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Legal Transition: A Guide to Updating Your Legal Identity to Reflect Your Gender Identity
Transitioning is a process in which an individual transitions their gender presentation – this process looks different for each individual. A key part of this process can include what is known as a “legal transition”. A legal transition involves updating legal documents to reflect an individual’s name and gender marker.
Whether or not to complete a legal transition, and when is the right time to do so, is an individual decision. Some factors that may be considered are the location of the individual, their age, if they have chosen a name, access to services, whether or not they have the original legal documents that are to be updated (and if not, the timeline to receive them), what legal documents they would like to update and the costs to do so.
It is worth noting that if an individual seeking to complete a legal transition is under the age of 18, parent or guardian consent will likely be required.
The following original documents may be necessary to update a legal name and/or gender marker on provincial or federal documents:
- Birth Certificate;
- Driver’s License;
- Passport; and
- Social Insurance Number (SIN).
See details for your specific province as well as federal requirements below.
Birth Certificate / Vital Statistics:
The first step for an individual who was born in NB and is looking to change their gender marker on their provincial documents is to apply to Vital Statistics to update their information with NB Vital Statistics and their Birth Certificate. To update the information with NB Vital Statistics, the applicant must provide proof that they were born in New Brunswick or have resided in the province for at least three months prior to making the application.
There are separate forms for Change of Sex Designation applicants 16 years of age or older and applicants 15 years of age or younger. If someone is also changing their name, there are separate forms for Change of Name applications; and there are separate forms if the applicant is an adult or a minor . Applicants who are minors require written consent from every person who has care and decision-making responsibility with respect to the individual.
The Change of Sex Designation application requires a written statement from the applicant that states the individual has assumed, identifies, and intends to maintain the gender identity that corresponds with the change requested. All applications must also include a written statement by a medical professional (i.e., physician, registered nurse, social worker) that affirms the sex shown on the individual’s current birth certificate does not correspond with the gender identity of the individual.
The Change of Name application includes two declarations that must be made before a Commissioner of Oaths or a Notary Public. The individual must make a declaration that the information submitted is true and the applicant’s sponsor must make a declaration confirming the identity of the individual. The individual must provide their long form birth certificate with their application.
There is no fee associated with the Change of Sex Designation application. The fee to change a registered name that includes a last name is $130. The fee to change first and/or middle name only is $115.
Please note, NB Vital Statistics is legally required to publish all registered name changes in the NB Royal Gazette in accordance with the Change of Name Act.
Once an individual has completed the application to NB Vital Statistics they can apply to a NB Medicare office to update the name and gender on their NB Health Card. Please note, the NB Medicare Office will require a copy of the legal name change document. Here is the link to the Medicare Change, Request and/or Renewal form. For more information, the telephone number for the NB Medicare Office is 1-888-762-8600.
Once an individual has completed the application to NB Vital Statistics, and has a copy of their updated Birth Certificate or Change of Name Certificate, they can visit any Service New Brunswick Centre to update their name and gender marker on their NB Driver’s License. Service New Brunswick requires proof of name change, proof of residency documents, and one piece of identification. Here is the link to the Change of Name application form.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The first step for a person born in Newfoundland and Labrador who wants to change their gender marker in their provincial documents, is to apply to Vital Statistics Newfoundland and Labrador to update their information with Vital Statistics and obtain a new Birth Certificate. If the individual is also changing their name, this can be done at the same time with a separate form. To update the information with Vital Statistics, the applicant must be a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador and provide proof (such as a Health Card or Driver’s License), as well as their current Birth Certificate.
There are separate forms for adult and minor applicants. All forms, regardless of the age of the applicant, must be witnessed by a Commissioner of Oaths, which can be found at local post offices, municipality offices, and most law firms. For individuals over the age of 16 to change their gender marker, the form requires a written statement by the applicant, and provides a space to request a new Birth Certificate. For individuals under the age of 16, the form requires a written statement from the applicant, parental consent, and a statement from a healthcare practitioner confirming that the change in sex designation is consistent with the sex designation with which the child identifies. While there is no minimum age, applicants under the age of 12 will require an additional health care practitioner to sign off on the changes. Accepted healthcare practitioners include physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and social workers. Additionally, Newfoundland and Labrador recognizes “gender X” for non-binary individuals; however, the forms note that this gender marker may not be accepted by authorities in other organizations.
There is no fee required to apply for a change of sex designation, but if the individual requires an official copy of the updated document, the fees for a revised Birth Certificate are $35 (but are offered for $30 if the process is completed online). All short and long form Birth Certificates with the applicant’s previous name must be returned to Vital Statistics, as they will no longer be valid.
All name changes are posted in the Royal Gazette, provided to the RCMP, and may be provided to other government agencies as required by statute. It is possible to request an exemption from the Royal Gazette publication by attaching a letter to the change of name application with an explanation of why the applicant seeks an exemption.
To obtain a new Medical Care Plan (MCP) card with the individual’s new name and/or gender marker, they must first complete the forms through Vital Statistics and provide proof that the changes have been legally made. This can be done by presenting a copy of the new Birth Certificate. The changes made to the MCP Card will reflect accurate name and gender marker changes, and it is free of charge to obtain a new copy.
To obtain a new Driver’s License with the individual’s new name and/or gender marker, they must first complete the forms through vital statistics and notify the Motor Registration Division to update their records. It is necessary to provide documentation supporting the change of name, gender marker, and/or both. Acceptable forms of documentation include Official Name Change Documents, a copy of the updated Birth Certificate, or Official Court Documents. Documents supporting identification must be original copies. Once the name and/or gender marker has been changed on the Motor Registration Division System, a new driver’s license and photo ID card, and, if applicable, a vehicle registration document will be mailed to the applicant within ten business days.
Birth Certificate / Vital Statistics:
The first step for an individual who was born in Nova Scotia and is looking to change their gender marker on their provincial documents, is to apply to Vital Statistics to update their information with NS Vital Statistics and their Birth Certificate. To update the information with NS Vital Statistics, the applicant must provide proof that they either were born in Nova Scotia or have lived in Nova Scotia for at least three months immediately before applying.
There are separate forms for applicants 16 years of age or older and for applicants 15 years of age and younger. For someone 16 years of age or older who is also changing their name, this can be completed at the same time at the form linked above. For someone 15 years of age or younger who is also changing their name an additional form will be required and they can request it from Vital Statistics directly. Consent of a parent or guardian may be required if the applicant is 15 years of age or younger.
All individuals 12 years old or older are required to have fingerprints taken by an approved agency. All applicants must submit a Statutory Declaration that states that the individual identifies with the gender identity that corresponds with the change of sex indicator requested on the application (M, F, or X). This document must be signed by the individual and properly witnessed by a person authorized to take sworn statements (i.e., lawyer, Notary Public, Commissioner of Oaths).
The approximate costs for Change of Name applications are as follows: $165.70 application fee that includes 1 Change of Name Certificate, $24.95 for amendments to each record (i.e., Marriage Certificate) with change of name information. Applicants may also need to pay for fingerprinting services, getting a signature properly witnessed, and new certificates from Vital Statistics. There is no additional cost for Change of Sex Indicator applications.
Please note that the application takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks to be processed. Also, all name changes in Nova Scotia are published in the Royal Gazette in accordance with the Change of Name Act.
Once an individual has completed the application to NS Vital Statistics, they can contact the NS MSI Office (via telephone at 1-800-563-8880) to update the name and gender on their NS Health Card. Please note, the NS MSI office may request a copy of the Certificate of Change or updated Birth Certificate. Also, MSI will first ask to confirm or update the address of the individual before processing a legal name or gender change.
MSI also allows for individuals to remove the gender field from their health card.
Once an individual has completed the application to NS Vital Statistics and has a copy of their updated Birth Certificate or Change of Name Certificate, they can visit any Access Nova Scotia office to update their name and gender marker on their NS Driver’s License. They need to complete form 1, which can be obtained at Access Nova Scotia, or requested in advance, and provide their updated Birth Certificate or Change of Name Certificate. They must also provide a new signature for their license and a piece of identification. The fee is $25.10. There is no fee to update a gender marker. For more information, please visit this link or call 1-800-899-7668.
Access Nova Scotia also gives individuals the option to remove the gender field from their Driver’s License.
Prince Edward Island:
Birth Certificate/Vital Statistics
The first step for an individual who was born on PEI and is looking to change their gender marker on their provincial documents, is to apply to Vital Statistics to update their information with PEI Vital Statistics and their Birth Certificate. If someone is also changing their name, this can be completed at the same time. To update the information with PEI Vital Statistics, the applicant must be a resident of PEI and provide proof (such as a PEI Health Card/Driver’s License), as well as their current Birth Certificate.
There are separate forms for an adult or minor applicant (minimum age of 12 years old and parental/guardian consent is required). Both forms are to be commissioned (by a Commissioner of Oaths), this can be completed in person at the PEI Vital Statistics Office. All applications must include a written statement (via a form) by a medical professional confirming that an applicant’s gender designation is consistent with the gender designation they have identified in the application.
The approximate costs are as follows: $25 to complete the application to Vital Statistics, an additional $25 to update a Birth Certificate, and either $25 (standard Birth Certificate) or $35 (detailed Birth Certificate) to receive an updated Birth Certificate. Please note, this application may take up to three months to be processed.
Please note, all name changes are posted in the PEI Royal Gazette, provided to the RCMP, and may be provided to other government agencies as required by statute.
The Department of Justice and Safety published an article that provides further details regarding the process and the required forms.
Once an individual has completed the application to PEI Vital Statistics they can contact the PEI Medicare Office (via telephone at 1-800-321-5492) to update the name and gender on their PEI Health Card. Please note, the PEI Medicare Office may request a copy of the updated birth certificate.
Once an individual has completed the application to PEI Vital Statistics and has a copy of their updated Birth Certificate, they can visit any Access PEI location to update their name and gender marker on their PEI Driver’s License. If the individual is under 18 they will require a parent/guardian to complete the application with them. To update a name and/or gender marker on a Driver’s License to “other”, an individual can attend in person with the updated Birth Certificate. To update a gender marker to either “male” or “female” the same process occurs, and Access PEI will also require a letter/documentation from a medical doctor.
The name on a passport needs to reflect that on a Birth Certificate, therefore the application to change the name on your passport should be completed following receipt of the Birth Certificate. If an individual has updated their name on their Birth Certificate, they will need to apply for a new Passport. To change the name on a passport, the following documents are to be submitted to a Passport Office:
- A completed Adult General Passport Application;
- Current Passport (if applicable)
- Identification that shows the name change (like a provincial Driver’s License/identification) ;
- Birth Certificate issued with the updated name.
Most federal documents allow someone to select “M”, “F”, or “X” as their gender markers. To change the gender marker on a passport, the following documents are to be submitted to a Passport Office:
- A completed Adult General Passport Application;
- Proof of Canadian citizenship;
- Documents to support your identity;
- Two passport photos; and
- A Birth Certificate showing the updated gender marker; or complete a Request – Sex or Gender Identifier form.
To select “X” as a gender marker, a request must be submitted to add an “observation sticker” to the Passport. Should you select “X”, be advised that not all countries allow for an “X” gender marker on passports. Not all countries provide for the gender marker “X” on a passport, therefore, the best practice to confirm entry/exit to another country is to contact the country of destination’s Embassy, High Commission or Consulate located in Canada prior to travel.
Social Insurance Number:
A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number that is issued by the Government of Canada; it displays names but not gender markers (there is a gender marker associated with the SIN record system). To change the name on your SIN card/profile, you must provide a document that shows the name change (like a provincial driver’s license/identification) and a legal change of name certificate. To change the gender marker, proof of identification (with the updated gender marker) and prior SIN card or proof of immigration status must be provided.
For specific advice on these matters, a member of the Cox & Palmer team would be happy to assist you.
This article was prepared with contributions from Maxwell McBride, Summer Student (NS), and Carolyn Woolridge, Summer Student (NL).