Nunavut will recognize same-sex marriages





"As we knew with the creation of Nunavut, no people can be truly free or reach their full potential until they are allowed to do so in a climate where they are respected for who they are."
Premier Paul Okalik, Nunavut Hansard, Nov. 4, 2003




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Legal Canada - Nunavut will recognize same-sex marriages

November 7, 2003

Nunavut will recognize same-sex marriages

"If developments in the Parliament of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada result in the definition of marriage being broadened, we will respect the law and comply with that. In the meantime, anyone in Nunavut who has been legally married anywhere will be recognized by the Government of Nunavut as married."
Premier Paul Okalik, Nunavut Hansard, October 30, 2020

Map of NunavutNunavut, an area of almost two million square kilometers (one-fifth of Canada's landmass) in the eastern Arctic, has become the first territory or province in Canada to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized outside of its borders while still refraining from enacting same-sex marriage for its own citizens.

Premier Paul Okalik made the announcement on October 30 in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Same-sex couples from across Canada have been travelling to Ontario and British Columbia since last summer when the two provinces gave gay couples access to marriage. Until now, however, married same-sex couples have been unable to get their local governments to recognize their Ontario or B.C. marriages when they returned to their home province, despite the fact that the common law definition of marriage was changed for all of Canada on June 10, 2003 by the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

In September, we reported the story of Art Vautour-Toole and Wayne Toole, who have been fighting to have their New Brunswick government recognize their Ontario marriage. The province, like others, is waiting for the Canadian Parliament to translate the new common law definition of marriage ("two persons") into parliamentary law.

Nunavut has ended the stalemate that has existed since the new definition of marriage came into effect. Although the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut is still waiting for Canada to pass a federal marriage law before it begins allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in its territory, residents who go elsewhere for a same-sex marriage will have all the rights and obligations of a married couple when they return to Nunavut's jurisdiction.

"That means same-sex couples married in jurisdictions that allow such unions, and who move to Nunavut, would theoretically be entitled to tax benefits as married couples, and may be able to adopt children," Nunatsiaq News reported today. "Furthermore, Nunavut's court system could be called on to perform divorces and divide assets."

The acceptance of same-sex marriage prompted Nunavut's minister of education, Manitok Thompson, to suggest that increased tolerance has been facilitated by bribery.

"I think that at times, there are bribes for yes votes, to my knowledge," Thompson said following the Premier's announcement. "Mr. Speaker, the Federal Government perhaps, also are aware of our agenda and that it is also in our agenda. As, they should start ensuring that funding come through faster just like they want the same sex marriage issue to go through the system fast."

The Premier of Nunavut announced his government would recognize same-sex marriages as the legislature debated whether to include sexual orientation in Bill 33, the Human Rights Act (the bill passed by a narrow margin of 10-8). The issue of same-sex marriage and the inclusion of sexual orientation in the human rights bill became intermingled during the debate.

Meanwhile, Nunavut is battling a problem with teen suicide. Since April 1, 1999, 128 people (in a population of only 28,000) have taken their own lives, most of them young men (14 to 24) with "romantic problems", according to psychologist Michael Kral (Nunatsiaq News, Nov. 7, 2003).

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