Civil Union Bill Hearings in Montreal
Justice Minister recommends equality
Justice Minister Bégin
closed the parliamentary hearings on civil union today with some clear pronouncements
on what he will recommend to the government.
other things the minister will recommend:
the label "partner" is gone and in future there will be three terms
for conjugal union in the Quebec Civil Code:
unis en mariage,
conjoints en union civil,
de fait (this a weak version of common law spouses).
the key word for conjugality will be "conjoint" followed by the form
of that union.
civil union will be open to heterosexual and homosexual couples
the articles concerning adoption will be clarified to include equal treatment
for same-sex couples, with the focus on the child's needs, of course.
"filiation" rules in the civil code will be reviewed to make them equitable
("filiation" is the legal relating of child to parents in civil law).
5) Article 365,
the Québec marriage law, will be revised to replace "between a man
and woman" to "between two persons". But the Minister pointed out
that this is symbolic since the qualifications for marriage is federal jurisdiction.
Article 15 in the Code which deals with consent to treatment for people who are
not apt to consent will be revised to include the various forms of "conjoint"
at the first level of authority (previously it was spouse, family, concerned individuals,
ie. unmarried "conjoints" were after the blood family--now married spouses,
unioned conjoints, and conjoint de fait will be in first place.
have been told, but I did not find it in the text, that our request for a sunset
clause was not included in the recommendations but that the situation would be
reviewed in 5 years.
to the Minister, he was deeply moved by the testimony (particularly of the lesbian
mothers and of the adults who were raised in same-sex households). He was delighted
by the practical suggestions offered by the 50+ memoranda. He summarized the opposition's
position in a few lines with little comment and then went on at great length about
the existing research that indicates that children raised by same-sex couples
are equal in every sense to those raised by heterosexual couples. He even repeated
the results of the American
Academy of Pediatriacs latest announcement.
general, it seems like the whole exercise was a success for the homosexual community
in Québec and equal treatment, if not equal status, (ie. equal choices
and the dignity that issues from this, is just around the corner.)
In brief, they say they are going to do the best they can within their jurisdiciton
and that before June 24th (as promised originally).
re-opens the Equal Marriage case in Québec
Friday Feb 8, 2002, Madame Justice Louise Lemelin sent out an order to re-open
our hearings so that the possible impact of civil
union on the remedies requested can be discussed. And she wants to look at the
other materials submitted or mentioned by our lawyers: the transcript of the press
conference by the Québec Minister of Justice where he says that Québec
would have given us marriage if it had the jurisdiction (he continues to say this
regularly in the Parlimentary hearings on civil union), and (we think) the Law
Commission Report which has come out since the hearings in November.
M. Hendricks and R.
Two In Montreal
started yesterday, Wednesday the 6th of February, with the press conference with
Réal Ménard. Réal was excellent---he has read the Law Commission
Report thoroughly and, while polite, he was direct in his message to the Minister.
What luck! The Parliamentary Channel showed up and covered it with interviews
so [Justice Minister] Mr. Cauchon cannot miss it!
We were particularly
pleased with Deputy Ménard's re-centering the debate in Québec on
the federal marriage issue. The papers and TV here are full of "civil union"
and stories of lesbian co-motherhood. The people who appeared at the Commission
hearings in Québec said that the minister is definitely talking the talk,
very positive towards partentality issues. We suspect that Civil Union will be
marriage for homo couples in everything but the name but they cannot call it marriage.
The minister seems positive to a sundown clause --- it was discussed again yesterday
at the Commission. This could all shape up into a very nice "distinct society"
argument, which just might be more motivating for the Liberal Party than equality,
we suspect (and, really, none of us had anything to do with that particular and
strange spin). Anyway, René and I feel that the issues at the provincial
level are more or less resolved in real terms (if not legal terms). Now onto the
lawyers informed us (last night) that our judge is expressing interest in possibly
re-opening the hearings to hear arguments on the Law Commission report as evidence.
(It seems the AGC opposes this, which is a good sign). This means more expense
for us. But it will be good for the cause if Goldwater, Dubé can pull it
off because it puts "Beyond Conjugality" on the Supremes' reading list
Hendricks and R. LeBoeuf
(very tired candidates for civil marriage)
summary of Day One of the hearings
- by Michael Hendricks
were the forth group to be heard. Groups 1 and group 2 (The Coalition) went in
the morning and they had various suggestions to make on how to improve the White
Paper. Group 3 is a house organ for the PQ so they were (supposedly) very favourable
to the proposition (heck, they participated in writing it or so we are told).
As I told you,
our memorandum was legal-technico about the details of the Civil Code and asked
questions more than it commented: What do you mean by this or that, if you have
to go to court to seperate when there are shared children issuing from the union,
where do these kids come from? etc.
was alone with Professor Ann Robinson (our juridical advisor) who wrote the memorandum.
We introduced ourselves, then Ann read a seven-minute summary of our memorandum
and then we had 38 minutes of questions.
pointed out that "filiation", the relationship of children to their
parents, is covered in the Civil Code and should apply to homo couples if we read
the Civil Code correctly (see articles 539 and 540 for artificial insemination
and 555 for "special adoption", ie when a spouse (married or common
law) wants to adopt the other spouse's child from a previous relationship). The
Minister asked if it would not be more helpful if the Legislature made it clear
that these articles do apply to "unioned" couples. Ann said: "Of
course". The Minister said he thought so too.
were many detailed legal questions, and the Minister displayed a striking knowledge
of the detailed parts of the Civil Code concerning filiation. (The head of the
Ministry's "law writing" unit was there too and he came to me before
the session and said he appreciated our memorandum very much calling it technically
opposition, the Liberals, asked very pointed questions about how Ann had described
the rules of filiation as "social conventions" giving her a chance to
illustrate how heterosexist society defines things in the mirror of their experience
and not ours. (They asked for the definition of "heterosexist" too.)
the end, the Minister came over and said that was all very good, he would need
two weeks of hearings and would put together the law in the following two weeks
and start the process. He was particularly nice to me.
approach to the Civil Union proposition has been to go for including a clear statement
on parenting and to work the rest out later. In our text, we also carefully re-iterated
the Minister's own words that, if marriage were possible for a province to grant,
the government would grant it. He did not object (or even comment) so, as the
saying goes, silence is consent.
Parlimentary Commission hearings on the
White Paper start.
our side, there are around 50 memoranda being presented by the groups who are
members of the Coalition for Same-Sex Couples, labour unions, small gay and lesbian
community groups, the Québec Women's Federation, individuals from our community,
and even some children (now adults) who were raised by gay men or lesbians. In
addition, there are 3 or 4 from the religious right, as well as prominent lawyers
and notraries, the Québec Mental Health
Association (supporting), the
Human Rights Commission (supporting) and some others not yet announced. The schedule
for 3 days this week is known Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 35 memoranda will
be heard by a Ministerial
Committee composed of the PQ and the PLQ. (Groups
get 45 minutes, individuals 30 minutes.)
presenters from our side all agree that the civil union proposition is long overdue
and will give us in Québec some of the responsibilities and benefits that
most common law provinces already extend via common law status as well as a public
ceremony for the union itself. They also all agree that
the present proposition
does not go far enough in codifying parentality for homosexual couples. Divergences
start around the fact that civil union is open to homosexual couples only (though
the vast majority address this question as "ghettoisation" and oppose
it). More or less all call for
Québec to support the marriage battle
at the federal level; some call on the government to phase out civil union once
the marriage battle is won (a "sunset clause" is suggested by a few).
only is this the longest, most broad public discussion of homosexual equality
in the history of the Québec government, it will be shown on the parliamentary
channel (highlights in the evening, we think--- we do not know
if it will
be shown all day).
we did organise a 7 day public audience before the Human Rights Commission in
1993 but that was about "violence and discrimination done to gays and lesbians"
and not about legal equality---and it was not in the Red Chamber of the National
These hearings are probably going to turn into a media fest, with lots of press
conferences, specials, etc. The Coalition is trying to use the hearings as a launching
pad for an open discussion of gay and lesbian parenting; René and I think
they will succeed. The lesbian mothers who will testify (about 12 so far scheduled)
are gems---very convincing,
articulate people with interesting tales to tell.
(Incidentally, we, the Coalition for Marriage, speak tomorrow, Feb 5, at 2:15.)
of this tends, however, to put the focus on the famous "effects of marriage"
which is provincial jurisdiction. So, Réal Ménard (Bloc québécois
deputy in Ottawa) is doing a press conference, with René and me present,
on Wednesday morning to discuss the Canadian
Law Commission report about conjugal relationships, highlighting Chapter 4
and recommendation 33. We will be joined by 2 Montréal city counselors,
announcing that one of the local counsels is supporting equal marriage. On top
of that, a letter of support for equal marriage from Gilles Duceppe (leader of
the Bloc) will be read. The object of this press conference is to get the focus
back on the federal arena where marriage (and full legal and social equality)
is the subject (and not the effects of marriage). Deputy Ménard will call
on the new Minister of Justice to respond
to the Law Commission report,
specifically Chapter 4.
to you all,