Montreal, August 11, 2013 Fara Mérilan, Reception and Assessment technician Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse 360 Saint-Jacques street West Montreal (Quebec) H2Y 1P5
Object : Complaint to the Commission Against the Government of Quebec Dear Ms. Mérilan, As discussed in the past months, the Centre for Gender Advocacy wishes to file a complaint against the Government of Quebec regarding the legislative framework surrounding changes of sex designation for trans people1.
Context Our organization, born in 1982 as the Concordia Women Centre, is affiliated with Concordia University and, for now over 30 years, offers support to marginalized populations both at Concordia as well as in Greater Montreal. One of our important portfolios involves defending trans rights and offering services to this specific population. We regularly provide training on trans realities, in academic as well as community-based settings, and we are often called upon to participate in debates and discussions on the subject. We are also a member of the advisory committee for two national research projects on trans identities and realities. We are a member of the trans committee of the Conseil Québécois LGBT that recently prepared and presented a trans advocacy plan to the Department of Justice. This committee brings together over 10 organizations as well as health professionals. The Centre for Gender Advocacy is also a member of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH). The work we accomplish allows us to accompany trans people in their process and, above all, in their marginalization. We are witness to the daily difficulties that face those who have to live with a dichotomy
1 We use the term trans to include all the people whose gender identities differ from their sexual identities.
between their lived gender identity and their legal identity. We also work jointly with other organizations that carry out similar work. We thus believe that our organization is well positioned to carry this complaint. Two reasons support this claim. First, we are mindful that the personal involvement required in filing such a complaint, be it in time or energy, is not available to all. We believe that in the specific case of this complaint, it would be unreasonable for a single person to bear the weight of a cause that affects all trans people across Queb ec. Our organization possesses the time and resources necessary to ensure the serious and constant follow -up this claim requires, while we are not confronted with the same personal consequences a trans individual carrying the complaint might be. Indeed, our interactions with the trans people who access our services confirm the fact that to file this complaint and to undergo the subsequent process would risk adding significant stress to a person desiring to do so. Second, we have a profound understanding of the issues and problematic situations lived by marginalized trans people. We are thus well positioned to gra sp the serious negative impacts that lie at the heart of our complaint. In Quebec, in order to obtain the legal recognition of his or her sexual identity, a trans person must meet three strict criteria. These criteria, as stated in the Civil Code of Quebec in Section V, Article 71, stipulate that a person must2: 1.
Successfully undergo medical treatment and surgical interventions, implying structural
changes to the sexual organs, and aimed at changing his or her visible sexual attributes; 2.
Be an adult;
Be a Canadian citizen.
Our complaint Our complaint is made in the name of all persons attempting to obtain legal recognition of their gender identity but who fail to do so due to the rigidity of the law regarding the necessary prerequisites to this change. Indeed, people who do not wish to undergo corporal surgical changes, who do not wish to take medication, who are under the age of 18, or who are not Canadian citizens (including permanent residents) know that they do not meet the criteria mandated by the law and therefore, will not apply for a sex change.
2 Government of Quebec, Civil Code of Quebec, 1991, http://ccq.lexum.org/ccq/.
We believe that the law infringes on the rights of trans people and that this infringement is ba sed on their sex (Article 10) or their gender identity by imposing on them a unique path in the recognition of their identity. We believe that these obligations also violate Articles 1, 4, 5, 13 and 26 (in the case of incarcerated trans people.) Moreover, the Commission raised some of the issues and rights violation of trans people during its involvement in the consultations on Bill 35 3. Indeed, we second the Commission when it affirms that the obligation of disclosing personal information due to a dichotomy between legal identity and lived identity infringes Article 5 of the Charter stipulating that every person has a right to respect for his or her private life. We also support the argument made by the Commission regarding prejudice to the integrity of trans people. Furthermore, it is our position that the present analysis should be broadened to include the parents of trans children and prejudice to their private lives and dignity. The parent or parents are also made to divulge information on their private lives and that of their child, given that the law prevents changes to sex designation before the age of 18. In each case, Article 1 of the Charter is certainly infringed. Whether it be in the case of a trans person who is an adult or a child, and whether or not he or she is a Canadian citizen, it is clear that the obligation of undergoing medical treatment and structural corporal modifications does not respect the right of every human being to life, and to personal security, inviolability, and freedom. The Quebec State, under Article 71 of the Civil Code, obliges a unique path of transition for trans people. It is thus impossible to ensure their physical integrity. We also propose that, while Article 1 mentions that a legal person has a distinct juridical personality, this right is denied to trans people insofar as they must be medically and surgically altered in order to be recognized as such. As for the rights stipulated in Article 10 of the Charter, it is our firm belief that the obligation to have Canadian citizenship in order to qualify for a change of sex designation, as embedded in Article 71 of the Civil Code, discriminates against trans people who wish to move to Quebec. This discrimination is based on a person's sex and citizenship status.
3 Government of Quebec, Charter of Human Rights, n.d., http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=2&file=/C_12/C12.HTM.
We have attempted to respect your guidelines with regard to the redaction of this complaint, which we hope has exposed our main arguments in a concise manner. We are aware that continued conversations will be needed in order to deepen the understanding of our complaint, and we remain at your disposition in this regard. We look forward to hearing from you regarding this request. Please accept, Ms. MĂŠrilan, our very best regards, Gabrielle Bouchard Peer support and Trans' advocacy Coordinator Centre for Gender Advocacy tel: 514-848-2424 ext 7431