Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada
Part 4: 2013-MAY to now: After 16 months, progress
in Parliament on bill to fix visitor divorce problem.
The following essay is a continuation from Part 3
2013-MAY-31: Still no progress on Bill C-32:
Almost 16 months have passed since the bill was introduced into the House of Commons, and it has not progressed. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson blamed the New Democratic Party (NDP, Socialist) for the lack of action since 2012-FEB-17, when he introduced the Civil Marriage of Non-Residents Act. He said:
"When our government tabled this legislation, we made it clear at the time that we had no intention of reopening the same sex marriage debate, but we would fix the gap left in the law resulting from changes made by the Liberals in 2005. We acted in good faith and put forward a speedy fix that would eliminate the gap in the law.
Over the past year, the government House leader has sought several times to obtain unanimous consent from opposition parties to pass this legislation expeditiously. But the NDP has steadily refused to give its consent. The NDP is set on revisiting the same-sex marriage debate, which was settled by Parliament in 2005, and again in 2006."
Randall Garrison, the NDP’s critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered issues, denied that his party was responsible for the delay. 1
Webmaster's comment: (Bias alert)
It is difficult to understand how the Conservative Government, which has a majority in Parliament, is so lacking in power, that they have been unable to have their own bill progress to a vote. It seems that Conservatives want to "fast track" the bill so that it is passed as written without study and debate. The NDP wants the bill to proceed through the normal procedure, This would have the bill go to committee so that witnesses can be called and amendments proposed to overcome some of the deficiencies in the bill. In the meantime, the reputation of Canada as a caring nation that values human rights is suffering under the Harper government.
2013-JUN: Canadian Bar Association (CBA) warns about the delay of bill C-32:
The petition for divorce that originally triggered the introduction of C-32 was automatically reactivated on JUN-02. The couple's lawyer, Mary McCarthy, said:
"We made an agreement with the federal government that the proceeding would be stayed until June 1 to allow the legislation [time to] proceed. My clients are going to have to make a decision about whether to return to court to argue the matter. ... " I have not received any explanation [from the Government] about the hold-up. I’d like to see the legislation pass. I don’t wish to criticize anybody if they’re diligently working on an outcome that will assist my clients, and then on the other hand, I don’t think my clients should be waiting around a lot longer. We’ve been really patient, and the matter needs to get resolved." 2
Bill C-32 is still stuck at first reading stage. The second reading debate had yet to be scheduled.
Kelly Jordan, past chair of the CBA's national family law section said that the delays are unfair to gays and lesbians stuck in legal limbo. She said:
"We are concerned about the hold-up. We’d like to see this matter move forward. We encourage the government to provide a solution for couples who have found themselves in this situation. It is an access to justice issue because these individuals and couples are otherwise without a remedy." 2
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson wrote an e-mail to The Lawyers Weekly saying:
"When our government tabled this legislation, we made it clear at the time that we had no intention of reopening the same-sex marriage debate, but we would fix the gap left in the law resulting from changes made by the Liberals in 2005.
We acted in good faith and put forward a speedy fix that would eliminate the gap in the law. This legislation is a straightforward answer to a straightforward problem. There is no reason why it should not receive unanimous consent from the NDP."
NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Randall Garrison said:
"I am disappointed that the government has failed to bring C-32 forward but I have no idea why. It is a government bill so they have complete control of the timing. The NDP has never threatened to vote against, or delay, C-32, though we believe it could be improved." 2
2013-JUN-18: Bill C-32 is finally passed by the House of Commons:
As described in previous essays in this section, the status of same-sex couples who have visited Canada to be married was thrown into legal limbo by an attack on same-sex marriage by the Conservatative federal government. Bill C-32, the Civil Marriage of Non-Residents Act, was written to confirm that such couples' marriages were legal and to enable them to return to Canada and seek a divorce.
On 2012-FEB-17, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson introduced C-32 -- the Civil Marriage of Non-Residents Act -- to the House of Commons. Here it received first reading, but then languished due to a conflict between the ruling Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP):
- The Conservative Party wanted the House of Commons to immediately pass the bill on to the Senate without debate, hearings, or amendments.
- The NDP wanted to process the bill in the normal manner: to debate it, pass it to a committee, hold hearings, perhaps amend the bill, hold a final vote, and pass it to the Senate.
A stalemate of over 16 months was broken when the NDP withdrew their objections to fast tracking of the bill and allowed the House of Commons to pass the bill by unanimous consent, with its many imperfections.
If the bill was not processed on or before JUN-18, then it could not be considered again until the summer recess ended.
Member of Parliament (MP) Randall Garrison is the NDP public safety and LGBT critic. He said:
"I honestly do not know what took them so long because we could have reached this agreement a year ago. We think of it as a little victory here at the end." 3
The breakthrough happened after the Conservatives agreed to adopt an amendment to C-32 that would allow couples to obtain Canadian court documents if their home state or country does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The bill is now before the Senate which has a few more days schedued before their summer vacation.
2013-JUN-18: Senator Black sponsors An Act to Amend the Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-32:
Senator Doug Black sponsored Bill C-32 in the Senate. It was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The committee reported the bill back to the Senate on JUN-20. This bill will:
- Validate future same-sex marriages of visitors to Canada.
- Validate past marriages of this type.
- Provide access for visitors to Canada who had married here to a divorce process.
Senator Black wrote in a press release:
"Canada is breaking new ground with this legislation to alleviate hardship. This new process recognizes the different needs of non-resident couples, including both heterosexual couples and same-sex couples.
Although this bill has no effect on same-sex marriage laws in other countries, it is symbolic of Canada’s commitment to marriage equality. It sends a clear message to those who have come to Canada from other countries seeking to express their commitment to one another in marriage. It demonstrates that Canada believes all couples should be treated with dignity and respect for their choices." 4
The text of the bill is available online. 5
It received third reading in the Senate on 2013-JUN-21 and was passed without amendment. It now must receive assent from the Governor General, a routine matter, before becoming law. 6
"SSM" means "same-sex marriage"
- Tobi Cohn, "Federal government about to miss deadline to pass gay divorce bill," Postmedia, 2013-MAY-31, at: http://o.canada.com/
- Christin Schmitz, "CBA fires off warning on C-32 delay," The Lawyers Weekly, 2013-JUN issue, at: http://www.lawyersweekly.ca/
- "House passes same-sex divorce bill in one night – after 1.5 years of waiting," Global News, 2013-JUN-19, at: http://globalnews.ca/
- "Senator Black Sponsors Bill in Senate to Validate Marriages of Non-Resident Same-Sex Couples," 2013-JUN-20, at: http://dougblack.ca/
- "Bill C-32," Text as of 2013-JUN-23 is at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
- Journals of the Senate, 2013-JUN-21, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
Copyright 2012 & 2013 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-JUN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson