Justice Minister says that Canadian rights and freedoms "can be interpreted in many ways."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"I guess it comes down to some fundamental differences in terms of beliefs. My own view is that gay and lesbian couples should be able to operate very freely, and in fact they do. Some fairly high profile marriages have taken place in a church in Ontario."
Roy Cullen
October 3, 2002

 

 

 

 

Click for more details on our Atlantic Tour in support of equal marriage - November 3-8, 2002

 

 

 

 

"…will the minister explain why he disappointed so many people this summer when he decided to appeal the decisions of the Ontario Divisional Court and the Quebec Superior Court concerning section 15? It is amazing that the Minister of Justice did not support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms"
Réal Ménard
October 3, 2002

 

 

 

External link to OutPersonals

 

 

 

Click to read our coverage on "Liberal MP claims our families deserve second-class status in law."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I wouldn't want the Parliament of Canada to be dictating to churches what they should respect or not respect," Mr. Clark told reporters yesterday. "But I think in terms of rights that are related to marriage, those should be available to all individuals."
Joe Clark, Ottawa Citizen
September 19, 2002

 

 

 

 

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"There is much more to marriage as a societal institution, in my view, than the act of heterosexual intercourse leading to the birth of children. Moreover, the authorities are clear that marriage is not dependant upon the presence of children; nor are incapacity or an unwillingness to have children a bar to marriage or a ground for divorce."
Justice R. Blair
Ontario Superior Court
July 12, 2002

 

 

 

 

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"The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage. For those same-sex couples who do wish to marry, the impugned restriction represents a rejection of their personal aspirations and the denial of their dreams."
Justice H. LaForme
Ontario Superior Court
July 12, 2002

 

 

 

 

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October 4, 2002

Canada's Justice Minister
not sure rights are for everyone
It all depends on your "beliefs" - Liberal MP

The speech from the throne, delivered on Sept. 30, 2002, outlines the mandate for the next session of Parliament in Canada. It is supposed to embody the Prime Minister's mandate, led by his cabinet MPs. This year's speech was criticized by many for being heavy with election promises and light on details. Most notable, was the absence of any mention of same-sex marriage, although it is a major issue in the Canadian political landscape.

Yesterday (Oct. 3), in Canada's House of Commons, members of parliament debated the merits of the Liberal government's plans (or lack thereof). Eventually, as we knew it would, the love that Liberals dare not register, was brought out into the open once again.

Roy Cullen, a MP from the governing "Liberal" party was speaking in the house about the throne speach, droning on, when fellow MP Roy Bailey, from the Alliance party (home to Canada's extreme right) stood up.

"I think he said that the purpose of marriage was procreation, frankly, that is an insult to the many couples who are not able to have children, elderly couples who marry and many gay and lesbian partners who raise children"
Svend Robinson
October 3, 2002

"Mr. Speaker," Bailey began, "I want to pose a question to my colleague opposite, one that was not really dealt with in the throne speech itself but one that is on the minds of thousands of Canadians coast to coast. (see related news coverage)"

Would the Liberal MP, the Alliance MP wondered, agree that it "would be a terrible injustice" if the Supreme Court of Canada upholds the right of marriage for same-sex couples and "change that which we inherited from generations?"

Roy Cullen, in all his liberalness told his Alliance colleague, "In my view, if people are of such an inclination that they need to have a relationship and the only way to have a meaningful relationship is with someone of the same sex, then I say that the most important thing in life is to have a meaningful relationship. However, I do not believe that this relationship needs to be recognized by the state as a marriage. I think marriage was designed for a purpose, which is the procreation of children."

Svend Robinson, the New Democratic Party member from Burnaby-Douglas, British Columbia stood to defend equality for all families, not just those with the right "beliefs".

"Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the last exchange and ask the hon. member perhaps to clarify why gay and lesbian people, who are involved in committed, loving relationships and who want the choice of celebrating those relationships through marriage, should be denied that choice in a society that reflects and celebrates diversity. The Ontario and Quebec courts have ruled that way. When the hon. member suggests, and I think he said that the purpose of marriage was procreation, frankly, that is an insult to the many couples who are not able to have children, elderly couples who marry and many gay and lesbian partners who raise children. Would the member clarify why it is that in any way we would be weakening the institution of marriage by allowing gay and lesbian people to have that choice? Surely that is the essence of equality in a democratic society."

"Mr. Speaker, Cullen replied, "I guess it comes down to some fundamental differences in terms of beliefs. My own view is that gay and lesbian couples should be able to operate very freely, and in fact they do. Some fairly high profile marriages have taken place in a church in Ontario. However I am strongly of the view that while we should not create impediments for people who are gay or lesbian to form very meaningful relationships, I do not believe that it is incumbent upon the state to recognize those relationships as marriages. It goes back to, I suppose, a very fundamental view of what marriage is meant to be. While I respect the rights of people to form the ..."

Before the Liberal MP had a chance to square equal rights with bigotry (something the government has always failed to do), the Deputy Speaker interrupted, to quiet the house (even politicians have limits of tolerance for hypocracy).

"Order, please. I only have so much generosity given the large number of people who want to speak on the debate of the day.

The house moved on to other questions and business, until MP Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ) stood to challenge Canada's Justice Minister.

Kerin Bourassa with the Famous Five on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
Click to enlarge

Canada says we do not form "a special kind of monogamous opposite-sex union with spiritual, social, economic and contractual dimensions." In effect, we are not persons. Kevin Bourassa stands with the "Famous Five" monument on Parliament Hill - honouring the struggle of Canadian women who fought to be recognized as persons in order to participate in politics.

"…will the minister explain why he disappointed so many people this summer when he decided to appeal the decisions of the Ontario Divisional Court and the Quebec Superior Court concerning section 15? It is amazing that the Minister of Justice did not support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms … Section 15 provides for equal rights. Why is the minister appealing these decisions?"

Martin Cauchon responded vaguely (it's easy to see why the government is criticized for lack of leadership). All Canadians should be concerned when their Justice Minister is so casual about honouring our Charter. Our rights and freedoms "can be interpreted in many ways", he said.

The Liberal government has obviously decided to err on the side of bigotry and discrimination, hiding behind administration and bureaucracy, as that kind often does. Cauchon's words sounded like parliamentary bingo, as he called out the buzz words in a semiotic smoke-screen. He spoke of consultation and parliamentary committees and papers and responsibilities and process and legal considerations and in the end, he said nothing worthy of a Canadian Justice Minister.

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

Click here for House of Commons Debate for Oct. 3, 2002


September 19, 2002

Conservative Party Leader Joe Clark
Supports Equal Marriage
Surprised Liberal Government Supports Discrimination

Canada's Progressive Conservative party leader, Joe Clark, says he supports equal marriage for same-sex couples in law.

"It would depend on the language of the law. But in principle, I would, personally," the former Prime Minister said, as reported in today's Ottawa Citizen.

Clark says he was "surprised" that the government announced it would appeal the July 12 Ontario judgement. Three judges said that banning gay and lesbian marriages violdates the equality rights guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Conservative party leader Joe Clark joins call for equal marriage
Love's Tory

"I wouldn't want the Parliament of Canada to be dictating to churches what they should respect or not respect," Mr. Clark told reporters yesterday. "But I think in terms of rights that are related to marriage, those should be available to all individuals."

Mr. Clark has been criticized in the past for participating as a Grand Marshall in Calgary's Pride parade and some have speculated that the Vatican might excommunicate the Catholic leader for his support of human rights.

We wrote a letter to Mr. Clark on June 12, 2001, thanking him for his leadership. We asked him:

"Will you please take the next step to show that conservatism, family values, and gay marriage are not incompatible?"

"To ignore the gay and lesbian community for fear of public criticism would be to deny them the dignity that each of us is owed."
Joe Clark, email to Kevin Bourassa, July 6, 2001

Mr. Clark responded, in part (on July 6, 2001):

"It is the duty of each Member of Parliament to represent his or her constitutents without prejudice or preference. I fundamentally believe in the equality of each person and believe that everyone should be treated with respect and understanding. To ignore the gay and lesbian community for fear of public criticism would be to deny them the dignity that each of us is owed."

Clark did not quite articulate his support for equal marriage then, but he has done so now, and we thank him again.

The NDP and Bloc Quebecois also support same-sex marriage. The Liberal party stands with the infamous Alliance party in supporting discrimination. The provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have called on Ottawa to stop this fight against gay and lesbian families. So have the Law Commission of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Unions and university groups have joined the call, and private citizens everywhere are writing letters and making phone calls.

We call on community, spiritual, business, and political leaders everywhere to stand with us to testify against Ottawa's ongoing discrimination.

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell


September 16, 2002

Ottawa Uses Church-based Argument to Justify Continued Human Rights Violation
Constitution takes backseat to procreation prejudice

On ne doute pas de l'accessibilité au mariage d'une femme très âgée!
(translation: We don't deny marriage to elderly women!)
Quebec Superior Court, September 6, 2002

Canadian Government says we do not meet the requirement for marriage because we don't procreate in the manner  they say is definitive.Ottawa's Justice Department is increasingly straining logic and the concept of good governance as it continues to stand alongside religious extremists fighting to maintain discrimination against gay and lesbian families. Gays and lesbians do not meet the "core opposite-sex requirements" of marriage, the government claims. It's all about sex and reproduction in the marital bed, according to the Justice Minister. He won't allow children's same-sex parents to be married.

"This understanding of marriage views the institution as a special kind of monogamous opposite-sex union with spiritual, social, economic and contractual dimensions," the Minister's lawyer Roslyn Levine writes.

"The fact that same-sex couples do not come within the current meaning of marriage ... relates to the fact that their unique relationship does not meet the core, opposite-sex requirement of marriage."

Levine, working for the Justice Minister, practically trips over herself, trying to draw distinctions between who is "special" and who is "unique" and how the two are different.

"I do not accept that the objective of procreation is a basis that can support the restriction against same-sex marriage. Rather, it could be reasonably argued ... that it appears to be a mere pretext used to rationalize discrimination against lesbians and gays."
Justice H. LaForme
Ontario Superior Court
July 12, 2002

Ottawa, like the Vatican, is attempting to portray gays and lesbians as "other" and not like couples who are the participants in the "spiritual, social, economic and contractual dimensions" of marriage. This, of course, is a lie and one that contributes to the further isolation of citizens across the country. It is a hateful proposition, because it comes not out of ignorance, but out of willful disregard for the lives they so easily discount for self-serving reasons that have nothing to do with the welfare of humanity.

"Excluding gays and lesbians from marriage disregards the needs, capacities, and circumstances of same-sex spouses and their children," wrote Justice LaForme in the Ontario divisional court judgement issued on July 12, 2002. "It declares an entire class of persons unworthy of the recognition and support of state sanction for their marriages ..."

The Ontario judgement said that "the evidence actually demonstrates that it was only recently - when same-sex couples began to advance claims for equal recognition of their conjugal relationships" that procreation began to emerge as an excuse to keep gays and lesbians out of marriage.

But, as Justice LaForme pointed out, "it is well-established in annulment cases that a marriage is valid and not voidable despite the fact that one spouse refuses to have sexual intercourse, or is infertile, or insists on using contraceptives when having sexual intercourse."

Further, "where a husband is unable to consummate the marriage due to impotence resulting from advanced age", Canadian courts "have consistently ruled that the marriage is understood to be for the purpose of 'companionship' and is therefore valid, and not voidable."

The views of Justice LaForme were shared by his colleague Justice Blair in his reasons for finding impediments to same-sex marriage unconstitutional."There is much more to marriage as a societal institution, in my view, than the act of heterosexual intercourse leading to the birth of children", Justice Blair wrote. "Moreover, the authorities are clear that marriage is not dependant upon the presence of children; nor are incapacity or an unwillingness to have children a bar to marriage or a ground for divorce."

Justice Laforme provided yet another example of law in the case of Baxter v. Baxter in the House of Lords (1948). In this case a man sought to annul his marriage because his wife refused to have sex with him unless he used a condom. The House of Lords denied the annulment - and although the court expressed the view that raising children in a family of a particular faith was the essence of marriage, it added, "But this is not the same thing as saying ... that procreation of children is the principal end of marriage."

The Ontario court and the subsequent Quebec court judgement both strongly rejected the government's unimaginative and desparate argument.

"I do not accept that the objective of procreation is a basis that can support the restriction against same-sex marriage," Justice Laforme wrote. "Rather, it could be reasonably argued ... that it appears to be a mere pretext used to rationalize discrimination against lesbians and gays."

It is easy to see that our current Liberal government is attempting to justify its continued persecution of gays and lesbians by saying our relationships are inferior to opposite-sex couples. This repugnant approach has been rejected repeatedly by the courts.

"Same-sex couples experience, and raise children as a result of a variety of reproductive and parenting arrangements, none of which is unique to same-sex partners," Justice LaForme wrote. "Both same-sex and heterosexual couples foster children, adopt children, conceive children by means of assisted conception and surrogacy, and form blended families with children from previous relationships. The fact that many heterosexual couples also conceive children through heterosexual intercourse is not, I find, a rational basis for distingishing between heterosexual and same-sex couples by granting only the former access to the institutional support of marriage."

Justice Blair reached the same conclusion.

"If heterosexual procreation is not essential to the nature of the institution, then the same-sex couples' sexual orientation is the only distinction differentiating heterosexual couples from homosexual couples in terms of access to the institution of marriage. For all the reasons articulated by Justice LaForme, this differentiation is discriminatory of the same-sex couples' equality rights as set out in section 15 of the Charter and cannot stand."

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

Filmmaker Flavia Fontes captures the true story of a Brazilian couple, who the Catholic church refuses to marry because of a Vatican law that says a man must be able to copulate to be married: 'Forbidden Wedding'


August 30, 2002

Feeling Blue After It All

How Ottawa let us down - while others pick us up

Feeling blue after it all.  How Ottawa let us down.I have some concerns this evening as I sit to write this and I don't quite know where to find answers or where to look for sage, wise advice. So it is to you that I turn my inquiry, in the hope of finding a plan of action.

With great ambivalence about my own feelings on the issue of pursuing a "right" to legitimate GLBT inclusion in the secular ritual of marriage, I sat and watched the ruling of July 12, 2002 with great interest. Interest sparked by yet another challenge to institutional marginalization of Canada's queer citizens compelled me to invest in the political weight that would back this ruling and either incite change in our country towards the betterment or detriment of the involved minority. The Ontario court ruling was, on the whole, good news for me, in that this event could have meant that my "Universal Human Rights" would soon come to realization and that I could call myself a full member of the Canadian citizenry without a need to ironically wink at the word "Citizen." But quite the opposite has come to pass in the wake of this ruling and I don't know what can be done.

Justice Minister Cauchon's comments - from my education on the concept of our Government, Party lines and Cabinet solidarity - speak to the fact that the ruling Liberal Party is willing to deny our/my Human Rights until a court tells them that they have no choice but to grant us/me them. Our representative Government has put into print their policy on homophobia and discrimination: it's not a good time to not be homophobic as a Party. But this is more than politics. More than timing. More than a simple matter of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.The Ontario court ruling was, on the whole, good news for me, in that this event could have meant that my "Universal Human Rights" would soon come to realization and that I could call myself a full member of the Canadian citizenry without a need to ironically wink at the word "Citizen." But quite the opposite has come to pass in the wake of this ruling and I don't know what can be done.

This is me being told that I am not worth fighting for. My rights can wait. And this is from a Liberal Government who, aside from the potential of an NDP majority in the House, represent the best chance for social inequalities to be brought to the forefront of National debate. So what do I do? What can we do?

Although there are many important messages to be sent regarding the initial issue of Marriage rights, I think that we have let this issue become muddled in that cause. The focus of this needs to be about the denial of Human Rights and Equality for all Canadians, and this is something that "the GLBT community" [however defined] is going to have to accomplish. We need to bring this discussion into the territory of public debate about discrimination on a massive scale by the ruling Members of the House - to point out that the Canadian Alliance fully supports this appeal to the July 12 ruling. What more of a warning signal exists to the Liberals if not that their enemy is no longer their enemy on this issue [along the lines of the 2000 election campaign rhetoric]?

I refuse to let this overt rejection of my belonging-ness in this country become a debate about the need for Marriage licenses for same-sex couples - this is a crucial moment of organizing that must look beyond the terms of discussion that the Government is willing to frame this issue with and shed light on the larger issue. Although Canadians might be divided on the issue of Marriage rights, we have a track record of blindly fighting against Human Rights violations. Now is the time to harness that National indignance and boldly tell our Government that their actions are reprehensible.

So this is where I am at. I do not know where to start with this, but this list is one concrete group of individuals that I can assume has some common social mindedness and will be able to advise on this. What are we going to do? If we are to be the Alumni Chapter carrying a banner of "Pride" then I demand that hold fast and true, and incite action as a group held by at least this much commonality.

Discussion is a beginning. Proliferating this discussion beyond this immediate circle is even better. This must become THE topic of debates, of organizing, and of strategizing. Please don't let this pass by without thought - you also feel the sting of this discriminatory slap, whether it is felt now or at some point down the line. So FWD this to another list, bring the discussion to at least one other forum and your beginning will be realized.

I'm going to try and have some "faith" in the ideal that "an individual can affect change" in this country and reach out to more individuals who might feel a twinge of that same hope.

Michael Bickerton
BA [Hons], UWO 2001 - Media, Information & Technoculture, MA Candidate, York/Ryerson - Communication & Culture

From a letter to the University of Western Ontario GLBT Alumni Chapter.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and contributing to change!

samesex@samesexmarriage.ca


August 1, 2002

Getting to YES - The Only Option

Ottawa has heard the wake-up call

 

Getting to Yes - Feds feel need to act (photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2002)These days, an appeal in a significant court case seems automatic to most people - a matter of course as justice winds its way to an inevitable conclusion in the Supreme Court of Canada. Ottawa may have been surprised, last week, when opinion makers from across the country were critical about the government's lack of leadership on the issue of same-sex marriage.

How could a Liberal government, with a majority of seats, in its third term, with no strong opposition, lack the fortitude to honour its own legacy - the Canadian Charter? Even Ontario, the Tory bastion of conservatism and the common-sense revolution, had stood in support of us (Thank you!). It would have been funny, in an Alice-in-Wonderland-sort-of-way, if it also wasn't deeply hurtful.

Gays and lesbians across the country, and indeed around the world, saw the judgement on July 12 as a victory, not only for the GLBT community, but for people everywhere who champion human and civil rights. When the Canadian government announced their appeal, in absentia, they turned that victory into a defeat, wounding the GLBT community more, and judging by the media, offending many Canadians across the country as well. An appeal would be expected from a corporation or a private person or group, but the Government was supposed to defend its citizens from discrimination, not contribute to it.

But the Liberal feds have begun to realize that many Canadians were deeply disturbed by the government's decision to appeal a ruling in favour of same-sex marriage. The Globe and Mail ran a front page story, that confirms cabinet ministers will meet by phone next week to discuss the issue.

Pressure is mounting for the Government to take a position and serve as an example to Canadians. In addition to three provinces (Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba), Toronto City Council passed a resolution July 31 calling on the Prime Minister to withdraw the appeal.

Only One Solution

The courts were clear. Civil unions or registered domestic partnerships will not do. There is no compromise. Government must let gays and lesbians marry or a long legal battle will continue, with an outcome already clearly outlined - both sides know it.

So some, hoping to duck the moral issue, have suggested why doesn't the government get out of the marriage business and be done with it? This would cause tremendous political problems. By getting out of marriage, the government would effectively make the gay and lesbian community the culprits who destroyed marriage and a huge backlash would ensue.The government can't get out of the marriage business, but it can get out of the discrimination business.

We're looking for an inclusive solution, not one that excludes (only those who belong to faith groups would have the holy sacrament of marriage - city hall would be out of the marriage business and could only register your union). The government's exit from marriage would be a negative approach, not neutral.

There would be legal problems that the feds would face if they tried to abandon marriage too. The federal government has control over who can marry but they do not have control over how people marry (i.e. solemnization of marriage). That belongs to the provinces of Canada. It is unlikely that Ottawa would get the provinces to agree to the destruction of marriage. If the feds tried to introduce something that was not marriage (i.e., civil unions), litigation will continue. Ottawa doesn't have the power to do anything except fix marriage under our constitution.

The government can't get out of the marriage business, but it can get out of the discrimination business. There is only one choice. Equal marriage for same-sex couples.

Please encourage the government in the steps they are taking and ask them to end marriage discrimination now. Write, phone or email! There is still a chance that the Liberal government will respond in the manner expected by tradition, fairness, and decency.

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell


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