Title: The Canadian Controversy Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 12th December 2006 - 12:00pm1165878000 Article: 1512 Rights
Following several years of Charter of Rights and Freedom constitutional court challenges, Canadian lesbians and gay men had won recognition of same-sex marriage within several Canadian provinces, leading the then-Liberal federal government to pass its own federal same-sex marriage legislation in 2005. When it won minority government last year, the Conservative Party of Canada was faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, it had promised its Western Canadian social conservative supporters a chance to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage, while it also faced the reality that it was a minority government, and moreover, disclosure of candidate social conservative extremism before polling day might have contributed to that. Meanwhile, the Canadian general public had had quite enough of the same-sex marriage debate, realised that the sky hadn't fallen in after the previous Liberal administration had allowed same-sex marriage in 2005, and wanted to let the matter rest. As Canada's Christian Right expended vitriol on its opposition to same-sex marriage, mainstream Canadians found the shrill imported rhetoric distasteful and unCanadian, and said so within opinion polls. Mainstream Tories realised that if the fundamentalists scared off mainstream Eastern Canadian voters, their party might only enjoy federal office for a single term. Thus, several Cabinet Ministers came to oppose reopening the debate, and joined the Liberal Opposition, which relished the opportunity to show its unity of purpose after last year's election loss and several months of leadership contests afterward. When the vote finally came last week, it wasn't even close. All of the New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois, most Liberals and twelve liberal Conservatives opposed reopening the debate, leaving a handful of Liberal social conservatives to vote with most of the Conservative backbench, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for reopening the debate, and repealing Canada's same-sex marriage bill. After the vote, Harper acknowledged that the matter of same-sex marriage was now permanently closed. This didn't make the Canadian Christian Right happy, and one so-called "Canadian Family Action Coalition" spokesperson threatened electoral retribution against the Tories for failing to insure that their party wholeheartedly supported reopening the same-sex marriage debate, and repeal of the current same-sex marriage legislation. Given that most of the Tories backbenchers supported reopening the debate, this does strike one as foolhardy. So, will the Canadian Christian Right now shut up about same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights issues? They may have to, as other issues are looming on the political horizon. One of them is the issue of heterosexual polygamy, given that schismatic fundamentalist US 'Mormon' sects have had satellite settlements in British Columbia, and are trying to abuse the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to strike down Canada's ban on polygamous marriages. As many such sects are characterised by child sexual abuse of female children within polygamous marriages to elderly male sect leaders, this may turn out to be one of those rare issues where the Christian Right has some degree of public sympathy for squashing such paedophile strongholds. However, voluntary euthanasia is in exactly the opposite situation, raising questions about whether or not Canada might become the third nation-state to decriminalise death with dignity and palliative choice after the Netherlands and Belgium. And the Canadian LGBT communities? Lesbians and gay men can now walk down the aisle of their liberal church/synagogue/temple/jump the broomstick without any concerns about denial of spousal rights and responsibilities should they decide to get hitched. As same-sex prospective parents can also adopt children in several provinces, the only issue on the horizon that remains to be addressed are transgender inclusion within anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, given that the Tories have slashed legal aid for Charter of Rights and Freedoms court challenges, this may take some time to accomplish. Paradoxically, though, censorship policy remains a hot potato, and unlike New Zealand, sex work hasn't been decriminalised in Canada as yet. What about the rest of the British Commonwealth? Britain, New Zealand and South Africa already have civil union legislation of our own, so the lesson appears to be that we require a written constitution like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to make similar breakthroughs in our own context. On the other hand, though, we already have relationship equality due to the Relationship (Statutory References) Act 2005, and inclusion within remaining spousal rights legislation is already being addressed. As Canada and Britain have already gone down the path of adoption reform, and we now have an apparently supportive Leader of the Opposition, will we see some action on adoption reform here during the current parliamentary term? One lives in hope. Recommended: Canadian national LGBT newspapers Canadian national LGBT lobby group Toronto based national Canadian newspaper Sylvain Larocque: Gay Marriage: The Story of A Canadian Social Revolution: Toronto: J.Lorrimer: 2006. Not Recommended: Lifesite, Canada's vile antiabortion, antifeminist and antigay Christian Right networking and news website. Craig Young - 12th December 2006    
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