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"Labour must play a significant role in helping to create a context in which gay men and lesbians can achieve equality in society. One cannot be equal in the workplace but unequal outside it."
Canadian Labour Congress, 1994

 

 

 

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"Instead of delaying and wasting time and taxpayers' dollars fighting this issue through the courts, the government should simply meet its legal obligations now by legislating an end to the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from marriage"
Canadian Labour Congress, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Equal Marriage and the Law in Canada

April 11, 2003

Canadian Labour Congress
Voice of 2,500,000 workers supports equal marriage

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), representing 2.5 million working people in Canada added their strong voice in support of same-sex marriage today. In a Toronto appearance before the travelling Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the CLC outlined their long history of commitment to fairness and justice.

"As long ago as 1980," their brief said, "the CLC adopted a policy opposing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation." In 1994, the CLC adopted the following policy:

Labour must play a significant role in helping to create a context in which gay men and lesbians can achieve equality in society. One cannot be equal in the workplace but unequal outside it. The forces which rob lesbian, gay and bisexual members of their collective agreement entitlements are exactly the same forces which make the world outside the workplace oppressive and often dangerous.

In this holistic spirit of caring for the well-being of citizens and workers, in and out of the workplace, the CLC urged the parliamentary committee "to build on the commitment to equality which is widely shared by Canadians and to recommend that gay and lesbians who so choose, be allowed access to the legal institution of marriage."

Religion must not dictate secular laws

The most disgraceful opposition to same-sex marriage has come from faith-based groups. Committee member Svend Robinson has described such testimony as "hatred and venom". Committee members heard a much needed reminder, from the CLC, that faith-based bigotry must not prevail in Parliamentary decisions.

"The religious beliefs of some groups should not be state-sanctioned to the extent that other religions are prevented from marrying gay and lesbian members of their congregations or to the extent that civil legal rights and human rights are denied to a group of citizens who historically have faced discrimination," the CLC said. "The separation of church and state is an important part of Canadian democracy."

Fairness and Justice

Through-out the hearings we have heard moral arguments that have obscured the fact that the current Liberal government is in court attempting to withhold Charter rights from a group of citizens. The CLC was clear in saying that this hijacking of rights must end.

"It is not fair to prevent same-sex couples ... from having their marriages legally recognized. It is in fact, overt, direct discrimination. Equality requires legal equality, including access to marriage. We believe that the Government of Canada should be bound by its own equality guarantees, including the Charter of Individual Rights and Freedoms and by its stated commitments to human rights nationally and internationally."

The labour group called on the Liberal government to stop their costly and losing battle against equality.

"The exclusionary status quo of legal marriage as a preserve of heterosexuals is clearly discriminatory under our Charter and will lead to ongoing legal challenges in the courts. Instead of delaying and wasting time and taxpayers' dollars fighting this issue through the courts, the government should simply meet its legal obligations now by legislating an end to the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from marriage"

The denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples sends a negative message that reinforces bigotry and discrimination.

"The symbolic impact of the denial of recognition of gay and lesbian marriages cannot be overstated," the CLC said. "Now is the time for the government to further the Canadian equality agenda and state its clear opposition to discrimination in all its forms."

To date the Liberal government has cowered in fear of religious opposition. The Justice Minister prefers to hide behind the robes of the Supreme Court, enabling the government to blame "activist judges" when in reality, the Parliament and the Prime Minister have ignored their responsibility. The Canadian Labour Congress was clear, however, in stating the truths, and the record will show who stood on the side of right.

"We urge this Committee to do the right thing, the socially and legally responsible thing, and recommend to Parliament the amendment of Canada’s laws to allow lesbian and gay couples access to civil marriage."

Read the complete CLC testimony (PDF document)

(En Français)

Details about Parliament's Marriage Committee Hearings


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