Attention: For optimal viewing, please use Firefox or Google Chrome. This website is not fully supported by Internet Explorer.

Making Amends: The importance of exercising discretion fairly

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

This report tells the story of Ms. M., a woman in her 70s who was known as Elizabeth her whole life but whose name was spelled incorrectly on her birth certificate. When Ms. M. applied to the Vital Statistics Agency to amend the given name on her birth certificate issued in the 1940s, she had no idea of the arduous months-long process that would ensue.

This case highlights two key fairness principles:

  • First, it underscores the importance of public bodies considering personal circumstances when making decisions. Decision-makers often have broad discretion when delivering public services. In this case, the Agency did not consider Ms. M’s individual circumstances.
  • Second, it highlights how policies that guide decision-makers must be consistent with the legislative framework. Legislation can be complicated, and public bodies often create detailed policies to support their staff in efficiently making decisions that are principled, consistent and fair.

This report makes three recommendations:

  1. the Agency reconsider Ms. M’s application on its merits;
  2. the Agency change its policy so that it is consistent with the legislation; and,
  3. the Agency provide training to staff on exercising discretion fairly.

The Agency has reached out to Ms. M directly to inform her that it has reconsidered its decision and will allow her name amendment application. The Agency has also agreed to amend its policy and it will provide staff training on this policy change.

To view the news release, please click here