Saskatoon

Couple that used a surrogate says Sask. paternity laws are outdated

Legislation to accommodate the many ways of making a family these days is falling behind, in the minds of some people.

Person who physically gives birth to a child must initially go on the birth certificate

Legislation to accommodate the many ways of making a family these days is falling behind, in the minds of some people. (nata-lunata/Shutterstock)

Caitlin Turnbull and her husband had to jump through legal hoops before being officially recognized as their daughter's parents. 

Turnbull and her husband used in vitro fertilization to conceive their daughter, who was carried to term by Turnbull's sister-in-law. By law, the person who gives birth to a baby is listed on the birth certificate, even though that person may not be involved in the child's life in any parental capacity. 

The Saskatchewan Law Reform Commission is looking at how our laws have not kept up with reproductive technology. We hear from one family's story about how they used a surrogate for their first daughter. And now another surrogate is pregnant with twins for them. 12:22

Parents have to make an application to the courts to add or change names on a birth certificate. The courts then send the order to Vital Statistics to be changed. 

Caitlyn Turnbull's daughter was born via surrogate using her egg and her husband's sperm. (CBC News)

Turnbull said it was less stressful on her because she is a lawyer and understood the process well before her daughter was born. 

Certainly, our legislation has not kept up to the realities that [are] family building in 2018.- Sheri Woods, lawyer

"For some people, they don't even know that this legal process is necessary until maybe their child is born and they realize, 'Wow I'm not on the birth certificate,' and the significance of that," Turnbull told CBC Saskatchewan's Saskatoon Morning.

Although she is now the mother on the birth certificate, Turnbull said there have still been a few snags. 

"The first time we had [my daughter] in the ER at RUH, they pulled her up using her health number," she said. 

"But I wasn't the mother they had listed in their records. So they're asking me 'Are you this person?' 'No, I'm not.' "

Sheri Woods is a family lawyer in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Sheri Woods)

Sherri Woods, the Turnbulls' family lawyer, said the province's legislation has not kept up to modern realities of family building.

The Saskatchewan Law Reform Commission has taken a deep look into where Saskatchewan's legislation falls short. Woods said this was vital work. 

"It's an area of law that's coming up more and more in Saskatchewan and it's going to cause more and more implications, especially with some of these kids who are born to donors and so forth become older and start seeking out their biological parents," she said.

She said the most important change that needs to be made is to the definitions of mother and father in the Vital Statistics Act.

Woods said that although Saskatchewan is generally behind, there are some positives to the system. 

"In some respects, we're doing okay. For example in Saskatchewan parentage is a matter of law not a matter of biology," she said in reference to the fact that birth certificates can be changed, even though the process can be complicated.

Who are the legal parents when assisted reproduction methods are used? What happens if a surrogate is used to birth a baby. The Saskatchewan Law Reform Commission has been tasked with examining the province's parentage laws. 7:45

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning