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Same-sex marriages in Canada

Timeline of GLBT rights in Canada
from years
1965 until 1999:

Michael Rizzi delivers a seven minute, rapid fire history of "Gay Rights in Canada 101:


Important milestones in lesbian/gay/bisexual rights in Canada:

bullet Before 1965: During the British America and British North American eras, there were laws on the books that considered same-gender sexual behavior to be a capital crime with execution as a possible sentence. However there are no surviving records of any person having been executed under this law. These laws were replaced in the late 19th century by "gross indecency" laws.
bullet 1965: Everett Klippert was arrested. He acknowledged to the police that he has been gay for 24 years and is unlikely to change. Two years later, he was sentenced to an indefinitely long term in prison as a "dangerous sex offender." 2
bullet 1967: Reviewing Klippert's case, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a lower court ruling which suggested life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for homosexual behavior.
bullet 1967: Within a few weeks of the Court's decision, Attorney General Pierre Trudeau introduced bill C-150 to Parliament to liberalize the Canadian Criminal Code. One aim of the amendments was to decriminalize homosexual behavior between adults. He commented:

"It's bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter." 2

The "bedrooms of the nation" expression was actually borrowed from an editorial in the Globe and Mail newspaper by Martin O'Malley, dated 1967-DEC-12. 3

bullet 1968: Trudeau's amendments to the Criminal Code become law.
bullet 1969-MAY-14: C-150 was signed into law. Any consensual sexual activity by a maximum of two adults in private was decriminalized.

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bullet 1971: Everett Klippert was released from prison.
bullet 1977: Quebec became the first province in Canada to include sexual orientation in its Human Rights Act. Discrimination against heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals was prohibited.
bullet 1978: The Canadian Immigration Act was altered so that it no longer prohibited homosexuals from immigrating into the country.
bullet 1979: The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended that "sexual orientation" be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
bullet 1980: Pat Carney introduces a bill to Parliament to prohibit discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals by adding "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act. It failed to pass. Svend Robinson introduced similar bills in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1991. None succeeded.
bullet 1981: Toronto City Council called on the Ontario government to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Toronto is by far the largest city in Ontario.
bullet 1981-FEB-6: Canada's "Stonewall:" About 3,000 people marched in Toronto to protest the arrest of more than 300 men as a result of police raids at four gay bath houses on the previous night.
bullet 1982: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's constitution, was approved. It defined many protected classes based on race, sex, religion, etc. However, sexual orientation was not initially included.
bullet 1986: The Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to include sexual orientation as a protected class. Ontario is the most populous province in Canada. It was the second province to do so.
bullet 1987: Manitoba became the third province to add sexual orientation to its human rights code.
bullet 1988: Svend Robinson became the first Member of Parliament to reveal that he is gay. He was re-elected in 2000.
bullet 1989: The Canadian Human Rights Commission ruled that same-sex couples, and their children if any, should be considered families.
bullet 1991: Delwin Vriend was fired by King's University College in Edmonton, AB, because his sexual orientation was regarded as incompatible with the religious beliefs of the Christian Reformed Church who owned and operated the school. He taught chemistry as a lab instructor. It is not clear how his sexual orientation interacted with his teaching. He sued the government of Alberta.
bullet 1992: The military lifted its previous ban of promotions, postings and career training for homosexuals, as a result of a lawsuit initiated by Captain Joshua Birch and others. 4 Members of the LGBT community have freely and openly served in the Canadian military ever since.
bullet 1992: New Brunswick and British Columbia made sexual orientation a protected classification.
bullet 1993: Saskatchewan made sexual orientation a protected class.
bullet 1993: The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it was not discrimination to deny bereavement leave to a partner in a same-sex relationship.
bullet 1995: The Province of Ontario extended family benefits to its gay and lesbian employees in same-sex relationships.
bullet 1995: The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Egan v. Canada that the term "sexual orientation" was to be "read in" to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's constitution. This is the section that deals with equality rights.
bullet 1995: An Ontario Court judge ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to bring joint applications for adoption.
bullet 1996: Bill C-33 passed Parliament. The term "sexual orientation" was added to the Federal Human Rights Act as a protected class.
bullet 1997: Newfoundland added sexual orientation to its human rights legislation.
bullet 1998: Vriend's case was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. In a unanimous decision, the court orders that the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act (now called the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act) is to be interpreted as including protection of homosexuals. 5
bullet 1998: Prince Edward Island's human rights legislation was changed to include sexual orientation -- the last province to do so. Seven years later, they were to become the last province to allow same-sex couples to marry.
bullet 1999: The Ontario Legislature passed Bill 5. This outlawed discrimination in the province against same-sex couples. They are now treated in the same way as heterosexual common-law couples.
bullet 1999: The House of Commons overwhelmingly passed a resolution -- 216 to 55 -- to define marriage as restricted to a union of one man and one woman. This was reversed in 2005.
bullet 1999: In the "M v. H" case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that same-sex couples were to have the same rights as opposite-sex unmarried common-law couples. This includes the right to alimony. Responding to this case, the Ontario Legislature introduced Bill 5 to alter more than 50 provincial laws.

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It is worth noting that:

  • In 1998, Alberta and Prince Edward Island were the last two provinces to include sexual orientation as a protected class in their human rights legislation.

  • In mid-2005, the same two provinces were the only two which did not allow same-sex couples to marry.

This topic continues inthe next essay

Site navigation:
"SSM" means "same-sex marriage"

Home > Rel. info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

Notes and references:

  1. Michael Rizzi, "Gay Rights in Canada 101," You Tube, 2016-OCT-25, at:

  2. "Same Sex Rights: Canada Timeline," CBC, 2005-JUN-29, at:

  3. Wendy Pearson, "Interrogating the Epistemology of the Bedroom: Same-Sex Marriage and Sexual Citizenship in Canada," Discourse 26.3 (2004), Pages 136 to 165, at:

  4. "Sexual Orientation and the Canadian Human Rights Act," Canadian Human Rights Commission, at:

  5. "Vriend & Ors v Alberta & Ors [1998] ICHRL 57 (2 April 1998)," Interights Commonwealth Human Rights Law, at:

Copyright 2003 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-NOV-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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