Province of New Brunswick and the rest of the country have to wake up. We're not
going to be oppressed and pushed down and called names any more. This is stopping
and this is just the beginning."
write to the couple
felt today how black people must have felt when they were called niggers or how
women must have felt when they were told they were not even persons. You feel
like you don't belong. You feel violated in every way shape and form."
Legal Canada - Names
September 5, 2003
Service New Brunswick defies new
common law definition of marriage
a very simple request but if it is a fight, then I guess we're going to have to
follow Art's lead and batten the hatches."
"I don't want to face this in Nova
Scotia and Art didn't want to face this here, but you know the battle is coming
and you just have to buckle down and its going to happen."
We first met Moncton-based Wayne Toole and Art Vautour-Toole when we embarked on a Maritimes speaking tour last November. Soon after, we worked together on this year's February 14 freedom to marry campaign across Canada. Most recently we participated in pride parades together in Halifax and St. John. The couple have been valued contributors to the campaign for equal marriage, with their dedication maintained, even after travelling to Ontario to get married.
The problem is that their home province of New Brunswick won't recognize their marriage, despite that the Court of Appeal for Ontario changed the common law definition of marriage on June 10 for all of Canada. The law has changed, but not yet the behaviour of the people charged with good governance in the land.
Art Vautour-Toole wishes to have Service New Brunswick process a name change, in recognition of his marriage to Wayne Toole. He changed his surname, Vautour, to become Vautour-Toole. Canada now recognizes that name, but his home province does not.
"Approximately two weeks ago," writes spouse Wayne, "Art received in the mail his new S.I.N. [social insurance number] card from the Federal Government with his new name Arthur Jean Vautour-Toole. Now, his N.B. driver's license and Medicare card do not match is SIN ... as such, he is not able to travel outside the country, buy a plane ticket, or even open up a bank account."
When the couple received a letter signed by Elvy Robichaud, New Brunswick's Minister of Health and Wellness, declining the couple's request to have their marriage recognized in their home province, they told Service New Brunswick that Art was "planning a revisit" to the office, "in the very near future with other methods of persuasion." Service New Brunswick responded with their own methods: the RCMP.
Yesterday Art Vautour-Toole was arrested seeking to claim his identity.
The official charge was creating a disturbance. Art had chained himself to a chair demanding justice when an employee hit a panic button, initiating an evacuation of the building and a summons for the police.
were calm as Art became even more outraged when a friend pointed out that he had
heard an employee refer to Art as a "faggot", according to one Global
TV report. Most news reports say that Art heard the comment, "I wish those
gays would just go away.". If so, it sounds much like New Brunswick Member
of Parliament Elsie Wayne, who made similar
remarks in Parliament.
"Arrest me!" Art shouted and the police complied.
Wayne Toole managed to get to the scene before his spouse was taken away. They embraced and the equally emotional and outraged Wayne said, "The Province of New Brunswick and the rest of the country have to wake up. We're not going to be oppressed and pushed down and called names any more. This is stopping and this is just the beginning."
In a statement last night, following the arrest, Art thanked Halifax supporters Joseph Landry and Brian Gazeley who were on hand for support.
"When I entered the Service New Brunswick office in Moncton my intentions were very simple," Art wrote in his statement. "I was going to chain myself to a chair and wait until the office closed at 4:30 and then leave peacefully. Ms. Dunn (Manager of SNB Moncton) was O.K with that and she had no problems. As I was talking with a civil servant at the far end of the counter, our dear friend Joseph went on the other side ... He then overheard a Service New Brunswick worker telling a customer.. 'I wish that these gays would simply go away'.
Joseph made a complaint, also noting that he had heard the word "faggot".
"I than left the counter," Art writes, "and along with my chair (still cuffed) to find a corner so I could read my book (gay novel). As I was going past the center reception desk to my amazement this lady behind the counter said to another person, 'I wish that these gays would simply go away'. (Same Person). This time I heard it. I asked the lady to apologize for the statement that she just made, she smirked at me and grinned and pushed the panic button to clear the SNB office. So I proceeded to my corner to sit and relax. She must have come out at least three times looking at me and smirking. I at no time slurred that lady. I only continually asked her for an apology ... The Codiac RCMP were then asking me to lower my voice or that would have to remove me because I was causing a disturbance. My decision was.. that I was no way going to back down from ANYONE making comments like that. I felt lower that I have ever felt in my life. I told the RCMP that if they wanted to charge me to go ahead and do it. I would then at least get my case in front of a judge. "
Art, now out of custody, will face provincial court on Monday at 9:30 a.m. The couple hopes that their experience and example will stir others into action on behalf of equal marriage and Charter rights.
"If this would have been a party with free booze and food we would have had a full house at SNB this morning," writes Art.
We share Art and Wayne's outrage and call on others to exercise their rights and demand justice in their home province.
Please write to the couple to offer financial or legal support. The couple hope to establish a trust fund in support of rights in New Brunswick.