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Nova Scotians who don’t exclusively identify as male or female will have the option of choosing ‘X’ on their birth certificates under changes proposed by the province.

Proposed amendments to the Vital Statistics Act introduced Wednesday would also make the display of the sex field optional on birth certificates, and waive the $24.95 fee to change the sex indicator.

Another change would remove the requirement for anyone 16 or older to get a statement from a health professional to change the sex indicator on their birth certificate.

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Service Nova Scotia Minister Geoff MacLellan said the changes are about making Nova Scotia more inclusive and are “the right thing to do.”

“For us this was an easy one in terms of how we would make these changes,” said MacLellan.

The minister said the changes are the result of broad consultations.

“We covered a number of groups who had specific interest, input, and very important feedback.”

Nova Scotia would join Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories in offering ‘X’ as an option for gender identity.

Saskatchewan and Ontario have the option to not display the sex field on birth certificates, while the federal government uses ‘X’ on passports.

“The proposed changes take many important steps toward meeting the needs of Nova Scotians who do not wish to be identified by sex,” Shae Morse, a non-binary teacher and community advocate, said in a government news release.

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“Providing Nova Scotians with additional options to identify themselves or their children removes a significant barrier facing the LGBTQ community. While there is work left to do to remove barriers for our community, passage of this legislation will truly be worth celebrating.”

MacLellan said about 100 people applied to make the gender change last year.

“This will better reflect how people want to have these documents exist for them ... so I think it’s fair to say that we could see an increase in that number,” said MacLellan.

Other amendments would provide Nova Scotia residents born outside the province with a means of getting documentation that reflects their gender identity and would allow parents to register the birth of their child with the surname of their choice.

The province is also taking steps to restrict the use of third-party online vendors in obtaining birth, marriage and death certificates.

Krista Dewey, the deputy registrar general for vital statistics, said there could be as many as 2,500 applications a year that are made through third party businesses who charge a fee for their service.

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Dewey said Nova Scotia already has an online application process that charges a fee of $39.90, so the costs of using a “middle man” can be significantly higher than they need to be. She said it’s also more secure to have personal information handled directly between the applicant and the province.

“So it’s really just a matter of trying to ensure good consumer protection for people who are making this application. The idea is to create more restrictions around who can apply as a third party applicant.”

MacLellan also introduced amendments to the Change of Name Act on Wednesday that would shorten the time a person born outside of Nova Scotia would have to live in the province before legally changing their name, from three months from one year.

The minister said all of the changes are expected to take effect in January.

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