Settlement in human rights complaint sets stage for gender-neutral IDs: Activist

Stage set for gender-neutral IDs: activist

OTTAWA — Trans rights activists say it is now only a matter of time before the federal government drops any mention of gender from government-issued identification after the Liberals publicly said officials don’t always need the information.

The admission came as part of a human rights settlement this month over the use of sex and gender in issuing social insurance numbers. The government agreed to give Canadians a third choice on applications, neither female nor male.

Christin Milloy, the trans activist behind the complaint, said the government’s own words set the stage for the all government identification documents to become gender-neutral.

“It bolsters the case for those people who are challenging — in other provinces and the federal government — the presence of sex and gender on ID because every single one of those cases will refer to this settlement, to this statement that’s been made.”

Milloy and the federal government settled a long-running human rights complaint earlier this month after the Liberals agreed the federal government doesn’t always need to know someone’s sex or gender before handing out a social insurance number.

The department’s policy of using the sex designation at birth discriminated against transgender persons, the complaint argued. Milloy also argued the information was not necessary to identify a number’s holder.

In a statement about the settlement, Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his department will only collect the information if needed to receive a benefit or for legitimate purposes, such as policy and program development.

The government will no longer make it mandatory to provide sex or gender information for a social insurance number and will provide a third option for those who don’t identify as male or female. ESDC also no longer requires supporting documents to change the gender designation in the registry.

“Changing gender markers is a bureaucratic nightmare and in many circumstances it’s impossible to do and it just creates enormous barriers,” said Milloy, a former Ontario Libertarian candidate whose political leanings now swing to the left.

I am looking forward to a world in which nobody in Canada faces those barriers ever again.”

The Liberals are conducting a sweeping policy review on the use of gender and sex information in government programs, but are making no promises about when it will be done or when a decision will be made on a long-running internal evaluation about how to make passports gender-neutral.

Federal immigration officials first started looking into the issue in 2015, but have yet to come to any decision. A spokesman said officials are still considering offering a third-sex option on department-issued documents, including passports, “as not all people identify with the choices of either female or male.”

Seven countries allow a third sex designation on their passports — Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan â€” and passport standards from the International Civil Aviation Organization, which Canada adheres to, allow governments to allow a third sex or gender category, usually marked with an ‘X.’

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is seeing complaints about the use of gender on provincial and federal identification, has heard concerns from transgender Canadians about being harassed or prevented from boarding a flight because they don’t look like or match the gender listed on their passport.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press