Halifax mom shocked by form for ‘unmarried mother’ to confirm baby’s dad

A Halifax mother says a letter she received from Nova Scotia’s vital statistics department is outrageous and outdated because it requires the “unmarried mother” to confirm the identity of her baby’s father.

Kirstin Howell delivered Milo six weeks ago with her fiancé, Greg Moss, by her side. The new parents filled out the standard registration of live birth form while they were at the hospital, and didn’t think anything of it until they received the letter earlier this week.

The letter says that because Milo is “a child born to an unmarried mother/parent,” the parents must fill out another form, the parent declaration, in front of a witness like the division registrar of births, a notary or a justice of the peace.

“I feel like it’s 1962 instead of 2019,” Howell said.

“I think it sends the message that it’s shameful to be unmarried and that I’m not to be trusted to state who the father is on my child’s birth record.”

Kirstin Howell says on top of adjusting to life with her newborn, Milo, she now has to find an official to help fill out the paperwork before Dec. 1. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The family has a deadline to send the document before Dec. 1, or Moss’s information will be removed from the original registration form.

Vital statistics has received other complaints about the document, which has been sent to unmarried parents for at least a decade, said Krista Dewey, the deputy registrar general.

She said a review of the form has been underway for several months.

“We want our forms and processes to reflect the lives of people of Nova Scotia,” she said.

Dewey said the initial registration form only has room for one parent to sign it. If the parents are married, there’s a provision to accept that one signature on behalf of both parents.

NDP MLA Susan Leblanc says the Vital Statistics Act is outdated, and still includes language like spinster and illegitimate child. (CBC)

“The way that we’re acting now is based on our current legislative requirements,” Dewey said.

She couldn’t give an estimate for when the review might be complete, but said unmarried parents will have to continue to submit the parent declaration form in the meantime.

‘Archaic’ law, says MLA

A review of the Vital Statistics Act is long overdue, said NDP MLA Susan Leblanc. She introduced legislation a year ago calling for the act to be updated, but it has not been passed.

“Currently in the Act, if a child is born and their parents are not married, they’re considered illegitimate,” she said. “I just think it’s archaic, frankly.”

Howell, meanwhile, will make another trip to the hospital to make sure the forms are filled out. She doesn’t want to risk having her fiancé’s name removed from his son’s birth registration.

“Other people might think well this is just a small thing, but it’s just another form of discrimination toward women, toward people who choose to have different families,” she said.


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