- Proposed changes to the legal definition in Manitoba are being praised as long overdue.
- Seven Manitoba families sued the province over the act, and Fenske is one of the lawyers representing them.
Proposed revisions in Manitoba to modernize the legal definition are being hailed as long overdue, but one lawyer claims there is one major exception.
The proposed changes to Manitoba’s Family Maintenance Act, introduced on Thursday, will define the legal concept of paternity for a child created through assisted reproduction, including surrogacy.
“This is a huge step forward for a lot of Manitoba families,” says Allison Fenske, a staff attorney at Legal Aid Manitoba’s Public Interest Law Centre.
“People who utilize assisted reproduction will henceforth be instantly acknowledged as the legal parents of their offspring when their child is born, without having to go to court.”
She claims that having the certainty of being a child’s legal parent is essential for the child’s and parents’ legal connection to flourish.
According to Fenske, this is a long-overdue update to the Family Maintenance Act, last updated in 1987. The present law has affected members of the LGBTQ2S+ community who rely on reproductive technologies to start a family.
“This was an act that had not kept up with the expanding use of technology, as well as the evolving acceptance of alternative means of building families and social norms around who creates a family,” she added.
Fenske is one of the lawyers representing seven Manitoba families who sued the province over the act.
As a result of this lawsuit, the court ruled in 2020 that some elements of the Family Maintenance Act are unconstitutional and that the act infringes on key charter provisions.
According to Justice Minister Cameron Friesen, the court determined that Manitoba must clarify its legislation and make modifications to the act to properly acknowledge a child’s rightful parents.
“Legal parentage is an important concept in law because it determines a child’s identity, citizenship, inheritance rights, and entitlement to advantage under federal and provincial law,” Friesen said in a news release. “We are bringing in these changes to comply with the deadline placed on the province by the courts to address the definitions.”
These improvements, according to Fenske, would not have occurred if it weren’t for these families.
‘ONE EXCEPTION, ‘
“This is something worth celebrating in many ways, with one conspicuous exception,” Fenske said, referring to the province’s treatment of parents who employ surrogates.
According to the province, the changes include a necessity for surrogacy agreements before a child is conceived, a process for surrendering the kid to the intended parents, and exceptions for when a surrogate refuses to relinquish the child.
According to Fenske, the province will continue to rely on a court ruling, known as a declaration of parentage, to recognize that the child’s parents are the intended parents, not the surrogate.
“There are other Canadian jurisdictions that employ administrative models or just acknowledge parents when specific conditions are met, rather than forcing parents to go to court,” she explained.
Fenske’s clients anticipate that the court process for parents who utilize surrogates will be streamlined if the reforms are approved.
According to Friesen, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island have already revised their parentage laws.
Source: CTV News
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