News Release: GNWT Introduces Changes to the Vital Statistics Act

July 31, 2017
News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (July 28, 2017) – The GNWT has introduced two important changes to the Vital Statistics Act that promote inclusion and respect:  the ability to use single names based on traditional culture, and changing the sex designation on a birth certificate to better reflect gender identity.

Single traditional name as legal name

NWT residents can now use single traditional names as their legal name, as long as it is based on their traditional culture.

The amendment to the Vital Statistics Act to allow for use of single names on birth documents supports the efforts of NWT Indigenous people to reclaim their traditions and culture.  This also applies to residents from other cultures that have a tradition of single names.

This is an important step in building a culture of respect and trust. Work continues to allow Indigenous characters to be used in GNWT databases so that these can appear on identity documents such as birth certificates, health cards and drivers’ licenses.

To apply for a single name, residents will need to complete the Application for Change of Name.


A third option for gender on birth certificates

Individuals born in the NWT may now apply to change the gender on their birth registration without first having to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

The Northwest Territories is the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer a third gender option.

Individuals who do not identify as male or female can now choose gender X on their birth certificate if they were born in the NWT.  This is to promote inclusion and fight discrimination against transgender and non-binary people.

To apply for a change in gender, individuals will need to complete an application to Change Sex Designation and include the required documentation.  There are different forms:  one for adults, one for minors and one for 16-18 years olds who live independently. 

Contact Vital Statistics, Health Services Administration toll free at 1-800-661-0830.



“The practice of using a single name was a part of Indigenous traditional practices and also used in other cultures.  One of the legacies of colonization and residential school systems was the prohibition of this practice. The removal of the legislative barrier in the Vital Statistics Act that allows Indigenous people and residents of other cultures to reclaim their traditional names is one step in our commitment to support the revitalization of traditional practices and culture. 

The changes to the Vital Statistics Act also marks an important step towards empowering transgender and non-binary people so that they can self-identify, without the requirement for them to undergo surgery to make changes to their birth registration documents.  The amendments to the legislation will help build a respectful environment for transgender and non-binary individuals accessing GNWT services.”

- Honourable Glen Abernethy, Minister of Health and Social Services, GNWT


Quick facts:

  • Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Action 17) asks for all levels of governments to enable residential school survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential school system including revisions to official identity documents such as the birth certificate.
  • The Department of Health and Social Services have notified other GNWT departments as well as the Government of Canada on changes to the Vital Statistics Act, and how these changes will affect them.
  • The Department of Health and Social Services is currently working with other departments on making changes to information systems and databases to allow for Indigenous fonts. This is a complex and difficult process as changes will affect multiple information systems specific to Health and Social Services as well as other departments.
  • The NWT is the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer a third gender option X.
  • The Department of Health and Social Services does not have authority over other organizations/ jurisdictions acceptance of the gender X option or single names.
  • NWT health card does not have a gender identifier so there is no need reapply for a new card.


Related Links

Media Contact        

Damien Healy
Manager of Communications
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
1-867-767-9090 ext. 49034