Sask. judge rules province must allow people to remove gender markers from birth certificates

On Thursday, a Saskatchewan judge ruled that the province must amend current policy to allow people of all ages to change or remove te gender on their birth certificates.

Lawyer Larry Kowalchuk says order is unprecedented

Saskatoon parent Fran Forsberg first filed a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission when the province's Vital Statistics Agency refused to change Renn's (pictured) sex designation from "Male" to "Female." (Craig Edwards/CBC)

On Thursday, a Saskatchewan judge ruled that the province must amend current policy to allow people of all ages to change or remove the gender on their birth certificates.

Justice Lana Krogan issued the decision Thursday at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. 

"I'm excited. I'm overwhelmed. Beyond happy. This is going to save many, many lives," said Dustin Dyck, whose family was involved in the case. 

"It's going to lessen the opportunity for misgendering."

Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in the country in which a court has ordered the government to allow the removal of gender markers on birth certificates, according to the provincial human rights commission. 

Previously, only people over the age of 18 could change their gender identity and removal was not allowed.
Members of the Forsberg family, the Dyck family and lawyer Larry Kowalchuk were all smiles after a court ordered the province to allow the removal of gender from birth certificates. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Parents representing gender diverse youth had argued that Saskatchewan's The Vital Statistics Act, 2009, violated the provincial Human Rights Code on the basis of sex and gender identity. 

Dyck's youngest child Jordyn identifies as non-binary and has faced challenges particularly in medical settings and with their driver's license.

Jordyn said they were happy for what the decision meant for them and their peers. 

"When I was younger I always wanted to become who I was so now I can become the person I am inside," Jordyn said. 

"I feel great about it because now they can do whatever they please." 

An unprecedented order

Saskatchewan lawyer Larry Kowalchuk represented the families and said that while he hoped for the ruling, he never expected it to come. 

He said the ruling is unprecedented. 

"As far as we know, there are no courts who have actually made a decision and an order requiring a government to issue somebody a birth certificate without a gender mark at all," he said.  
Saskatchewan lawyer Larry Kowalchuk takes a break from speaking with media about the court ruling on Friday outside Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Comission says transgender and non-binary gender people face discrimination in housing, employment and travel because of a mismatch between their outward gender presentation and their government issued ID. 

Other jurisdictions such as Ontario have allowed people to indicate gender with an X rather than an M or an F. 

The Saskatchewan families wanted to go beyond that. 

"Because an X would be like putting a target on you saying hey guess what, pick on me," Kowalchuk said.

He said there were hurdles the entire way, but one of the biggest challenges was asking a judge to "alter the direction of society's attitudes." 

"That Justice Krogan had the courage to sign this order is amazing and to base it on a human rights issue is amazing and world shaking," said Fran Forsberg, who is the parent of gender diverse children and was also heavily involved in the case. 

When her daughter Renn — who was assigned male at birth — first told Forsberg how she felt, Forsberg said it was a huge learning curve.
(From left) Fran, Renn and Krista Forsberg stand outside Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. (Craig Edwards/CBC)

The province's Vital Statistics Agency had refused to change Renn's sex designation from "Male" to "Female" on her birth records. 

"I'm hoping that this, too, is a way for people around the world to educate themselves and make the world a safer place for people that are gender non-binary," she said. 

"It's going to be great. I don't have to do anymore explaining. Renn is free to be who she is."

A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan government said the province will comply with the judge's order. 

The judge has ordered the government to create a new criteria within 45 days of the order.