Concordia’s Center for Gender Advocacy (CGA), an organization seeking to promote gender equality and empowerment, is suing the provincial government. The trial, which began at Quebec’s Superior Court on January 15, is expected to end in late February. The student-funded and independent organization initially filed the lawsuit against the Attorney General in 2014, claiming persistent discrimination against trans and non-binary individuals in the province, a violation of human rights.
The lawsuit currently seeks to overturn numerous articles of Quebec’s Civil Code, namely articles 59, 62, and 71. These changes would give greater recognition to various groups within the trans community, including minors and non-citizens.
“In 2015, the government […] removed the surgical requirement needed to change a gender marker, but this only applied to adults who are citizens. That left a lot of people out in the cold,” explains Julie Michaud, the CGA’s Outreach Coordinator.
The Attorney General, on behalf of the Directeur de l’État Civil, agreed to implement these new administrative measures. A person can now choose to remove all mentions of their gender on documents such as birth or marriage certificates. Although this is a step forward, it is far from the outcome sought by the plaintiffs.
“These are just surface measures, it’s not a legal recognition that non-binary people exist. That’s what we want; we want that recognition,” said Michaud.
The CGA is concerned that these changes are administrative rather than legal; without legal changes, this newly acquired recognition may not be permanent.
“If these are just administrative or operational changes, they’re subject to the whims of subsequent governments. That gives a lot of power to government officials,” clarified Michaud.
The CGA is also concerned with the limited freedom offered to trans youth during key steps of their transition. Article 62 of the Civil Code, which currently prohibits a minor from legally changing their name without the approval of a legal guardian, is one example of these barriers.
“We all know that when most trans youth come out to their family and loved ones, they are very often met with rejection and anger. We knew that [getting a parent’s approval] was a pretty unreasonable burden to have to bear in order to be eligible for a name change,” explains Michaud.
Noting that “this court case is just part of a continuum of trans rights activism that has been going on for decades,” Michaud nevertheless hopes that this initiative will establish a legal precedent for other cases regarding trans rights.
“The lawsuit […] that we have against the Attorney General is an example of advocacy and work that is carried out by trans communities, trans organizations, and organizations that are allied with trans people,” states the Centre’s current Trans Advocate, Dalia Tourki.
For more information, visit the Center for Gender Advocacy’s Facebook page.