Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Canadian province says child can have 3 parents on birth certificate.
January 4, 2007 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Canadian province says child can have 3 parents on birth certificate. Canada approved 2 mothers and father on birth certificate, allowing the lesbian family and birth father to have full legal parental rights. A major step in Lesbian and Fathers rights. Judicial activism or catching up to the reality of families in modern day? The battle continues.
posted by IronWolve (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Too bad the courts are fighting each other, but at least its a Major victory. Wonder if it will be overturned.
posted by IronWolve at 12:08 AM on January 4, 2007


That's just great. Makes me proud of my Canadian heritage. Thanks for a great link!
posted by eparchos at 12:13 AM on January 4, 2007


I'll bet the Canadian courts can't wait for those 3-way custody battles.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:24 AM on January 4, 2007


yay for kids torn between their parents!
posted by wumpus at 12:36 AM on January 4, 2007


There is some interesting family type stuff happening south of the boarder (US) as well, heard on the radio that grandparents are suing for increased visitation rights.
The concept of "immediate family" has to change, the whole nuclear family idea/ideal is slowly collapsing under the weight of misspent idealism.
posted by edgeways at 12:37 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


heard on the radio that grandparents are suing for increased visitation rights.

Maybe eventually there will be great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents suing for such rights. Combine that with divorce and remarriage (of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) and child support and artificial insemination with two+ mommies and two+ daddies and you get an interesting court case involving a squadron of adults and their lawyers fighting over who raises one kid, who gets to see the kid for how often and how long, and who has to pay for the kid regardless of access rights.

Maybe courts eventually will have to determine some set of people the kid cannot live happily without, even if that turns out to be just one maternal great-grandmother and one divorced non-biological gay father, give them primary parental rights and responsibilities, and then let them help to decide who else gets access to the kid and who should pay for it. And the kid gets a court-monitored financial account into which everyone has to pay a share. OK, granny, you can see the kid one Thursday a month but it'll cost you 1/30th of the cost of raising the kid, payable into the child's account. And once a year, everyone has to attend a court-monitored meeting concerning the kid (with perhaps a party afterward), so everyone involved gets access to everyone else at least once a year and the child's custodians give a PowerPoint presentation on the kid's most recent year, school report, current account status, college savings, ...

Crikey. I wouldn't want to be in the family court business.
posted by pracowity at 1:46 AM on January 4, 2007


There is some interesting family type stuff happening south of the boarder

Whoever that boarder is, I don't think I wanna know what's happening, you know... south of him.

Sorry, couldn't resist. But I'm definitely hearing you on the nuclear family question. Unfortunately, though, the extended family of old is as dead as the dodo, unless there are major (and almost unimaginable) socio-economic transformations in North American society.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:57 AM on January 4, 2007


well.. in places yeah. But in places not so dead. I think though what I'm trying to get at is, for awhile there we had the notion that family = mom+dad+kids. Now, of course that has never been the end all be all of what a family is, but it seems that currently those boundaries are expanding more, and family court notwithstanding I don't think it is a bad thing.
posted by edgeways at 2:03 AM on January 4, 2007


Metafilter America: collapsing under the weight of misspent idealism.

Lots of that going around, edgeways. An excellent turn-of-phrase.
posted by Goofyy at 3:04 AM on January 4, 2007


Just another ploy by the machines to eventually allow them to take custody of all human children. I knew it would be Canada first.
posted by XMLicious at 3:18 AM on January 4, 2007


I don't get it. What's the problem with making the non-birth mother a guardian or parent or whatever after the fact in order to preserve her rights? Or altering legislation in order to not strip the father's rights if that were to happen?

For that matter, where does the article say that 3 people will be on the child's birth certificate? Maybe I missed it, but it only seems to vaguely recognize that the other woman will be "recognized by the courts" as the child's legal parent.
posted by loquax at 3:24 AM on January 4, 2007


Indeed... the only mention of a birth certificate is that the FATHER is listed on it.
posted by antifuse at 3:41 AM on January 4, 2007


Also, who exactly is this a major victory for? As far as I am aware, this ruling has nothing to do with homosexual adoption of children, as that had already been established in Ontario (and Canada?). This issue is that adoption of the child by the two lesbian women would have stripped the birth father of parental rights, which the women did not want. This ruling effectively creates a three-parent family, apparantly according to the article solely on the basis of the thrid-party's suitabilty to parenting, raising issues that have nothing at all to do with homosexuality. I suppose it's a victory for anyone who wants 3+ parent families in any configuration of gender. Congratulations! Two is more than enough for me, thanks.
posted by loquax at 3:57 AM on January 4, 2007


Regardless of how one feels about the larger issues, I'm not buying the notion that a birth certificate should be anything more than a documentation of a birth.
posted by RavinDave at 4:02 AM on January 4, 2007


Jesus, Ironwolve. You really had to squint to make this about "father's rights", didn't you. The father's rights were never in question, they sought rights for the second mother.

But god forbid that axe of yours not get in the way of a FPP.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:30 AM on January 4, 2007


And it's not really about a birth certificate, RavinDave. It's about who can make serious decisions about the child in question, like, say, medical decisions in the event of an emergency. And should his birth mother die, his other mother would have no legal claim to be his guardian or to make decisions about his welfare unless she becomes another legal parent.

The birth certificate is the least significant part of this story.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:34 AM on January 4, 2007


Jesus, Ironwolve. You really had to squint to make this about "father's rights", didn't you. The father's rights were never in question, they sought rights for the second mother.

No, the issue was who can have parental rights, the non-birth mother or the birth father. Prior to this ruling, it was a question of one, but not the other, either by way of birth or adoption. This ruling grants rights to *both*. So it's not really a question of gay rights, mother's rights, or father's rights, it's a question of how many legal "parents" a child can have.

And should his birth mother die, his other mother would have no legal claim to be his guardian or to make decisions about his welfare unless she becomes another legal parent.

Unless the second woman adopted which is legal, negating the rights of the father under the "two parent" system. There were options for this woman to have parental rights, these people just didn't like them. No extra rights were granted to anyone under this ruling.

It's about who can make serious decisions about the child in question, like, say, medical decisions in the event of an emergency

It's also about our entire tax system, legal system and in some ways, society. Much more so than gay adoption, increasing the number of legal parents has an impact almost across the board. Some of the family law implications have been mentioned above. Question: Can the non-birth parent declare this child as a dependant? Can they contribute to the child's government, tax-exempt RESP? What about inheritances? Child support? Divorce? The birth father's future or current wife/husband/children? Etc, etc. It's not just about parental rights and survivorship, it's about fundamentally (for real this time) altering the definition of family and parent, with all the reprecussions that brings.

The birth certificate is the least significant part of this story.

I agree, but the incorrect and misleading highlighting of it in the post and title, combined with a single reuters link does make for a pretty crappy post on what is a significant event.
posted by loquax at 4:50 AM on January 4, 2007


I find it strange this issue hasn't been addressed before with straight parents. Any Cdn lawyers out there with some background?
posted by converge at 6:49 AM on January 4, 2007


I find it strange this issue hasn't been addressed before with straight parents. Any Cdn lawyers out there with some background?

I'm no lawyer, but I would imagine that with straight parents, the immediate reaction would be to (justifiably) cry polygamy and/or tax fraud. There have been plenty of custody battles when it comes to surrogacy, but those are always assigning rights to one party or another, not to both.

Why on earth does the birth father of the child want to retain legal responsibilty of the child? He'd likely already be next in line if the two women die after adoption (being a birth parent, establishing this in a will, etc). If they're all friends, then he could presumably be a part of the child's life without being legally involved. If the two women are married/together and raising the child, why do they want a third-party uninvolved (presumably) in the family unit to have an equal say in the child's life? Unless there are details that I'm missing, I cannot conceive of a reason why the non-birth mother could not simply adopt the child and then deal with the father within the context of their private relationship with him. This decision pretty much amounts to a de facto court approval of polygamy and group families, nothing at all to do with homosexual or father's rights.
posted by loquax at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2007


This issue is that adoption of the child by the two lesbian women would have stripped the birth father of parental rights, which the women did not want.

But that is not what IronWolve wants, ya see.
posted by dobbs at 7:19 AM on January 4, 2007


First of all, let's use a Canadian link or two when talking about Canadian news, yes?

I think this is a good thing. Imagine the horror of your partner dying and you being stripped of your rights as a parent to a child you've raised from birth.

I'll post the decision if I can find it.
posted by loiseau at 8:47 AM on January 4, 2007


This is a great decision. The courts keeping up with reality and recognizing current dynamics in raising children and being responsible for them.
posted by juiceCake at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm no lawyer, but I would imagine that with straight parents, the immediate reaction would be to (justifiably) cry polygamy and/or tax fraud.

Polygamy? You don't get married by having your names together on someone's birth certificate.

And there are more kids these days being raised by people who aren't actually married. This is a boon for het/bi people as much as anyone else.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:16 AM on January 4, 2007


Polygamy? You don't get married by having your names together on someone's birth certificate.

No (and this isn't about birth certificates) but you are creating a family unit with more than two parents in whatever gender configuration. Call it polygamy (who's to say if these people or future "triples" are having sex), group marriage or whatever you like, it's a dramatic change with dramatic social, economic and legal ramifications that go far beyond simply recognizing alternate arrangements or "non-nuclear families". Which is fine, so long as that is the discussion taking place is along these lines, rather than celebrating previously denied rights being granted to any one segment of the population. This simply did not happen. Everybody, gay/straight/man/woman was prohibited from entering into this kind of arrangment prior to this ruling. Now, everybody can (or at least should be able to).

I think this is a good thing. Imagine the horror of your partner dying and you being stripped of your rights as a parent to a child you've raised from birth.

In this case, if the second woman would have legally adopted the child, with the father giving up legal parental rights and responsibilities, that would never had occured. Certainly in jurisdictions without gay marriage it can, but again, this case has nothing to do with the genders or sexual orientation of the parties involved. The people protesting this may well be protesting because of their opposition to same-sex adoption, but it's a red herring. Gay adoption is legal in Ontario. To put it bluntly, these people wanted to have their cake and eat it too - rights for the lesbian "parents" AND rights for the birth father.
posted by loquax at 10:16 AM on January 4, 2007


loquax - "family" and "marriage" aren't interchangeable terms.

Which is fine, so long as that is the discussion taking place is along these lines, rather than celebrating previously denied rights being granted to any one segment of the population

You mean like children?

rights for the lesbian "parents" AND rights for the birth father.

Is there any particular reason for including those quotation marks?
posted by poweredbybeard at 10:30 AM on January 4, 2007


Hildegarde, try reading the article, and stop the personal attacks.

The father would lose his rights if the lesbian family adopted the child, thats why they went to court, so the FATHER could still have his parental rights. The court did this, so the non-birth mother and father could have parental rights at the same time.
posted by IronWolve at 11:10 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't understand what exactly changed here. If the Family Law Act, section 1 definition of a parent says: ““parent” includes a person who has demonstrated a settled intention to treat a child as a child of his or her family…”, wasn't she a parent already? Don't we already have 3+ parental groups with step-parents and the like? Or does that section only apply to child support?
posted by heatherann at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2007


You mean like children?

Are you saying that prior to today, children were denied the right to have more than two parents? Because that makes no sense.

loquax - "family" and "marriage" aren't interchangeable terms.

Not legally, but please tell me how this arrangment differents in practice as opposed to law from the *child's* perspective from a group marriage or a polygamous relationship? And I'm not using those terms perjoratively. Or, put another way, if the "parents" here were a heterosexual couple and a surrogate mother that wanted to assign "parenthood" to all three people, or say even four including the surrogate mother's husband/wife, would you have a problem with that child having 3+ legal straight parents?

Is there any particular reason for including those quotation marks?

Yes, there is. This ruling changes the definition of the word parent in Ontario. Technically the child's parents are the man and the woman, not the two women, until this issue is settled. That's why I put it in quotes.

heatherann - You want the Child and Family Services Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act for the definitions of parent and the outlining of the relationships at issue.
posted by loquax at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2007


Unfortunately, though, the extended family of old is as dead as the dodo, unless there are major (and almost unimaginable) socio-economic transformations in North American society.

Ehhhhhh, not entirely. In mainstream America, it's dead. It's alive and well in America's immigrant communities. One of my coworkers -- wayyyy back in the day -- was from Colombia. In a casual conversation, she told us -- the norteamericanos -- that she would prefer to marry a Colombian man. We asked her why. She said that it was traditional in Colombia for the maternal grandmother to move in and help the mother with the childrearing.

We told her that most North American men would not dig such an arrangement at all and that her focus on Colombian men was a wise choice.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2007


Specifically, this is the law at issue (I think):

(2) For all purposes of law, as of the date of the making of an adoption order,

(a) the adopted child becomes the child of the adoptive parent and the adoptive parent becomes the parent of the adopted child; and

(b) the adopted child ceases to be the child of the person who was his or her parent before the adoption order was made and that person ceases to be the parent of the adopted child, except where the person is the spouse of the adoptive parent. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 158 (2); 2006, c. 5, s. 42.


In other words, if the non-birth mother and birth father were spouses, then all would be well, but for the fact that the non-birth mother could not be the spouse of the birth mother. Since the two women are spouses, the adoption of the child by the non-birth mother would invalidate the parenthood of the father. This ruling allows the non-birth mother to adopt without cancelling the rights of the father. Which would also allow a non-birth heterosexual mother to adopt the child born of a surrogate without invalidating the parenthood status of the birth mother. Or me to adopt anyone I please so long as I show settled intent to be a parent without invalidating the rights of the other parents.

I'm not saying don't do this, just make sure that all bases are covered, and that everyone knows what this ruling actually means. Although I still have no idea why the father in this case must remain a legal parent of the child as opposed to a "social" parent of the child.
posted by loquax at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2007


Canada is great.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the hypocrites in power are still debating whether or not allowing gays to marry will lead to people wanting to shack up with their pets.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2007


Hildegarde, try reading the article, and stop the personal attacks.

I don't need to read your Reuters article, as I live in Toronto and heard the entire story on the news multiple times, heard from their lawyers repeatedly, read about it in the paper, and saw it on tv. At no time was anyone suggesting that the birth father lose any rights. According to all of those accounts, this case was about getting rights for the boy's non-biological mother.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2007


At no time was anyone suggesting that the birth father lose any rights. According to all of those accounts, this case was about getting rights for the boy's non-biological mother.

The birth father would have lost his parent status if the non-birth mother had adopted the child (the legality of which was never in question here). This case was about getting rights for her without taking them away from him, but again, it had nothing to do with homosexuals, and the situation could have applied equally to a straight couple and a surrogate birth mother.
posted by loquax at 1:23 PM on January 4, 2007


mom's are great, i wish i had two.
posted by wumpus at 2:51 PM on January 4, 2007


As someone who has been in a Polyamorous relationship for over a decade, I heartily applaud this ruling. I think that a kid can use as many parents as they can get. Having had two less than fantastic father and step-fathers myself, if this kid gets three loving parents, then bully for them.

Loquax: you ask why would the biological father want to be listed as a legal father rather than a "social" father. I think the answer to that is that he probably takes his decision to contribute his genetic material, if you will, to this child quite seriously. I would want to be there for the child, help raise it, represent as a parent when talking to the principal, making health care decisions, etc, even if I wasn't in a sexual relationship with the birth mother. Can you not picture a situation where a person would want to raise a child with someone even though they weren't sleeping with that person, but were just brilliant life long friends?
posted by afflatus at 4:16 PM on January 4, 2007


I think that a kid can use as many parents as they can get ...

That's fine in principle, but it's simply not the way our society is structured today. Our laws, tax code, ethics, culture, morals, etc, etc are based on the current definition of a family. Much more so than the debate about gay marriage between two people, a shift to 2+ parent family units (whether or not they are spouses or polyamourus) is very very significant, and should not be taken lightly, or even be discussed in the context of the "gay rights" issue, which appears to be the case here.

Can you not picture a situation ...

I certainly can, and that's certainly permissable even under the current system. For the father in this case to lose his "parent" status does not mean that he cannot see the child, or that he cannot have a part in raising the child, only that his interest in the child will be subordinate in a legal sense to that of the child's birth mother and adoptive mother.

If this decision stands, no matter what happens in the relationship of the three people involved, all three will have rights concerning the child. If the father moves to France and loses contact with the mothers, still involved. If the father marries a woman, she will be able to also legally adopt the child and have her own set of rights. If the father wants to move but still wants access, the mothers will have to accomodate him. And so on. I'm not saying this or any relationship of this sort is doomed to failure, only that it's easy to see unanticipated problems cropping up. Which is why, more than not understanding why the father would want to be involved, I can't understand why the mothers would want to have him involved and lose a degree of control over their child and their family unit.

As for making legal decisions, can you not see how, given the society that currently exists, allowing any number of people (3, 4, whatever) to have legal rights with respect to a child can become a nightmare of conflict and trauma for all involved by the very addition of more parties to the mix? Can you not see how, in this case, removing the father's legal rights can prevent potential problems without impacting in any material way the child's development or access to the father?

This society, for better or worse, developed over the course of, what, 2000-odd years? The two-parent family has been the cornerstone of the vast majority of societies for likely much longer. I believe it's very important to understand fully what this decision (which might very well be reversed) means to everyone (the involved parties included) before it's celebrated as a progressive "rights" victory.
posted by loquax at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2007


Our laws, tax code, ethics, culture, morals, etc, etc are based on the current definition of a family.

Which current definition? What is it? Who created it and who promotes it and why?

There are plenty of problems under the current definition as well so perhaps we should scrap those laws because problems may and do occur?

This society has developed over what, the course of 2000-odd years? With so many changes and developments along the way, including what a family is. Which also includes, unfortunately, the relatively recent glamorization of the "nuclear" family.

This ruling is wonderful. It recognizes a newer family dynamic which isn't really all that far removed from blood and legal definitions of a family. Rather than ostracizing different groups of people with different ideas about family and enforcing the status quo definition, which is wrapped up in economic and quasi-religious reasons, we're seeing a decision that gives equal recognition to newer dynamics in family structures. Sure there may be problems as a result, but they will, most likely, be no different than the problems that occur now with a traditional biological definition of a family.

What's so magical about 3 is a question asked in the article. Nothing, obviously. Who said or implied there was? What an asinine and nakedly dismissive approach to objecting to the decision. Anyone else could just as easily ask, what's so fucking magical about 2? Magical? It's astounding they used this as the basis of an argument.

What happens when a father in a traditional 2 parent biological family moves to France and loses contact with the mother? Still involved apparently...
posted by juiceCake at 10:23 PM on January 4, 2007


what's so fucking magical about 2?

Whelp, I always thought a birth certificate was an official record of when two people got together and bumped uglies which resulted in demon spawn. Kinda like registering your pure bred puppies with the kennel club but, for humans.
posted by squeak at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2007


Indeed. There is still nothing "magical" about it however.
posted by juiceCake at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2007


If magical = religious I guess but I think a point is being missed because of who challenge the law. A birth certificate is just a collection of data; who contributed the genetic material*, place and time the baby was born, their name etc. From what I understand what the court did was turn a collection of vital statistics/proof of citizenship into a quasi Declaration.Of.Parental.Responsibility. I think its a screwed up way to fix the problems with guardianship and adoption laws. *shrug*

*mandatory for the mother but voluntary for the father

(sorry this took awhile; massive wind storms = no internet access and a world without electrical power)
posted by squeak at 6:15 PM on January 6, 2007


« Older Laughter seems to be just as contagious as yawning...  |  . . . a group of us were talki... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments