News / Vancouver

Historic B.C. non-binary human rights legal challenge launched

Advocate files human rights complaint over 'male' or 'female' gender ID rules

Vancouver lawyer Frances Mahon (left) with non-binary gender advocate Joshua M. Ferguson outside the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal offices in downtown Vancouver on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 — where they filed a complaint against the province over rejection of Ferguson's driver's licence and health card application.

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Courtesy: Florian Halbedl

Vancouver lawyer Frances Mahon (left) with non-binary gender advocate Joshua M. Ferguson outside the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal offices in downtown Vancouver on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 — where they filed a complaint against the province over rejection of Ferguson's driver's licence and health card application.

A Vancouver LGBTQ advocate has filed British Columbia's first legal challenge over their right to a driver's license gender designation that's neither male nor female.

Under the province's year-old human rights laws update, discrimination based on gender identity or expression is banned. Based on those grounds, a new Human Rights Tribunal case was launched on Thursday.

So when filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson applied for a B.C. driver's licence and birth certificate, they were "extremely disappointed" to be turned down.

"It’s disappointing and saddening that I have to take legal action against the government for my identification," they told Metro in a phone interview (Ferguson goes by the gender-neutral pronoun "they"), "which I’m entitled to under our provincial human rights laws."

So on Thursday, their lawyer Frances Mahon submitted the paperwork to the Tribunal against the ministries of health and transportation. It's not their first such filing in Canada — in September, they filed a similar challenge where they used to live, Ontario, for refusing their birth certificate request there.

The new challenge is seeking a series of remedies, including a "declaration that … practices and policies in denying non-binary gender designations on British Columbia identification is contrary" to the Human Rights Code, as well as an order the province stop requiring "male" or "female" designation, and, most importantly for their life, "An accurate B.C. Services Card and driver’s licence with an 'X' designation," they stated in a press release.

Recently, Newfoundland and Labrador made history as the first province to allow an "X" option on birth certificates, joining the North West Territories. Ontario allows "X" gender designations on driver licenses, but not yet birth certificates.

Ferguson's legal challenge comes just days after a Chilliwack school trustee apologized for remarks against teaching about gender identity and LGBTQ issues to school children, which is part of B.C.'s curriculum. And they said they see a link to their new case.

"Whenever you have a public official or government entity either enacting transphobic persepectives or withholding human rights of trans people," they said, "it sends a very dangerous message to the public.

"It might permit transphobic behavoiur … It does do damage I think. Justice delayed is justice denied."

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