Ontario parents who are not part of a traditional nuclear family can face problems filling out government forms. The example I see most often is with birth registrations, which arises in my surrogacy law practice. Even though a birth certificate can list two parents of the same sex, the birth registration form is not so accommodating. Gay male parents must cross out the word “mother” and hand-write in the word “father”. This has confused, frustrated and embarrassed me to no end. I have often thought, how can a province like Ontario have a birth registration process that is so heteronormative? I have tweeted about government forms to Service Ontario, hoping someone might take notice.

Thankfully, someone has.

A motion was introduced last week by the Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault who had the issue brought to his attention by a single mother in his riding. Specifically, she felt excluded when completing school registration paperwork for her child because the forms were clearly created for two-parent families.

The MPP introduced the following motion:

I move that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should replace gendered terminology with gender-neutral and inclusive language on all government forms as they are updated, amended, created, or replaced, in order to reflect the diverse nature of our province, including, but not limited to replacing the terms “mother” or “father” with terms such as “parent” or “guardian” to better recognize the rights of LGBTQ parents, and others.

The motion passed unanimously.

There has been some backlash to the motion by people who feel political correctness is going too far, or that the motion suggests the elimination of the words mother and father altogether. I suspect the critics did not take the time to read the transcripts. Having reviewed the official records of the Legislative Assembly, it is clear that the intention was not political correctness for its own sake, but to ensure inclusiveness of families in all their forms.

Due to the administrative burden, it is anticipated that the changes will take many years to implement.


Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ / Foter / CC BY-NC


About the Author

Lisa Feldstein is the principal lawyer at Lisa Feldstein Law Office. She is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Guelph. Lisa practices in the area of Family Health Law™, which includes reproductive law, human rights, privacy, mental health and other health law matters. Lisa has presented at the 519 Church Street Community Centre and PFLAG Canada (York Region), and has been interviewed on Proud FM. She has helped many couples build their families through third party reproduction. Lisa has been teaching negotiation at Osgoode Hall Law School since 2010. She was recently awarded a 2014 Canadian Law Blog award for Best Practitioner blog, and a 2015 Precedent Setter Award.