November 4, 2021

-Global News

The province says it is updating what have been called outdated and discriminatory assisted reproduction laws, but some are wondering why it’s being cut so close to a court-ordered deadline.

Under the current legislation, couples who have children through assisted reproduction aren’t considered legal parents of their child if they have no biological connection, meaning couples have to go through costly court orders or adoption processes to be declared the legal parent of their own child.

Last November, a Manitoba judge ruled this was unconstitutional and ordered amendments to be made to the law.

“While the legislation was not intending to discriminate, it simply did not keep up with changes in reproductive technologies, resulting in situations where the law has become challenging to navigate for anyone using assisted reproduction to become a parent,” said Manitoba Justice Minister Cameron Friesen in a statement.

The court gave the province until Nov. 9 of this year to amend the law, but it was only Wednesday when the province issued the statement saying the amendments were coming.

“It’s definitely puzzling that it’s taken this long for the government to announce its intention to amend the act,” lawyer Allison Fenske with the Public Interest Law Centre said.

The province says the amended legislation will be introduced “at the earliest opportunity” when the legislature resumes on Nov. 23, well past the one-year deadline.

Fenske says it’s just another example of how slow the province has been on this file.

“I can’t even begin to guess why the government hasn’t been more proactive and why it took our constitutional challenge to bring this issue forward and why the government hasn’t issued legislation in the one-year time period the court provided them,” Fenske said.

Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have already updated their parentage law.

Fenske says the province’s release doesn’t give them a clear picture of what the legislation entails and worries it might not be exactly what they want.

“There’s a pretty significant variety (of laws) amongst the provinces. There are still some with newer legislation that recognizes the use of assisted reproduction, but require couples to go to court.

That’s not what our clients would be looking for in terms of resolution. They would be looking to see the matters kept in administrative proceedings and outside the court system. Some sort of process that recognizes their inherent worth as a parent from the get-go.”