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Proposed Amendments to Ontario’s Laws on Legal Parentage

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Cheri DiNovo, NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park, has tabled a private member’s bill, Bill 137 (also known as Cy and Ruby’s Act)1 which would overhaul Ontario’s current legislative regime for determining legal parentage of a child.

Ontario’s current scheme is out of step with the changing face of Ontario families, and the growth in and availability of reproductive technologies. Ontario’s current legislation does not contemplate same-sex families, multiple-parent families, single mothers by choice, or children born of assisted reproduction, including surrogacy. As an example, pursuant to section 8 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, a birth mother’s opposite-sex partner or spouse is presumed to be the child’s parent if, amongst other reasons, he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or cohabiting with the mother “in a relationship of some permanence” at the time of the child’s birth or within 300 days prior to the child’s birth. A corresponding legal presumption of parentage in favour of the same-sex partner or spouse of the birth mother does not exist within the legislation.

For many LGBTQ parents, it is necessary to go through the expense, and some would argue indignity, of adopting or securing a declaration of parentage for their own children, children whose births were planned for and celebrated by their eager, intended parents. As such, Ontario’s current legal parentage scheme provides incomplete protection and recognition to many Ontario families.

Cy and Ruby’s Act, if passed, would usher in a new area of recognition for LGBTQ parents and those relying on assisted human reproduction to grow their families. For example, the proposed legislation would extend the presumption of parentage to the partner of the birth parent, regardless of that party’s gender. Importantly, the legislation recognizes that a donor is not, for reason of his or her donation alone, a child’s parent. The legislation also enables parties to recognize more than two parents on a child’s birth registration forms. As well, the neutralizing of gender identifiers within the proposed legislation (e.g. substituting the term “birth parent” for the existing term “birth mother”) moves the assignment of legal parentage away from strict gender binaries.

Cy and Ruby’s Act passed its second reading on December 10, 2015. We will continue to follow and report on these important developments.

1 http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=3554

About the Author

Sarah was called to the bar in 2015, after completing her articles at an established family law firm in downtown Toronto. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz, and a Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School.

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