Surrogacy in Quebec: The law doesn’t protect anyone

Melanie Parnass and her husband, Noah Katz, cradle their newborn son. Melanie Parnass

Melanie Parnass’ one-year-old baby boy wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for surrogacy.

The 37-year-old had been trying for six years to have a child, and one day decided she couldn’t go through another miscarriage.

She turned to surrogacy, and after she failed to find someone independently, she turned to agencies in Ontario.

She selected a surrogate in Oshawa, and after meeting the woman decided to start the process.

“I shipped my embryos from Montreal to Toronto and had to pay the clinic there,” she explained.

Almost one year later, little Spencer Jonah Ryder Katz was born.

“It’s a hard process. Emotionally, you’re putting your trust in someone else,” she said.

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Melanie Parnass and her husband, Noah Katz, watch the birth of their son. Melanie Parnass

Melissa Fafard became a surrogate after her friend asked if she would help her create a life.

Her friend ended up changing her mind, but it sparked something in Fafard’s mind.

The 34-year-old joined Surrogacy in Canada Online to be placed with a family in need.

“They send you profiles of parents looking for a surrogate, then you choose the couple,” Fafard said, adding that she picked a couple from France.

“My ultimate goal was, after having my own son, I wanted to give couples the chance that had been trying really hard to have their own children.”

Surrogates in Canada must be over the age of 21.

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They cannot charge for their services, but they can keep track of their expenses to give to the couple they are in contract with.

In Quebec, however, according to Educaloi, a surrogacy contract has no legal value.

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“There is no guarantee that a couple who hires a surrogate mother will be the child’s legal parents,” explained Diane Skiejka, with Educaloi.

“In the eyes of the law, the surrogate mother is the child’s real mother, regardless of whether she is genetically related to the child.”

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That means the intended parents would have to adopt the child — and that’s where things can get tricky.

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“Neither the surrogate mother, nor her clients can be forced, to honour it (the contract),” Skiejka said.

“The surrogate mother can decide to keep the child because she is the child’s real mother under the law. Similarly, the clients can decide not to take the child.”

Melanie Parnass and her son, Spencer.
Melanie Parnass and her son, Spencer. Melanie Parnass

Because of this, Fafard knew she couldn’t give birth in Quebec.

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“I had to give birth in Ontario so that the Ontario rules would apply for the baby,” she explained.

Educaloi explains Quebec is the only province in Canada that declares surrogacy contracts have no legal value, rather than creating rules for them.

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Parnass spent about $50,000 on the process and says she can’t afford to have a second child.

“He’s amazing, he’s so special, I would love for him to have a sibling, but it’s costly,” she told Global News, adding the laws in Quebec should change.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be like the rest of Canada.”

Melanie Parnass with her family. Melanie Parnass

In 2015, the Quebec government asked the Comité consultative sur le droit de la famille to make recommendations on a complete reform of family law in the province.

The committee specifically recommended regulating surrogacy contracts, but so far, experts say little has been done.

Fafard, who has a two-year-old son of her own, said her reasons for acting as a surrogate were simply altruistic.

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“I don’t want more children. From the beginning, you know you’re giving the babies back to the parents,” she told Global News.

“It’s more like extreme babysitting than growing a little person for yourself. It’s all in the mindset; surrogates don’t want more children, they just want to see the intended parents happy.”

Melissa Fafard acted as a surrogate for a family in France. Melissa Fafard

She was inseminated in November 2016, gave and gave birth to twin boys just five months later in April.

“One was stillborn, the other lived for four minutes,” she said, explaining an infection had gone through her uterine lining.

It’s been just a few months since the babies were lost, but Fafard said she still keeps in touch with the couple from France.

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She also said she hasn’t closed the door on being a surrogate again in the future.

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