Last month, the Quebec government introduced Bill 2, which aims to comprehensively amend Quebec’s family law regime. This Bill — which contains over 300 articles — reimagines Quebec’s parentage laws, regulates surrogacy arrangements and seeks to provide adoptees and children born from sperm and egg donation with rights to information about their genetic origins. It also introduces new (and highly criticized) rules regarding trans and non-binary individuals’ rights to modify their sex designations and gender markers on their identity documents.
Yet, despite its scope and potential impacts, Bill 2 is being pushed through the legislature at an alarming rate. It appears that the Minister of Justice is seeking to rush the enactment of the Bill by the end of the year, mere weeks after it was tabled. This rushed approach will not allow for in-depth scrutiny of the Bill by stakeholders, nor will it give the government enough time to engage meaningfully with feedback or seek out further input as needed and propose substantive changes.
Public consultation is an integral part of any lawmaking process that can profoundly affect people’s lives. Public engagement is critical to ensure that those whose lives are most affected by an issue can provide input about how best to address the issue that the legislation aims to solve. The process should allow for engagement at multiple stages — before and during consideration of the Bill — to ensure that stakeholders’ needs and the needs of the broader population are best met.
Part of meaningful public engagement is also educational. It is important for lawmakers to articulate their intent and process with a piece of legislation so that those affected can understand what the legislation is intended to do and so they are able to propose more effective or useful ways of addressing an issue.
The length of this timeline, and limited nature of the consultations, also means that only individuals and groups with the capacity to drop everything to work through a complex bill of over 100 pages and develop written comments on a dime can participate. Groups and individuals with less time, and fewer resources will not be able to participate and to make their voices heard.
Despite these concerns, there is one important reason to move an amended version of Bill 2 through the National Assembly without delay. The Bill seeks to respond to a decision of the Superior Court of Québec from last February that held that several provisions of the Civil Codeof Québec violated the dignity and equality rights of trans and non-binary Quebecers. The Court gave the province until December 31, 2021 to amend the affected provisions.
The problem is that Bill 2’s initial response to this court order has been widely criticized for its negative impact on the rights of trans and non-binary people — further highlighting the government’s failure to adequately consult with the LGBTQ+ community prior to introducing the Bill. It is also not clear why the government decided to include these proposed changes in a Bill dealing primarily with family law.
One solution would be for the government to split Bill 2 into two bills: one dealing with family law and the other with the rights of trans and non-binary people. Splitting the Bill would allow the government to respond quickly to the court order and to amend the Bill’s current proposed provisions to better support trans and non-binary Quebecers’ rights. It would also allow for more extensive consultations and debate on long-awaited family law reforms.
Let’s get this important legislation right through a robust process that includes participation from the very people it purports to serve.
Alana Cattapan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Reproduction at the University of Waterloo.
Vanessa Gruben and Angela Cameron are Associate Professors and Stefanie Carsley is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. All are members of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics.
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