Goup Organizing for Same-Sex Issues and Principles - Comments about Manitoba's Review Panel On Common-law Relationships





GOSSIP held an
informational meeting about the Hamilton-Cooper report
on Tuesday May 14, 2002, 7:00p.m.
At Crossways-in-Common
Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Read GOSSIP's Position on
the Hamilton-Cooper report







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GOSSIP's Six Key Points:

  1. It is important that the term "common law partner" which includes same sex and opposite sex partners in conjugal relationships be used in otherlegislation.

  2. The Adoption Act should be amended to provide that common lawpartners can adopt each other's children or children together.

  3. The Vital Statistics Act should be amended to provide that the common law partner of a women who conceives a child by artificial insemination may be named on the birth certificate as the parent of the child and the child may be given the name of the common law partner.

  4. Conflicts of interest legislation that applies to married couples should apply with equal effect to common law partners.

  5. Property laws, in particular intestacy laws and marital property laws, should apply with equal effect to common law partnerships as they do to marital relationships.

  6. The lesbian and gay community needs to make it clear that we do not support RDPs.




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May 24, 2002


(Group Organizing for Same-Sex Issues and Principles)

GOSSIP held an informational meeting about the Hamilton-Cooper report on Tuesday, May 14, 2002, 7:00 p.m., at Crossways-in-Common, Winnipeg, Manitoba. The following are notes, provided by Karen Busby.

The Rainbow Resource Centre (RRC) and Group Organizing on Same Sex Issues and Principles (GOSSIP) organized an informational meeting to discuss with interested community members what we want and expect from the Manitoba government when it introduces its next bill on issues related to the recognition of LGBT relationships. More than 80 people attended the meeting. (FYI: A GOSSIP meeting will be planned within days after the next bill is introduced.)

Kristine Barr facilitated the meeting. Gord Mackintosh, Minister of Justice and representatives from the Premier's office and the Minister of Child and Family Services were in attendance to hear what the community had to say.

  • Elliot Leven, on behalf of the RRC, presented some of the legal history on LGBT relationship recognition issues, including the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in M.v.H. which effectively required all governments to treat conjugal partnerships in the same way and the Manitoba government's response to this decision last spring.
  • Sarah Inness, on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Issues Sub-section (GLISS) of the Manitoba Bar Association reviewed their position that full equality between same sex relationship and opposite sex relationships should be reflected in the law.
  • Gilles Marchildon, the prairie representative for EGALE, emphasised EGALE's position that full adoption rights should be extended to all partners.
  • Karen Busby, a law professor from the University of Manitoba, focussed on the positions taken by various LGBT and feminist organizations on why marital property regimes should be extended to apply with equal force to all common law relationships.

The audience was then invited to comment on whether it supported the views presented by the panel and what the political response of GOSSIP and other organizations should be if the anticipated legislation is not fully inclusive. The following commentary is a summary of the views expressed at the meeting.

Full Equality Now

The view expressed over and over again from the floor was that the government should do whatever is necessary now to affect full equality between common law and marital relationships. Not only is this the right response from a human rights perspective and the response mandated by the Charter, but it also is the wisest political response because prolonging the decision making in this area by using a piecemeal approach gives opponents more time to organize a destructive opposition. Saskatchewan, for example, amended its marital property, intestacy and adoption laws last summer and nary a political objection was raised. Manitoba, on the other hand by failing to deal with these issues in a timely and comprehesive way, has allowed political wounds to fester for a year.

There seemed to be consensus that the next bill should be comprehensive otherwise the already commenced litigation on recognition of parentage under The Vital Statistics Act (VSA) will not be settled and the government will be forced to revisit the property issue again after the Supreme Court of Canada addresses the issue as anticipated within the next year. The community will be disappointed if comprehensive reforms are not made.

Adoption and Vital Statistics Legislation

It is clear that Manitoba's adoption laws are unconstitutional. Jeremy Buchner spoke about how his name had to be removed a few weeks ago from the adoption application he and his partner have made because the government has delayed in moving ahead with this law.

The needed amendments to the VSA concerning the ability of a social mother to be listed as a parent on the birth registration and the ability for the child to be given the social mother's name from birth (without the additional expense of a name change application) were repeatedly raised. (Last summer, a BC Human Rights Tribunal found that such provisions violated the BC Human Rights Code and this decision has not been appealed.) Another woman talked about how she and her partner have extended family all over the world and that, unless the child's birth certificate reflects that name of both her parents, the social mother will experience difficulties in travelling with the child.

Erika MacPherson stated that it was expensive and offensive that she should be subject to a home inspection and an adoption hearing in order to adopt the child that she and her partner planned and brought into the world together.

Lisa Naylor asked why the VSA could not be amended to simply provide that whoever was named on the birth certificate as the parent of the child (as long as they agreed to the registration) would thereafter be considered for all purposes as the parent of the child without the need for a formal adoption. There was no good reason why the VSA could not be amended to have the effect she suggested. The current act does not require a married man to formally adopt a child conceived by artificial insemination who is born to his wife. TheVSA could be amended as follows: The birth registration of a child born to a woman who is married or in a common law relationship, as a result of artificial insemination, with the consent of her husband or common law partner, shall be completed to indicate that the husband or common law partner is the other parent of the child and the child shall be considered for all purposes as the child of the husband or common law partner without having to be formally adopted by the husband or common law partner.

There is some chance that the VSA amendments will be made. GOSSIP will need to decide if it will support the bill if these amendments are not included.

Marital Property Regimes and Registered Domestic Partnerships

Jennifer Cooper, one of the members of the Review Panel on Common Law Relationships, which the government appointed to consider the property issues, was in favour of extending maritial property and intestacy laws to all common law relationships whereas the other member, Alvin Hamilton, supported a form of Registered Domestic Partnership. The audience was specifically invited to express its views on GOSSIP's position that marital property laws should apply to LGBT relationships and everyone who spoke on this issue spoke in favour of GOSSIP's position. Ruth Krindle, a recently retired Queen's Bench judge, spoke at length about the need for fairness in common law partnerships and the need to protect the more financially vulnerable partner. In her view, marital property regimes and intestacy laws must be amended to ensure that partners are well protected when relationships breakdown or a partner dies. She also spoke out to unequivocally reject Registered Domestic Partnerships as an unworkable alternative.

Health Care and End of Life Decisions

Shelley Turner, a registered nurse, spoke about how often she has seen confusion in families when loved ones are in the terminal stages of an illness and after death. Ruth Krindle spoke about common law partners being denied the ability to plan their deceased partners' funeral. They both stated that the laws need to be clear about who has decision making power when a person has lost capacity or dies and that when a person is in a common law relationship, their partner should be the person with this power. The Minister of Justice stated that the government intended to deal with these issues in the next bill.