At 82, Judith Hodgson hasn’t been driving for a couple of years and she’s not a frequent flyer.
So when the Victoria woman booked a trip to Winnipeg for her sister’s birthday, she didn’t think about renewing her expired driver’s licence. Hodgson was denied boarding on her Sept. 11 WestJet flight when she was unable to produce the identification required for domestic travel.
But Hodgson said the problem was not that her driver’s licence was expired, but that her other forms of ID didn’t state her gender.
Hodgson said that, when she tried to board, a gate agent noticed her licence was expired, and said they needed to see valid ID with her gender.
Transport Canada sets the rules for identification needed for domestic travel. Travellers without valid government-issued photo ID must produce two pieces of government-issued ID, one of which must include the person’s name and date of birth. Until Sept. 18, Transport Canada also required one piece of ID to include the traveller’s sex.
The change in Transport Canada’s regulations comes after reports of other passengers having been denied boarding when trying to use Ontario health cards, which stopped displaying gender in 2016.
“She wouldn’t actually have a problem now if she was flying after Sept. 18,” said Morgan Bell, a spokesperson for WestJet. Bell said the company saw a number of similar situations of passengers who lacked ID that identified their sex before the rules changed.
Hodgson was headed to her hometown for a family gathering of more than 20 relatives.
“I had family picking me up at the other end,” she said. “And my son was there from Ottawa. I’m standing there with tears running.”
Hodgson said she was so distraught watching her plane take off without her, she threatened to flash the gate agents to prove she was female.
“I said: ‘I’m going to send a nude picture of myself to the president of WestJet and the transportation minister and you’ll all be sorry,” Hodgson said. “I was trying to make a joke, because it was so outrageous.”
Hodgson did make it to Winnipeg in the end, but it took applying for an angling licence to get her there.
After her original flight left without her, gate agents applied for a provincial non-tidal angling licence on Hodgson’s behalf.
It cost her $10.
The fishing licence gave Hodgson a piece of government-issued non-photo ID with her name, date of birth and sex. Paired with her social insurance card, Hodgson had what she needed to board.
“The chances of me going back are very slim, really, so it was an important trip,” she said.
Hodgson doesn’t plan to use her new fishing licence, which is valid until March 2020, “but I have a lot of people who’ve said they’d go with me.”