Transgender rights in Canada
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|lesbian ∙ gay ∙ bisexual ∙ transgender|
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Government identity documents
There are two main routes to changing one's legal gender in Canada: the Immigration (or 'federal') route, and the Vital Statistics (or 'provincial/territorial' route). Of note is the distinction between 'legal gender' and 'gender marker'; a legal gender (also commonly referred to as a sex designation; sex indicator in Nova Scotia) is what appears on foundational identity documents such as immigration status documents and birth certificates, whilst a gender marker can appear on a non-foundational identity document, such as a driver's licence or photo card. A gender marker usually follows legal gender, but can differ - and a change in gender marker on a non-foundational identity document alone does not provide a trans individual with foundational identity documentation that establishes such a change.
|Jurisdiction||Change of legal gender on birth registration, citizenship/immigration documentation, or change of sex designation certificate|
|Federal Government||Yes for Citizens, Permanent Residents, Temporary Residents, Protected Persons and Refugee Claimants|
|Alberta||Yes for persons born in Alberta, No for Albertans born out of province|
|British Columbia||Yes for persons born in British Columbia, No for British Columbians born out of province|
|Manitoba||Yes for persons born in Manitoba, and Citizens residing in Manitoba for one year, No for Manitobans who are PRs/Temporary Residents|
|New Brunswick||Yes for all New Brunswick residents (three months' residency requirement) and New Brunswick-born persons|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Yes for persons born in Newfoundland and Labrador, No for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians born out of province|
|Northwest Territories||Yes for persons born in the NWT, No for Northwesterners born out of territory|
|Nova Scotia||Yes for all Nova Scotian residents (three months' residency requirement) and Nova Scotia-born persons|
|Nunavut||Yes for persons born in Nunavut, No for Nunavummiut born out of territory|
|Ontario||Yes for persons born in Ontario, No for Ontarians born out of province|
|Prince Edward Island||Yes for persons born on PEI, No for Islanders born out of province|
|Quebec||Yes for all Quebec residents (one year residency requirement) and Quebec-born persons|
|Saskatchewan||Yes for persons born in Saskatchewan, No for Saskatchewanites born out of province|
|Yukon||Yes for persons born in the Yukon, No for Yukoners born out of territory|
Canadian Permanent Residents, Citizens (born inside or outside Canada), Protected Persons, Refugee Claimants and Temporary Residents may apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada using form CIT 0404: Request for a Change of Sex or Gender Identifier. Amendment of documents issued by the person's country of birth, former habitual residence, or nationality is not required. Once the person's gender is changed with IRCC, the agency will issue a Verification of Status annotated with the person's change of name (if any) and gender, as a linking document between their Canadian identity and their foreign birth certificate. Since June 2019, the Canadian passport, citizenship certificate, permanent resident documentation and protected person documentation have offered an "X" option for gender identity.
In July 2020, Global News reported that the policy of not allowing refugee claimants and temporary residents to change their legal gender was causing harm, especially to asylum seekers. The article cites the case of Naomi Chen (a pseudonym), a trans woman who was born in Hong Kong and holds Chinese nationality and Hong Kong permanent resident status. Chen's HKSAR passport still states her gender as 'male', and consequently she was issued a Refugee Protection Claimant Document by IRCC bearing that gender. Chen was not able to change her legal gender in Hong Kong, fearing that her marriage, which was solemnized in Hong Kong, would be terminated (Hong Kong does not allow same-sex marriage). She says she is now afraid of interacting with the community, given the incorrect gender designation on her documents. In response, Kevin Lemkay, spokesperson for federal immigration minister Marco Mendicino, said that 'reviewing gender identity requirements for government-issued documents [was] a priority'. Will Tao, a Vancouver immigration lawyer, notes that this restriction is merely policy, and not enshrined in legislation or regulation. He contends that the Canadian federal government is potentially committing a violation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in Tao's own words an issue "ripe for future litigation".
As of November 2020, refugee claimants are now able to amend the sex indicator printed on their Refugee Protection Claimant Document. As of March 2021, the same is also now available to temporary residents without the amendment of gender on their country of nationality's passport. Applicants may also elect to amend their legal gender through a provincial process instead, if this is available to them in their province or territory of residence. 
Following a 2014 court ruling that struck down the existing legislation and its surgery requirements as unconstitutional, the government of Alberta modified the Vital Statistics Information Regulation in 2015. The current regulations eliminate the surgical requirement. Instead, the applicant must submit a "statement confirming that the person identifies with and is maintaining the gender identity that corresponds with the requested amendment to the sex on the record of birth," as well as a letter from a physician or psychologist attesting that the amendment is appropriate. Legal change of gender is accessible to minors; this requires the parents' or guardians' consent, although this can be waived by court order or if the minor is emancipated, married, or a parent. A legal change of gender is not accessible to residents who were not born in Alberta.
In British Columbia, the requirement for surgery to change the birth certificate gender marker was removed in 2014. A legal change of gender is not accessible to residents who were not born in British Columbia. Non-binary B.C. resident Kori Doty, along with seven other trans and intersex persons, filed a human rights complaint against the province, alleging that publishing a sex indicator on birth certificates was discriminatory. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal agreed in 2015 to hear their complaint. In April 2017, Doty's child, Searyl Atli Doty, became the first in the world to be issued a health card with a "U" gender marker (for 'unspecified'), but the province has refused to issue a birth certificate without specifying a gender. Doty has filed a legal challenge.
A change of legal gender in Manitoba is available to persons born there. As of the 1st February 2015, there exists no requirement for trans individuals to have undergone gender confirmation surgery. Section 25(3) of the Vital Statistics Act of Manitoba further provides that "a person may apply to the director for a change of sex designation certificate if the person is a Canadian citizen who has been a resident of Manitoba for at least one year before the date the application is submitted." This follows the model formerly adopted by Quebec (now invalidated by the Superior Court in that province), but is discrepant with Manitoba's own policy for legal changes of name (three months' ordinary residence). As of July 2020, this provision has been implemented by the Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency.
As of October 13, 2020, the gender marker on Manitoba driver licenses and photo cards can either be unspecified or marked with an 'X'. This is in response to a complaint lodged at the Manitoba Human Rights Commission by non-binary individuals. 
In April 2017, a bill passed the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick to add gender identity or expression to the human rights laws and to allow gender changes without the required surgery. A person born in New Brunswick or ordinarily resident there for at least three months may make application to Service New Brunswick for a change of their legal gender.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Persons born in Newfoundland and Labrador have been able to have the sex indicator on their birth registration changed since the adoption of a new Vital Statistics Act in 2009. Initially, that provision was available only to those who had undergone gender confirmation surgery, but such requirement was removed following the December 2015 decision of a Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Board of Inquiry on complaints filed with the Human Rights Commission from two trans women. The amendment received Royal Assent on April 13, 2016.
The first gender-neutral birth certificate in Newfoundland and Labrador, and possibly the first in Canada, was issued December 14, 2017, to Gemma Hickey, a non-binary resident of St. John's, the province's capital. Hickey, an award-winning activist, had launched court action seeking to compel the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to issue the gender-neutral certificate after their application for such a document was rejected because the application form was limited to male or female designation only. Hickey withdrew the court action after the government agreed to amend the Vital Statistics Act to authorize the issuing of gender-neutral birth certificates. That amendment received Royal Assent on December 7, 2017.
At present, Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to offer a provincial change of legal gender process for persons born outside the Province and now ordinarily resident there, on the same basis as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The Northwest Territories government removed the surgery requirement for a legal gender change from the Vital Statistics Act in June 2016. A legal change of gender is not accessible to residents who were not born in NWT.
On May 11, 2015, Bill 82, An Act to Amend Chapter 66 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Change of Name Act, and Chapter 494 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Vital Statistics Act received Royal Assent. This act abolishes the surgical requirement, instead requiring a statement "that the applicant has assumed, identifies with and intends to maintain the gender identity that corresponds with the change requested," and an attestation from a professional that the applicant's gender identity does not correspond to that listed on the birth certificate. The Act came into force the week of September 24, 2015.
Therefore, a change of sex indicator is now available in Nova Scotia for persons born there or those who have been ordinarily resident at least three months in the province. Nova Scotia also offers the option of no gender being displayed on one's driver's licence and/or identification card.
Nunavut removed the surgery requirement for a legal gender change from the Vital Statistics Act in March 2015. A legal change of gender is not accessible to residents who were not born in Nunavut.
On 11 April 2012, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled that gender confirmation surgery is no longer required for a change in registered gender on Ontario documents. In its decision, the Tribunal ordered that the Ontario government "shall cease requiring transgender persons to have 'transsexual surgery' (sic) in order to obtain a change in sex designation on their registration of birth" and has 180 days to "revise the criteria for changing sex designation on a birth registration". A legal change of gender is not accessible to residents who were not born in Ontario.
The Ontario Government affirms that a resident, regardless of birthplace, may amend the gender marker on their driver’s licence and photo card.
Prince Edward Island
In April 2016, the Prince Edward Island government amended the Vital Statistics Act to allow individuals to change their legal gender on ID without surgery. Individuals must present a letter from a doctor attesting to the applicant's gender identity. Islanders can also now choose to display no gender on their PEI-issued driver's licence/voluntary identification card.
Section 12 of the Prince Edward Island Vital Statistics Act specifies that any person "may apply to the Director to record a change of sex on the person's registration of birth", and that it is the director's duty to record this change where the person's birth registration is maintained by the Province, and to transmit details of the change where the person's birth registration is maintained by another jurisdiction to said jurisdiction. This would seem to indicate a change of registered gender regime similar to that of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick's - allowing both persons born and/or residing within the Province to do so; however, at present, the Department of Justice and Public Safety only offers this service to PEI-born individuals.
To qualify to change legal gender, the person concerned by the application must be domiciled in Québec for at least one year. If the person concerned by the application was born in Québec but lives elsewhere, the person may also qualify to change the sex designation if the person shows that such an amendment is not possible in the province or country in which the person is domiciled. They may make application to the Directeur de l'etat civil for a Certificate of Change of Sex Indicator (certificat de changement de la mention du sexe), regardless of their place of birth; however, this is solely limited to a male or female sex designation, forbidding the use of a non-binary gender designator. They may also apply for a combination Certificate of Change of Gender and Name (certificat de changement de la mention du sexe et de nom). After such a certificate is issued, if one is a Quebec-born individual, one's gender may be changed on the birth certificate.
Previously, Quebec required applicants to be Canadian citizens. A 2021 court case, Centre for Gender Advocacy v. Attorney General of Quebec, has struck down six legal provisions considered discriminatory towards trans and non-binary Quebeckers, including one forbidding the use of non-binary gender designations, and another one prohibiting non-citizens to obtain a change of name and sex designation. The Quebec government has until the end of 2021 to amend these aforementioned legal provisions, except for the discriminatory citizenship requirement, which the Court declared invalid with immediate effect. The citizenship requirement has been removed in practice by the Directeur on application forms.
In February 2016, the provincial government changed the Saskatchewan Vital Statistics Act to eliminate gender confirmation surgery as a prerequisite for changing government documents. In May 2018, a judge ruled that the gender marker can be removed from a birth certificate.
Saskatchewan permits the change of sex designation on a Saskatchewan driver’s licence or photo identification card without updating a birth certificate, which is available to Saskatchewan-born persons only.
On April 25, 2017, a bill called Act to Amend the Human Rights Act and the Vital Statistics Act (2017) was introduced to the Second Session of the 34th Legislative Assembly as Bill 5. Its intended purpose was to add "gender identity or expression" to the Human Rights Act, and to allow the recognition of gender without surgery being required under the Vital Statistics Act. On July 1, 2017, it went into effect.
A person may amend the gender designation on their driver’s licence and/or general identification card by presentation of a Change of Gender Designation form. Amendment of legal gender on a birth certificate is also available to Yukon-born persons.
Bill C-16, which passed in June 2017, added the words "gender identity and expression" in three instances. These words were added to the Canadian Human Rights Act as prohibited grounds for discrimination, and to the Criminal Code in two sections, the first dealing with hate speech and hate incitement and the second regarding sentencing for hate crimes.
In 2005, NDP MP Bill Siksay introduced a bill in the House of Commons to explicitly add gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. He reintroduced the bill in 2006. In May 2009, he introduced it again, with additional provisions to add gender identity and expression to the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code. In February 2011, it passed third reading in the House of Commons with support from all parties, but was not considered in the Senate before Parliament was dissolved for the 41st Canadian federal election. Two bills—C-276 and C-279—on the subject have been introduced in the 41st Canadian Parliament, by the Liberals and the NDP respectively. The NDP's Bill C-279 passed second reading on June 6, 2012. However, the bill again died on the Senate order paper when the 2015 federal election was called. In May 2016, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (C-16) was introduced to the House of Commons of Canada, to add and include "gender identity or expression" in the Canadian Human Rights Act. In June 2017, the Parliament of Canada passed bill C-16 and received royal assent a week later. The law went into effect immediately as Bill C-16.
The federal government and every province and territory in Canada has enacted human rights acts that prohibit discrimination and harassment on several grounds (e.g. race, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, sex, religion) in private and public sector employment, housing, public services and publicity. Some acts also apply to additional activities. These acts are quasi-constitutional laws that override ordinary laws as well as regulations, contracts and collective agreements. They are typically enforced by human rights commissions and tribunals through a complaint investigation, conciliation and arbitration process that is slow, but free, and includes protection against retaliation. A lawyer is not required.
Grounds for prohibiting discrimination
In 1977, the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is both a charter of rights and a human rights act, was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Thus, the province of Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the world larger than a city or county to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the private and public sectors. Today, sexual orientation is explicitly mentioned as a ground of prohibited discrimination in the human rights acts of all jurisdictions in Canada. In 2016, gender identity or expression was added to the Quebec Charter.
Sexual orientation is not defined in any human rights act, but is widely interpreted as meaning heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. It does not include transsexuality or transgender people. The Federal Court of Canada has stated that sexual orientation "is a precise legal concept that deals specifically with an individual's preference in terms of gender" in sexual relationships, and is not vague or overly broad. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has adopted the following definition:
Sexual orientation is more than simply a 'status' that an individual possesses; it is an immutable personal characteristic that forms part of an individual's core identity. Sexual orientation encompasses the range of human sexuality from gay and lesbian to bisexual and heterosexual orientations.
All human rights laws in Canada also explicitly prohibit discrimination based on disability, which has been interpreted to include AIDS, ARC and being HIV positive, and membership in a high-risk group for HIV infection.
Since June 2017, all places within Canada explicitly within the Canadian Human Rights Act, equal opportunity and/or anti-discrimination legislation prohibit discrimination against gender identity or gender identity or expression.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines gender identity as follows:
Gender identity is linked to an individual's intrinsic sense of self and, particularly the sense of being male or female. Gender identity may or may not conform to a person's birth assigned sex. The personal characteristics that are associated with gender identity include self-image, physical and biological appearance, expression, behaviour and conduct, as they relate to gender. … Individuals whose birth-assigned sex does not conform to their gender identity include transsexuals [sic], transgenderists [sic], intersexed [sic] persons and cross-dressers. A person's gender identity is fundamentally different from and not determinative of their sexual orientation.
LGBT discrimination protections table
|Territory/Province||Sexual orientation||Gender identity||Gender expression||Conversion therapy ban|
|Canada (federal)||(Since 1996)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2017)||(pending as of 2020)|
|Alberta||(Since 2009)||(Since 2015)||(Since 2015)||/ (Banned in St. Albert and Edmonton since 2019, and Calgary since 2020)|
|British Columbia||(Since 1992)||(Since 2016)||(Since 2016)||/ (Banned in Vancouver since 2018)|
|Manitoba||(Since 1987)||(Since 2012)||/ (Not explicitly included but implicitly included since at least 2016)||(Since 2015)|
|New Brunswick||(Since 1992)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2020)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||(Since 1995)||(Since 2013)||(Since 2013)|
|Nova Scotia||(Since 1991)||(Since 2012)||(Since 2012)||(Since 2018, but allows "mature minors" between the ages of 16 and 18 to consent)|
|Ontario||(Since 1986)||(Since 2012)||(Since 2012)||(Since 2015)|
|Prince Edward Island||(Since 1998)||(Since 2013)||(Since 2013)||(Since 2019)|
|Quebec||(Since 1977)||(Since 2016)||(Since 2016)||(Since 2020)|
|Saskatchewan||(Since 1993)||(Since 2014)|||
|Northwest Territories||(Since 2002)||(Since 2002)|
|Nunavut||(Since 1999)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2017)|
|Yukon||(Since 1987)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2017)||(Since 2020)|
Activities where equality is guaranteed
Discrimination, including harassment, based on real or perceived sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS and gender identity is prohibited throughout Canada in private and public sector employment, housing and services provided to the public. All aspects of employment are covered, including benefits for spouses and long-term partners. Examples of services include credit, insurance, government programs and schools open to the public. Schools open to the public are liable for anti-gay name-calling and bullying by students or staff.
Prohibited discrimination occurs not only when someone is treated less favourably or is harassed based on a prohibited ground, but also when a policy or practice has an unintended disproportionately adverse effect based on that ground. This is called "adverse effect discrimination". For example, it might in theory be discriminatory for schools to implement a uniform policy that has specifically gendered uniforms.
Trans inclusion in the Canadian Forces
LGBT Canadians have been allowed to serve in the military since the Douglas case was settled in 1992. However, in March 2019 The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) issued revised policies with a mandate of inclusion of gender diverse Canadians. The new directive stresses ones right to freely express their gender identity and outlines uniform and naming protocols, medical and surgical support opportunities and accommodations to privacy.
Trans considerations in federal prison
In 2018 new operations were implemented to accommodate offenders based on gender identity instead of sex assigned at birth. These policy amendments are a result of The Canadian Human Rights Commission, The Correctional Service of Canada and Prisoners Legal Services combined efforts. They include changes such as using an offenders preferred name and pronouns, placing offenders in a men's or women's institutions based on gender identity regardless of anatomy and ensuring the privacy, dignity and safety of trans or gender-diverse offenders.
Policy numbers and titles that have been amended
CD 352 – Inmate Clothing Entitlements
CD 550 – Inmate Accommodation (and User Guide)
CD 566-7 – Searching of Offenders
CD 566-10 – Urinalysis Testing
CD 566-12 – Personal Property Of Offenders
CD 567-1 – Use of Force
CD 577 – Staff Protocol in Women Offender Institutions
CD 702 – Aboriginal Offenders
CD 705-1 – Preliminary Assessments and Post-Sentence Community Assessments
CD 705-3 – Immediate Needs Identification and Admission Interviews
CD 705-7 – Security Classification and Penitentiary Placement
CD 710-2 – Transfer of Inmates
CD 800 – Health Services
GL 800-5 – Gender Dysphoria
CD 843 – Interventions to Preserve Life and Prevent Serious Bodily Harm
On August 15, 2016, Canadian Blood Services' new eligibility criteria for transgender people came into effect. This criteria states that transgender donors who have not had lower gender affirming surgery will be asked questions based on their sex assigned at birth. They will be eligible to donate or be deferred based on these criteria. For example, trans women will be asked if they have had sex with a man in the last 12 months. If the response is yes, they will be deferred for one year after their last sexual contact with a man. Donors who have had lower gender affirming surgery will be deferred from donating blood for one year after their surgery. After that year, these donors will be screened in their affirmed gender.
Conversion therapy for transgender Canadians is legal in all provinces and territories, except Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In 2018, the City of Vancouver became the only city in British Columbia to outlaw the practice, and in 2019 St. Albert became the first City in Alberta to ban the practice followed by Edmonton also in 2019, and Calgary in 2020. And on 9 March 2020, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy). Conversion therapy is the widely discredited line of therapeutic practices that attempts to "cure" an individual of their sexual orientation or gender identity, often using psychotropic drugs and physical abuse.
In 2015, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne directed her Health Minister, Eric Hoskins, to petition the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for a ban on conversion therapy under their standards of practice. As well, Wynne spoke in favour of a bill tabled by Cheri DiNovo, a member of the provincial New Democratic Party, that would outlaw any attempt to change the gender or sexuality of a person under 18 via therapy. The bill passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Wynne, as the first openly gay Premier in Canada, stated that youths expressing their sexuality and gender identity should be protected, and that young LGBTQ people are especially vulnerable to these conversion therapy practices.
Also in 2015, Manitoban Health Minister Sharon Blady announced plans for the province to ban the practice of conversion therapy, and stated that conversion therapy had "no place" in Manitoba's healthcare system. This ban targeted the conversion of homosexual people to heterosexual, and had no specific provisions for transgender individuals being "converted" to cisgender.
A bill banning conversion therapy for sexual orientation and gender identity was passed unanimously in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia in 2018. The bill, lauded by Nova Scotian Justice Minister Mark Furey as the "most progressive piece of legislation around sexual orientation and gender identity in the country", bans the promotion of such practices to persons under 19, but contains a very controversial clause allowing "mature minors" between the ages of 16 and 18 to consent to being subject to the practice.
The B.C. government has tabled legislation to ban the practice of conversion therapy that is in line with other provincial bans, though no vote has taken place as of November 2019. In August 2019, the B.C. government called on the federal government to add conversion therapy into the Criminal Code of Canada and take action banning the practice nationwide.
Vancouver became the first jurisdiction in British Columbia to ban the practice for gender identity and sexual orientation in 2018. This ban, added to Vancouver's business prohibition bylaw, prohibits the offering of these services to people of any age and was passed unanimously by the Vancouver City Council.
The city of Edmonton unanimously passed bylaw 19061, prohibiting conversion therapy within the city.
Though conversion therapy has not been known to happen in St. Albert, the city council unanimously passed a motion to ban it as a statement against the practice.
- Transgender rights
- Name change
- List of transgender-related topics
- LGBT rights in Canada
- Intersex rights in Canada
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- Part I – The context: sexual orientation, human rights protections, case law and legislation
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