Justice and Public Safety
May 17, 2016

The following is being issued at the request of the Human Rights Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Human Rights Commission Recognizes
International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission commemorates the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), held annually on May 17. IDAHOT is the largest LGBTQ solidarity event to take place throughout the globe, with over 1,000 events taking place in more than 120 countries worldwide to draw attention to violence and discrimination still experienced by LGBTQ people. This year, the focus of the day is on mental health and well-being.

"Marginalization of individuals because of sexual orientation or gender expression can have lasting impacts on mental health and personal well-being. It threatens the very fabric of community building."
- Remzi Cej, Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been prohibited in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1997. In December, 2004 same-sex marriage became legal in the province. In December, 2013 the Human Rights Act was amended to expressly include gender identity and gender expression in the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

On December 3, 2015 Kimberly Horwood, Chief Adjudicator of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Board of Inquiry, released her decision in S.B. and C.A. v. Her Majesty the Queen in right of Newfoundland and Labrador as represented by the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador. A copy of the decision can be found at: www.justice.gov.nl.ca/hrc/publications/decisions/2015_decision_ca_and_sb.pdf PDF Icon.

The complainants in this case, both transgender women born in Newfoundland and Labrador and now residing in another province, wished to change their gender designation on their birth certificates. Each request was denied by the Registrar of Vital Statistics pursuant to section 26 of the Vital Statistics Act, which required the complainants to have undergone gender reassignment surgery, verified by statutory declaration from a medical practitioner, in order to change their gender markers on their birth certificates.

S.B. and C.A. filed separate complaints with the Human Rights Commission claiming discrimination based on the prohibited ground of gender identity and gender expression pursuant to section 11 of the Human Rights Act. Chief Adjudicator Horwood accepted the Agreed Statement of Facts as presented by the Human Rights Commission and Service NL and made the following order:

  1. Service NL shall cease requiring transgender persons to have gender reassignment surgery in order to obtain a change in sex designation on their birth certificate;
  2. Within 30 days of the date of this Order, Service NL will revise the criteria for changing sex designation on a birth certificate, up to the point of undue hardship, so as to remove the discriminatory effect of the current system on transgender persons;
  3. Within a further 30 days, Service NL will take reasonable steps to publicize the revised criteria to change sex designation on a birth certificate so that transgender persons are aware of them; and
  4. Any applications by transgender persons who have already undergone or are in the process of undergoing gender reassignment surgery will be administered in the normal course.

Section 26 of the Vital Statistics Act was recently amended in April 2016 to remove the requirement for gender re-assignment surgery. Information on how to change your sex designation can be found at: www.servicenl.gov.nl.ca/birth/changing_your_sex_designation/index.html

"Our province continues to build on a foundation of efforts to root out homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Our laws have been challenged by gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgendered, questioning and queer community members and allies so they could become inclusive and respectful of human rights. In upholding legislative responsibilities, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and municipal governments, private sector employers and labour and community organizations have a responsibility to demonstrate respect for the human rights of their employees and community members. Employers, governments, and organizations can create safe spaces for their employees and for community members by participating in Pride events in communities throughout the province, introducing and enforcing diversity and inclusion policies and codes of conduct, training employees to be more inclusive and respectful of diversity, and embracing respect for human rights. Every action counts."
- Mr. Cej

The Human Rights Commission is committed to fighting the devastating effects of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia by promoting an understanding of, acceptance of and compliance with the anti-discrimination provisions contained in the Human Rights Act (www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/h13-1.htm External Link Icon).

As part of its mandate, the Commission also works to educate the public about legal human rights protections, the benefits of diversity, and the goal of full and meaningful inclusion of all people in society, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The Human Rights Commission is available to provide public education programming on these and other human rights areas.

For more information on the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, please visit www.thinkhumanrights.ca External Link Icon.

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Media contact:

Remzi Cej
Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission

2016 05 17                              10:25 a.m.