On the occasion of the first anniversary of the June 10, 2003 Ontario Court of Appeal Decision, we call upon Paul Martin to announce that he will not allow Liberals a free vote when equal marriage legislation is introduced in Parliament.
Harper has said on at least three occasions in the last week that he would use
the notwithstanding clause. The Government of Canada has never used the notwithstanding
clause and if you're prepared to use the notwithstanding clause then what you're
saying essentially is that in fact minority rights can be subjected to the will
of the majority. That is not the kind of country that I believe in, nor do I think
it is the kind of country that Canadians believe in."
is absolutely a question of human rights, and under those circumstances, there
is no way that anybody should be allowed to discriminate or prevent same-sex marriage."
Adovcacy News - Commitment to Charter means no free vote
June 8, 2004
to Charter means no free vote
have got to ensure that minority rights are protected when challenged by the majority.
The only way you can do this is to have a Charter of Rights which is ultimately
interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada."
Less than two weeks ago, as the Canadian federal election campaign got underway, we commented on how same-sex marriage seemed to be on honeymoon for the election: few candidates seemed to be talking about the issue. The honeymoon is over.
Gay marriage is back. It only took a few questions on social issues before the alarms were raised over Stephen Harper's social agenda. His Conservative Party was unmasked as the same alliance of extremists that the rebranded party was meant to conceal.
Marriage equality was pushed to the forefront in the election thanks, in part, to another hot-button issue: abortion. Harper's disregard for rights and protections was high-lighted on June 3 when he said he would allow free parliamentary votes on abortion and same-sex marriage. Harper has said (The Toronto Star, June 20, 2003) he would invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter to strip gays and lesbians of full constitutional protections in order to maintain marriage discrimination.
The Liberal Party's Paul Martin responded by talking about Pierre Trudeau's "Just Society" (CP, June 4, 2004). By the beginning of last weekend, Canadians were treated to headlines like "Martin: same-sex marriage must be allowed."
So much for punting marriage past the elections. Marriage equality was once feared by the Liberal campaign for its potential to generate negative voter backlash. Now that financial scandal and charges of corruption dog the Liberals, Paul Martin has, at last, embraced marriage equality as a way to highlight the danger of voting for Harper's Conservatives.
Mr. Harper's own party is doing a great job of showing the differences too.
Conservative homophobe Cheryl Gallant said (June 5) the recent inclusion of sexual orientation within hate crimes legislation would likely be repealed by the Conservatives:
"The danger in having sexual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, pedophiles," Gallant said on June 5. "I believe that the caucus as a whole would like to see it repealed." The same MP was in hot water days later for earlier comments comparing abortion to the beheading of American Nick Berg (CTV, June 8).
"It's a clear indication of the gulf that exists between Mr. Harper and myself," Mr. Martin said in a June 4 press conference.
Martin went further later in the evening on national television (CBC) when he told students: "Three of the highest courts in the land (in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia) have said that discrimination on the grounds of sex in terms of the definition of marriage is against the Charter of Rights. It is absolutely a question of human rights, and under those circumstances, there is no way that anybody should be allowed to discriminate or prevent same-sex marriage."
But Mr. Martin has still stopped short of fully protecting and honouring the Charter right to marriage. In the past he has said that Liberals would be free to vote as they please when new same-sex marriage legislation arrives in Parliament. If Martin truly believes that "there is no way that anybody should be allowed to discriminate or prevent same-sex marriage" then he must not allow a free vote on marriage legislation, just as he has promised to keep abortion legislation from being subjected to a free vote.
"Never, never will I allow the rights of women to be removed by going back to the past," Mr. Martin said in French. "I believe that the situation in Canada is a free choice for women. They have to decide for themselves," Mr. Martin said yesterday (Globe and Mail, June 7, 2004.
Mr. Martin is obligated to ensure that the rights of women and everyone else covered by our Charter are protected from discrimination. None of our rights must be removed. It is time for Paul Martin to say that the Liberal Party will support constitutional democracy and not have a free vote on the rights of women, gays, or any other protected minority.
Mr. Martin needs to walk the talk if he is to convince us, and others, of his sincerity. He has begun to show true leadership on the issue of equal marriage. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the June 10, 2003 Ontario Court of Appeal Decision, we call upon Paul Martin to announce that he will not allow Liberals a free vote when equal marriage legislation is introduced in Parliament.