Nfld. & Labrador

Gender identity battle heads to court, to fight for third option on birth certificate

A transgender activist from St. John's is continuing the fight for a gender-neutral birth certificate.

Gemma Hickey requested a non-binary birth certificate from the provincial government

Gemma Hickey and lawyer Brittany Whalen filed an application challenging the Vital Statistics Act's change of sex designation provisions. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC News)

A transgender activist from St. John's is continuing the fight for a gender-neutral birth certificate, after a provincial department deferred the request.

"To have non-binary as a third legal gender. I think that that's really important. At least another option for people like me," says Gemma Hickey.

​Hickey doesn't identify as either male or female, which are currently the only two options on the change of sex designation form. Hickey filed the application for a new birth certificate in April with the vital statistics division of Service NL, but it hasn't been approved. Service NL says it is still reviewing the application. 

Hickey isn't giving up, despite what they called a disappointing response from the department.

"Especially given that Bill C-16 just passed and based on the province's stance on human rights and how gender identity fits into that — I just felt that we as a province can do better, and I expect better. Because I love this province," Hickey said.

Hickey does not identify as a male or female. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC News)

Hickey and lawyer Brittany Whalen arrived outside the Supreme Court in St. John's Friday morning, where they filed an application challenging the Vital Statistics Act's change of sex designation provisions. 

Whalen said the act is unconstitutional and "violates both national and provincial human rights legislation." 

Feds first, says Service NL

Service NL said work is already being done on the issue, which will eventually form policies in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

"Service NL officials are working with their federal, provincial and territorial counterparts to address issues surrounding gender identity and how it is represented on official documents," a spokesperson for Service NL told CBC News in an email.

Gemma Hickey wants non-binary to be added as a third legal gender. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Hickey said the battle isn't just about one birth certificate, but fighting on behalf of everyone who has been discriminated against for their gender identity.

"You know, right here at home if one child gets beaten or bullied in the schoolyard then we all need to step up. So this is for them."

Hickey said the legal fight could have ripple effects within the community — and create change for the better. 

"What matters is that we move forward as a society and that everyone — including children that have to deal with these issues — feel that they can be the person or the individual that they want to be," Hickey said.

A court date on the issue has been set for July. 


  • An earlier headline on this story said Gemma Hickey's birth certificate request has been denied. In fact, Service NL says the application is still under consideration while officials "seek a solution to the administrative challenges posed by the request."
    Jun 24, 2017 2:08 PM NT


Avneet Dhillon is a multi-platform journalist based in Toronto. She is currently working as a social producer for CBC News.