Ontario MPPs approve motion to remove words mother, father from government forms

A Liberal backbencher wants to eliminate the words 'mother' and 'father' from all Ontario government forms to "reflect the diverse nature" of families in the province.

Forms should 'reflect diverse nature' of families, MPP Glenn Thibeault says

Liberal Glenn Thibeault says gender specific words such as 'mother' and 'father' should be replaced with 'parent' or 'guardian' to reflect the rights of LGBTQ parents. (Thomas Duncan/Canadian Press)

Ontario lawmakers have approved a motion to remove the words 'mother' and 'father' from all government forms to "reflect the diverse nature" of families in the province.

Glenn Thibeault, the Liberal member of the Ontario legislature for Sudbury, asked that 'gendered' terminology be replaced with gender-neutral and inclusive language on 10,000 different provincial  government forms.

Birth certificates already allow two same-sex adults to be listed as parents, and all government forms should use inclusive language, said Thibeault.

His motion, which was approved Thursday in a voice vote, said gender specific words "including -- but not limited to -- mother and father" could be replaced with "parent or guardian" to better recognize the rights of LGBTQ parents.

"This motion isn't about saying that using terms that indicate a gender such as mother or father are bad or offensive, just that they aren't always a reflection of today's Ontario families and more appropriate terminology ought to be used," Thibeault told the legislature. "This is about being inclusive."

Two Liberal cabinet ministers and the New Democrats spoke in favour of Thibeault's motion, which is not binding, but widespread support for such a move by a government backbencher often leads to action.

The Progressive Conservatives said Thibeault's motion shouldn't exclude the gender-specific terms already in use on government forms.

"If the member was really serious about being inclusive, he would be asking that words such as parent and guardian be added to government forms, not that the words mother and father be excluded," said PC MPP Bob Bailey.

Pink and blue avatars

New Democrat Jennifer French pointed out that Ontario's $245-million Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) for people on welfare and disability supports not only uses the terms male and female to create client profiles, it also assigns a pink or blue avatar for their files.

"Our new and improved, super expensive, top of the line expensive, advanced and awesome SAMS system forces someone to be a pink lady or a blue man," French told the legislature. And if someone is transitioning their worker has to make notes about it until that avatar switches colour and makes it official."

Thibeault, who is a former New Democrat MP, said the government forms would only be changed with the more inclusive language as they are updated or replaced. He said his motion would apply to everything from school registration forms and adoption papers to student loan applications.

"I realize that changing the language on government forms may seem like a small step, but it's a small step in the right direction," said Thibeault. "It means this government is doing more than just saying it's legal to be LGBTQ or legal to be a single parent, or that people ought not treat someone differently because their identity is different."