Journal Article

Parentage Law in Canada: The Numbers Game of Standing and Status

Lois Harder and Michelle Thomarat

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 26, issue 1, pages 62-87
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Parentage Law in Canada: The Numbers Game of Standing and Status

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  • Marriage and the Family


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Drawing on Canadian jurisprudence, we explore the courts’ willingness to consider a plural conception of parentage in the context of people deemed to stand in place of a parent, but a two-person limit on parental status designation. While judicial rulings around parental standing invoke a need to insure adequate financial support for children, this rationale is not advanced in the context of parental status. The need to safeguard a two-person limit in the context of who can be a parent is justified in terms of biological relationship, an association between monogamy and democracy, and clarity in the determination of lineage, inheritance, and citizenship. We demonstrate that the rationales supporting parental status rest on very weak grounds and this weakness has become increasingly apparent with the advent of reproductive technologies and the extension of marriage rights to same-sex partners. People may have sex – procreative or otherwise – and children may be born, but the social meaning of these activities is a complicated amalgam in which biology is instrumentally and unevenly invoked in the service of liberal governance. This claim then leads us to pose the following questions: is the two-parent model an adequate expression of the affinities between children and the adults in their lives? Might we conceive of parental status more openly? And what would the consequences of that openness be for individuals and the state?

Journal Article.  11440 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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