On May 31, 2016, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the Ontario government will be tabling new parental recognition legislation in September 2016, rather than pushing through the existing Bill 137, commonly referred to as Cy and Ruby’s Act.
Cy and Ruby’s Act was tabled in the Ontario Legislature in October 2015, with the primary purpose being to make birth registration services accessible to LGBTQ families and removing the legal barriers to same.
In its current form, Cy and Ruby’s Act would, among other things: extend the presumption of parentage to the partner of the birth parent regardless of that partner’s gender; clarify that a donor is not an automatic legal parent to a child; and make it possible for a child’s birth registration to have more than two parents. As well, Cy and Ruby’s Act would remove gender-identifying language in the legislation.
Though new legislation on this topic is welcomed and wanted in Ontario, advocates for Cy and Ruby’s Act are not happy with Premier Wynne’s announcement, as they are dissatisfied with the pace the legislature has taken with this issue.
Cy and Ruby’s Act originally moved quite quickly through the Legislative Assembly, having passed second reading and referred to the committee stage by December 10, 2015, less than two months after it was initially introduced. Six months later, however, Cy and Ruby’s Act remained exactly where it was left on December 10, 2015 – stalled at Queen’s Park in the committee stage. In response to this lack of movement, equality advocates launched a Charter challenge to signal their impatience.
Parentage is a life-long part of identity. Beyond packing lunches and ferrying kids to soccer practice, the legal recognition of a parent-child relationship creates important rights and responsibilities. As underscored in the historic A.A. v B.B. decision, it allows a parent to fully participate in his or her child’s life; guides determinations of lineage, inheritance, and citizenship; allows parents to obtain official government documents like health cards and passports; and much more. Not only are these important rights for the parents, but as A.A. v B.B. states, it is in the child’s best interests that his/her parents are legally identified as such. Advocates of Cy and Ruby’s Act do not want to wait any longer for all parents to have the same rights in this regard no matter their gender, relationship status, or biological link to the child.
The specifics of the Premier’s new legislation are, as of yet, unknown. The extended timeline, however, will hopefully be used as a chance for fulsome reflection on the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of parental recognition, so that the new legislation will fully respond to the needs of all families with children born in Ontario, whether they remain in the province or go abroad.