Group of Manitoba couples calling on Province to change legal definition of a parent
WINNIPEG -- A group of seven Manitoba couples is challenging the province to update how it legally defines a parent.
On Thursday, the group filed legal proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench against the Manitoba government’s Family Maintenance Act and its definition of a legal parent.
The act, which hasn’t been updated since 1987, doesn’t recognize contemporary assisted reproductive technologies and those implications on parents.
The group said this means lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents face discrimination by not being recognized as legal parents to their child without a court order or adoption.
According to the group, if a child is conceived through assisted reproduction in Manitoba to a LGBTQIA2S+ couple, one parent is recognized legally and the other is not.
Courtney Maddock and Jill Stockwell have been married since 2010. Two years ago, they had a daughter with the assistance of in vitro fertilization.
“It was always our intention that I would have my ova fertilized with donor sperm and that I would carry the baby, but we expressly intended to be equal parents,” said Maddock, who is part of the group in the case.
“For me, it feels like a slap in the face that, under the law, I am not a parent,” said Stockwell.
“I have been there from the beginning and every step of the way. This is just the right thing to do. We travel and there is always the worry, 'will I be challenged by a foreign government? If something happened to Courtney, could I make legally-binding decisions for my daughter?' It is a worry.”
The seven couples in the case are being represented pro bono by Robynne Kazina, a family lawyer with Taylor McCaffrey, LLP Barristers and Solicitors, in collaboration with the Public Interest Law Centre of Legal Aid Manitoba.
“The definition of parent in The Family Maintenance Act, which has not been updated in 33 years, discriminates by requiring parents to adopt their own child despite the fact that prior to conception it was always the intention for these parents to be the sole parents of their child,” said Kazina.
“The legislation needs to be modernized to account for the way families are formed in today's society and the evolution around how children are conceived.”
Other provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan have already made these changes to their laws.
The couples in the case are wanting the Government of Manitoba to amend the current Family Maintenance Act.
The case is expected to be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench in November.