By Kirk Makin, Globve and Mail, January 12, 2011
The Harper government has served notice that thousands of same-sex couples who flocked to Canada from abroad since 2004 to get married are not legally wed.
The reversal of federal policy is revealed in a document filed in a Toronto test case launched recently by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce. Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple have been told they cannot divorce because they were never really married – a Department of Justice lawyer says their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.
The government’s hard line has cast sudden doubt on the rights and legal status of couples who wed in Canada after a series of court decisions opened the floodgates to same-sex marriage. The mechanics of determining issues such as tax status, employment benefits and immigration have been thrown into legal limbo.
The two women – professionals in the their early 30s – cannot be identified under a court order. But Martha McCarthy, a prominent Toronto lawyer who represents them, said the government’s about-face is astonishing.
“It is scandalous,” she said in an interview. “It is offensive to their dignity and human rights to suggest they weren’t married or that they have something that is a nullity.”
Ms. McCarthy, who played an instrumental role in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage, said Ontario has tried to duck the volatile test case by deferring to the federal government.
“It is appalling and outrageous that two levels of government would be taking this position without ever having raised it before, telling anybody it was an issue or doing anything pro-active about it,” she said. “All the while, they were handing out licences to perform marriages across the country to non-resident people.”
The latest development threatens to transform Canada from an international beacon for the rights of gays and lesbians to a nation that discriminates against them, Ms. McCarthy said.
ame-sex marriage was effectively legalized by the courts in 2004. A year later, the Liberal government of then-prime-minister Paul Martin passed a bill enshrining it in law. More than 5,000 of the approximately 15,000 same-sex marriages that have taken place since then involved couples from the United States or other countries.
In a response to Ms. McCarthy’s court application, federal lawyer Sean Gaudet tied the federal position to two central propositions. First, he said, couples who came to Canada to be married must live in the country for at least a year before they can obtain a divorce. Second, same-sex marriages are legal in Canada only if they are also legal in the home country or state of the couple.
And this by Jane Taber, Globe and Mail, December 13, 2011
Jean Chrétien is warning Liberals that gun control and the Kyoto accord are dead because of Stephen Harper’s Tories, darkly noting that same-sex marriage and abortion rights could be next on the Conservative government’s chopping block. He even raises the return of the death penalty as a possibility.
“Unless we are bold. Unless we seize the moment. Everything we built will start being chipped away,” the former prime minister writes in a toughly-worded fundraising letter. “The Conservatives have already ended gun control and Kyoto. Next may be a woman’s right to choose, or gay marriage. Then might come capital punishment. And one by one, the values we cherish as Canadians will be gone.”
This new Liberal fundraising effort hits some hot button issues – it doesn’t end there.
Mr. Chrétien notes that he was first elected in 1963 when there was no medicare or Canada Pension Plan, Canadian flag or Charter of Rights. Nor was there a Clarity Act – which his government brought in to define the rules around holding a referendum should Quebec contemplate separation.
And he states that had the Conservatives been in power they would have “taken us to war” when the Liberals kept Canada out of Iraq – a defining moment and very popular one for the Chrétien government.
Don’t forget the country’s finances: Mr. Chrétien points out it was the Liberals who eliminated the deficit. This, as Mr. Harper’s Tories are struggling to get the budget balanced in a tough economic climate.
It is not only Chretien's prescience that is notable in today's story about the Harper government's reversal on support for gay marriagae; it is the reversal itself.
We are going down a path whose design is to eradicate all the values that have been put in place by Liberal governments before Harper came to power. The Canada that both elected Liberal governments led by Chretian, Martin, and Trudeau and Turner and supported their legislation is being turned on its ear by the Harper gang, including the balanced budget achieved by then Finance Minister Paul Martin in the 1990's.
It is the Harper verson of 1984, by George Orwell, where even words that obviously denote one meaning are used to portray precisely the opposite meaning. And the enemies of the state as we have known it are inside our borders and have been elected primarily by the same people who elected the Mayor of Toronto, Mr. Ford.
This is a runaway train loose on a Rocky Mountain, turning and twisting the country into an indecipherable ghost of its tradition, its culture and its honoured status among other world governments including the United Nations.
And this, dear reader, is not a letter appealing for funds for the Liberal Party!