The Ontario paper chase

For trans* people in Ontario, changing documents is a strange combination of easy and cheap and difficult and relatively expensive. I say “relatively” because much depends upon your income. As a senior on a government pension, for me it can get expensive. Let’s look at the various documents and the hoops through which the government will make you jump to achieve your goal.

The driver’s permit is probably the easiest (and I wish I’d known about this when I drove): A letter from your doctor stating the change is necessary is sufficient. Cost is apparently zero. Nice.

Before you can change any other documents such as credit cards and any other non-government form of identification, you need to change your name. Most places I contacted with insisted upon a driver’s licence for id. So, first you need a new birth certificate in your chosen name.

The forms are available online. These are “fill and print” documents so you don’t have to worry about messy printing. But since you’re dealing with a government website, finding the documents can be difficult. I found the best way was to go into “search” and enter “application to change an adult’s name”. That “adult” is important for they have several different forms for various reasons the change is required. You will be asked the usual questions; name; address; telephone number. Then they want the name you want to change to and the reasons. Once you’ve answered these, there are a series of questions regarding your criminal and financial information. This may seem like prying, but they’re trying to determine if the name change is to escape either prosecution or bankruptcy. When I answered these questions I was struck by the fact I’ve led a very “white bread” life, for each answer was “no”. Next you must find a guarantor, that is someone from a list they provide who can swear you’ve lived in Ontario for the past 12 months and that they’ve known you at least five years. Now you need a cheque or some form of payment for the $137 fee. Once you have all this, you must have the application notarized. Most lawyers charge between $75 and $100 for this service. But, most town and city halls have a person called a “commissioner of oaths” on staff who will be much cheaper. The town of Ajax, where I live, charges $20 for five signatures. Now it’s off to the post office and sending the application to the Registrar-General for the Province of Ontario located in Thunder Bay. Then you wait approximately six weeks.

In late 2012, Ontario quietly passed legislation allowing trans* people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates without requiring surgery. It may be advisable to do this at the same time you change your name (it all goes to the same office in T Bay). Once again the forms are available online. For this you will require a letter from your doctor stating you’ve lived in your chosen gender for “x” many years and the change is necessary.
The fee for this is $97. This money gets you both the long form (original) birth certificate plus the short, or wallet size, certificate.

Acting on the hope everything gets done at once, when you get your new documents (which, unless things have changed, will be sent to you under your birth name) you can visit the Department of Motor Vehicles and change your licence. For your health card and any other provincial id you may have, you will have to visit Service Ontario as the DMV agent can’t make those changes for you. There is no charge for these changes.

One more thing trans* citizens should be aware of: In February 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (aka “the feds”) quietly passed legislation that allows trans* people to change their federal documents (SIN card, etc) based upon self-identification. Again, there is no charge for this. Your passport is a different story. You must reapply under your new name and gender and pay the appropriate fees.

Catharine.

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