Settlement reached for transgender air traveller - a self declaration letter is a solution for this passenger
A settlement has been approved by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) between a complainant who identities as transgender (the Complainant) and Transport Canada.
The case dealt with the challenge faced by some airline passengers when producing identification documents at the boarding gate for verification by air carriers. The former Identity Screening Regulations*, on which the complaint was based, required airlines to compare passenger identity documents against the passenger standing in front of them. If the appearance of the passenger is different from certain identifiers on the identity document (i.e. gender), airline staff could ask clarifying questions to confirm identity. This conversation could present challenges, including privacy concerns, for some passengers.
The Complainant in the case suggested the use of a self-declaration letter which would explain why a passenger’s appearance may differ from the photo on the identity document. While not obligatory, a self-declaration letter could be discreetly presented to airline staff at the boarding gate, facilitating private and respectful communication. The Complainant and Transport Canada worked together with the Commission to develop wording for such a letter.
With the permission of all parties, a template of the letter is being released here. It may be useful to some members of the travelling public. Transport Canada also communicated to airlines that self-declaration letters may be used by passengers to assist them in communicating with airline staff on identity questions such as gender that may arise during the boarding process. While this particular letter was part of the settlement of this case and passengers are not obligated to present self-declaration letters for travel, it could be a useful alternative for communicating with airline staff. The template released here is not officially endorsed by Transport Canada and, if used, should be typewritten.
When confirming identity, the Canadian Human Rights Commission strongly encourages policies that do not rely on gender as an identifier, and that are gender inclusive, to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
*The Identity Screening Regulations have since been replaced by the Secure Air Travel Regulations that are under the authority of the Minister of Public Safety. However the air carrier requirements to verify and compare passengers’ identity have not changed and Transport Canada continues to oversee and enforce the Secure Air Travel Regulations.