O Canada!  We stand on guard.  Pierre Trudeau's legacy lives on as Justice Minister vows to defend our right to marriage.



Three questions:

  1. Is the draft bill within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?
  2. Is the section of the draft bill that extends capacity to marry to persons of the same sex consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
  3. Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Charter protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?



Wording of Draft Bill

Proposal for an Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes.

WHEREAS marriage is a fundamental institution in Canadian society and the Parliament of Canada has a responsibility to support that institution because it strengthens commitment in relationships and represents the foundation of family life for many Canadians;

WHEREAS, in order to reflect values of tolerance, respect and equality consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, access to marriage for civil purposes should be extended to couples of the same sex;

AND WHEREAS everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs;

NOW, THEREFORE, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1. Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.

2. Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Consequential amendments will be added in the bill that is introduced in Parliament.*

* Consequential amendments are changes to other federal statutes that will have to be made as a result of new legislation.



Link to "The Charter - Its Impact"



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Equal Marriage and the Law in Canada

July 17, 2003

Canadian government will defend us
Faith-based bigots will be opposed

Canada's Justice Minister, Martin Cauchon, promised that the Canadian government will resist the interference of the Canadian Catholic Bishops and other religious conservative groups that are trying to impose their faith-based bigotry on Canadians. If these groups are allowed by the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene against same-sex marriage, the Canadian government will oppose them. This marks the first time that the Canadian government will stand with us in any future court actions, defending our Charter rights.

The Justice Minister made the remarks during a press conference announcing the draft legislation on same-sex marriage that was released today. The Canadian government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to respond to three questions (see left sidebar) before the government presents the same-sex marriage bill in Parliament later this year, or early next year (depending on how quickly the Supreme Court of Canada responds).

Kathy Lahey (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)"The wording of this bill is excellent," said Kathleen Lahey, a professor from Queens University, and a lawyer representing some of the couples in the British Columbia marriage challenge. "Although it does refer to extending marriage to same-sex couples in the preamble, it confirms that lesbian women and gay men are 'persons' who can marry each other in Canada. That is fantastic!! It re-integrates lesbian and gay couples with other couples in Canada and brings the days of segregating lesbian and gay couples from heterosexual couples closer to their end!"

There is still some question as to whether the new legislation can be passed by Parliament before Prime Minister Chretien ends his final term in office.

If the issue of same-sex marriage becomes an election issue, the Justice Minister said he will "be more than pleased to travel the country" and defend our right to marriage. No matter what government is in place at the time that the planned marriage bill is tabled in Parliament, the Justice Minister is confident that same-sex marriage is here to stay.

"We believe that it [the marriage bill] is timely, that it respects Canadian values," the Justice Minister said. "If it is true today, it will be true tomorrow for another government."

Reporters questioned the Justice Minister about the change of position in the government. Indeed, the Canadian government fought us bitterly in court, saying terrible things, through their lawyers, about gay and lesbian couples.

"How can the government have changed its position from only four years ago," one reporter asked?

"Society is not static," the Justice Minister said. "It is in constant evolution ... Government is going in the right direction in terms of Canadian society."

The Justice Minister also made it clear that no province will be able to opt out of the legislation.

"Based on the constitution, marriage is a shared jurisdiction," the Justice Minister said. "I'm responsible for the definition of marriage in terms of capacity. Provinces are responsible for solemnization. I asked all the provinces and territories to recognize the new definition ... it's up to them to decide whether to proceed," until the government tables the bill approving the new definition.

When the new legislation is passed, all provinces will be compelled to comply. Meanwhile, however, there is nothing stopping provinces from moving forward to begin recognizing same-sex marriages in their provinces, as has already been done, by court order, in Ontario and British Columbia.

"I invite provinces and territories to proceed and to act according to the draft bill that we have tabled," the Justice Minister said. "We believe that we are going in the right direction ... but as long as there is no decision on the draft bill, it belongs to them [the provinces to decide] ...I'm doing my share on my side, based on my jurisdiction."

Summaries from the Court of Appeal for Ontario:

Summaries from the hearings in Ontario divisional court:

Department of Justice Canada Backgrounder

Ministere de la Justice Canada Document d'information

MailLink to our media coverage of related issues.