SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA
Activities: 2006 January to June
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
Status of SSM in Canada:
Same-sex couples in Canada became able to marry anywhere in Canada on
2005-JUL-20 when Bill C-38 was proclaimed. The first item that the leader of the
Conservative Party discussed during the federal election campaign was his
intention to initiate new Parliamentary legislation to ban SSM, while allowing
existing same-sex marriages to continue. If the bill becomes law, then future
same-sex couples would be offered some sort of civil union arrangement.
2006-JAN-16: Law professors ask Harper for Supreme Court reference
104 law professors from universities across Canada wrote an open letter to
Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party. It said, in part:
"It appears to be your intention to pass a law that you know is almost
certainly unconstitutional and then leave it to the courts to clean up the
mess. This would be untenable and irresponsible and we call on you to take a
more responsible approach, namely to first refer your proposed legislation
to the Supreme Court of Canada."
"You have insisted that the Supreme Court would defer to Parliament's
decision to adopt a discriminatory definition of marriage, despite the
overwhelming weight of legal jurisprudence to the contrary. If you truly
believe that, then you should have no hesitation in agreeing to a Supreme
"Passage of a law taking away the right to civil marriage from same-sex
couples without first testing its constitutionality would be legally
"If your government proceeds to pass a law that is so clearly
unconstitutional, the result will be legal confusion, a lack of uniformity,
and unnecessary, protracted and costly litigation. Provinces won’t know
whether to follow clear court rulings or a law they know to be
unconstitutional. There will be lengthy legal battles as litigation proceeds
in numerous provinces and through several levels of court before finally
reaching the Supreme Court some years down the road."
"Undoubtedly, courts will order the government to pay the cost of this
litigation. As your proposed law is declared to be constitutionally invalid
province by province and territory by territory, the result will be a legal
patchwork across the country. As noted by the Supreme Court in its December
2004 Same-Sex Marriage Reference decision at paragraph 69, 'uniformity of
the law is essential.' We agree." 1
2006-JAN-23: Results of the election:
A minority conservative government was elected. The Conservative Party
conducted a flawless campaign. The Liberal Party continually formed circular
The election will send the following numbers of MPs to Ottawa:
|Conservative Party 124|
|Liberal Party 103|
|Block Quebecois: 51|
|New Democratic Party 29|
Historians in the future may point to a single event which swayed a
sufficient number of voters away from the Liberal party to return a Conservative
government: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the media that they
were going to interview Finance minister Ralph Goodale about a suspected
information leak from his office concerning income trusts. It is alleged that
some stockbrokers found out about a change in regulations before they were
formally announced by Goodale on 2005-NOV-23. This enabled them to make large
profits. "Of the 10 most actively traded stocks on Nov. 23, eight were income
trusts, trust candidates, or dividend-paying stocks. All eight went up between 5
and 7 per cent that day." 2
The announcement by the RCMP was interpreted by some Canadians as evidence of
another case of corruption within the government. None of the staff at this web
site can recall an instance in the past when the RCMP has announced that they
were going to interview a cabinet minister. The RCMP announcement may have been
Prime-minister elect Stephen Harper reversed his earlier stance on holding a vote
in Parliament whether to debate terminating same-sex marriage. On the first day of the election campaign, he said
that it would be introduced as the first order of business. On 2006-JAN-27, he
told reporters: "I've simply said we'll be doing it [sometime] in the life of
the Parliament. I would prefer to do it sooner rather than later, but not
|Former MP Pat O'Brien, who didn't run in this election, heads up an
organization called Vote Marriage Canada which is opposed to SSM. He
predicted that 45% of the new Parliament's MPs currently support terminating
SSM. He said: "Now, we believe the number will be higher when we have an
opportunity to try and converse with some of the other MPs."|
|Gilles Marchildon, executive director of EGALE, a gay and lesbian
advocacy group which promotes equal rights in marriage said: "It's
obviously close. We're not resting on our laurels."|
|Joseph Ben-Ami, executive director of the Institute for Canadian
Values, a conservative group, said: "We believe the vote would be
closer this time than it was, though it’s really too early to tell where
everybody stands on the issue. It’s not just a matter of who voted in favor
before and who didn’t, because there are a lot of things that influence
|Marriagevote.ca, which supports gay marriage, estimates that 153
MPs – just two short of a majority – would certainly or likely vote to
re-open the debate. 3|
Reporter Andrew Mills of the Toronto Star wrote:
"Rolling back the legislation would mean circumventing several provincial
court rulings that say limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates
the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A number of legal experts have
warned that any statute to codify traditional marriage can only be done by
using the 'notwithstanding' clause that
allows legislatures to override Charter rights."
2006-FEB-07: Bill to kill SSM further delayed:
Vic Toews, the new Justice minister said on 2006-FEB-07 that he will try to
build a consensus on SSM where possible. This appears to be an impossibility
because a substantial minority of Canadian adults, and an even larger minority
of Members of Parliament currently oppose SSM. He said that a motion outlawing
SSM will almost certainly be shelved until 2006-Fall. Some observers speculate
the defeat of the
government and a new federal election before the end of 2008.
2006-MAR-25: Religious conservative and gay-positive groups organize:
Pat O'Brien, who was once a MP with a special interest in preventing SSM is
now the Executive Director of Vote Marriage Canada -- an agency formerly
known as Defend Marriage Canada. Vic Toews, who was once the Conservative
Party's justice critic is now the Justice Minister.
Focus on the Family Canada has opened an office in Ottawa under the
name Institute for Marriage and Family Canada.
Eagle Canada, a gay-positive group who was the main promoter of SSM when bill
C-38 was being discussed is bringing back Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM).
2006-MAY-15: Bill to kill SSM further delayed:
According to Canadians for Equal Marriage, in an action alert mailing:
"The equal marriage issue is heating up on Parliament Hill, and we need
your help. Although we’re ahead in the vote count, equal marriage opponents
are asking Mr. Harper to delay the motion to re-open the debate. They want
this delay so they have more time to mobilize against us."
"Stephen Harper has confirmed he’ll hold a vote on re-opening equal
marriage. So the only issue is when. How long will he delay that vote? Until
he thinks he has the votes to win? Until after the next election?"
"THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT THIS DELAY IS TO CONTACT YOUR MP!! Do it now so
they know we won’t tolerate a delay. Do it now so they know it’s not okay to
pander to the religious right. Go to
www.equal-marriage.ca/election.php to e-mail your MP in just a few
"According to Defend Marriage Coalition in a
mass mailing to religious leaders:"
"We are writing on behalf of the inter-faith Defend Marriage Coalition to
request your leadership in an important public debate affecting the welfare
of Canadian children and families, and the future of religious freedom in
Canada: the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage."
"Prime Minister Harper stated, during the recent election campaign, that
if he were elected, he would re-visit the issue of same-sex marriage in
Parliament. Subsequent to the election, he stated that he would raise this
issue, not right away, but “sooner, rather than later”. Although we do not
know exactly when Mr. Harper will call for a vote on a motion to re-open the
same-sex marriage issue in Parliament, we do know from our analysis of the
views of the MPs that the vote will be a very close one."
"The delay in calling for this vote in Parliament provides us with a
window of opportunity to ensure a winning vote in support of traditional
marriage. This will only occur if we are able to effectively marshall
articulate voices in defense of children, families, and religious freedom.
That means your voice in the public square."
Defend Marriage Coalition is a joint effort of REAL Women of Canada, the
Catholic Civil Rights League, Campaign Life Coalition, Canadian Family Action
Coalition, Enshrine Marriage Canada, Preserve Marriage-Protect Children's
Rights, United Families Canada, United Mothers and Fathers, Marriage Canada,
Equité-Famille, Equipping Christians for the
Public-square Centre, Association des parents catholiques du Quebéc.
2006-JUN-02: Prime minister confirms vote to be taken on reopening SSM:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he will give members of parliament a
chance to vote on reopening the same-sex marriage issue. He said:
"It will be a free vote,. We committed [to] that in our platform, and the
vote will be in the fall...Haven't set the date, but the vote will be in the
Jack Layton, leader of the NDP (Socialist) party commented:
"We don't really see why there needs to be a vote. After all, the courts
have decided, the Parliament has decided, couples are getting married and
the idea that we would go into the House of Commons and roll the clock back
on an issue of human rights makes no sense to me."
Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Egale Canada, a group
promoting equality in marriage, said:
"Why wait until the fall? People are left hanging this is really playing
politics with people's lives."
Bill Siksay, an openly gay NDP member of parliament said:
The Conservatives are endlessly willing to debate our full participation
in Canadian society. I think most Canadians have decided that we should be
full participants and that the debate should be over."
James Moore, a Conservative member of parliament who supported SSM when C-38
was voted upon said:
Canadians elected us on a platform that said we were going to take this
measure and have a free vote again in Parliament. That's what we're going to
Charles McVety, head of Defend Marriage Coalition -- a group opposed
to marriage equity -- said"
"We were anticipating that it would be this fall, but we know there's a
lot of work to be done....We're confident we can win this vote."
Laurie Arron, national director of Canadians for Equal Marriage, said
that there would be "legal chaos" if the Conservatives succeed in repealing the
law that allows SSM. Provincial courts have ruled that same-sex couples have a
right to marry. She said:
"The provinces would be left scratching their heads as to whether or not
they should be issuing marriage licenses, To pass legislation that you
almost certainly know is unconstitutional is irresponsible."
Liberal member of parliament, Keith Martin said:
This is a very serious issue because where then will it go? What other
issues of right will the prime minister pursue in terms ov overturning? Will
they pursue the abortion inssue? Will he pursue other issues such as stem
cell research which his party says that it wants to ban.
Some conservative religious groups have already mobilized to lobby members of
parliament. Some are threatening to help defeat any member of parliament who
supports SSM legislation, during the next election.
2006-JUN-19: Environics Research Group issues poll results:
Their poll indicates that Canadians are increasingly accepting of same-sex
marriage and are overwhelmingly opposed to reopening the matter in Parliament.
The rate of change of public opinion is unusually rapid in this case:
|62% consider SSM to be a settled matter;|
|27% want SSM reopened and debated once more in Parliament;|
|Only 38% of Conservative Party voters favored reopening the issue; 52%
|59% agreed that same-sex couples should have the same right to civil
marriage as opposite-sex couples; 32% are opposed.|
|Of those adults who expressed an opinion, 64% favor the proposition that
"same-sex couples should have the same right to civil marriage as
opposite-sex couples." 36% disagreed.|
|Those who strongly agree with equal marriage outnumber those who
strongly disagree by 36% to 24%.|
|For the first time, most Conservative Party voters (48%) agreed with marriage equality; 47%
|Among Liberal Party voters, 67% agreed with marriage equality; 26%
These are truly remarkably large and rapid changes since SSM became available
across Canada in 2005-OCT. More details.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Open letter to the Hon. Stephen Harper...", University of Toronto Faculty of Law, 2006-JAN-17, at:
http://www.law.utoronto.ca/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
- "The Income Trusts Probe," CBC News, at:
- Andrew Mills, "Same-sex marriage debate back on the table," The Toronto Star, 2006-JAN-27, at:
- Sean Gordon: "Toews pledges speedy gun-crime clampdown," Toronto
Star, 2006-FEB-08, Pages A1 & A6.
- Gordon Youngman, "Lets everyone support Egale as well as organizing by
writing letters to MPs, etc.," Egale Canada.
- "Action alert: Marriage vote delay," Canadians for Equal Marriage,
- Letter, Defend Marriage Coalition, 2006-APR-12, at:
http://www.equal-marriage.ca/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
- Kathleen Harris, "Gay marriage vote by fall," The Ottawa Saturday Sun, 2006-JUN-03, Page 3.
- Allan Woods, "Same-sex marriage debate reignited," Can West News Service, 2006-JUN-03, Whig Standard, Kingston, ON,
Page 13 & 21.
Copyright © 2005 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Essay first posted on 2005-DEC-03
Latest update: 2007-MAY-07
Author: B.A. Robinson