Global Affairs Canada changing policy as gay diplomat wins surrogacy expenses case

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Canada changing policy as gay diplomat wins surrogacy expenses case

In an unprecedented decision by the Public Service Labour Board, a gay Global Affairs Canada employee stationed in China has won a landmark case. The employee, who traveled to the United States for his child’s surrogacy birth, will now have his expenses reimbursed. This ruling, issued in August, declared it discriminatory to deny compensation for travel expenses to same-sex diplomats attending surrogacy births.

Hugues Alexandre Moniz, the father, emphasized the diverse nature of families and the need for agility in supporting them. Moniz’s son, Oscar, aged eight, and his sister Evelyn, both born through surrogacy, live with their fathers in Hong Kong. Moniz expressed hope that this victory would pave the way for others in similar situations, eliminating repetitive obstacles.

This development is a part of Global Affairs Canada’s broader effort to update employment regulations to better retain talent. The case highlights the challenges Ottawa faces in modernizing its foreign service. Moniz, who was assigned to an administrative role at the Canadian consulate in Guangzhou, China, had his initial travel plan for the surrogacy birth approved, including airfare and living expenses.

However, a review committee later questioned the applicability of corporate health care policies to Moniz and his husband, creating a hurdle due to the birth’s location in Indianapolis and the surrogacy aspect. Despite similar cases of colleagues traveling for childbirth, the government panel ruled that Moniz’s situation did not warrant additional coverage beyond standard parental leave.

In response, Moniz brought the case to the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board, which found the government’s interpretation of policies discriminatory. Ottawa’s narrow view of the benefits, focused on medical treatment at posting locations rather than considering surrogacy cases, was deemed exclusionary.

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Adjudicator Marie-Claire Perrault highlighted the emotional toll of the discrimination, particularly in contrasting Moniz’s experience with that of his heterosexual colleagues. The department’s spokeswoman, Marilyne Guèvremont, confirmed that Global Affairs Canada would comply with the board’s decision.

Further, Global Affairs is reevaluating its policies, with a preliminary plan advocating for updates through an intersectional and anti-racist lens, focusing on women and LGBTQ+ employees. Pamela Isfeld, leader of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, emphasized the outdated nature of current policies and the need for modernization to reflect current family dynamics and encourage diverse postings.

Moniz, proud of his role in Global Affairs, sees this as an opportunity for positive change within the department, advocating for proactive efforts rather than passive acceptance of outdated norms.

This report was initially published by The Canadian Press on January 13, 2024.

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