1999 the award was first bestowed on a non-U.S. citizen. Svend Robinson was recognized
for his pioneering and successful legislative efforts for gay and lesbian civil
rights as a Vancouver city councilmen, British Columbia legislature and member
of Parliament. Canada today is a world leader in GLBT civil rights because of
year Equality Forum again presented the award to Canadians. The recipients were
Halifax residents Benjie Nycum and .... the co-founders of Young Gay America ...
Young Gay America connects many otherwise isolated youth during a difficult time."
"Yet despite his passionate defense of marriage equality and his role as architect of the bill that would make Canada the third country to legalize same-sex marriage, Cauchon has surprisingly not been accorded much praise or attention from the country’s gay and lesbian community. He’s yet to be invited to a Pride event or a same-sex marriage ceremony in Canada, though he has posed for photographs with a few newlyweds." innewsweekly.com, April 29, 2003
Adovcacy News - Cauchon: caring for Trudeau's Just Society
May 4, 2004
caring for Trudeau's Just Society
"I understand that we have a lot of Canadians visitors here, is that correct? Well we promise to treat you in your stay significantly better than the Flyers are going to treat the Maple Leafs." Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, opening remarks at Equality Forum's International Business Colloquium Dinner, May 1, 2004, prior to a game 5 7-2 victory for Philadelphia over Toronto.
We gathered in Philadelphia's Independence Visitor Center on May 1 at the invitation of Equality Forum to honour individuals who are international role models and leaders. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to thank Martin Cauchon, the Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, for ending the marriage court battle, after Ontario's Court of Appeal ordered the province to register our marriage and begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples (June 10, 2003). Here is an excerpt from the evening:
"At the very beginning of our kick-off event I reflected on a speech by Martin Luther King, where essentially, he goes to a mountain top and sees freedom on the other side," said Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum Founder and Executive Director. "In terms of Canada, it's like going to the American Rockies ... and looking over the other side and seeing freedom. Seeing a country in which there is hate-crime protection. Seeing a country in which there is work-place protection. Seeing a country in which gay military personnel serve and their partners get domestic partner benefits. And seeing a country that embraces marriage equality ... We are at the epicenter of the last, probably, major civil rights movement in North America. We are at a point of time when we can make a difference."
George Smitherman: "The torch of Pierre Trudeau"
"In Canada, we've celebrated some big victories," said George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Province of Ontario, in his introduction to Martin Cauchon. "And one of the things that we're doing this weekend is acknowledging some of the leaders: the heroes who helped deliver these victories. It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce one of these heroes, the Honourable Martin Cauchon, the recipient of the ninth annual International Role Model. A member of Parliament first elected in 1993, Martin Cauchon served as Canada's Attorney General and Minister of Justice from January of 2002 until late last year. Canada, as you may know, has a tradition of producing exceptional Minister's of Justice. Minister's who are bold, courageous, principled reformers.
"In fact, my greatest political hero began his career in federal politics as Canada's Minister of Justice. He assumed this position in the mid-1960's during a time of social unrest and rapid change. He embraced this spirit of reform, bringing in progressive and forward looking changes to Canada's laws on issues such as divorce, and by removing homosexuality from the criminal code. Then, as now, these changes were not without controversy. His response to his critics at that time was memorable. The state, he said, has no place in the bedrooms of the nation ... I'm speaking of course about Pierre Elliott Trudeau who went on to serve with tremendous distinction as Canada's Prime Minister for almost 16 uninterrupted years. Mr. Trudeau passed away in September of 2001, but his legacy of tolerance, justice, equality and compassion live on. It lives on in Canada's political culture, it lives on in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it lives on in people like Martin Cauchon.
"Mr. Cauchon picked up the torch of Pierre Trudeau and in equally bold and courageous strokes he set out to modernize Canada's political and legal landscape, to build on our country's proud legacy as one of the most progressive nations in the world. He's best known for his extraordinary efforts to legalize gay marriage in Canada. He was willing to use the full power of the national government to support a cause which he knew was just. He not only supported it, he embraced it. Today gays and lesbians from around the world are coming to Canada, to my province of Ontario, and to Quebec, and to British Columbia, to take their rightful place at the table of equality to marry the one that they love ...
"Like Mr. Trudeau, he is ahead of his time. He's a true hero and a role model, not only to legislatures, but people everywhere who embrace equality as a fundamental right and freedom. It gives me tremendous pride to present the ninth annual Tom Stoddard International Role Model Award winner, my friend, Martin Cauchon."
The Justice Minister accepted his award from Equality Forum, welcomed with a standing ovation.
"You have a wonderful career ahead of you with the government of Ontario,", Martin Cauchon said to George Smitherman, "but as I said earlier, perhaps in a few years time from now, George will be joining a new team in Ottawa. Who knows? And getting involved in a national basis to work and make sure that equality and a justice society will gain a place in Canada and around the world ...
"Paul Genest, I want you stand up, so people recognize you ... Paul has played a wonderful role in Canada and you have to mention it. People who play a role in the background play a role that very often is as important as people on the front line.
"I'm very honoured to be here tonight. To a certain extent I'm proud to be Canadian. Canada being chosen as the featured country means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot as well to us Canadians. I know that we did a lot over the past two or three decades, and that we have to keep working together. "George mentioned the tradition of Pierre Trudeau. We have to bear in mind one of Pierre Trudeau's nicest legacy, probably, the Canadian Charter of Rights, following the patriation of the Constitution back in 1982. We find in the Canadian Charter of Rights, principles and values that we share as Canadians. Principles and values that should be shared around the world and recognized by each and every human being.
"When I was Justice Minister and it came time to talk about the question of same-sex marriage, I've got to tell you that when I was discussing it with colleagues in my own caucus, the Liberal party, people were afraid to approach the question, to even address the question. Paul will remember that some Members [of Parliament] were telling me that if I was going ahead with that question, as Minister of Justice, that would be, basically, the end of my political life. Notwithstanding what they said, we decided to move ahead. Because I strongly believe, that at some point, in any society, when we're talking about important social issues, like the question of same-sex marriage, like the question of equality that we have in Section 15 in our Canadian Charter of Rights, politicians have to take the leadership. And there is a strong debate in Canada, regarding the roles that are played in courts, by judges, and the roles that politicians have to play. When it comes to the question of same-sex marriage, clearly, we have decided to play a leadership role, and to proceed with what we call a draft bill now. Of course, we have had to convince our caucus, we've had to convince our cabinet colleagues, and we've had to convince as well our then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who I thank very much. Prime Minister Chrétien is the guy who sided with Pierre Trudeau, repatriated our Constitution and gave us the Charter of Rights.
"When we started to talk about [same-sex marriage] the population in Canada was highly divided. We sat with Prime Minister Chrétien and started to look at the situation. Chrétien, at one point, during the famous caucus of North Bay told a member of our caucus, I prefer as a Liberal, I prefer as a Canadian, as a human being, to give rights, than to take away some rights. I was with former Primer Minister Chrétien, in his own office in Ottawa today, and I was with him last week, and he has repeated the same thing. He strongly believes in those values.
"What we did as Canadians, we gave ourselves values back in 1982. What we did, by proceeding with same-sex marriage, we made sure that those values are not just reflected on paper, but that we live by those values, and those values are part of who we are as Canadian.
"Tonight I'm pleased to receive this very dear [award] but I would like to share it with Paul Genest. I do remember when we started to talk about that question, Paul was the special policy advisor to the then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Paul and I, on a daily basis, were talking about the question, about the approach, about the strategy. He really was the guy around Jean Chrétien, talking to him on a daily basis ... Paul played a key role and tonight Paul, I would like to thank you. Two other people that I would like to thank very much is the Clerk of the Privy Council, Alex Himelfarb and my Deputy Minister of Justice Morris Rosenberg. The four of us have been a fantastic team that allowed the delivery of the draft bill before the Supreme Court.
"My last words are about the institute of marriage. When I started travelling across the country talking about same-sex marriage, I faced a lot of opposition of course. When I was talking to people, trying to understand why they were opposed, I've realized that there is no valid reason to oppose, and I've realized that, sadly, there is a lot of homophobia. In my society there is no place at all for homophobia. And that is why I decided to proceed in making sure we put in place in Canada, and if we can around the world, a just society based on equality. Sadly enough homophobia exists still in Canada, and in other countries around the world. Altogether, in Equality Forum, we've got to make sure that we keep fighting in order to keep building a peaceful and just society.
"I believe that if the institution of marriage would be basically more open, if the insitutuion of marriage would be more inclusive, at the end of the day, its a much better institution reflecting who we are ... a stronger institution that [would remain] a cornerstone of society.
"Finally, I just want to tell you that we did it as Canadians because we thought that it was right, and because we sincerely believed in it, and as Senator Lapierre said after his fantastic speech at national caucus, we did it because somehow we have it here [pointing to his chest]."
Our thanks to Equality Forum, including Founder and Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Joe Farrell and the Board of Directors, John Alchin and the National Board of Governors, Jonathan Reese, Jordon Rockford, Alisha Simons (Communications Associate) and all Equality Forum volunteers and participants. Thanks to Darrell Schuurman and Bruce McDonald co-founders of the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for transportation via Air Canada. Hotel accommodation provided by Doubletree Hotel, Philadelphia.