Same-sex marriages in Canada
Activities: 2006 July to November
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
Status of SSM in Canada:
Same-sex couples in Canada became able to marry anywhere in Canada, except
for Prince Edward Island, on
2005-JUL-20 when Bill C-38 was proclaimed. PEI conformed later in the year. The first item that the leader of the
Conservative Party discussed during the federal election campaign was his
intention to initiate new Parliamentary legislation to ban SSM, while allowing
existing same-sex marriages to continue. If the bill becomes law, then future
same-sex couples would be offered some sort of civil union arrangement.
2006-AUG-15: Catholic bishop condemns marriage equality:
Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke ON delivered a speech to the annual national
convention of the Catholic Women's League (CWL) held in Halifax, NS. He said that
Parliament made a "terrible mistake" when they allowed same-sex couples
to marry. He said that the Prime Minister's promise to reopen the SSM debate
represents "a rare second chance" to revisit the issue and perhaps deny
same-sex couples the right to marry once more. He urged the CWL members to
become politically active on this topic. He believed that he could speak for all
of the bishops in Canada when it came to the "incredibly important issue"
of restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. 1
2006-AUG-21: Anti-gay Christian activists fail to unseat MP:
Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto,
and the Canada Family Action Coalition, and the Defend Marriage
Coalition and had promised vowed to try to oust Turner and any other
existing MPs who support same-sex marriage. He complained that Garth Turner, MP
for Halton riding, had attacked his organizations in his weblog: "...spewing
venom against ethnic and religious people, calling us the Taliban, flowers of
evil and monochromatic militants." He suggested that Turner's "toxic
rhetoric" has made it impossible for any Conservative party candidate to win
in the riding.
MvVety attempt fizzled; Turner was acclaimed on AUG-21. Turner said that
McVety's challenge was:
"too narrow-focused. They tried to come in with a religious agenda and an
anti-gay position. I just don't think most people care that much or that
they don't support that position. ... I think Charles McVety made a big
tactical error by thinking he could storm into the riding and instantly
garner support. People in the riding said, 'We don't need anyone to come in
and tell us how to vote. We don't need anyone to tell us to throw our MP
out.' I think there was some resentment that McVety was trying to stack the
nomination meeting. People don't like that kind of politics." 2
2006-SEP-08: Letter from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Halifax:
Most Rev. Archbishop Terrence Predergast issued a pastoral message
encouraging members of the Halifax Archdiocese and Yarmouth Diocese in Nova
Scotia to contact their MP and ask them to re-open discussion of same-sex
marriage. Referring to the 15 months since SSM was authorized in Canada, he said
"....a few months isn’t any time at all to measure the impact on society
of a major cultural and sociological shift like this, not when marriages are
measured in years, when children are formed over decades, and when families
leave legacies over generations."
"Others pretend the matter has been settled and there is no need to return
to a contentious debate. What about an election promise? Prime Minister
Harper’s position on marriage was one of the factors responsible for his
election last year; he is to be commended for sticking to his guns on this
"Still others say that the die is cast, and that turning back the clock
would be too hurtful to those who, in good faith, took advantage of the
legislation over the past few months. Yet the historical and spiritual
significance of marriage was never properly debated. The sociological
experiment that has been introduced was never adequately studied. All this
affects vastly greater numbers of Canadians in ways still uncertain."
He asked that the Catholics in his dioceses:
"Pray especially for our homosexual brothers and sisters. Reach out to
them, recognizing that as cherished children of God we all need the support
of each other, on a journey that is sometimes difficult and uncertain."
His letter implies that this support is not to include equal marriage
protections for same-sex couples and their children. 3
2006-NOV-09: Coalition of religious conservatives holds press conference:
A press conference was held in Ottawa concerning marriage equality. Religious
leaders -- all of whom were from the religious right -- urged the government to
proceed with the motion to reopen debate and give SSM "a sober second thought."
|Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(EFC), called for a debate "... on the definition and nature of
|Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy for the EFC
noted that the Supreme Court of Canada did not answer the
fourth reference question which asked whether
the Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires SSM to be available in Canada.
"They didn't say the heterosexual [only] definition [of marriage] was
unconstitutional. It is constitutionally permissible to change the
definition but the court didn't rule as to whether that was a
requirement. It said you can do it, but you don't have to do it."
She suggests that Parliament could pass new legislation that would deny
same-sex couples the right to marry, but offer them civil union status with
similar benefits and obligations. This would be the separate but "sort of"
equal arrangement seen in the U.S. states Connecticut, and Vermont at one time. However, the "separate but equal" system proved to be very separate and not at all equal. They eventually authorized same-sex marriage.
|Charles McVety, head of the Canada Family Action Coalition and
president of the fundamentalist Canada Christian College has asked
the government to conduct a study of SSM and its effects on society.|
|Joseph Ben-Ami, executive director of the Institute for Canadian
Values, a conservative religious think-tank, said |
"We had [only] about two weeks or thereabouts of what can only be
called sham hearings last year on what is arguably the most important
piece of social policy legislation we've passed in this country in a
generation. We also think it's good government practice to review policy
after a reasonable amount of time to ensure it's not having unintended
As of mid-2011, same-sex marriage had been legal in Massachusetts for over seven years -- the longest of any U.S. State. Massachusetts remains the state with the lowest divorce rate in the U.S. So, it would appear that same-sex marriage is not adversely affecting the institution of marriage.
2006-NOV-12: Survey by the Toronto Star newspaper:
The Toronto Star newspaper conducted a poll of members of parliament by
Emails and follow-up phone calls concerning the reconsideration of SSM. They
found that of the 246 MPs who responded:
|141 said they would vote against reopening the debate|
|58 said they would vote to reconsider SSM|
|47 declined to respond.|
Laurie Arron, national co-ordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage -- a gay
positive group -- said:
"Because you don't know who's going to be in the House at the time of the
vote, we're more interested in spreads, and we have a 35-vote spread. For us
to lose this vote is inconceivable at this point.
MP Bryon Wilfert (Liberal, Richmond Hill, ON) voted against marriage equality
in 2006. He said:
"It's disingenuous of this Prime Minister to suggest a free vote that
will lead to an overturning of the legislation, especially considering the
fact that the Supreme Court has ruled on this, and it's pretty much been
ruled on [by courts] in every province and territory. ... No vote in the
House of Commons will lead to a change. So this is an attempt to placate
traditional voters and say 'It didn't pass the House'. ... [Since SSM became
available] The world hasn't collapsed. It's the law of the land and I think
we waste far too much time consumed with an issue the courts have already
ruled on when we should be talking about more important issues, such as the
MP Ramond Simard (Liberal, Manitoba) also voted against SSM in 2005. He said:
"It was a terribly tough debate -- heart wrenching. I can't see us
bringing it back. I think several of our members feel the same way."
Brenda Chamberlain (Liberal, Guelph, ON) also voted against SSM. She said
that the motion to reopen debate is a red herring:
"It's fundamentally dishonest. If Mr. Harper wants to repeal the
marriages that have already gone through, then put that on the table. If he
wants to change the law, put that on the table.
Some MPs believe that the Prime Minister's motion is a political ploy so that
he can blame the Liberal MPs when it fails. Meanwhile he will be able to say to
his religious conservative support base that he really tried. Some suggest that
Prime Minister Harper is hoping that the motion will fail so that he will not
have to experience the legal quagmire in the event that the SSM law is changed.
2006-NOV-22: SSM to be revisited soon:
Canada's Justice Minister, Vic Toews, announced
that a motion will be brought before Parliament sometime before DEC-15 -- start
of the Christmas break. It will decide whether to revisit the same-sex marriage legislation. MPs will be asked
whether they want to debate terminating marriage equality in Canada.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Bishop says Parliament made 'terrible mistake' in approving same-sex marriage," Catholic News Agency, 2006-AUG-24,
- " 'Religious agenda' fails to toss Turner. No challenger in Halton riding. Tory MP to be acclaimed," Toronto Star,
- Terrence Prendergast, "A pastoral message to the faithful," Archdiocese of Halifax, 2006-SEP-06, at:
- Andrew Chung, "Revisiting same-sex marriage," Toronto Star, 2006-NOV-12,
- "Tories plan December vote on same-sex marriage," CBC News,
- "Re-opening debate scheduled to start Wed, DEC-6. Will Stephen Harper admit
the issue is settled?," Canadians for Equal Marriage, 2006-NOV-28?, at:
Copyright © 2005 t0 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Essay first posted on 2006-NOV-12
Latest update: 2011-AUG-14
Author: B.A. Robinson