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Ontario’s equal parenting law passes second reading

The bill would finally stop queer and trans parents from having to adopt their own children

Ontario’s equal parenting law passed second reading days after it was introduced on Sept 29, 2016. Portra/iStock/Thinkstock

Days after it was introduced on Sept 29, 2016, the Ontario government’s equal parenting legislation sailed through the second reading.

The bill, which would close loopholes that force queer and trans parents to adopt their own children or go to the courts to have their parentage recognized, will now go to a committee for further review.

Though they supported the bill, some NDP MPPs brought up some issues that they believed would require amendments.

Cheri DiNovo, who introduced Cy and Ruby’s Act last year, which the government’s legislation is based on, said that the wording of the bill elevates the importance of the biological father at the expense of the birth parent to the point that a rapist could be considered a parent.

“I know the attorney general doesn’t want that,” she said. “It’s not the intent, but it could be construed that way.”

DiNovo also raised issues that she said imposed onerous limits on multi-parent families and around LGBT families that are looking to adopt children.

“We’re hoping that after our discussion, the government will be amenable to those changes, and certainly they have indicated that they will be,” she said.

Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier questioned whether the legislation would lead to more delays in the already overburdened family courts. But DiNovo noted that it would likely ease the burden on the courts, since families will no longer have to go to court to get declarations of parentage.

Both DiNovo and NDP MPP Catherine Fife shared their own family’s experiences and how they relate to the legislation.

DiNovo, who is bisexual, spoke about how her husband became a sperm donor for a lesbian couple they were friends with. They had two children, Harriet and Stella.

“For us, they’re an extended part of our family,” she said. “This was pre-parent equality, so the mothers had to legally adopt Harriet and Stella.”

Fife, who represents Kitchener-Waterloo, recalled the difficulties her sister and her partner had when trying to start a family.

“They ran into stigma at almost every step of the way, from the hospital system to the counselling system to their employers,” she said.

When Fife’s sister gave birth, her partner had to adopt their son Leo, which cost them around $7,000 in legal fees.