Learning to Fly? Sorry. No can do.

Quite a few people have written me asking about the (not so) new airline travel regulations in Canada.  Many of the headlines scream about the fact that Transpeople will not be allowed to fly.

Transgender People are Completely Banned from Boarding Airplanes in Canada reads one headline.

Conservative MPs laugh at concerns that trans people face flight ban reads another.

Discrimination Takes Flight reads an editorial.

I’d like to be able to say that’s all hyperbole.  I’d like to.  But I try not to spread falsehood.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP, brought up the issue in parliament.

Later he tweeted:

This government keeps pushing its agenda of intolerance and hopes we don’t notice. This is just wrong.

NDP MP Randall Garrison likewise spoke in parliament, as did Dany Morin (in French).

Transport Canada is not aware of any case of a transgendered or transsexual individual in possession of a medical document who has not been permitted to board an airplane since the publication of the Regulations in 2010. If you read the complete Regulations, you will see that paragraph 5.2(2)(a) does not prevent the transgendered and transsexual community from travelling by air. If, for medical reasons, a passenger’s facial features do not correspond to the photo on his or her identification, the air carrier may authorize the passenger to board a plane if he or she provides a medical certificate relating to this.

–Maryse Durette, Senior Advisor, Media Relations, Transport Canada

The regulation, which required no public discussion because it was not a law passed by any legislative body, but rather a rule adopted by a ministerial office, reads:

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

(a) the passenger presents a piece of photo identification and does not resemble the photograph;

(b) the passenger does not appear to be the age indicated by the date of birth on the identification he or she presents;

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

(d) the passenger presents more than one form of identification and there is a major discrepancy between those forms of identification.

(2) Despite paragraph (1)(a), an air carrier may transport a passenger who presents a piece of photo identification but does not resemble the photograph if

(a) the passenger’s appearance changed for medical reasons after the photograph was taken and the passenger presents the air carrier with a document signed by a health care professional and attesting to that fact; or

(b) the passengers’s face is bandaged for medical reasons and the passenger presents the air carrier with a document signed by a health care professional and attesting to that fact.

–Pierre Floréa, Press Secretary, Ministre des Transports

Garrison and transportation critic Olivia Chow have drafted a motion to rescind 5.2 (1) (c).

The minister has failed to recognize that this provision clearly discriminates against transgender Canadians, which constitutes a violation of their fundamental mobility rights under the Charter.

–Olivia Chow

Conservative MPs just don’t see an issue.

To them, I guess there’s something funny about transgendered people. It was quite offensive.  This is a basic violation of rights and fuels discrimination of transgender people, not only with the regulation, but actually laughing at the question.

–Randall Garrison

What’s the big issue, you ask?  Transgender people don’t always undergo medical procedures to change their body morphology and hence possess the medical documentation required to claim an exception.  Instead those people will have to rely on the looksist attitudes of Transportation Safety personnel to determine whether or not they can board a flight.

The Transportation Ministry says that no transpeople with the proper documentation have been prohibited from flying, but they do not say if any transpeople without the required documentation were prohibited.  Nor do they have figured on how many transpeople have been discouraged from flying.

1 comment

    • Robyn on February 4, 2012 at 00:07


    Canada nearly added transgender to their civil rights laws last year, but Harper called for a general election, which put a stop to the legislation.  There are two bills to add transgender to the civil rights laws this session.

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