to support an applicant’s request to change the sex designation on a citizenship certificate.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is now accepting provincial or territorial documents such as an amended birth certificate showing a new sex designation or a legal/court order recognizing the person under a different sex designation or gender identity. However, CIC is also reviewing what other evidence will be accepted to support a request for a change in sex designation on a citizenship certificate for clients who are unable to obtain a provincial or territorial document.”

Will the Vancouver Police Recommendations on Treatment of Trans Persons Have An Effect?

When the Vancouver Sun interviewed me recently asking me about the new Vancouver Police Department (VPD) April 7 report’s recommendations for addressing the Human Rights Tribunal decision about systemic transgender discrimination against Ms Dawson, there were two messages I hoped to convey.

On the one hand I wished to share my belief that any policy change that leads to better treatment of Transgender persons by police is welcome and should be applauded. That has VPD recognized on paper that they have been acting badly is a positive start. That they commit to concrete actions is encouraging. There is little doubt that having policy in place will assist the trans advocacy and support organizations when they work to encourage our community to speak up when they feel they have been mistreated.

On the other hand, however, we know that Vancouver Police Department have made this sort of promise before. We understand from knowledgeable persons have told us that the Police Department have been down this road before but managed to get away without a judgement against them.  And as result, nothing has actually changed.

Policy… or feet on the ground?

Past experience leaves us wondering whether this policy will actually change things when a transgender persons interacts with a police officer. Can the trans person actually rely on the officer knowing BC law as it applies to gender identity? Can we expect to be treated with dignity and not have our gender identity questioned or dominating the mindspace of an officer when we deal with them? Can we even actually trust that VPD training on gender identity is up to date?

It is unlikely that we can.

The training course mentioned in the police report dates back to 2008. Police departments that use this training module have been subject to a number of valid human rights complaints. Maybe offering LGBTQ training is not the same as taking into account the needs of the trans community.

The main reason ms. Dawson’s discrimination complaint was even heard at all is that it occurred in a prison setting where the miscreants helpfully took notes of their ideas and statements. This sort of confirmation is strikingly rare.

In every day policing, however, the transgender population of Vancouver do not have access to trusted documentation, video footage, or collaborating bonded persons. In fact, we question in our hearts why more often than not, the arrival of a police officer signal that things have taken a turn for the worse for the trans person in an altercation. Ms Dawson ran into a number of transphobic events at the hands of provincial and city authorities which led to her incarceration and thus gave her the ability to be heard.

All her previous complaints were ignored, including the one that led to her losing her housing.

Before the transgender and gender variant community can learn to trust VPD and other service providers, there is a need for the forces of orders to demonstrate to us that they have changed their world view on where we fit into society.

For now, I am waiting to see results. The city of Vancouver has an LGBTQ2+ advisory committee on which I sit. The mayor gets my tweets. There are numerous ways for the city of Vancouver to atone for what it’s police force has done.

To date, nothing has happened. Maybe the city and the Vancouver Police Departmet would do well to reach out to the transgender community before they lose our trust further.

PHSA Trans Health Future Directions live broadcast feed – May 2, 2015

TAS received the following letter today from the Provincial Health Services Authority:


Provincial Health Services Authority would like to remind you of the full day session: Trans Health Future Directions happening Saturday May 2nd.  The event is now full, however we would like to invite guests to please join us via our a live broadcast feed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yveUxvVe9w (Note: this seems to be a scrubbed version released on 12 June 2015 and not the original live feed).

This is an opportunity for us to share the provincial service planning recommendations that have been developed, build relationships with other professionals and organizations, and most importantly to engage in meaningful dialogue to improve health services.


  1. Share what work has been completed to date and identify if there are any major gaps
  2. Build shared commitment between the trans community and health care system providers to improve service delivery
  3. Foster the trans community network (creating connections) 

This event will not include any decision-making or announcements regarding services.

 Agenda for the Event Day:

0930 – 1000 Registration
1000 – 1005 Logistics
1005 – 1015 Blessing from First Nations elder
1015 – 1030 Kick off and welcome messages
1030 – 1105 Context, plan and principles
1105 – 1130 Facts and information
1130 – 1300 Working group presentations
1300 – 1425 Lunch and community networking/resource activity
1425 – 1450 Working group presentations continued
1450 – 1610 Question and answer session
1610 – 1620 Conclusion

A website has been developed for this project and can be found at http://www.phsa.ca/about/special-projects/transgender.  Questions regarding the Trans Health Future Directions event or questions in general can be sent to transgender@phsa.ca.  Feedback regarding the recommendations will be accepted until May 9th, 2015.


Arden Krystal
Chief Operating Officer
Provincial Health Services Authority
Vanessa Barron
Consultant, Clinical Transformation
Provincial Health Services Authority