11/08/2016 13:28 EST | Updated 11/09/2017 00:12 EST

Alberta proposes changes to vital statistics on names, gender designations

EDMONTON — Alberta is proposing legislation that would allow people who don't identify as either male or female to put a third gender marker such as an X on government documents.

"With this act, Alberta is leading the country in being an inclusive and welcoming province," Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean said Tuesday after introducing a bill in the legislature.

"We're preparing to include a third marker on vital records for those who do not identify as male or female. This makes Alberta the first jurisdiction in Canada to make this change to its vital statistics act."

McLean said the change will be made after the legislation passes and regulations are designed, but not before the federal government follows through on its promised to do the same for federal documents.

The bill introduces dozens of amendments in a number of areas.

Legislation would clarify that parents could choose any last name for their child. Parents would also be allowed to easily change a child's last name to avoid a costly, complex court process.

McLean said parents would be able to make changes to reflect traditional or cultural naming practices "such as putting the family name before the given name as is done among Cambodian, Japanese, Korean and Hungarian communities, to name a few."

Parents also would be able to register a child's birth online and parents of a stillborn child would no longer be required to name the child to register the birth.

"We're reducing the burden on grieving parents of a stillborn child."

A person would no longer have to provide a reason to legally change a name. Consent requirements to change the legal name of a minor would be simplified.

The Marriage Act is to be amended to remove a requirement that a physician certify that an adult under a guardianship or trusteeship order has the capacity to marry. By the same token, if a guardian wanted to contest whether a marriage should take place, he or she would have a month to take action rather than the current two-week limit.

Privacy rules are also to be enhanced to restrict who can access vital records. The legislation would clarify the government's authority to seal information about vulnerable people such as in cases of family violence or for participants in a witness protection program.

The bill calls for sharing of pre-adoption information with other Canadian post-adoption registries to make it easier for people to have access to their original birth records.

Under the changes, midwives would be added to a list of professionals allowed to register a birth.

A list of professionals who could confirm an applicant's affidavit for a change of sex would be broadened to include registered nurses, nurse practitioners and registered social workers.

The legislation would also allow for the transfer of historical records, such as birth registrations, to the provincial archives for genealogical and historical research.