The University of New Brunswick’s law faculty held a virtual Trans ID clinic on Nov. 6, working with Pro Bono Students Canada to help trans individuals in New Brunswick.
Volunteers helped with the legal process of name and gender-changing on official documents through a virtual meeting. Attendees would complete an online form and then book an appointment with the volunteers and overseeing lawyers.
Delaney Stymiest-Losier, a law student and clinic volunteer, has spent time changing her last name herself and understands just how complex the process can get.
“New Brunswick has got the worst setup for getting that kind of documentation changed, it is extremely complicated, it is expensive and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Stymiest-Losier.
She said the process takes several steps including requiring a criminal record check and signature from someone who’s known the applicant for at least two years, which then needs to be signed by a healthcare professional.
“One of the first times I ran the clinic after having gone through all of it, I left and I sat in my car and just cried because it’s so frustrating for no reason,” said Stymiest-Losier.
The volunteers said the process is difficult because it’s meant to discourage name changes for tax fraud purposes, unrelated to trans individuals.
Ash Arsenault, a clinic volunteer and law student, talked about his experience with the clinic and what it’s like to make a change for trans individuals.
“I’m trans myself and when I was trying to access changing my gender marker and my name, I knew that the information was not readily available by any stretch of the imagination,” said Arsenault.
He hopes to help those who come to the clinic avoid similar difficulties. The name change system in New Brunswick requires legal name changes to be published in the newspaper, the Royal Gazette, to make it public knowledge.
This is a concern for trans individuals who haven’t yet come out and may feel worried about their safety and privacy. Still, there’s an option to not have names published if they give an acceptable reason for why they don’t want them printed.
“Sometimes the requirements that most people don’t really think twice about, like having a publication actually pose a serious safety concern for trans clients who are trying to access provincial services,” said Arsenault.
He said that though it’s possible to request for names to not be published, it can cause some anxiety to trans individuals who are already stressed by the name changing process.
The fees for changing a first name in New Brunswick cost $115 and last name changes cost $130. Additionally, if applicants don’t provide a long-form birth certificate, it costs another $45.
Despite the difficulties, the volunteers were happy to make a real change for people going through the process.
The Pro-Bono association can be reached at [email protected].