News / Vancouver

Non-binary 'X' gender ID challenges proceed in B.C., Ont.

Historic fight for gender-neutral option on driver's licenses and birth certificates passes hurdles in two provinces' human rights tribunals.

Joshua Ferguson in Gastown on Dec. 7, 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier / Vancouver Freelance

Joshua Ferguson in Gastown on Dec. 7, 2017.

B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal is proceeding with an historic LGBTQ complaint: whether residents who don't identify as male or female should be allowed to get an "X" on their driver's licenses.

Non-binary filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson filed a challenge Oct. 26 against the province's health and citizen services ministries.

On Nov. 7, that complaint was allowed to proceed, according to a Tribunal letter obtained by Metro. And this week, the province agreed to a "settlement meeting" in February or March, according to Ferguson's lawyer Frances Mahon.

"I am glad to see that our complaint with the B.C. Human Rights (Tribunal) is proceeding," Ferguson told Metro, "and is being taken seriously by all parties."

The Tribunal letter noted, "The complaint is unproven … The parties will have the opportunity to resolve the complaint at a mediation and, if necessary, the Respondent(s) can respond."

Many complaints, the Tribunal's website stated, are settled between parties without a ruling, "often the quickest and simplest method of solving disputes."

"Settlement meetings are strictly confidential," a BCHRT spokesperson, who would not discuss individual cases, said by email, "and the public would not have any access to a matter which is in settlement discussions."

B.C.'s human rights laws ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression. But whether that means it must start issuing "X," "M" and "F" identification is unclear.

Ferguson, who goes by the pronoun "they," wants B.C. to issue a "declaration that … practices and policies in denying non-binary gender designations on British Columbia identification is contrary" to its Human Rights Code. They also seek an order the province stop requiring "male" or "female" designation, and — unsurprisingly — "an accurate B.C. Services Card and driver’s licence with an 'X' designation," they stated when filing the case.

In September, they also filed a similar challenge where they used to live, Ontario, for refusing their birth certificate request there. That complaint, they revealed, has also been accepted by the province's rights court as well.

On Nov. 27, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) issued a notice stating "a legal proceeding has been commenced" at the HRTO, and "has been assigned (an) HRTO file number."

"I don't think anyone has ever had two human rights applications accepted on the grounds of sex, gender identity and gender expression," Ferguson told Metro, "for this type of legal fight before in terms of non-binary identity."

The Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador offer a gender-neutral option on birth certificates; Ontario allows "X" gender on driver licenses, but not birth certificates. B.C.'s ministries of Citizen Services and Attorney General, which oversees ICBC, did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

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