Joe Clark: Accessibility ¶ Design ¶ Writing

Bill 28 comments and submissions

In 2016, the Ontario legislature introduced Bill 28. Its official subtitle is All Families Are Equal Act (Parentage and Related Registrations Statute Law Amendment), 2016. I call it Bill 28: The Handmaid’s Tale Act, because it attempts to rewrite actual biological facts about human reproduction.

The context here is a court case the Ontario government lost almost ten years previous. The Rutherford decision held, in discussing the Vital Statistics Act (VSA):

The term “father” in the VSA cannot be read as a plural and gender-neutral term in order to include lesbian co-mothers. Despite the broad purpose of the VSA, there can only be two parents according to the textual analysis: one mother and one father. This is because the terms “mother” and “father” are preceded throughout the VSA by “the.” Even if the article “the” were interpreted to mean a group of mothers or fathers, it is implausible to interpret “father” as including women. To alter the meaning of “father” to include non-biological lesbian co-mothers is stretching the plausible use of the expression.

Although §28(j) of the Interpretation Act... says that a singular can be plural and a male term can include females and vice versa, in this case it is a linguistic implausibility to interpret “father” as including “mother.”

The decision gave the Ontario government 12 months to remedy the impossibility that lesbian (and gay) parents faced in legally registering parentage of their children.

That was in 2006, and the government did not fix the problem. Cheri DiNovo introduced a private member’s bill that eventually died. Bill 28 is the actual legislation introduced into the House.

And that legislation really does redefine mothers and fathers. So I got on the deputants’ list and appeared at the committee hearing on 2016.10.18.

Documents available

Excerpts from The Handmaid’s Tale

Local hack Goldsbie mocked my comparison to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale on Twitter. So I took pictures of the Reference Library’s first-pressing edition, signed by Peggy Atwood, no less. Draw your own comparisons.

Posted: 2016.11.02 ¶ Updated: 2016.12.09

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