Manitoba must offer non-binary sex designations on its birth certificates according to a human rights ruling. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Human rights ruling says Manitoba must offer gender-neutral birth certificates

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has been ordered to start offering non-binary sex designations on its birth certificates.

A human rights adjudicator has also ordered the province to pay $50,000 to a transgender individual who wanted the sex designation on their birth certificate replaced with an “X” and was denied.

The complainant, who is identified as T.A. because of a publication ban, filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission after the request was turned down in 2014.

Manitoba’s Vital Statistics Agency said all birth certificates have two options — male or female — under provincial law and no other option is allowed.

The independent adjudicator who heard the case ruled that the government’s position is discriminatory and there is nothing under the law that would prevent a third designation from being offered.

Adjudicator Dan Manning also said the seriousness of the province’s actions toward the complainant was on “the high end.”

“Gender identity is a part of our concept of selfhood. The (vital statistics) director’s practice to not allow non-binary designations of sex designation and only permit male or female designations was effectively the government refusing to acknowledge T.A.’s agency and personhood,” Manning wrote in his ruling released Tuesday.

“The difficulties faced by trans and non-binary individuals in our society are many. Human rights tribunals have long recognized the disadvantages faced by trans people and non-binary individuals in society.”

Manning gave the province 180 days to start offering non-binary sex designations on birth certificates and 60 days to pay T.A. compensation. He rejected a request for a further $25,000 in exemplary damages, saying he found no evidence of malice or recklessness in the government’s behaviour.

A one-sentence written statement from the office of Finance Minister Scott Fielding, who is responsible for the Vital Statistics Agency, said the government received the decision and “will now carefully review it to determine next steps.”

The complainant’s lawyer said T.A. is happy with the ruling.

“It is an important step forward for the trans community both in Manitoba and across Canada … so T.A. is feeling very pleased with the result,” Susan Ursel said.

“I think the Manitoba decision actually is keeping pace with where the rest of Canada and the world are moving.”

Some other provinces have already adopted gender-neutral identity documents.

Since last summer, Nova Scotians can choose “X” as a gender indicator — or choose not to display a gender — on birth certificates, drivers’ licences and other documents.

Other provinces including Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador also offer an “X” option.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2019.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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