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Ontario government pledges new LGBT family bill in fall

Government not supporting Cy and Ruby’s Act introduced last year

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed the crowd at the launch event for the Egale Centre on May 31, 2016. Credit: Arshy Mann/Daily Xtra

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has pledged to fix the province’s unequal parenting laws.

At the launch event for the Egale Centre on May 31, 2016, Wynne told the crowd that her government will introduce a bill in September to update the laws.

“Ontario’s laws are outdated and do not reflect our views about who can form a family,” she said.

In Ontario, queer and trans parents are often forced to adopt their own children or acquire declarations of parentage from a judge, which can be an expensive and lengthy process. A non-birth parent also faces the prospect of having no rights to a child if the birth parent should die or be incapacitated while giving birth.

In 2015, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo introduced Cy and Ruby’s Act in an effort to fix the laws and to replace gendered language such as birth “mother” with neutral terms like “parent."

The bill passed second reading late last year with all-party support, but has languished in the legislature because the government did not schedule it to go to committee.

Wynne thanked DiNovo for her contribution to the debate, but did not address why the government is opting to draft its own legislation instead of passing Cy and Ruby’s Act.

“I want to say to Cheri and to all our parents and advocates pushing for equal treatment of LGBTQ+ families that I am committed to fixing this,” Wynne said.

Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur will consult DiNovo and other stakeholders, as well as build on work done by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, to put together the bill.

The government, however, is also being sued by a number of queer and trans families who argue that Ontario’s parenting laws are unconstitutional. Wynne did not address the lawsuit and it’s unclear if the government will continue to fight parents in the courts.

“They have to settle that lawsuit, that’s the critical thing,” DiNovo told Daily Xtra. “It’s one thing to announce something happening in September, another thing to pass a bill and stop fighting them in court."

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam applauded the move at the Toronto City Hall Pride flag raising later in the day, while arguing that the process should be sped up.

“Unfortunately there are parents that are taking this existing unequal law to court,” she said. “So we hope that the Premier and the government can act a little bit faster, because we would certainly appreciate that, and save us some legal fees."

Kirsti and Jennifer Mathers McHenry, the parents of Cy and Ruby, for whom DiNovo’s legislation is named, are planning a protest at the Queen’s Park flag raising on June 1 to protest the government’s inaction.

"They have never been able to articulate what — if anything — is wrong with Cy and Ruby’s Law,” Jennifer wrote on the Facebook event page. “We’re waiting, watching, and we’re not done yet."