(Quebec) People who refuse to fit into the mold of gender, non-binary or transgender in search of official recognition of their sexual identity, as well as infertile couples tempted to use the services of a surrogate mother, are among the people who are likely to be very disappointed in the coming months of the Legault government.
The challenge: the reform of family law, expected for years and promised by the government, but still in the waiting room, a few months before the election deadline.
Everything indicates that the vast reform orchestrated by the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, with his Bill 2, is destined, in all likelihood, to die on the order paper by the end of this mandate.
This is at least the unanimous observation made by the three opposition parties, in interviews with The Canadian Press over the past few days, who have blamed Minister Jolin-Barrette in chorus for his “erratic” way of managing parliamentary business. .
A simple glance at the calendar of parliamentary proceedings, which will end on June 10, makes the three opposition parties say that the adoption of such a vast reform in such a short time is practically impossible.
Bill 2, which will amend the Civil Code, aims to update family law, frozen in time since the early 1980s, while mores have evolved since then.
A new legislative framework that casts a very wide net on several delicate social issues, the document stretches over 116 pages and contains no less than 360 articles. Normally, a bill of this size can require months of committee work. However, clause-by-clause consideration has not yet begun, and it is still not on the schedule.
Taking into account the days cut off for the upcoming study of departmental appropriations and the weeks of parliamentary recess, the minister would have, at best, about four weeks left to have his reform adopted. It is too little, too late, according to the elected officials consulted.
“The extent of the social implications of this bill is such that we cannot study it properly, even going quickly, in four weeks”, calculates the spokesperson for the official Liberal opposition on the questions of Justice, Gaétan Barrette.
It is downright “impossible to get there” by the end of the session, adds the PQ spokesperson, MNA Véronique Hivon, who does not hide her “complete frustration” at the way Minister Jolin-Barrette , who is also House Leader, handled the file.
“If he is not able to do it because he is overwhelmed, let us change ministers! Let him pass the puck to someone else by the end of the legislature, ”suggests the supportive MP Alexandre Leduc, convinced that the minister has already mourned this reform, in favor of the new linguistic development included to Bill 96, since he is also responsible for the French language. “I assume he gave up,” he said, but did not have “the courage” to announce it. Bill 96 is still under consideration.
In the ranks of the opposition, he is criticized for having waited until the end of his mandate to table two major reform projects (language and family law), each comprising hundreds of articles, thus placing himself in a position practically obliging him to have to sacrifice one.
If ever the minister were tempted, under the circumstances, to impose a gag order to have his reform adopted at all costs, at full steam, the three opposition parties warn him: it will not pass.
“It would really be the height of arrogance”, according to Mr. Barrette, who would judge such a gesture by the government “intellectually dishonest”.
“It’s not true that we’re going to get through this before the end of June and it’s not true that we’re going to decide to stop asking questions and not doing our job”, especially taking into account the importance and the large number of social issues involved, adds Mr. Leduc.
One thing is certain, says the member, Mr. Jolin-Barrette, as leader, has the power to prioritize bills and he did not prioritize this one.
None of the three elected officials displayed any surprise, considering that the fate of Bill 2 reflected the general organization of parliamentary work under the leadership of Mr. Jolin-Barrette. Véronique Hivon speaks of “erratic management”. Alexandre Leduc believes that he does not have “much consideration for his opposition colleagues, rather the opposite”.
Bill 2 was tabled on October 21, a gesture followed by a brief consultation sent in four days, at the beginning of December. Then nothing.
Officially, Minister Jolin-Barrette, who did not respond to a request for an interview on the subject, maintains that he still has the objective of having his reform adopted by the end of this legislature.
The Liberal opposition tried to offer to split the bulky bill, to pass at least part of it by June, but the government refused.
The Minister of Justice had no choice but to legislate on the specific issue of gender, having to comply with the judgment of the Superior Court, delivered by Judge Gregory Moore on January 28, 2021 and rendering null and void several articles of the Civil Code deemed discriminatory .
According to this decision, Quebec had to take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination relating to the designation of gender in the documents issued by the Registrar of Civil Status. We should no longer force someone to identify as a man or a woman. It was also necessary to add the possibility of registering the mention of parent, instead of father or mother, when writing the birth certificate of a child.
“Get out of my underpants! »
As soon as it was tabled, Bill 2 caused an outcry. Brandishing the slogan “Get out of my underpants!” the LGBTQ+ community accused the minister of “transphobia” because he originally intended that someone wanting to legally change their sex would have to go through the knife first.
Those who would have refused surgery could have acquired a dual identity of gender and sex, so for example, appearing as male, but as female.
However, some saw this as a step backwards, since this requirement was officially abolished in 2013.
Faced with community outcry, which saw it as a “forced coming out”, the minister backed down and pledged to introduce amendments aimed at eliminating the requirement for genital surgery to change the sex designation on official documents. But it’s not done yet.
Last year, 659 sex change requests were authorized in Quebec. The number is steadily rising.
In addition to questions of gender and the supervision of procreation for others, Bill 2 intervenes on a host of other subjects, including the number of first names on official documents, the rules of filiation, including the presumption of paternity for de facto spouses, information disclosed to adopted children, the rights of the child growing up in a home marked by violence, questions of parental authority in the event of violence and loss of this authority, as well as the right of a child born of a surrogate mother with knowledge of its origins.