Teens should be able to change name and gender, says P.E.I.'s child and youth advocate

P.E.I. teens who want to change their name or gender can’t do it without their parents' permission until they reach 18 years old, but the province's child and youth advocate says that needs to change.

Currently, teens can’t make changes before 18 without parental consent

Marv Bernstein in his office.
Marv Bernstein, the province's child and youth advocate, said age restrictions can cause emotional distress and self-destructive behaviours in some young people. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Warning: This story contains references to serious mental health concerns and suicide.

P.E.I. teens who want to change their name or gender should be able to make that choice regardless of age or parental consent, says the province's child and youth advocate.

Marv Bernstein wrote in his annual report that P.E.I. needs to eliminate "artificial and inconsistent age thresholds" in legislation. He highlighted two laws in particular. 

Under both the Vital Statistics Act and the Change of Name Act, children under 18 can't apply for a change in gender or name without parental consent.

Bernstein said that can be difficult, especially for some transgender youth.

"If, for example, they have a difficult relationship with their parents and they don't support this change of name or designation or the transitioning process, it makes it very difficult for some of these young people who then may feel a lot of emotional distress, they may become self-destructive. We have heard some situations where they become suicidal," Bernstein said.

Anastasia Preston in her office at PEERS.
Anastasia Preston is the trans community outreach co-ordinator for PEERS Alliance. (CBC/Safiyah Marhnouj)

He wants all ages removed from the legislation so children can be judged on an individual basis based on their level of maturity, Bernstein said.

"Even lowering the age threshold may be unfair to some young people who understand the consequences, understand the implications, have thought this out for themselves, are coming to terms with their own gender identity and want to go through that process," Bernstein said.

Anastasia Preston, the trans community outreach coordinator for PEERS Alliance, said she's been pushing for these changes for some time.

Cost also an issue

"We let youth operate cars but we won't let them decide whether they can change their name or not," Preston said.

Preston was over 18 when she transitioned.

"I can only imagine the stress, and how distressing it would be for me, if, when I went to change my name, I was told by the government that I wasn't able to change my name because of the fact that I wasn't a certain age," Preston said.

She would also like to see some fees revised. The cost of changing a name or a gender designation can hold some young people back, Preston said.

According to P.E.I.'s Vital Statistics website, the fee for an adult to change their name is $100. A change of gender costs $25 and an amended birth certificate is another $25 to $35.

Bernstein said he will push provincial lawmakers to take a closer look at not only these two bills, but all legislation to ensure children's rights are protected and youth can make critically important decisions for themselves.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:


Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked in TV, digital and print for more than two decades. In addition to his role as a multi-platform journalist for CBC News, Wayne can be heard reading the news coast-to-coast-to-coast on The World This Hour, co-hosting Island Morning and reporting daily for CBC News: Compass, the top rated supper hour show on the Island. You can reach Wayne at

With files from Wayne Thibodeau.