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Advocacy News - "We can get it done," says Layton

June 16, 2005

"We can get it done," says Jack Layton
P.M. Paul Martin & the disingenuous Mr. Dithers

By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

Prime Minister Paul Martin, along with his Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, are already responsible for delaying the roll-out of same-sex marriage across Canada. At the beginning of last year Martin, leading a majority government, used Cotler to stall discussions in the Supreme Court of Canada by revising a list of questions it was asking the court to address.

The move was purely political. The infamous fourth question that was added to a list had already been answered by lower courts and accepted by the government. Recognizing an abuse of process, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to answer the question, and with the court's blessing, the legislation moved on to Parliament.

In the interim, the delay by Martin and Cotler has forced gays and lesbians to continue their long road to justice by fighting for their Charter rights in the courts. Martin could have passed the legislation efficiently last year, but instead couples in the Yukon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador have all had to fight for their rights and win them province by province. New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories are next, with a judgment expected in days from courts.

To his credit, Martin did not accept Stephen Harper's bizarre offer to trade human rights for votes on a budget bill. Once again, the Prime Minister is being disingenuous about delay, when he implies that he cannot stop a filibuster. Stephen Harper does not control the committee or Parliament. If a filibuster continues, it is because Paul Martin is allowing it to happen. He can simply close down the debate and get on with voting on the bill.

In our own experience, opponents of gay marriage have been objecting loudly and visibly in Canada since 2000, when our marriage became front-page news. They have been allowed to object in our church during the reading of our banns, they objected in lower court hearings and appeal court hearings in case after case across this country, they appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, they've flooded our MPs with mail, been allowed to say outrageous things to a Parliamentary committee that travelled across the country. It has gone on and on and on.

"We can get it done," says NDP leader Jack Layton today, commenting on the prospects of getting the marriage bill passed before summer break.

It is always the right time to do right. That is why the wise panel of judges in the Ontario Court of Appeal changed the definition immediately, and retroactively to 2001. Martin can continue to delay, and couples will continue to win their rights in the courts.

Or Paul Martin can show he is a leader, and once and for all retire Mr. Dithers, and Stephen Harper too.


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