Note: some of these stories focus on the historic debate about legitimizing gay marriage in Canada. The debate virtually ended on June 17, 2003 when the Canadian cabinet approved national policy for marriage to gay and lesbian couples. See #0 below.
June 18, 2003
Canadian Leaders Agree to Propose Gay Marriage Law: Canadian cabinet approves national policy for marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
by Clifford Krauss, Toronto
The Canadian cabinet approved a new national policy today to open marriage to gay couples, paving the way for Canada to become the third country to allow same-sex unions. "You have to look at history as an evolution of society," Prime Minister Jean Chrétien told reporters after a meeting of his cabinet. "According to the interpretation of the courts these unions should be legal in Canada. We will ensure that our legislation includes and legally recognizes the union of same-sex couples."
The decision to redefine marriage in Canada to include unions between men and between women will immediately take effect in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Last week, the province’s highest court ruled that current federal marriage laws are discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. Once aides to Mr. Chrétien draft the necessary legislation, the House of Commons is expected to pass it into law in the next few months. Although leaders of the two conservative parties and some Liberals have expressed reservations, there is little organized opposition to such legislation, and public opinion polls show a solid majority in favor of the change.
The policy opens the way for same-sex couples from the United States and around the world to travel here to marry, since Canada has no marriage residency requirements. In addition, gay-rights advocates in the United States are already declaring that Canada will serve as a vivid example to Americans that same-sex marriage is workable and offers no challenge to traditional heterosexual family life. No American state allows same-sex marriage, but Vermont has enacted a law providing for civil unions, which allow gay couples many of the benefits of marriage.
Canadian marriage licenses have always been accepted in the United States, but now that the definition of marriage in the two countries appears likely to diverge, legal challenges to same-sex couples claiming rights and privileges deriving from their Canadian marriages seem certain to arise in at least some states. Issues including adoption rights, inheritance, insurance benefits and matters as mundane as sharing health club memberships are likely to arise in courts and state legislatures.
Canada’s new marriage policy comes at a time when the government is also pushing for legislation that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, another policy that diverges sharply from American federal practices. Polling experts and social scientists note that conservative religious views are much less influential here than in the United States, with regular church attendance far lower and with fundamentalist Protestant groups attracting far less support. Mr. Chrétien said the government would also ask the Supreme Court for advice to make the new legislation invulnerable to appeals by provincial governments seeking to invalidate it in their jurisdictions.
However, the conservative premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, has threatened a legal fight to exclude his province from the new rules. Gay-rights advocates celebrated the decision as a civil-rights milestone. "June 17 of 2003 is going to be a day gay and lesbian people remember for a long, long time to come," said Svend Robinson, a gay member of the House of Commons from the left-of-center New Democratic Party, in a television interview immediately after the announcement.
Canada’s action follows in the steps of the Netherlands and Belgium, but it is likely to have a much larger impact on the United States. Only a few American same-sex couples have taken advantage of expanded marriage laws in the Netherlands because of its long residency requirement, and Belgium will only allow marriages of foreign couples from countries that already allow such unions. But Canada is nearby and has no such restrictions.
"What this presents for American couples is an opportunity to easily enter into a legal marriage and come back to the United States with a powerful tool to break down the remaining discrimination here," said Lavi Soloway, a Canadian-born lawyer and founder of the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force in New York. Mr. Soloway said Canada’s marriage reform would go a long way to changing public perceptions and attitudes in the United States, although he added that the march to full acceptance would be slow. "What we are in for is a long gradual struggle to win full equal recognition of these marriages," he said.
Since the Ontario appeals court ruled last Tuesday in favor of same-sex unions, only a few minor hurdles stand in the way of legalizing them throughout Canada. Since the court decision last week, Ontario has already issued 131 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including four from the United States. The most important remaining step is a vote in the House of Commons sometime in the next few months, one in which Mr. Chrétien said he will allow Liberal members to vote their consciences. Leaders of the Bloc Quebécois and the New Democratic Party have said their members are solidly behind the change, and with a majority of Liberals they should be able to enact the legislation easily despite opposition from two conservative parties.
The Supreme Court, which has ruled repeatedly in favor of extending gay rights, appears to support the efforts of the government to extend marital rights. "Every movement has its human rights milestones," said John Fisher, director of advocacy for Égale Canada, a group that has been working for same-sex marriage in the courts. "Just as the day women acquired the right to vote, when racial segregation was ruled as unconstitutional, so too, same-sex couples have finally acquired the right to marry."
To protect religious freedom, the cabinet decided that the planned federal legislation would allow religious institutions to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages. A three-member panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal declared unanimously last week that the definition of marriage as currently set by federal government – as a union between a man and a woman – was invalid and must be changed immediately to include same-sex couples. It ruled that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, roughly the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights, "the existing common-law definition of marriage violates the couple’s equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation." It added, "In doing so, it offends the dignity of persons in same-sex relationships."
The ruling was similar in argument but more immediate in impact to two previous decisions by provincial courts in Quebec and British Columbia. Last year, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and the British Columbia Court of Appeal did likewise last month. They gave the federal government until mid-2004 to change its marriage rules. Since then legislative panels have been studying ways to put the rulings into effect. Members of the Liberal federal cabinet overwhelmingly supported granting same-sex couples marriage rights, but members were divided over whether to legislate an immediate change or first to request guidance from the federal Supreme Court.
After hours of debate, the cabinet decided to do both, hoping for the imprimatur of both government bodies to assure maximum popular acceptance of the new law. "I think on balance people recognize that the decisions of the courts are really pointing in a direction from which it would be difficult – if we wanted to – to turn back," said Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, who is also a candidate to replace Prime Minister Chrétien as Liberal Party leader later this year.
December 5, 2000
Government says gay marriage is invalid even if licenses are not required
by Gloria Galloway
Toronto – The federal government says gay unions are not valid even though Ontario law permits marital unions without a licence under an ancient Christian tradition. But lawyers for homosexual couples who want to tie the knot say the government’s arguments will not hold up to legal scrutiny and marriages performed under the tradition of banns will be perfectly valid. Brent Hawkes, a pastor at the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches which has a primarily gay congregation, said Tuesday: "If (the federal and provincial governments) refuse to accept these marriages . . . we will take them to court because we believe it is unconstitutional." Homosexual couples are currently before the courts in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec asking for the right to be legally married. Their cases are to be heard late next year.
Lawyers for some of the couples are hoping this new wrinkle will bolster their argument that homosexual unions are acceptable in Canada. "Long before we have a hearing in our case we may well start having valid marriage," said lawyer Martha McCarthy who is acting for eight couples in Ontario. "It’s going to change the landscape a lot in the legal argument." Hawkes plans to marry a lesbian couple in January under the ancient Christian tradition of banns that is accepted under the Ontario Marriage Act. That act says if a couple opts not to obtain a licence from city hall — licences that have been refused to gay couples across Canada — the church can marry them anyway, said Hawkes.
Under the banns ceremony, the names of the couple must be read aloud during three consecutive Sunday services and the congregation is invited to state reasons why their marriage should not take place. Hawkes said the sex of the couple would not be a valid objection. The ceremony is then performed and documentation of the event is sent to the province’s registrar general for recording and the issuing of a marriage certificate. The Ontario Marriage Act does not specify that the banns ceremony is limited to couples of the opposite sex, said Hawkes.
It does state that the ceremony may only be performed by churches that have been in existence for 25 years, but his church meets that criteria. Still, Hawkes is under no illusion that he has found an easy way around marriage restrictions. For one thing, although the banns ceremony is recognized under Ontario law and may be permitted in other jurisdictions, it is not legal in some provinces including British Columbia and Alberta. There is also no indication that the Ontario government is willing to register the marriages.
And the federal government says the registration cannot occur because, even though there is no legislation anywhere except in Quebec that restricts marriages to partners of the opposite sex, it is established under common law dating back to 1866. "In order to contract a legally valid marriage, you must comply with provincial law and comply with federal law," said Lisa Hitch, a senior counsel with the federal Justice Department. And even if there has been a marriage ceremony, "if it’s not registered, it’s not legally valid."
Valid marriages would allow same-sex couples to among other things visit each other in hospital over objections of other family members, adopt children and declare each other as tax deductions. McCarthy disagrees with Hitch’s analysis. She said a marriage is legal as soon as the banns have been read and the vows have been uttered. And Doug Elliott, a lawyer for Hawkes’ church, also believes the government is wrong.
First, he said, the common law it is relying upon has been superseded by recent cases.
Second, "there is nothing in the marriage act that says the marriage isn’t valid unless it’s registered by the registrar general," said Elliott. "And there is no authority in the act for the registrar general to refuse the information."
Gay organizations want homosexual marriages legalized, saying they would allow:
– Homosexuals to sponsor spouses from outside the country as immigrants;
– Gay couples to visit each other in hospital despite objections of other family members;
– Shared benefits offered under company plans;
– Income tax deductions for spouses;
– The right to adopt children;
– The right to claim children of a same-sex partner as tax deductions;
– Registered retirement savings plans to be transferred to a surviving same-sex spouse.
January 14, 2001
Fight for the right to wed
by Michele Mandel
Toronto Sun – They want to have and to hold each other, from this day forward, if only the law will allow. This afternoon, in a beautiful 100-year-old church of oak and stained glass, two same-sex couples will make history when they are joined in holy matrimony. With more than 74 local and international media organizations looking on, Rev. Brent Hawkes, no doubt fighting back the tears that have plagued him all week, will announce them "partners in life, duly married in the eyes of God in accordance with the laws of our land." The pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto will then, to the sounds of thunderous applause, give each couple — Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa, and Anne and Elaine Vautour — their marriage licence, the first ever issued in the world to homosexual couples. Varnell and Bourassa will duly kiss for the cameras, just like any other wedded couple, but there are no plans yet for the newlyweds to jet off on their honeymoon.
"There is nothing to celebrate until that marriage licence is registered," insists Bourassa, 42. "Until then, we’re being denied our rights to practise our religion and our basic human right to love who we wish without the government saying no." For as much as this is a personal ceremony of love, it is much more a bold testing of political waters. The right to marry is the last legal obstacle left for gays and lesbians and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto — whose congregation is 85% homosexual — believes it has found the legal loophole that allows them to marry same-sex couples.
But there is much that stands in the way of their living happily ever after. Ontario Consumer Minister Bob Runciman has already warned that his department will not register their marriages. Security concerns from anti-gay groups are so great that the pastor may wear a bulletproof vest and the wedded couples have decided against a traditional appearance on the church steps. And you thought you had pre-wedding stress.
It’s a few days before the ceremony and Varnell and Bourassa are graciously enduring yet another media interview in their tasteful, art-filled home near the Danforth. "We didn’t completely comprehend what would happen," says Bourassa, putting his arm around Varnell, 31. "We’re not activists. We don’t entirely understand the media thing." "We have strived as much as possible," Varnell adds, "to keep a personal element to what is becoming a very public and political event." Gentle classical music plays in the background of the corporate couple’s home.
Varnell is a Web co-ordinator for Sony, but Bourassa, a director of process management at CIBC, quips that he had the Sony stereo even before they met. Candles flicker on the coffee table. Daphne and Chloe, their two tortoiseshell cats named after characters in a Ravel ballet, watch unamused as their masters finish each other’s sentences and banter like any loving couple. They have been together for 3 1/2 years. "We’re still young enough in our relationship to count the halves," smiles Bourassa. Getting married is both a right and the ultimate expression of their love. "It started from in the heart and in the soul," he says earnestly. "We didn’t go out to change the world. We want to have our love celebrated like any other couple."
"It will be just Kevin and I, Elaine and Anne — and 700 of our closest friends," laughs Varnell. The media spectacle, with everyone from The New York Times to Fox TV in attendance, will be far different from their first commitment ceremony — a "holy union" officiated by Rev. Hawkes on Aug. 29, 1999, in their garden filled with family and friends. They exchanged their commitment rings of gold and sapphires, they pledged to be together forever, they went off on a wild honeymoon to London where they saw 11 plays in 15 days. But even then, it wasn’t enough.
At the back of their invitation, they had printed a photo of Justice Minister Anne McLennan and asked guests to petition her to legalize the commitment they truly wanted — gay marriage. In Bill C-23, the law extending benefits and obligations to same-sex couples, the federal government caved in to conservative pressure and added a preamble that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
Several months ago, though, the church’s lawyers presented an apparent loophole in the Ontario Marriage Act that would allow the pastor to marry same-sex couples. In Ontario, marriages can be performed in one of two ways. The most common involves a licence obtained at your local city hall and signed by your clergyman or justice of the peace. Less well known is through the ancient Christian tradition of marriage banns, in which the names of the two people wishing to be married are read out to the congregation of their church three Sundays in a row without legal challenge. The grounds for objection are narrow: a previous marriage, mental incompetence or an incestuous relationship. And under section 5 of the act, it doesn’t specify that the couple must be a man and a woman, but instead "any person."
Hawkes, remembering their holy union invitation, asked Varnell and Bourassa if they would be one of the first couples to test the waters. After consulting their families, they quickly agreed. They were thrilled when they learned Anne and Elaine Vautour would join them at the altar. When Varnell’s mother died last March, Elaine was the deacon at the church who arrived to comfort them. "Anne and Elaine are dear, dear friends of ours," Bourassa says.
"It means so much to us that they are the couple who would be sharing this day with us," adds Varnell. For three Sundays last month, Hawkes announced the couples’ intentions to marry. That first Sunday saw no objections and riotous applause from the congregation. Hawkes still winces at the memory of the succeeding Sundays, when two objectors rose on each day. One of the first was Rev. Ken Campbell. "What you are doing is in violation of the law of God," the conservative evangelist declared.
"It was a pretty awful experience to have those objectors stand up in the middle of our worship," Hawkes recalls as he pauses in his church office between wedding preparations. "Every single one opposed based on religious reasons, not legal ones. We don’t allow one segment of the population’s religious interpretation to impede [impinge?] on the religion of another."
Hawkes, 50, has been a pastor of the predominately gay Metropolitan Community Church for 23 years. He’s been a gay activist almost as long, going on a hunger strike back in 1981 to protest the bathhouse raids. As he contemplates officiating at today’s double wedding, he grows emotional at how far gay rights have come. But he knows only too well that it’s been a battle that often involves some risk.
When debate raged in 1994 on Bill 167, which would have given spousal benefits to same-sex couples, he was threatened that "blood will flow" if he went ahead with a pride prayer service at Maple Leaf Gardens. He wore a bulletproof vest that day. He won’t say if he will today. "We’re taking a variety of precautions," the pastor says sadly. "We are fully expecting protests, hopefully peaceful ones. But we have security measures in place and the police have been wonderful." For his part, Rev. Ken Campbell insists there will be no protests from him today.
"It is patently illegal and I would never have given it that much attention except for the concern that by default they were suggesting legitimacy," says the leader of the Civilized Majority group. But, he warned, "there is an unhinged element out there in society that cannot respond in a civilized way to what they perceive as barbaric and may respond with a barbaric act." While opponents insist it’s all illegal, Hawkes maintains these will be the world’s first legal gay marriages — the Netherlands has yet to enact its new law allowing same-sex marriages and in Vermont, same-sex couples can obtain a "civil union" but it is not recognized federally or outside the state.
As for Ontario’s threat not to register the licences, Hawkes confidently believes they will fight them in court — and win. Varnell and Bourassa, though, have been dealing with more immediate concerns — such as planning a very public wedding and juggling dozens of interviews in just four weeks. "Not to mention with Christmas in between," Bourassa says. "And work," laughs Varnell. In fact, he was supposed to launch a new Web site tomorrow, but it was delayed by his understanding employers.
Both say their workplaces and families have been incredibly accommodating. With such a strong support network, they felt obligated to step forward. Just the other night, an elderly woman on the bus recognized Varnell from his TV interviews. He steeled himself for her next comment, but instead, still fights back tears at her words. "I wish my son could have done what you’re doing," she whispered. "Best of luck." So they believe strongly in what they will do today, for themselves and others, but admit they’re nervous about their safety.
"We’re only asking that people not interfere with our right as people and right as a church, that’s all," Bourassa sighs. In the meantime, they giddily concentrate on the distracting details. They will all wear red roses in honour of Pierre Trudeau, the prime minister credited with decriminalizing homosexuality. Varnell and Bourassa will exchange the white gold and sapphire rings made for their holy union two years ago. "They’re out being polished right now," Varnell laughs. Neither is wearing white. Varnell will don his black tuxedo from the holy union, Bourassa is splurging on a new suit from Spiro’s of the Danforth. "I don’t know what I’m wearing as a tie until that morning," he jokes. "I choose according to my mood." Varnell chuckles. "Do we have a tie that says panic-stricken?"
23 August 2001
Canada To Get Gay TV Channel
The founders of sports cable channel The Score are launching. Canada’s first channel catering to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. Toronto-based Headline Media Group will debut the channel dubbed PrideVision TV on September 7. Viewers can watch Dyke TV, made by a group of Manhattan lesbians, ‘Got 2B There, about circuit parties, a gay current affairs show and the comedy show "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”.
"The gay market is becoming very visible and what we hope to do is to alleviate some of the negativity that might arise simply from not being aware about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community,” said Anna McCusker, vice president of marketing at Headline Media told Reuters. Headline Media’s McCusker said research has shown that about one in 10 people are homosexual and the number is much higher in urban areas like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Government amends laws relating to gay couples adoption
Regina – The Saskatchewan government is amending 24 different laws that will allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt stepchildren and give them easy access to public pensions.
The changes come two years after a Supreme Court decision requiring provincial governments to give unmarried, oppositeand same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. The Saskatchewan government is changing laws ranging from the Pension Benefit Act to the Adoption Act to ensure they comply with the court ruling. "What we have here is our assessment of what is needed in Saskatchewan to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada and other courts,” said Justice Minister Chris Axworthy before introducing the omnibus amending bill Wednesday.
Manitoba also introduced similar changes Wednesday. The changes were cheered by the members of Saskatchewan’s gay and lesbian community and even received endorsements from various churches and even the Saskatchewan Party Opposition. "It would be my view, and a lot of Anglicans would share this view, as a justice issue,” said Bishop Duncan Wallace, of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle. "I don’t regard it as any more (than a justice issue) but quite frankly, I welcome it as such.”
Wallace noted there has been an amazing transformation in public opinion on gay and lesbian rights in the last five to 10 years. And even the Sask. Party was generally supportive of the changes — this from an Opposition that was incensed when the government funded a gay film festival that included at least one pornographic film. Sask. Party justice critic Ben Heppner said that some in his party and his riding will be troubled by an extension of gay rights related to adoption — an area he says may require further examination.
Saskatchewan was one of the first provinces in Canada to allow gay couples to adopt, but the changes in 1990 did not extend to gay couples applying for parental status of stepchildren. However, Heppner said governments and courts have little choice other than to comply with the Supreme Court issue.
Axworthy said he isn’t completely surprised to see a softening of opinion because opinion polls and focus groups on the issue conducted by the provincial government reflect that people are sensitive to the issue. "There’s significant support across the province to protect vulnerable people when relationships break down,” said Axworthy. "And in particular, when people make commitments to each other, whether they be a man and a woman, two men, two women, whether they be in a marriage situation or whether they be in a common-law situation or in a same-sex relationship, obligations are made.
"The population at large is of the view that the vulnerable person in the breakup of a relationship in which obligations are made should be protected.” Nevertheless, Axworthy stressed the province would not be breaking new ground in the 24 bill amendments, only doing what the court decision required.
Saskatchewan is the seventh province to comply, with Alberta, Manitoba and P.E.I. still to act. Late or not, members of the province’s gay and lesbian community welcomed the Saskatchewan government move to amend the laws. "It’s a good first step,” said Kathleen Hewitt, executive director of the Regina Gay and Lesbian Association. "It’s nice that the government has recognized that we are equal. "Really, all we’re asking for is to be treated the same as everyone else.”
30 May 2001
Increase gay rights in line with 1999 Supreme Court ruling
by Scott Edmonds
Winnipeg (CP) – Manitoba is proposing to change a long list of legislation to give gay couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples but it has balked at including adoption. The legislation, which would change 10 provincial acts primarily dealing with pension and survivor benefits, was introduced in the Manitoba legislature Wednesday by Attorney General Gord Mackintosh. The Saskatchewan government also announced Wednesday it is amending 24 acts to give unmarried, opposite and same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. The changes are required to bring provincial laws in line with a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
Karen Busby, a law professor at the University of Manitoba who says she is a lesbian, was disappointed not to see adoption in the Manitoba amendments. "All of the jurisdictions so far that have amended legislation in response to M and H have included in the omnibus bill amendments to the adoption legislation and I’m surprised, even dismayed, that Manitoba has not changed adoption legislation,” Busby said. She said the list even includes Tory Ontario, the province where the Supreme Court case first originated. A 50-year-old woman known only as M sued her lesbian partner for alimony after the couple’s long-term relationship ended. The pair settled their financial dispute last year, but their case was appealed by the Ontario government as a test. The Supreme Court ruled same-sex common-law couples deserved the same entitlements under family law, specifically alimony payments, as heterosexual common-law couples.
When asked why adoption wasn’t included in the Manitoba legislation, Mackintosh said adoption wasn’t part of the Supreme Court decision which dealt primarily with financial issues. "We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do both in terms of the law of the land and out of respect for the dignity and security of the rights of all Manitobans,” he said. "I suspect that they didn’t include it because there was opposition from some government MLAs and the Opposition,” said Busby.
In Saskatchewan, same-sex couples have been allowed to apply to adopt children unrelated to them since 1990. As a result of the changes introduced Wednesday, same-sex and common-law couples in Saskatchewan will be able to apply to adopt the children of their partners, a Justice Department spokesman said. Ontario and Quebec changed their laws in 1999 to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. British Columbia has allowed gay couples to adopt since 1996 but has also made other changes to legislation in the wake of the high court decision.
May 31, 2001
By Brendan O’hallarn
The province says it will comply with a two-year-old Supreme Court ruling on benefits for same-sex couples. Bill 41, tabled in the legislature yesterday by Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh, proposes to change 10 provincial acts, ranging from the Family Maintenance Act to the Fatal Accidents Act. But U of M law professor Karen Busby, an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, said the legislation falls short by not extending adoption rights to same-sex couples. "That has very real consequences for many, many children in this province," said Busby, who attended the legislature yesterday for the unveiling of the bill.
In Manitoba, a gay or lesbian single parent is eligible to adopt a child, but couples can not. That means a child with gay or lesbian parents is eligible only for the benefits from one caregiver. "Without the ability for those parents to adopt those children, those children have less stability in their lives. And we owe more to our children and to the parents of our children," Busby said.
Mackintosh said the bill deals with matters regarding financial support for people who are in common-law relationships. "We are amending 10 statutes that deal with spousal support, death benefits and pension benefits, which are very important issues," the justice minister said.
‘Not Just A Court Decision’
"These issues are not just about a court decision. They’re also about the dignity and the rights and the security of all Manitobans." Busby applauded the government for its inclusion of new laws that will provide legal obligations to same-sex partners, and will extend the right of surviving partners to claim pension benefits. But she said she expected Manitoba’s NDP government to include adoption provisions, as three other provinces already have. "Even a Conservative government in Ontario did," Busby said. Jim Rondeau, Manitoba’s first openly gay MLA, thought the legislation was a good leap ahead. "You can’t change everything all at once. You keep making steps to end discrimination and then, hopefully, you’ll move forward," he said.
August 8, 2001
Mexican gays get asylum–Canada’s 1st lesbian refugees
by Tom Godfrey,
A lesbian couple from Mexico has been granted refugee status by an immigration board that determined they’ll be persecuted in their homeland because they’re gay. The women are believed the first gay lovers accepted by an Immigration and Refugee Board, which has granted asylum to single lesbian women in the past, an IRB spokesman said.
The couple came to Toronto in 1999. The board withheld names of the two, both in their 30s, because they’re refugees. Board member Dian Forsey said yesterday the women belong to a particular social group — lesbian partners who are victims of domestic violence.
Forsey said one woman testified they were both attacked by two men in1998, while visiting a relative in Queretaro, Mexico. The woman’s ex-husband had learned about her lesbian relationship and taken away their child. Both women told the IRB that, in 1999, they were beaten, confined and sexually assaulted by Mexican police, hired by the ex-husband. The IRB member said the violence inflicted on the women amounted to a well-found fear of persecution.
June 9, 2001
Nova Scotia leads way on same-sex couples
by Lyn Cockburn
Winnipeg – Among my good friends I am privileged to count a lesbian couple — we’ll call them Barb and Sally — who have been together longer than I was married. Well, maybe not … if you put both my marriages together … oh, never mind. They own a house, a 37-kg lap dog, two vehicles, a barbecue, two computers and a vast collection of CDs; they love to cook, play golf, and they read extensively. All of those qualities pale in comparison beside their most sterling attribute which is that they rarely get mad at me.
They also feed me salmon, laugh at my jokes and share their books with me. They have been known to lend me 20 loonies, cheer me up when I’m depressed and tell me how talented I am. Who could not love them? It is, therefore, with considerable interest that I note Nova Scotia has become the first province in Canada to permit same-sex couples to legally register their relationship.
On June 4, Kimberley Vance and Samantha Meehin duly filled out the necessary papers and presented them at the Nova Scotia Department of Vital Statistics in Halifax, after which they received a certificate. All of this because of Bill 75, passed on June 1, which allows gays (and common-law couples) a number of the rights that were previously reserved for heterosexual married couples. Bill 75 does not allow gays in Nova Scotia to marry, nor does it permit them to adopt children.
Too bad. I trust that too will come about, in Nova Scotia, in Manitoba, in all of Canada. Federally, all that has really happened in the area of gay rights is that in 1999 a Supreme Court of Canada decision gave same-sex couples the right to pension benefits. Also, some private companies have quietly extended health benefits to employees whose partners are of the same sex. It’s a start.
And that, of course, is exactly what scares hell out of those who abhor homosexuality, who believe gay relationships are of the devil, that the closet door should remain closed and preferably locked, that any acknowledgment of homophobia somehow gives "special" rights to gays. Above all, to those who wish homosexuality would go away, any recognition of gay coupledom detracts from the sanctity of marriage. Piffle.
We heteros are doing quite well all by ourselves in stomping all over the sanctity of marriage — any help from gays is superfluous. Divorce stats are alarming, if not embarrassing. What is the most recent statistic? One in three marriages ends in divorce? Or am I being far too optimistic? The number of second, third and fourth marriages is skyrocketing and the vast number of kids living in poverty-stricken-single parent situations is sad. And, funny thing, none of this has come about because some gays want to get married — and as yet, at least in Canada, are not permitted to do so.
Meanwhile, my friends have been together 14 years. So, rather than condemning gay relationships, we might want to ask Barb and Sally how come their relationship has lasted so long and works so well. Maybe there’s something to learn. By the way, the last time I wrote a column espousing gay rights, a number of our more erudite citizens wrote me vituperative missives in which they quoted a couple of those lovely verses in Leviticus, Chapter 18 which say: Thou shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination, blah blah blah.
This time, please don’t bother, unless you’re willing to go along with at least some of the other strictures in Leviticus which would have us kill off those who perpetrate adultery, blasphemy, or think they can get away with being non-virginal-type brides. Oh, and there’s one about doing in those who eat animal fat — not a bad idea that last one, since it would scare hell out of those of us whose cholesterol is too high.
December 7, 2001
Quebec to Be Second Province to Recognize Same-Sex Unions After Nova Scotia
Quebec (AP) – Quebec is set to become the second province, after Nova Scotia, to recognize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Gay couples could have their union formally recognized by judges or consenting pastors under the draft legislation introduced Friday.
The proposed civil-union status would offer most of the legal benefits of marriage, including division of assets after a breakup, the right to see a partner’s medical records, and automatic status as a beneficiary when a partner dies. "We’re aiming to erase the discrimination that exists in our laws and guarantee that same-sex couples have the same rights as others,” Quebec Justice Minister Paul Begin said.
However, homosexuals still wouldn’t be able to marry because matrimony falls under federal jurisdiction. Also, the draft bill doesn’t allow for adoption by homosexual couples. The legislation should be adopted next spring after public hearings in January, said Begin. Nova Scotia passed a similar bill in June. But unlike Quebec, gay couples can adopt in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
November 14, 2001
PrideVision pricing ‘half-way to pay-TV’
by Sinclair Stewart, Financial Post
Canada’s first gay-themed television channel may have resolved its dispute with cable operator Shaw Communications Inc., but the fledgling carrier now faces an even greater challenge: turning a profit. PrideVision, a new digital specialty channel launched by Headline Media Group Inc., unveiled its pricing strategy yesterday and said it will need "well over" 100,000 subscribers to break even.
Instead of being bundled into a package with other channels, PrideVision will be offered on a stand-alone basis for $7.95 per month on Bell ExpressVu and $5.95 per month on Shaw and its satellite subsidiary, Star Choice. The channel is still negotiating a price with Rogers Communications Inc. "That’s halfway to pay-TV," said one analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The analyst speculated that the rates might actually prevent the channel from gaining viewership outside of the gay community. David Errington, senior vice-president and general manager of the channel, defended the business plan and said the company is aiming to hit break even after three years. "We chose to sell it as a premium service because in our mind that’s the only we can make a business out of this," he said.
The other digital start-ups are being offered in bundles, although subscribers still have the option to purchase them individually, said Peter Bissonnette, president of Shaw Communications. However, he added that these channels will typically sell for between $1.99 and $3.99 per month. Shaw, which was initially worried PrideVision might offend some of its customers, was ordered by the federal broadcast regulator in September to include the channel in a free preview period.
April 11, 2002
New rights for singles, same-sex couples in Newfoundland adoption laws
St. John’s – Advocates of Newfoundland and Labrador’s revised adoption laws say they could be a possible blueprint for the entire country. Others say the changes are welcome but don’t go far enough. The revised laws will replace a 50-year-old statute, and will implement new rules to let single parents and same sex couples adopt, and give children a greater voice. Marilyn McCormack, with the provincial Health and Community Services Department, says the new laws are geared toward children. She says records can be opened if all parties agree, new medical facts can be shared, and children as young as five will be counselled about adoption. "I think they have a right to say and understand what this means if they go through an adoption process," said McCormack. Judith Grove, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada, says the legislation is progressive, especially in its inclusion of common-law and same sex couples.
"We need a great variety of potential families and I think taking applications from anyone who is interested is the best way to find those families," said Grove. She says Newfoundland’s revised law could have an effect on adoption in other provinces. "That’s something a lot of us have been talking about but nobody’s ever actually put into legislation, so this is a first. We’ll be watching it very closely I think." But some adoptees say they hoped the revisions would go further. Kim Snook of St. John’s was adopted. She says children and parents still face barriers in the search for birth families. Snook says she thinks adoptive parents should receive a letter when their child reaches legal age, providing information on the location of the birth family. Barb McGrath is searching for the child she gave up for adoption when she was 17. She says the new laws apply only to people who adopt after it’s been passed. "I don’t think that’s fair. From the beginning, the government has always said it’s protecting the mothers. I am a mother, and I don’t need protecting." The revised adoption law should be in place by June.
April 18, 2002
Why Quebec’s gay marriage case is a big deal
by Richard Burnett
Canadians living in what many Quebecers call the ROC – the rest of Canada – can be forgiven for thinking that a same-sex marriage lawsuit currently winding its way through the Quebec court system will have little effect on the ROC. Montreal couple Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf, together 29 years, are suing both the federal and Quebec governments for the right to marry in what many observers say is shaping up to be the most important gay- rights case in the history of Canada. That’s because similar cases in the rest of Canada will not affect Quebec and its Civil Code whereas the Quebec case will affect the entire country because it is also challenging federal and common law. "I suspect the reason there hasn’t been much coverage about our case in the rest of Canada is just the social differences between the two societies," Hendricks says. "What happens in Quebec isn’t reported elsewhere unless it involves language laws.
I don’t even think we’re even getting significant coverage on same-sex civil unions. I don’t think people understand the cases in Ontario and British Columbia will have minimal impact in Quebec and our case will have maximum impact outside Quebec." The most recent news report outside Quebec covering Hendricks and LeBoeuf’s Mar 22 Quebec Superior Court hearings over the impact of the Quebec government’s recent "civil union" proposal was by the Canadian Press on March 22. "A gay couple that wants to get married rejected Quebec’s proposed legislation on same-sex civil unions as an alternative to marriage," CP reported. But Hendricks says the Canadian Press got it wrong. "We think civil unions are a good first step and we will get one if the law passes," he says. Hendricks also says Quebec Superior Court Justice Louise Lemelin scheduled the hearings so "we could testify why a civil union is not enough. Marriage is social recognition and as Canadian citizens we have the right to a conjugal regime that is recognized throughout Canada.
The same is true of registered civil unions in Nova Scotia – they’re not transportable and as Canadians we have the right to travel sea to sea to sea and have the same rights as every other Canadian." Veteran gay activist Hendricks and LeBoeuf have mortgaged their home to cover legal fees that have already topped $160,000. Montreal’s gay community raised an additional $7,500 at a Feb 6 dinner benefit. "The biggest support outside Quebec is from Ontario couples visiting [Articles reader] Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell’s www.equalmarriage.ca website," Hendricks says. "Some have also donated money. Egale [the national lobby group], on the other hand, has donated $1,000 to the Quebec Coalition For Same-Sex Marriage but they haven’t donated a penny directly to our case." Hendricks admits he is surprised over the widespread support for gay marriage in Quebec. "When we filed our lawsuit in 1998 there was little support within the gay community for gay marriage. But now it’s universally accepted that we should have the right to be married. That’s an enormous change," he says. "We’ve also seen support among heterosexuals in Quebec grow from 52 percent in January 1998 to 76 percent in a June 2001 poll by Leger Marketing." Despite widespread public support, Hendricks expects Quebec and Ottawa will appeal a pro-gay marriage ruling by the Quebec Superior Court that is expected by June.
"The government is trailing behind the wishes of the population and opposes gay marriage," Hendricks says, echoing pundits who say Quebec’s proposed civil-unions law is simply a ploy by the Parti Québecois to boost its sagging popularity before it calls an election. But if the law passes before the Quebec National Assembly’s summer recess, it will enshrine both same-sex and opposite-sex civil unions (thus ridding the government of that pesky "separate but equal" argument) and give same-sex couples full parental rights. It would also make Quebec, after the Netherlands, the most progressive jurisdiction on the planet for same-sex couples and non-traditional families. The law will also likely include a sunset clause which will further pressure the feds to legalize gay marriage. "Parti Québecois minister Andre Boisclair, who is openly gay, told us it isn’t a political ploy," Hendricks says. "I think they will pass the law by Jun 24.
I think the Parti Québecois is trying to cut a new image for their party. They want a glowing human-rights legacy because they could have done this a long time ago – during the 1994 provincial election and then again in the 1995 referendum – and now they face defeat in the courts." Even if Quebec passes its civil unions law, the province and Ottawa will likely appeal any pro-gay marriage ruling by the Quebec Superior Court. "We expect our case will be appealed by either side to the Supreme Court Of Canada where we will likely only get a final legal ruling in 2006, hopefully before Montreal hosts the 2006 Gay Games," Hendricks says. "Civil unions are, of course, a big advance and will eventually pave the way for gay marriage. Right now our rights are increasingly recognized but governments won’t give us the whole package. They are willing to give us the contents but not the container. And it’s the container – marriage itself – that is important to René and myself because it is the gold standard of acceptance in our society." . Richard Burnett is Editor-at-large of Montreal’s Hour magazine.
August 12, 2002
Canadian Court ruling sets stage for gay union
By Mark Blanchard, The Washington Times
Toronto – The Canadian government is considering whether to legalize same-sex "marriage" after a court ruled that the traditional definition of marriage – one man, one woman – violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "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," wrote Justice Harry LaForme of the Ontario Superior Court. Homosexual- and lesbian-rights activists across the country were delighted by the ruling. Couples kissed each other for the news cameras, held hands and lined up for marriage licenses. "The genie’s out of the bottle," said Michael Leshner, a government lawyer who wants to marry his longtime male lover.
"The old marriage process is dead. It can’t be resurrected." But the wedding plans were soon put on hold. The federal government has decided to appeal the ruling, which gives it two years to change the law. The government has also appointed a parliamentary committee to study the issue. It could release a discussion paper as early as next month. Among the government’s options are changing the definition of marriage to cover same-sex couples or creating a form of civil union for homosexuals and lesbians. It could even get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it up to the churches to decide what constitutes marriage. Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal Party is torn by the issue. Both Industry Minister Allan Rock and Foreign Minister Bill Graham have voiced their support for same-sex "marriage." "It’s an important step along the road to equality," Mr. Rock said before marching in a homosexual pride parade.
"I respect those who believe in the integrity of marriage," Mr. Graham said. "It’s equally important that gay and lesbian people who are in an affectionate relationship over time want to commit themselves to that relationship." But some Liberal backbenchers are incensed by the idea and have called on Mr. Rock to resign. When he served as Canada’s justice minister, they say, he promised that same-sex "marriages" would not be allowed. "Mr. Rock’s position breaks caucus solidarity, which is forged by consensus, so perhaps he should consider a career as a backbencher," said Dan McTeague, an outspoken member of Parliament representing suburban voters in southern Ontario. In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, councilors voted 28-6 in favor of same-sex "marriages" by asking the federal government to drop its appeal of the Ontario court ruling.
8 March 2002
Quebec: Gay ‘Widows’ Win Back Pensions
Four gay ‘Widows’ from Quebec, have won back their pension rights from the government in a case that could benefit many others in the community. Quebec and Canada have separate pension plans for their citizens, although the two plans are pretty much the same. In 1998 both amended their laws covering pensions to include surviving partners in same-sex relationships. The pensions are worth about $400 Canadian (around £280) a month. The money is in addition to the survivor’s own government pension. Both governments, however, said they would only pay gay survivors whose partners died after the law went into effect in 1998. Four gay men whose partners died before 1998 took Quebec to court, arguing that the benefits should be effective from the date gays and lesbians were given civil rights rights in the Canadian Constitution, 1977, reports Canadian gay site, 365Gay.com. A Quebec Court of Appeal this week ruled that the four men had been discriminated against.
July 28, 2002
Feds may leave marriages to the church
by Janice Tibbetts, The Ottawa Citizen
The federal government, faced with a court ruling that allows gays and lesbians to tie the knot, is considering withdrawing from the marriage business and leaving it to the church. A government source confirmed Friday that the radical proposal is one of four options that the Justice Department is contemplating, regardless of whether it appeals an Ontario court decision that sanctioned gay marriage for the first time in Canadian law. The possibility of making marriage solely a religious institution is on the table as the Justice Department struggles with revamping its laws following the Ontario Divisional Court ruling July 12 that gave the federal government two years to conform to the equality guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by recognizing gays and lesbian unions.
The prospect of abandoning regulation of marriage, however, is still in its infancy and many issues have yet to be examined, including the impact it would have on divorce. The federal government currently regulates who can marry in Canada and provinces handle the particulars of the ceremony, including licences. One of three judges on the Ontario Divisional Court panel that sanctioned same-sex marriage raised the idea of the federal government withdrawing from marriage, as he pointed out that including gays and lesbians in traditional marriage is not the only option.
August 5, 2002
Canadians court same-sex marriage
by Deb Price, The Detroit News
Life for gay Canadians is likely to be wonderfully transformed because of one simple question posed in a phone call last year: "Would you and Joe like to get married?" The question was asked by the Rev. Brent Hawkes, pastor of the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto. A resounding "yes" came back from Kevin Bourassa and his partner Joe Varnell, both members of the church. The pastor was looking for two same-sex couples wanting to marry and willing to sue if the province of Ontario balked at registering their church-issued marriage license. Marriage in Ontario can take place two ways: Since the 1950s, couples have been able to directly get a license from a government clerk. Or they can wed in an ancient Christian tradition known as "the reading of the banns."
As Hawkes explained to Kevin, after a church publicly announces a proposed marriage three times, a minister issues the couple a marriage license that the provincial government is required by law to register. The banns, an attorney had told Hawkes, offered a promising new way to challenge Canada’s heterosexual-only marriage restriction. In January 2001, in a packed sanctuary, Hawkes united Kevin and Joe as well as active parishioners Anne and Elaine Vautour. When Ontario refused to register the marriages, the couples and church sued. Joined by eight couples denied licenses by a Toronto clerk, the resulting lawsuit led to a recent landmark decision that will reverberate far beyond Canada: A unanimous three-judge court ruled July 12 that denying gay couples marriage licenses violates that country’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, essentially a modern equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
The 129-page decision demolishes arguments against gay marriage. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in declaring "the time is always ripe to do right," Judge H.S. LaForme wrote, "The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays. … I can find no benefit whatsoever to the exclusion." The court gave Parliament just two years to end the discrimination, though LaForme wanted to open marriage immediately. (See www.samesexmarriage.ca) The forceful decision now under appeal will add wind to the sails propelling same-sex marriage toward reality in the United States. The Netherlands became the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001, but the strides being taken by the United States’ neighbor to the north will resonate much more loudly in American legal, political, and religious circles.
In a significant development in the Ontario case, a popular Toronto church – which had 3,300 attend its Christmas Eve service – is fighting alongside gay couples to open marriage. The recent Canadian ruling’s detailed analysis should bolster U.S. judges and politicians wanting to act wisely and boldly. Currently, same-sex marriage lawsuits are under way in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Canada has moved much more quickly than the United States in protecting gay citizens. Since the 1980s, gay Canadians have gained sweeping rights from their Supreme Court and Parliament. Gay Canadians serve openly in the military. And long-term gay couples have access to most of the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. Unlike in the United States, religious fundamentalists have little clout. The Canadian public increasingly supports same-sex marriage: After the ruling, Canadians favored gay marriage 48 percent to 43 percent, a Pollara survey found.
And hinting at the future, 65 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds favor it. Joe and Kevin look forward to Parliament embracing same-sex marriage or having Canada’s highest court strike down the restriction now written into law. As Joe points out, "there’s a sense of inevitability among Canadians" that gay couples will marry. . Deb Price’s column is published on Monday. You can contact her at (202) 662-7370 or email@example.com.
August 8, 2002
Ottawa eyes quick end to gay debate -Liberals to consult with public on marriage laws amid ferment of competing solutions
by Bill Curry, National Post, with files from Southam News
Ottawa – Jean Chrétien announced yesterday that Canadians will be asked for their views on same-sex marriages, but refused to reveal his own feelings on the subject. The Prime Minister and Martin Cauchon, the Justice Minister, said a public consultation will begin next month with the aim of coming to a speedy conclusion. A parliamentary committee will hold public hearings and the Justice Department will release a public discussion paper in September, Mr. Cauchon said. He said he wants the committee to reach a "rapid" conclusion so that the government can quickly decide what to do. Mr. Chrétien described the debate over gay and lesbian marriage as a "social problem" while keeping his personal thoughts under wraps. "I want you to tell me yours and after that I will tell you [mine].
Because my views are one thing, but I’m the Prime Minister of Canada," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Ottawa yesterday. "I could decide tomorrow, but that’s not the process." Sources say possibilities under consideration by the government include: broadening the definition of marriage to cover same-sex couples, taking the government out of the marriage business and leaving it to the churches, or affirming marriage as an opposite-sex union while creating a parallel civil union for gays and lesbians. One choice to be presented to the public is rejecting gay and lesbian marriage by continuing the legal battle against an Ontario court ruling last month that recognized same-sex marriage for the first time in Canadian law.
The Prime Minister defended the government’s decision to appeal the ruling, which found the federal definition of marriage violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying same-sex couples the right to marry. The ruling gave the federal government two years to change its definition. Mr. Chrétien said the government often appeals court decisions and also rewrites laws after rulings by tribunals. "When you look at the situation in France, they didn’t change the definition of marriage, but they made the social contract that other provinces are making in Canada. So it’s an extremely complex problem that needs study. So we’re studying," he said. In the past week, three senior Cabinet ministers, Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister; Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister and Allan Rock, the Industry Minister, have come out in favour of same-sex marriage. Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE), a gay-rights lobby group, said it expects the support of at least seven Cabinet ministers, including Jane Stewart, the Human Resources Minister; Paul DeVillers, the Amateur Sport Minister and Jean Augustine, Secretary of State for the Status of Women.
Yesterday was the first Cabinet meeting since the government’s decision to appeal the ruling, but Mr. Cauchon brushed off suggestions his colleagues are divided. The government is appealing the decision because it believes the court "wasn’t right in law." "There is major legal concern and we have to keep going on that side, but also at the same time, as Justice Minister, I wanted to keep all options open," Mr. Cauchon said. "I do believe it’s a question of law, but it’s a very important question of social issue." Taking the issue to the Supreme Court is not a priority for the government, he said, because it is a decision that must be made by the government and Parliament. He also pointed out that the same Ontario tribunal that ruled against the federal definition of marriage had in fact supported the definition in a 1993 decision. Both the Canadian Alliance and EGALE said they support the government’s decision to study the issue further.
The Alliance maintains its support for the current definition of marriage, however, while EGALE sees the study as a first step toward recognizing same-sex marriage. "They’re showing what I would call cautious leadership," said John Fisher, EGALE’s executive director. "Leadership in our view involves actually taking action rather than just talking about taking action. This is the opening of a dialogue and it’s a dialogue that we feel leads down an inevitable path toward one conclusion, which is the equal treatment of same-sex couples within marriage. "We hope that this will not become a prolonged and endless circular debate." The government has yet to decide which committee will study the issue, but Andy Scott, the Liberal MP who chairs the House Justice committee, said he has already told Mr. Cauchon his committee can handle the job. "I would anticipate a great deal of interest in this," he said.
July 15, 2002
A celebration of diversity 55,000 join Pride festivities
by Nelly Elayoubi, Ottawa Sun
Some bared their chests, some bared their butts, but for one day of the year, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people could be open about their practices and preferences. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Week celebrations wrapped up yesterday with the Pride Parade. Forty colourful floats made their way blowing whistles, honking horns and spraying water guns, from Gatineau through Ottawa and ending at Gladstone Ave. and Bank St. A crowd estimated at 55,000 came out and the numbers climbed as people arrived at the Bank St. party, surpassing last year’s 32,000 overall attendance. "This is significant because it has become a major city event not just for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered community but for the entire region," said Jarmila Dokladalova, Pride Committee Ottawa-Gatineau chairwoman.
Councillors Alex Munter and Elisabeth Arnold had their own float. "The growth of Pride festivities reflects the growth of our city," Munter said. "An Ottawa summer is a summer of festivals and it’s great to see this record turnout." "I’m thrilled to be part of a parade that celebrates our city’s diversity," Arnold said. For honorary parade marshals Dennis and Diana Stimson, being in the parade was a way to show gays that parents can be accepting. The couple’s two sons, aged 32 and 37, are gay. Diana has been participating in the parade for nine years and Dennis for eight years. "It was euphoric. It was great because there were so many people in the city and wonderful to have people wave to you," Diana said. The couple was proud and humbled by their roles. This was the first year the street party was held on Bank St. and Dokladalova said this gave the event an urban feel. "The importance of Pride is it’s an organized event that brings people together," Dokladalova said.
May 7, 2002
Albelta to give same-sex couples similar rights as married couples
by John Cotter
Edmonton (CP) – Same-sex couples in Alberta will enjoy some of the same legal rights as married couples under two bills introduced Tuesday by Premier Ralph Klein’s government. The legislation has angered social conservatives but Justice Minister David Hancock said he believes most Albertans will support the change. "We need to make Alberta’s laws applicable to all Albertans and available to all Albertans on a fair basis," Hancock said. "That is a fundamental that has to be met." Bill 30 will not recognize gay marriages but it will extend some of the legal rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples and people in other adult interdependent relationships.
The law would apply to people who have either lived together for three years, have signed a relationship contract or have a child. It would require partners to be liable for support payments in the event of breakups. It would not extend pension benefits to partners in such relationships or apply to the division of property acquired during a relationship due to breakups. The government plans to hold the bill over until the fall to gauge public reaction to it. However, the government must pass another bill this spring to comply with a court ruling last year that said Alberta’s inheritance law is unconstitutional. Bill 29 would give people in same-sex relationships the same rights as married couples when it comes to inheriting property when a partner dies without a will. Hancock said the bills recognize that the right to equality prohibits discrimination while still protecting the institution of marriage.
"Marriage has meaning. The institution of marriage as a social, religious and cultural institution must be maintained," Hancock said. "But there is also the value of fairness before the law." Last month Quebec introduced legislation to recognize civil unions for gays and lesbians, though not marriage. Nova Scotia already has such a law. Gay and lesbian couples can adopt children in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Robert Smith, a gay community activist from Edmonton, had mixed feelings about Alberta’s legislation. He said while it is important gays and lesbians are treated fairly, he doesn’t like the Klein government’s reluctance to formally recognize same-sex unions.
"Every step forward is a tiny success but I don’t favour anything that hides same-sex relationships in a category that conveniently recognizes interdependence without an emotional attachment," he said. "They are looking for a way to hide it so the voters don’t protest too loudly." Social conservatives in the province reacted with anger to the legislation and vowed to lobby against it. Government recognition of such relationships will only undermine traditional values, said Maureen Heron, spokeswoman for the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families. "Homosexuality is not a normal condition. It is a physical disorder, it a social disorder and it is a spiritual disorder," Heron said. "Why are we forced to go down this path of accepting that what they do is equivalent to being married with children? "All we can do is let our government know that our minister has betrayed the families of Alberta."
The 5,000-member federation is a vocal proponent of "family values and Judeo-Christian ethics" and is staunchly anti-abortion. Under Bill 30 an adult interdependent relationship is described as any two adults living together in a long-term, committed relationship of economic and emotional interdependence. This would include conjugal and platonic relationships. Bill 29 stems from the case of Brent Johnson, an Edmonton man who claimed a share of $160,000 in life insurance left behind when his same-sex partner died. Under the old law, only legally married spouses could inherit if there is no will. Johnson said he hopes the legislation will mean gays and lesbians will be treated more fairly in the future. "I was getting pessimistic so I am quite pleased that this is being introduced," Johnson said. "We are treated the same in every other way like paying taxes. We should have the same rights otherwise."
July 12, 2002
Canadian court rules gay marriages are valid
Toronto – A court in the powerful province of Ontario made Canadian history Friday by ruling that the provincial government must register gay and lesbian marriages. In the first such decision by any court in the country, the Ontario Superior Court said it would give the provincial government two years to afford same-sex unions the same rights as a marriage between a man and a woman. "The status and incidence inherent in the foundational institution of marriage must be open to same sex couples," said the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel. Gay activists hailed the decision as a major victory. But their battle may not be over yet, since the definition of who can get married in Canada is solely a federal jurisdiction. The federal justice ministry in Ottawa, which insists a marriage must be between a man and a woman, has 15 days to decide whether to appeal.
A ministry spokesman said the ruling was "very interesting" but declined to comment further. The Ontario government also has the right to appeal. The Ontario ruling came in response to a lawsuit launched by gay couple Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa after the Ontario government refused to register their marriage last year. "The government can no longer continue to treat gays and lesbians as second-class citizens," Varnell told CBC television from the Toronto church where he and Bourassa were married. "I’m confident that this ruling will resonate for people across Canada and indeed around the world." Canadian gay activists now want Ottawa to follow the lead of the Netherlands, which last year became the first country to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
The Canadian Parliament overhauled 68 federal statutes in 2000 to erase most legal differences between heterosexual and homosexual couples. But lawmakers drew the line at changing the definition of marriage. A spokesman for the Ontario provincial government said it was up to Ottawa to take the next step but he did not rule out an Ontario appeal. "They (the judges) have really put the government on the spot. In two years they are asking them to look at their definition of marriage and make changes to that," Ben Hamilton told Reuters. Gay activists said the ruling in Ontario – where more than a third of Canada’s 30 million people live – would have major repercussions in the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec, where similar cases are before the courts.
"This ruling in Ontario, as strongly worded as it is, makes it very, very difficult for judges in Quebec…and British Columbia to ignore the reasoning that was taken here," said Varnell. Douglas Elliott, one of the lawyers involved in the Ontario case, said the ruling was not just a victory for the country’s gays and lesbians. "Canada has a rich culture of human rights. Our respect for diversity and our religious tolerance is what makes Canada a great society. Today’s victory is a victory for our entire country," he told a Toronto news conference.
Feedback: The following URLs are related to the Ontario court’s same-sex marriage decision: For the decision text: http://www.sgmlaw.com/userfiles/filesevent/file_1413620_halpern.PDF For video of a news conference on the decision: http://www.pulse24.com/In_The_Raw/Raw_Video/page.asp#gay
July 22, 2002
Gay Pride Week ends in St. John’s
by Will Hilliard, The Telegram
There were no feathers and fishnets to be seen during the annual Gay Pride parade in downtown St. John’s Sunday, and less than 80 people turned out. But organizer Derrick Bishop blamed it on the weather, not a lack of support for the gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. "I don’t know why this always happens but you can almost be sure that every time we have this it’s going to be a cold day," said Bishop, before the noon-day parade which began at City Hall after a short ceremony to close a local weeklong celebration of the gay rights movement. But he said the turnout was no reflection on the celebrations.
"We had quite a large turnout," said Bishop, who is chairman of Newfoundland Gays and Lesbians for Equality. A buzz He said the buzz during the celebrations revolved around two recent decisions that could lead to the recognition of same-sex marriages in both civil and church weddings. In a decision that was harshly condemned by some as an attack on religious freedom, an Ontario court ruled that prohibiting gay couples from marrying in civil unions is unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Waiting on word The question now is whether Ottawa will say, "I do" to same-sex marriages, said Bishop. The Supreme Court of Ontario has suspended its decision for two years to give Parliament time to adopt a new definition of marriage. If Ottawa doesn’t act within that period, the legal definition of civil marriage would become the union of "two persons."
]The decision stems from a case in which a gay couple who were married in the tolerant Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto could not get the union registered by the province. Same-sex relationships are recognized under the same category as common-law marriages by the federal government. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has said his province won’t recognize same-sex marriages and he has urged Ottawa to appeal the decision. Authorities in other provinces, meanwhile, will watch carefully over the next two years. Bishop said a decision of the Vancouver-area Diocese of New Westminster – amid fractious debate within the diocese to sanction the blessing of same-sex marriages – has also made many same-sex couples here hopeful they too will get to walk down the aisle with their partners. No city representation No city officials were present at Sunday’s ceremony and parade. This week’s event marked the 33rd anniversary of the international gay-rights movement and the 10th anniversary of local Pride Week.
The roots of Gay Pride Week date back to June 28, 1969 in New York City, when the gay, lesbian and bisexual community stood up against constant police harassment. The clash resulted in three days of violence known as the Stonewall Riots, named after a gay bar that was picked on by police. ‘Come a long way’ "Some of the things we also have to look at now is that in Canada we have come a long way, but in other countries – particularly in the Middle East and in some Asian countries – gays and lesbians can suffer the death penalty because of their sexual orientation," said Bishop. "I believe that Canadian immigration should be looking at bringing some of these people here."
June 7, 2002
Quebec adopts same-sex union and parental rights with supporters looking on
by Alexander Panetta
Quebec (CP) – Surely unaware of how the moment would change their lives, a group of toddlers decked out in their fanciest duds watched Friday as the Quebec legislature gave them each a second parent. Every politician present in the legislature voted to approve Bill 84, which recognizes same-sex couples’ rights to adopt, raise children, and to share a marriage-like status called a civil union. While their parents cried and cheered from the gallery as the law was passed, the children seemed unimpressed. One little boy plopped his head on a wooden banister and prepared to take a nap. "This is the first of its kind in the world," said a beaming Irene Demczuk, a gay-rights activist. "There is no other jurisdiction in the world where equality was offered unanimously to same-sex couples and their children.
"Quebec has taken a historic step." Same-sex adoptions are now legal in more than half of Canadian provinces, including Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Gay and lesbian couples were already allowed to adopt children in Quebec, but only one partner could have parental status. Quebec is also the second province to grant marriage-style rights, after Nova Scotia. Mona Greenbaum says her partner will now be able to perform parental duties such as signing report cards and approving vaccines for their sons, Leo, 3, and Simon, 2. "We’ve always felt like we were a family," said Greenbaum, her eyes welling with tears.
"But in terms of the rest of society recognizing us, we didn’t have that before. "It’s such a supreme showing of acceptance for our type of family." The couple snapped photos to help their sons one day appreciate the significance of the moment. "They know that they’ve been to a meeting in a big fancy room and that they had to be quiet. They don’t really understand, but I’ll be very happy to tell them what happened when they get older." When the law comes into effect this July, Greenbaum can have a civil-union ceremony. She will also change the boys’ family name to Paquette-Greenbaum, adding the last name of her partner Nicole Paquette. In the legislature, Premier Bernard Landry thanked the audience of parents and children for their contribution to Quebec society.
"It is with immense pride that we are taking this historic step that will place Quebec at the forefront of modern nations on the question of civil union and family laws," said Landry. "We owe this major step to the citizens of Quebec who campaigned to help such a thing happen, and many of them are in the gallery right here." One smartly dressed little boy wearing a tie began clapping when Liberal Leader Jean Charest congratulated the dozen families in attendance. "A good question was asked about this legislation and it was the following: What should we do in the interests of the children?" Charest said. "I’m pleased that today, we can provide the right answer for these children, who deserve one thing, the one thing that all the children in the world deserve.
That thing is love, the love of the people around them regardless of their sexual orientation." Justice Minister Paul Begin had planned to introduce more cautious civil-union legislation, but quickly moved to include parental rights after legislative hearings earlier this year. He said Quebec has evolved and the legislation was simply a question of reflecting current values. It was unfair that gays and lesbians could adopt children but not share parental status with a partner, he added. "People will continue to live and be together, but now they’ll be able to do it in all legality, with all the love they share between them, and especially with their children," Begin told reporters.
April 27, 2002
Quebec set to recognize same-sex unions
Quebec City, Quebec – The Canadian province of Quebec will give legal status to unions of same-sex couples by late June, Attorney General Paul Begin said Friday The legal relationships won’t be called marriages, but rather civil unions. Quebec will become the second Canadian province to legalize civil unions of same-sex couples. Nova Scotia was the first. A draft bill, unveiled in the Quebec legislature Thursday and expected to be adopted by the end of the current session, would give same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married heterosexual couples, including adoption and artificial insemination. Legislative hearings on the legislation will start in May.
"It will be a civil union for gays and lesbians, just like marriage for heterosexuals," Begin told Reuters in Quebec City, the capital of the predominantly French-speaking province, whose politics were strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic church until the late 1960s. Gays and lesbians will get most of the benefits of married couples, including health and insurance benefits, tax status and rights to benefits after divorce or death. The minimum age for civil unions of both same-sex and heterosexual couples is set at 18. However the minimum age for traditional heterosexual marriages will be 16. Couples who opt for civil unions may divorce simply by signing an agreement before a notary public, provided there are no children involved. Couples who opt for traditional marriages must still go to court to divorce. "We followed the evolution of Quebec society.
People are favorable to this. Gay civil unions are accepted socially," Begin said in the interview. Begin said public opinion in the liberal-minded province led the government to move forward on the legislation. "What we heard in public hearings was very moving. I saw people crying after testimony by gays, lesbians and their children," he said. He pointed out that 20 percent of all couples living in Quebec had common law status, while 3 percent were gays or lesbians. More than three out of four Quebecers support civil unions for homosexuals, polls show.
July 10, 2002
Vancouver, B.C. —Crisp, Chic and A Little Crazy (A Tourist’s View)
by Dan Dawson, BluWay Guest Contributor
Vancouver, B.C. – I had seen many marvelous sights during this trip, from the spectacular imperial architecture of Victoria`s Parliament Houses to a hot strip show in a Vancouver hot spot. But, it was at the moment our group observed two friendly seals frolicking in the presence of three scuba divers at English Bay that I stopped to catch my breath. I realized that this part of the world is one of the most spectacular and unique places to be inspired by nature and awed by history while experiencing a completely modern gay-friendly city. Here is a mix of majestic mountains, deep fjords, thousands of islands and rugged coastlines. There are enormous rock cliffs that rise from the sea with large carvings cut into their faces by the land`s first people (what Canadians call the Native Americans).
These Petroglyphs are believed to be especially powerful. After a few days traveling through British Columbia, it is easy to understand why these symbols have been placed here. The beauty of the mountains, the towering fir trees, and moss covered rocks all converge to create a landscape that inspires a spiritual feeling that refreshes the soul. The Tourism Board of British Columbia had invited several gay and lesbian writers to sample the wonders that make up this Canadian province and to see just how gay friendly a place it is. Being openly gay here seems to be as natural as the landscape. Canada overall is much more laid-back and accepting than the United States. Gays serve in the military (asking and telling are not an issue), there are many important laws protecting gay and lesbian rights, and there are several openly gay Members of Parliament. I personally found British Columbia`s people to be very tolerant and accepting. Walking down Davie or Robson holding hands with your partner turns very few heads.
On the ride from Whistler I overheard a man saying to the women next to him, "Whistler sure seems busy with all the gays in town," referring to the thousands of gay men and lesbians invading the resort for Alltitude 2000, their Gay Ski Week. This man was in no way judgmental, simply observing a fact. I have always loved Vancouver. It is one of the most clean, safe, and easy to enjoy cities in North America. It feels very European in many ways and offers an amazing number of activities. From hot nightspots featuring great cabaret and shower dancing (I will come back to this), to museums, superb theater, and countless outdoor sports. Conde Nast Traveler has proclaimed Vancouver one of the top ten destinations several years in a row. From a gay perspective, I would heartily second their recommendation. On the day I arrived the weather was breathtaking. Despite the fact it was mid-winter, the sun was shining and the buildings glittered. One of the things that makes Vancouver unique is the way the city incorporates the environment into its design. Unlike so many other cities, Vancouver has been constructed in tune with nature and the geography. Parks, public gardens, wide unobstructed views of the mountains, and even the tree-lined residential streets, give the city a lush green glow.
My favorite place to wander is Stanley Park. One writer described it as a "thousand acre therapeutic couch." The largest city park space in Canada and one of the largest in North America, Stanley Park covers over 1000 acres and is one of Vancouverites` favorite outdoor spaces. Paved paths edge the outer rim of the huge peninsula jutting into English Bay. Bike, jog, blade, or just walk the seawall path communing with nature, swept up in the natural beauty. Steep unpaved paths lead into the park interior, offering a closer look at the remains of an ancient rainforest. Other areas are less wooded featuring more civilized activities like tennis courts, a rose garden, a large public swimming pool, lawn bowling courts, and an outdoor theater. There are three restaurants, all on the upscale side, serving Pacific Northwest cuisine including fresh salmon and other seafood. My favorite is the Teahouse Restaurant on a bluff at Ferguson`s Point, providing views of the bay and wonderful sunsets. Very popular, reservations here are a good idea. The park entrance is conveniently located at the intersection of Davie and Denman, the gayest streets in Vancouver.
This area is perfect for enjoying the constant parade of young, hip runners and bladders, sort of Vancouver`s version of Muscle Beach. If you are visiting in summer and prefer to sun "au natural," don`t miss Wreck Beach on Point Grey. Down a wooded path and stairway you will discover one of the world`s best known nude strands, with a gay and straight section. And again, as with homosexuality, Canadians seem to have a more relaxed attitude about nudity. The beach includes vendors selling food, drink and trinkets. When you leave the trail go left, toward the point, to reach the gay section. Vancouver is comprised of neighborhoods, each offering its own interest to visitors. Here is a review of some of the better-known and most entertaining sections of the city. Chinatown North America`s third largest Chinatown (after New York and San Francisco), it was settled in the 1880`s. Here you find the typical steamy windows of wonton houses, stores displaying barbecued ducks, and stalls packed with exotic roots for Chinese medicine.
Tea lovers won`t want to miss the Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Co., where enormous selections of imported leaves are available. A traditional meal at one of the Dim Sum restaurants and a stroll in the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Gardens is a great way to spend a tranquil afternoon. The garden is a reproduction from the Ming Dynasty. There are art exhibits, musical performances, and a Moon Festival in October. Yaletown In its rowdy heyday, Yaletown boasted more saloons per acre than anywhere in the world. It was the last stop for many young men on their way to find their fortune during the gold rush. Today, the warehouses and storefronts have become a haven for urban yuppies to live and shop in, being filled with art galleries, pubs, boutiques, and coffeehouses. Gastown This section of town near the water features picturesque brick paved streets, old buildings and gas lamps lining the streets. Diverse shops stock eclectic items such as oriental carpets and Inuit arts and crafts, and quaint bistros serve a variety of ethnic foods. The landmark here is an old steam powered clock, which every half hour explodes in a steam-powered song announcing the time to loud bellows and blows, exciting the crowds who gather for the performance. Downtown Downtown Vancouver is not just a working place that shuts down in the evening. Among other interests, the Vancouver Art Museum is located here, a great place for art lovers to spend the day wandering the exhibits, including a superlative collection of works by Emily Carr.
The main library is a grand Coliseum-style contemporary designed complex including shops and cafes. The famous Hudson Bay Company has its flagship store here, and Canada Place, the city`s convention and exhibition center, cruise ship terminal, and seaplane port are also conveniently located here. Granville Island This is my second favorite place when I visit Vancouver. An easy bike ride or walk from Stanley Park along English Bay following False Creek, watch for the water taxi stands along the way that ferry you over to the Island. Once the location of warehouses and industrial buildings that built ships and war machines for WW II, Granville Island is now a cornucopia of art galleries, restaurants, street performers, theaters, and it`s most outstanding feature, a marvelous farmers market where you may sample foods from around the world. The West End (Gay Vancouver) There are three streets forming a squared-off U-shape that is the center of the city`s chic district and gay area. The streets are Robson, Davie, and Denman. Robson is the place to see and be seen. A shopper`s paradise, especially with the strength of the US dollar right now, you will spend it fast in trendy boutiques and big name stores. There are several music stores here that feature imports that are next to impossible to find back in the U.S. Competition between such giants as Virgin Megastore and A&B Music have driven down prices, making the cost for your music likes the lowest in North America. Robson is also rightly famous for its restaurants, everything from Spanish Tapas to Sushi bars, and everything in between.
The city`s premier gay streets are the other two avenues making up the U-shape, Davie and Denman. These thoroughfares and the neighborhoods around them are high-density and urban, yet relaxed and friendly. Both streets sport coffeehouses, specialty shops, cafes, bookstores, and many of the city`s gay hangouts. The heart of this area is on Davie between Burrad and Jervis streets. Walking down Davie toward Granville, Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium must be visited, first because of its fine stock of gay and lesbian goodies, and also because it is somewhat of an icon in the community, the owner having spent years fighting Canadian Customs to allow gay material into the country. Numbers is a popular nightspot for the Levi/leather crowd. This three-story club features a small but energetic dance floor attracting a slightly rougher mid-30`s and up crowd. Their downstairs bar is popular with Asian men. A few storefronts away is one of the newest and cleanest health clubs in town, Farenheight 212.
The hottest spot for young hip gay men is The Odyssey. Just off Davie and accessed by an alley, this club has the techno music and pounding sounds that draw the big crowds. One night showcases "showier dancing," where a glass shower stall has been mounted near the dance floor where studly models and amateurs alike get wet to the crowd`s delight. For those into comic drag, Sunday night at Feather Boa is a must, presenting some of the best not-to-serious yet still professional drag shows I have ever seen. Where Davie meets Granville there are other nightspots worth mentioning. One club that needs to be experienced is the Dufferin, famous for its "all the way" strip shows. Two stages offer the crowd a variety of muscled buffed entertainment. Downstairs, young just-18 boys strut their stuff on a smaller stage. For accommodations while in Vancouver, favorite locations are in the downtown area or the West End.
Thanks to Mark from GayVancouver.Net for updates to this article!
July 31, 2002
Montreal, Canada (A Tourists’s View)
by Mark Taylor, BluWay Guest Contributor
There are so many things Montreal has to offer that I’ve been planning for that illusory true-blue getaway to the city some consider `The Paris of North America.`
Eating, Drinking, Sleeping In Montreal. The library and living rooms of La Maison Pierre du Calvet, a gay-owned and operated, represent a very cozy, antique-filled bed and breakfast. This 18th Century historic mansion is conveniently located in Old Montreal. If you stay here, which is highly recommended, insist on Room One, complete with working fireplace. The four-poster bed will be long remembered. 405 rue Bonsecours, Vieux-Montreal, tel: (514) 282-1725. I also sampled the `white suite` at Loew’s Hotel Vogue in downtown Montreal, 1425 Rue de la Montagne, tel: (514) 285-5555. (It was discretely divulged that this suite is Celine Dion’s favorite accommodation in the city). Every amenity of a full-service luxury hotel is to be found at the Vogue. The suite, Room 906, is perfect for hosting cocktails under the moon: comfy for 8-10 guests. Depending on how things progress, the suite comes equipped with its own jacuzzi and private sauna.
DINING OUT It’s your holiday! Only the best, right? Indeed, you can find some of the best French food in all of America right around the corner. I suggest: Mediterraneo Grill & Wine Bar, 3500 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, (514) 844-0027. This hot spot is situated on a happening corner on the outskirts of downtown toward Montreal’s gay village. The floor-to-ceiling windows push away, merging exterior with interior. Designed to the hilt, R&B music piped in, halogen spot-lighting: this is a hip scene and the feeling is fabulous. The manager boasts that Mediterraneo has the best selection of California wines in all of Quebec, as well as the longest bar (63 continuous feet long) to serve them on. Chef Claude Pelletier takes care of the rest. La Toque! If the previous two suggestions have left you wondering which to choose, brace yourself for La Toque! Here, the co-owners Christine Lamarche and Chef Normand Laprise have managed to combine culinary splendor with super stylish setting.
The menu is full of what one might expect this far up north (arctic char, venison) as well as many surprises (freshly-caught local fish / the most tender veal ever experienced). A la carte is offered, but it would be a mistake to overlook the menu degustation. A unique and superb wine by the glass is suggested with each course. (With that superlative veal, I was offered an Argentinian cabernet-shiraz almost too special to drink!) Call (514) 499-2084 as early as possible to book one of only 15 tables promising pure food fantasy. Located at 3842 Rue Saint-Denis, La Toque is on the edge of a burgeoning Montreal neighborhood: Plateau Mt. Royal. Plan some time before or after dinner to explore the Plateau area – this neighborhood is what Montreal’s gay village should be!
No English, Si Vous Plait. In fact, Montreal and the people who live there are far from Parisian. Consider this: high school, college, even grad school French lessons have left me with only a modicum of fluency in the French language. (I blame this largely on the language snobbery of Parisians: a few of whom I’ve loved, lived with, and left.) So you can imagine how shocked and excited I was to learn that the people of Montreal will speak French freely with Americans! Indeed, they are amused when an English-speaker tries to parlez-vous, and they are eager to help! I’ve had entire conversations in French with cab drivers, waiters, even with a lap dancer at the infamous Campus Club on Ste. Catherine… Montreal, more than anywhere French I’ve ever been, promises conversational improvement if you faire des efforts.
A Full Day In Plateau Mt. Royal. The `Plateau` is Montreal’s up-and-coming neighborhood full of easy-going locals, good restaurants, and interesting shops. A hotel room in this vicinity will be hard to come by, but the Plateau is a short walk from the `gay village` and well worth cab fare if you’re staying downtown or in the historical district. On weekend afternoons, the streets are bustling with locals on the go. If you can tear yourself away from Montreal’s well-preserved historic sites and colonial architecture located elsewhere, this quarter is a perfect spot to see the citizens of Montreal in action.
Shopping Spree In many ways, Montreal doesn’t deserve being compared to Paris. The gem in Quebec’s crown, Montreal is a destination worthy of anyone’s consideration and particularly attractive to gay and lesbian travelers. But Paris comes to mind again, particularly when I think of the attractive exchange rates U.S. tourists are currently enjoying in Canada. The current situation reminds me of the mid-80s in France, when 1 (USD) bought 10 or 11 French francs. (Now that was gay Paree). Today, in Montreal, a 1 (USD) sometimes buys better than 1.5 Canadian dollars: making for a most propitious time to be there. Here are a few of my shopping fantasies: Inuit Art. Galerie Le Chariot, 446 Place Jacques-Cartier, Old Montreal, H2Y 3B3, (514) 875-4994. This is Canada’s largest gallery dedicated to the art of the Arctic. Most impressive is the wide range of sandstone sculptures of Arctic wildlife. My favorite: the fanciful `dancing polar bear`. Fur. As politically incorrect as it may be, fur pelts represent a important part of the Canadian economy, and Montreal is one of the most practical place to buy a coat, a rug, a bed spread, etc.
Try these upscale locations for starts, but it may prudent to shop around at local furriers: Place Montreal Trust, St. Catherine West at McGill College Avenue; Boutique Jacques, 5970 Cote de Niege; Duomo, 1478 Peel Street; Ganni, 1188 Sherbrook; Holt-Renfrew, 1300 Sherbrooke West; Ogily, 1307 Ste. Catherine West. Leather. Billed as Canada’s Leading Gay Store, Priape, is an attraction in and of itself. At the store front level you’ll find souvenirs, magazines, novelties, but downstairs you’ll encounter one of the best-in-the-world custom leather boutiques in the world. The selection of leather pants, chaps, jackets and vests is remarkable, and the on-site leather crafters aim to please at even more remarkable prices. Priape is located at 1311 Ste. Catherine East, (514) 521-8451. Toll free orders are also accepted: (800) 461-6969. At hotels and upscale shops, tourists will find a booklet entitled: "Tax Refund for Visitors", otherwise known as `icing on the cake`. Keep all your original receipts (credit card receipts are unacceptable) for goods for which you paid at least 50 Canadian, and for accommodations for which you paid at least 200 (CDN). Once you get home, fill out the form, attach the receipts, mail it in. Approximately six weeks later you will receive a tax refund. In short, where Montreal is concerned, you almost cannot afford not to go!
October 23, 2002
Gays, lesbians included in census
by Marissa Nelson, Free Press Reporter
For the first time, Statistics Canada tried to capture a snapshot of gays and lesbians in its census. Information released from the 2001 census yesterday shows 450 same-sex families live in the Forest City. While the picture is far from complete, experts say it sends an important message. Douglass Drozdow-St. Christian, an anthropology professor at the University of Western Ontario, said the move tells the gay community, "my family counts as much as my heterosexual neighbour across the street," he said. "It sends a powerful message." The snapshot released yesterday doesn’t include a substantial segment of the gay population living outside long-term relationships.
It also is thought to be an under-representation since many are still not likely to declare their same-sex relationships publicly. Drozdow-St. Christian predicted the number of same-sex families registered in the next census will jump to 1,500 in London. "Even at 1,500 it will be an under representation," he said. Many members of the gay community are reluctant to tell the government if they are in a same-sex relationship, Drozdow-St. Christian said. "Many said ‘I’m not telling them because I don’t want it to be in a database somewhere that I’m gay,’" he said. Brad Lister, of the Homophile Association of London Ontario, said he did identify himself on the census as being in a same-sex relationship. "A lot of people don’t want to put their name down. It’s nice to be asked.
It’s a chance for people to say ‘Yes, I’m here and this is my family.’" Drozdow-St. Christian predicted Londoners would be shocked by the decline of traditional marriages, especially since it has been a year of marital debate – either supporting gay marriages or defending traditional unions. "People have been talking about marriages a lot. People will be surprised at all this talk about defending marriages while it’s declining in importance."
October 23, 2002
Ottawa ties Vancouver as gay capital
More couples per capita declare they live in same-sex relationships than in any other Canadian city
by Patti Edgar
Ottawa is tied with Vancouver with the highest percentage of declared gay and lesbian couples in the nation, according to census data released yesterday by Statistics Canada.
Almost one per cent of all couples in Ottawa-Gatineau identified themselves as being in a same-sex relationship during the 2001 census. Ottawa and Vancouver have more declared same-sex couples per capita than the larger cities of Toronto and Montreal. In Ottawa-Gatineau, 2,170 couples checked off a new box allowing them to identify themselves as being in a same-sex, common-law relationship.
Across Canada, 34,200 did, adding up to about three per cent of all common-law couples. But experts say those numbers are likely an under-estimation of such couples, both here and across the country, because of the stigma still associated with homosexuality, and a distrust of how the data might be used. Alex Munter, Ottawa’s only openly gay municipal politician, said there are a "hell of a lot" more same-sex couples in Ottawa, but he was impressed so many were willing to identify themselves in the confidential survey. A slightly smaller percentage of couples in Toronto and Montreal were willing to declare their status, but in much smaller cities like St. John’s, Hamilton and Regina, the number drops to only 0.3 per cent. "I think that the reason Ottawa seems to be on the high end is a reflection of the city," said Mr. Munter. "This is a good city to be gay in – a decent, well-educated community that is both modern and cosmopolitan."
After 15 years in a serious relationship with the man he met in his university fraternity, Sean Van Liempt was more than ready to check off the "same-sex partner" box when the couple filled out last year’s census survey. "Five years before, we had decided to hand-write a note explaining we were in a same-sex relationship," recalls Mr. Van Liempt. "I think this is important right now, given where we are at, but in the long run I hope it doesn’t really matter any more. Gay couples aren’t a different animal than heterosexual couples." Mr. Munter said Statistics Canada needs to get an accurate picture of the population, and that will become easier with time. "Those who are growing up today and not yet in long-term relationships aren’t being burdened with the same kind of stigma or discrimination. One day checking off that box will be less frightening than for someone who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s."
The Pride Committee of Ottawa-Gatineau was also skeptical of Statistics Canada’s results – pointing out that if the numbers added up, than every common-law gay and lesbian person in the country must have turned out for last July’s pride parade in Ottawa. The event attracted 55,000 people to a street party in the city’s burgeoning gay "village" – an eight-block stretch of Bank Street. Organizers hope to attract twice as many people next summer, making Ottawa a gay tourism destination on par with cities like Toronto. Kevin Falkingham, a spokesman for the committee, said Ottawa has a reputation as a gay-friendly city, but what is missing is a downtown community centre for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents. "Like any city, there are places that are not safe for us to meet," said Mr. Falkingham. "We would really like to see the city support this and get to the point where we can build it and get it going."
October 22, 2002
Being gay in Orangeville; support is there for youth
by Nelia Raposo
He’s an A student working towards becoming a pediatrician. He’s smart, sensitive and articulate and the girls at school love him. He likes them too, but what he really wants is to be loved by another man. Quinton Justice* is a teen in Dufferin County coming to terms with his sexuality.
He attends a weekly support group with other homosexual people ranging in age from 14 to 18. "Orangeville is not the best place to be gay. It’s so homophobic. Even in class they say things and teachers don’t even acknowledge it because ‘fag or gay’ is just like saying ‘stupid’ these days," Justice says. About 34 teenagers have gone through the group in the last three years, says the group’s co-facilitator Marianne Breadner. Breadner, who is also a child and youth counsellor for the Upper Grand District School Board, says the kids that come have found out about the group mostly through word of mouth. She’s hoping this article will show other gay or lesbian teens that there is a safe place they can come and talk. She says often the people attending group tell her, "This is the only place all week where I can really be myself. "A lot of the kids come to the group not even believing that there are other gays and lesbians in this community," says Breadner. Breadner says homophobia is still rampant in this area, even within health care professional circles.
"Some doctors will give referrals but they won’t put the poster (advertising the support group) up in their office," she says. The hardest part of leading this group is seeing the "kids who feel shame, it’s hard to see them wrestle with that," Breadner says. "Some of them are quite religious. It’s difficult and hard to see them struggle." Justice is one of those deeply religious people who also happens to be gay. "I didn’t choose it (to be gay). I was really upset. I was a depressed, lonely person. I looked it (homosexuality) up in the Bible and read all the bad things. I even called 100 Huntley Street; they said let’s pray, let’s get the demon out of you," Justice says. It upsets him that most of his congregation only goes to church on Sundays when he is putting in volunteer hours for youth committees and that no matter how much he does it will never be enough to be fully accepted. He will always be gay and many consider that a sin. "I try to do so much for the church and I’m such a bad person," Justice says. Still, it’s easier to cope with the everyday now that he’s got other gay and lesbian friends in the community. And he needs that; some days getting through school can be rough going.
"I’m not even out but there’s the odd guys that call me ‘faggot.’ They have stereotypical impressions of what gay men are supposed to be," Justice says. Breadner says Justice epitomizes the perfect young person. In many ways he’s not unlike the others at the group. "They’re a great group of kids. They’ve got a great sense of humour, they’re strong, a lot of them are sensitive. Because they are in tune with what’s happening with them they’re really supportive and helpful to others," Breadner says. The support group for gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18 meets every Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. For further information call (519) 941-1530 ext. 418. * Name has been changed at the subject’s request.
November 24, 2002
Two dads & a family Same-sex partners are using their new legal right to adopt But one gay couple finds the road long and harrowing
by Margaret Philp and Patti Gower, Atkinson Fellows
Thomas Jones, a scrupulously disciplined man in a crisply ironed green-checked shirt, weeps in spite of himself, a normally stiff upper lip quivering. He recalls the sweet, simple words of a schoolteacher that altered the course of an awkward, unhappy boy’s life. On the final day of Grade 6, she had asked each student to stand up, and she would pronounce the qualities she most admired. When Jones rose, she called him a leader hiding in the role of a follower with all the school’s bad apples. If he were to flourish, she said, he had to learn to be himself.
"That day, I gave myself a good shake. It was a day that has truly stayed with me, and given me more strength than she will ever know." Jones is recounting his rocky childhood to adoption worker Pat Baker in the room where social workers at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto have grilled thousands of would-be adoptive parents, gathering deeply personal histories and perspectives for the home study that all adoptions require. But only a handful of times has an adoption worker sat across from a gay man who wants to break the mold of the traditional Canadian family. The Toronto CAS has only placed 20 children with same-sex couples. For Baker, who has prepared hundreds of home studies, Jones and his partner, Robert Gibson, are her first gay prospective parents. Jones’ teacher was right. The youngest child of a doomed marriage between a depressed mother and a violent, alcoholic father, Jones wasn’t destined for the small-town machismo of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and tattoos of his older brothers and sisters, raised in foster care after the family broke apart.
A high school debating team member who later won a spot on a national race-walking team, his would be a cosmopolitan life of management jobs in health institutions and renovating dilapidated rooming houses. It is a sign of the times that Jones is here, as submissive to the human urge to raise a child as the infertile married couples who usually visit the office. While most children’s aid societies have yet to place a child with a gay or lesbian couple, the Toronto agency advertises for prospective foster and adoptive couples in same-sex publications, fanning the flames of a thriving parenthood movement among gay men. "Lots and lots of gay men are starting to think about having kids," says Rachel Epstein, project co-ordinator of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgendered Parenting Network at the Family Service Association of Toronto, a job created last year to meet the demand among same-sex couples to become parents. "There was a whole lesbian baby boom over the last 15 years, but gay men are just getting there," she says.
"It’s become more possible because of a combination of policy changes and technology and social recognition. People are seeing themselves as more entitled to becoming parents." While single gays and lesbians have adopted children for years – their sexuality never at issue during the course of the home study – only in the last few years have couples been able to. In a 1995 case of a lesbian wanting to adopt her partner’s child, an Ontario provincial court judge ruled that the definition of spouse in Ontario’s adoption law as a person of the opposite sex was unconstitutional. It turned the sanctity of the traditional family on its ear. A year later, British Columbia became the first place in the world to pass an adoption law that treats same-sex couples as spouses, as eligible as any husband and wife to adopt.
A year after that, in a case involving a lesbian suing her former lover for support, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Ontario’s law limiting spousal support to couples of the opposite sex was unconstitutional. The legal fight for same-sex adoption became an open-and-shut case. "That case made it clear that same-sex couples are entitled to equal recognition at law and that it’s discriminatory and not justifiable to engage in differential treatment," says Joanna Radbord, one of the lawyers who fought the case at the Supreme Court. "That makes it clear across the board everywhere.
Adoption legislation, where it hasn’t been changed, should be changed." Several provinces and territories have since either drafted laws to grant same-sex couples the right to adopt, or lost battles in the courts to prevent gay and lesbian couples from adopting. Now, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are among the few provinces that continue to treat same-sex couples differently.
Canada has become one of the world’s most progressive nations in recognizing the rights of gay and lesbian couples to adopt. In the United States, where traditional family values dominate politics, only New Jersey allows gays and lesbians to adopt as couples. And the socially open-minded countries of northern Europe – other than the Netherlands where same-sex adoption is already legal – are only now reviewing their laws. "There has routinely been a treatment of adoption as the most difficult of the sexual diversity issues, even in legislation that trumpets its inclusiveness," says David Rayside, a political science professor at the University of Toronto…(con’t)
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November 5, 2002
NorthWest Territories first state in Canada to pass law prohibiting gender identity discrimination
Yellowknife (CP) – The Northwest Territories has become the first region in Canada to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. As part of the territory’s new Human Rights Act, a person cannot be discriminated against because of their gender identity. Brendan Bell, the member of the legislative assembly who headed the committee that drafted the bill, said it seemed only logical to include gender identity in the new law. "We can’t keep our heads in the sand and we felt it was the right thing to do," he said. "The courts certainly are deciding that it falls under the discrimination bounds and if the courts are saying it then it was our inkling to put it in."
The legislation defines gender identity as anyone born one gender, but feels they are of the other gender. This includes people who have had a sex-change operation and those who live their lives as the opposite sex without surgical changes. Bell said to his knowledge, the community [of] transgendered people is small in the N.W.T. and there was no outcry during public consultation. Still the law needed to be written, he added. Zoe Raemer, a spokeswoman for OutNorth, the Territories’ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights group, said she is happy with the new legislation. "I think it’s a very positive step, and the government of the Northwest Territories is showing real leadership in this area," Raemer said. "We didn’t have to argue to get sexual orientation or transgendered included in the list of prohibited grounds."
John Fisher, executive director of EGALE, Canada’s national rights group for gender identity, hopes the N.W.T. law passed last week will lead other provinces to take action. "The inclusion of this ground sends a message loud and clear: discrimination against transgendered people is just plain wrong, and must end," Fisher said. "Hopefully, this initiative by the Northwest Territories will encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit." While most members of the legislature were in favour of the change, North Slave member Leon Lafferty wondered if the law would give a transgendered women the right to use a men’s washroom. "I sort of have a problem," Lafferty said. "How we can protect people and their privacy."
But Katherine Peterson, the legislature’s legal counsel, dismissed Lafferty’s question. "I would think that it’s appropriate for the employer to require that you use the facilities appropriate to your biology," Peterson said. "And until that biology changes through the miracles of science that’s a reasonable requirement." The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Commission have both recommended that discrimination on the grounds of gender identity be prohibited.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has implemented a policy to accept complaints based on gender identity, although it has not been incorporated into law. In addition to extending rights to transgendered people, the new bill bans publication of hate materials and extends protection from discrimination to grounds of social condition, political belief, political association and family affiliation. The next step in the N.W.T., Bell said, is to set up a human rights commission – a task he expects to take at least a year to complete.
December 20, 2002
School board wrong to ban same-sex books: Supreme Court OTTAWA
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that a British Columbia school board should not have banned books at the kindergarten and Grade 1 level that depicted same-sex parents. In a 7-2 ruling, the top court said the school board in Surrey went against provincial legislation that says the public school system is secular and non-sectarian.
The case goes back to 1997, when the school board refused to approve three books for use in kindergarten and Grade 1. The three books are Asha’s Mums, Belinda’s Bouquet and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The books depicted same-sex parents in a favourable light, triggering complaints from parents who took objection on religious grounds. James Chamberlain, a primary-level teacher, wanted to use the books in class, even though they are not part of a reading list approved by the B.C. Education Ministry. The Supreme Court ruling focused on the religious objections, rather than the larger issue of gay and lesbian constitutional rights. The Surrey board said it ordered the ban because the books were not suitable for five- and six-year-olds. The board also said many parents objected to the books because they regard homosexuality as a sin. A trial judge supported Chamberlain in 1998, then the B.C. Court of Appeal reversed the decision in 2000. The appeal court ruled the board could exclude the books from the classroom but have them available in the school library.