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OHRC advises government on protection of trans people’s rights for sex designation on birth certificate

August 2, 2012

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has advised the Government of Ontario on how to protect the rights of trans people in Ontario with respect to changing the sex designation indicated on short-form birth certificates. In April 2012, the rights of trans people in Ontario were reinforced by a Human Rights Tribunal decision, XY v. Ontario (Government and Consumer Services). The tribunal found that the existing requirement for “transsexual surgery” prior to changing sex registration on a birth certificate as outlined by the Vital Statistics Act is discriminatory. Accordingly, on July 25 2012, the OHRC responded to a request for consultation from the Government of Ontario regarding the process of changing sex designation on a birth certificate.

The OHRC letter recommends that current criteria for changing sex designation on a short form birth certificate be altered to allow sex designation changes for anyone presenting a letter from a physician. Furthermore, it recommends that psychologists, social workers, nurses, school or college/university officials, employers, members of one’s family, faith community members and others also be considered as valid corroborators. Any one of these authorized guarantors could provide a letter, confirming that the applicant is transgender, or is publicly living with the gender that will appear on the document.

The OHRC also questions the utility of a sex designation on the short form birth certificate. The letter states, “a short form birth certificate, also called a “wallet” birth certificate, is not a form of identification… In our view, serious consideration should be given to eliminating the recording of the “sex” designation from the birth registration on one’s “wallet” birth certificate.” It is also mentioned that placing a sex designation in a coded form on a short form birth certificate could be an alternative to removing the designation completely.

To read the letter from OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall to ServiceOntario, Ministry of Government Services, please go to

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