Quebec Court of Appeal confirms the need for minors to request a change in sex designation

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Transgender rights advocates say they are disappointed by a Quebec Court of Appeal decision upholding a law requiring minors who want to change their official sex designation to first obtain a letter from a health professional or a social worker.

Thursday’s ruling overturns a 2021 lower court decision that declared the rule invalid because it violates the dignity and equal rights of transgender and non-binary teens.

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Quebec law says minors applying for an official sex designation change in the province must present a letter from a doctor, psychiatrist, sexologist or social worker stating that the change is “appropriate.”

Court of Appeal judges Geneviève Marcotte and Marie-Josée Hogue said the requirement is an appropriate measure to assess the “seriousness” of a minor’s intention to change their sex designation. The resulting limitations on the rights of minors enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are therefore justified, they stated.

However, the judges said the rule should not empower health professionals to decide what a minor’s gender identity should be, but does allow them to assess the minor’s understanding of the process of changing sex designation and if they are doing it voluntarily.

“The burden imposed on minors is reasonable under the circumstances,” Marcotte and Hogue wrote in the majority vote, since it “takes into account their reality, the fact that not all have reached their full maturity and that some, until they reach his full maturity.” age, they may be more vulnerable due to their age.”

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The panel’s third judge, Stephen Hamilton, issued a concurring opinion, agreeing with his colleagues’ conclusions but using a slightly different legal analysis.

Reacting to Thursday’s ruling, Montreal-based advocate Celeste Trianon said the charter’s provision poses unreasonable obstacles for transgender youth seeking a sex designation change.

The required professional evaluation can be prohibitively expensive, especially for transgender or nonbinary minors who do not have parental support or are homeless, Trianon said in an interview. It can also be difficult for transgender and non-binary people to find caring professionals, she explained.

“If you ask professionals in the first place, you will face many of the barriers that exist within the system to obtaining health care for trans people in Quebec,” Trianon said. “It’s going to create delays and in many cases it’s going to create a financial barrier.”

Audrey Boctor, a lawyer for the Montreal-based Center for Gender Advocacy, which opposed the letter requirement in court, said Thursday that the organization is disappointed by the decision but could not yet say whether it would file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice. Canada.

The Court of Appeal granted a victory to the gender advocacy center, ruling that minors at least 14 years old do not need to notify their parents to request that their given names be changed to correspond to their gender identity.

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