New legislation will reduce barriers for people

  • March 08, 2023

From the Government of British Columbia

British Columbia will become the first province in Canada to systematically amend provincial laws to remove outdated gendered and binary language, better reflecting the diversity of the province and ensuring everyone can access provincial programs and services.

Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, has introduced new modernizing legislation to correct outdated language by amending more than 2,300 instances of outdated gendered and binary terms from 21 ministries across 210 provincial statutes.

“Words have a powerful effect, whether written or spoken, and all British Columbians deserve to see themselves reflected in B.C.’s programs and services,” said Bailey. “We know that outdated language across government can exclude thousands of people. That’s why we’re taking action to replace these words with diversity, equity and inclusion at the top of our minds.”

When approved, the Miscellaneous Statutes (Modernization) Amendment Act, 2023, will group together gendered and binary language changes as a streamlined way for government to correct and repeal outdated language.

“Trans and non-binary people, particularly youth, can be erased by laws that use only he and she,” said Adrienne Smith, litigation director at the Catherine White Holman Wellness Society trans legal clinic. “This change signals to those people that they are important, and that they are included and protected by the law.”

Some changes to gendered words include amendments to ensure inclusive language acknowledging gender equity and diversity.

Terms, such as “he/she” or “sister/brother,” have been replaced with gender-neutral alternatives. Other terms, such as “chairman” or “workmen,” have been updated to refer to the “chair” or “workers.”

Since 2020, the government has also amended more than 1,400 instances of outdated gendered and binary language from provincial regulations. Changes like this help all British Columbians see themselves in legislation.  

“The Government of British Columbia has an obligation to serve all citizens respectfully and equitably.” said Aaron Devor, founder and inaugural chair in transgender studies, University of Victoria. “Ensuring that government documents use language that recognizes and includes British Columbians of all genders brings us one step closer to that ideal.”

These amendments support the StrongerBC Economic Plan by ensuring all British Columbians have access to government services regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race or cultural beliefs.

“It’s crucial that everyone is and feels included within B.C. government’s services,” said Kelli Paddon, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “This is another part of our work to create a stronger and more inclusive B.C., and this legislation is a big step toward making life better for all British Columbians.”

To further support equity, the Government of B.C. recently introduced legislation to better protect people from the non-consensual disclosure of intimate images and pay transparency legislation to help close B.C.’s gender pay gap.