Canadian Travel Regulations

Hello Canada. I think this one is probably a false alarm, but I’d appreciate some feedback all the same.

It began this morning when I found an alarming note in my Twitter feed about the Canadian government banning trans people from flying into or out of the country. These days, of course, I am way too suspicious to take any alarms on Twitter at face value, so I researched the story. As far as I can see, this is largely a question of sloppily worded regulations and, given that they have been in force for 5 months now, if they were being implemented in a problematic way then I think we’d have heard about it. At the very least, Mercedes Allen would have written about the issue. But all is quiet, so I’m guessing that Canadian officials are being sensible about the whole thing.

The regulations in question are those pertaining to identity screening at airports. You can read the whole thing on the Department of Justice website, but the salient sections are as follows:

5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if

(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents;

I don’t think that this was deliberately drafted to target trans people. I suspect it is a product of that fashionable Western conservative paranoia about those Muslim women with the all-encompassing clothing actually being male terrorists in disguise. Because that’s totally what they’d do in a James Bond movie, or an episode of 24, right? Quite why any sane terrorist would dress as a woman and then present his own passport is a mystery me to, but there you go.

I note also that, under the regulations, airlines should deny boarding to anyone who doesn’t look like they do in their passport. So Canadian women, be very wary about getting your hair re-styled or colored. And men, try not to go bald in a hurry. (Yes, I know I’ve just been gender essentialist there. Please add suitable exceptions.)

The problem, as I’m sure that you are all aware, is that people undergoing gender transition, people who have transitioned but elected not to have surgery, and people who are not binary-identified, can appear of indeterminate gender, or of a different gender to that of their passport. And with the new fashion for perv scanners and security groping such people are liable to be detected even if their outward gender presentation matches their ID. As there haven’t been any high profile cases, I suspect that the authorities are being understanding.

The main reason I took an interest is that, as I have a pile of frequent flier points left, I am hoping to go to Toronto for World Fantasy this year. I don’t want to end up being denied permission to board. Given that I’m post-op, hopelessly girly, and have both a passport and a birth certificate stating that I’m female, I don’t think I’ll have a problem. But I’m writing about the issue anyway, partly to highlight how thoughtlessly such regulations get drafted, and partly just in case things are worse and I just haven’t heard about them.

Update: As if by magic, Mercedes posted today. She’s likely to be the best source of information on this issue.

8 thoughts on “Canadian Travel Regulations

  1. Hiya Cheryl,

    Ok, I like to think that I’m pretty much up-to-date on what’s going on in our fair dominion, but this one’s news to me. Haven’t heard boo before on the topic.

    Like you, I tend to think this is some sort of terrorist-related paranoia and if you boiled it down you’d end up with some middle-management bureaucrat saying ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time’.

    I really wouldn’t worry about it. Despite all the rampant speculations of the left-leaning types who imagined Monstrous Horrors! should the conservatives ever win a majority, they’ve been pretty much bland so far – no sizzle to the conservative steak; even bending over backwards to assure everyone who will listen that they’re not, Not, NOT going to go anywhere near same-sex marriages or any other potential socially controversial issue that’s currently pretty much settled. Typical politicians, in other words. Sprain their lips trying to talk out of both sides of their mouth depending on who’s listening.

    Hope this reassures you some and hope to see you at World Fantasy. I’ve never been to one and I’m debating on going, seeing as it’s right in my own backyard.

    All the best,


  2. “and have both a passport and a birth certificate stating that I’m female”

    Just out of curiosity, how hard were those to obtain? (I have no idea about the current state of law in this regard.)

    1. The passport was just a question of going to the consulate in Melbourne with a letter from my psychologist stating that I was undergoing Real Life Test and needed to be able to travel for work. I think I was the first one they ever did, but there were no quibbles.

      The birth certificate requires a Gender Recognition Certificate, which in turn requires successful transition and supporting documentation from two separate medical professionals. That took time, and money because my GP refused to help. Getting a new birth certificate is part of the GRC package.

  3. Alas, what you found out is indeed a new ‘feature’ of Canadian security law, and one that has enmeshed some friends of ours within the past few years.

    I count my many, many, **many** blessings to have been from the pre-computer era, when all it ever took was a short chat with the immigration chappies going either way, whose comments amounted to “good luck, then!” followed by a passport-stamp.

    I suppose that it is time to make another phone call to the Prime Minister’s house. Seriously, that’s possible in Canada, although one rapidly expends whatever political capital one might have possessed beforehand.

    You’ll find similar little ‘surprises’ tucked away within Canadian immigration regulations. That particular part of the matter is now sub-judice, so I durst not say more until my solicitor gives the nod.

    1. Ah, there you go. Most people haven’t heard of it. Those affected have. Same old same old.

      So what sort of inconvenience are we talking about here? Just pre-op people, or is anyone liable to be targeted? Because the fact that I’m trans is probably on an airline security record somewhere.

      1. At the moment, pre-op people are at risk of harrassment when entering the country from outside (or when leaving via aircraft) for any purpose.

        In marital law specifically (alas) there may be a legal black hole: whilst any cisgender non-Canadian (regardless of gender combination) may freely marry a Canadian, transgender non-Canadian people **might** not. Potentially-relevant precedents are (domestically) Nixon vs. VRR and (in common law) Corbett v. Corbett (which is English case law, but which also has been dragged into current Canadian legal arguments).

        As mentioned earlier, this is sub judice and I durst not prejudice the outcome by discussing it beyond vague generalities. I am not the solicitor in this matter, and disclaim any competency in judging the merits of such precedents.

        Bottom line is this: “don’t yet count upon being able to marry a Canadian if your home country considers you to have any exceptional status whatsoever”.

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