Health Department still flouting human rights laws

Mirek Krikorian smiles a lot. His mom jokes that it's his saving grace since he's a horrible sleeper. He babbles and is eating some soft food.

Mirek Krikorian smiles a lot. His mom jokes that it’s his saving grace since he’s a horrible sleeper.

He babbles and is eating some soft food.

But at five months old he still doesn’t have a birth certificate containing both his parents’ names.

That’s even after the Yukon government voted unanimously to make it possible.

Earlier this year, Whitehorse moms Cai Krikorian and Corinne Gurtler were told Gurtler couldn’t get her name on Mirek’s birth certificate unless she adopted her own son. That’s how the Yukon Vital Statistics Act dealt with same sex parents.

Krikorian and Gurtler called that discriminatory and filed a human rights complaint.

Health Minister Doug Graham was quick to promise a fix.

In May every MLA in the legislature voted in favour of the changes.

The new law does away with the adoption requirement and allows for up to four people to be included on a birth certificate.

“It’s been seven weeks since they passed the final reading and we have phoned the vital statisics office, I don’t know how many times, and we keep getting told, ‘two weeks, two weeks, two weeks,” Gurtler said.

The latest news is that it will likely be the end of July before any birth certificate is available.

“In the meantime they continue to hand out birth certificates to herterosexual couples,” Gurtler said.

The Department of Health and Social Services is maintaining that it can’t provide the family with a complete birth certificate until the amendments are proclaimed by Yukon’s commissioner.

“In order to do that, we need to have all of the forms that are prescribed in legislation done,” said spokesperson Pat Living.

Living said there’s a total of 26 forms, including a birth certificate, a death certificate and an application for name change.

“We have to make the changes, we have to get the changes approved, we have to get the forms translated and then we have to get the forms designed,” she said. “There is a process, and it’s unfortunate that it has taken us a little longer than we anticipated to make this happen.”

Cabinet spokesperson Elaine Schiman says Graham has directed his department to “make this change a priority.”

But a quick perusal of the Yukon Human Rights Act suggests the family could be given the birth certificate before any changes are official.

In fact, they may have qualified to get one all along.

Sexual orientation has been covered under the Yukon Human Rights Act since it was passed in 1987.

Section 39 says the human rights act supersedes all other acts in the territory, unless it is expressly stated otherwise.

The News pressed Living on why section 39 is not being applied in this case.

“Ultimately, Yukon government and the Yukon Human Rights Commission do not agree about what occurs when the Human Rights Act renders another piece of legislation inoperative, and what can be done when legislation is inoperative,” she said.

“Our position is still that YG cannot legally provide a birth certificate with both mothers on it until amendments are made to the Vital Statistics Act. The government is doing its job by ensuring its processes are legally compliant, which necessarily requires that any changes to statutory instruments be first put in place.”

Meanwhile, Gurtler says getting a birth certificate with both parents’ names is not a vanity exercise.

“Our child has no protection of the family right now. His only legal parent is Cai (who is his biological mother).”

For a trip to see family in the U.S. the couple had to get legal guardianship documents with Gurtler’s name.

Otherwise, if something happened her wife, Gurtler wouldn’t have been able to take her son back home.

Her name is not on Mirek’s passport because the passport office relies on the birth certificate, which right now only has one name.

“The birth certificate is his primary identification document and it’s false, it’s wrong,” Gurtler said.

Their son doesn’t have a social insurance number yet either, which means no registered education savings plan. They’re waiting until they’re both recognized so they can both contribute.

The human rights complaint is moving forward.

“We said enough,” Gurtler said. “They’ve had forever to get this problem fixed.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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