The Canadian Government announced a major change in gender options for passports earlier this week. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said in a statement that this new change will allow Canadians to “live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose.” The new policy went into effect on Thursday.
As Canadians, we know that protecting and promoting fundamental human rights is an imperative for governments and individuals alike. This includes gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced that the Government of Canada will be working to implement an “X” gender designation in Canadian passports, as well as other documents issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to support LGBTQ2 rights and advance the Government’s agenda on gender equality, diversity and inclusion. An “X” will make it easier for people who do not identify as female (“F”) or male (“M”) to acquire passports and other government-issued documents that better reflect their gender identity.
Starting August 31, 2017, IRCC will be the first Government of Canada department to introduce interim measures, which include allowing individuals to add an observation to their passport stating their sex should be identified as “X,” indicating that it is unspecified. Interim measures will be available until IRCC is able to print documents with an “X.”
Today’s announcement follows steps to protect Canadians in their right to the gender identity of their choice, and freedom of gender expression. Earlier this summer, Bill C-16 amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and added gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
In the coming months, the Government of Canada will continue this important work in developing a consistent federal approach to how its programs and services collect, use and display sex and gender information so Canadians can have their gender more accurately reflected in government documents while also protecting their privacy. Our government is committed to better reflecting the gender identity and gender diversity of Canadians.
“Canada is taking an important and positive first step by acknowledging the challenges faced by non-binary, intersex and trans individuals,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, a Canadian LGBT advocacy group.
“Many people will benefit from having the option of choosing ‘X’ as their gender when they go to file for their passport. However, it is not the ultimate solution and the addition of a gender-neutral option, as Canada is implementing it, does not address many of the underlying issues being faced by these folks.”
Adrienne Smith, a Toronto immigration lawyer who specializes in transgender legal issues, has expressed concerns that the new “X” option could cause trouble for those who choose to use it when entering other countries.
“I’m really worried that in countries like Uganda and Jamaica, where being LGBT is illegal and there’s laws on the books that prosecute people for identifying as trans, that this could leave people open to arbitrary detention, it could leave them open to scrutiny at airports, degrading treatment,” Smith told Global News.
Canada isn’t the first country to adopt a general-neutral option for its passports. It joins other nations such as Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan that have similar options.
As a solution to the problem individuals who choose the “X” designation may face, Smith suggests that gender identification be completely removed from passports.
“Gender isn’t necessary for security purposes to be listed on an identity document. We now have biometric passports, we have fingerprints, we have other much more secure forms of establishing identity,” said Smith.
(h/t The Guardian)