Parliament stands by the Charter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I thank Stephen Harper and other opponents like him from the bottom of my heart. We could not have wished for a more ineffective, childish, bombastic, unrealistic opposition, one that scared Canadian voters away from the Conservative Party and toward a more tolerant society. I believe we should say God bless, good luck and goodbye."
Kevin Bourassa, Dose magazine, June 29, 2005

 

 



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Legal News - Parliament stands by the Charter

June 28, 2005 (Updated June 29)

Parliament stands by the Charter
Reflections on people, brave and determined

By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

"This is a historical moment," Varnell said in an interview. "Canada is passing a test tonight. We're saying our constitution represents all Canadians, not just the majority."
Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2005


"I think we will be an example more tangible and familiar to the Americans than Netherlands or Belgium. When they see our society functioning in a healthy manner, respectful of differences, there will be a greater comfort in the embrace of diversity."
Kevin Bourassa, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2005

It's the evening that the vote on Bill C-38, an act concerning civil marriage, comes to its final vote in the House of Commons, and yet while our minds are in Ontario, our hearts tonight are in New Brunswick.

We remember well our visit to Canada's east coast, where we were treated to a healthy dose of maritime hospitality and witnessed first hand the resolve of both those in favour of the Canadian Charter, and sadly of those opposed to equality.

Our first thoughts go to those who got us involved in this change for the betterment of our society. We recall the unwavering love and support of Anne and Elaine Vautour who have always stood by our side, whether physically or in spirit. We recall the eloquence of the great Douglas Elliott, who led the legal team into battle with a conviction that inspired us to always believe that we could change the world. We recall the inspirational courage of the Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes and the congregants of our faith home at MCC Toronto, who always helped us keep faith in our doubts.

We also remember the bravery of the incredible and inspiring couples whom we have had the privilege to be associated with. From moms in B.C. and Ontario to long time soul mates and friends from Quebec and the west, our time with you has made us better people.

Yet oddly tonight, it is particularly those who have fought in New Brunswick, the latest region to grant equality (June 24, 2005), that we dwell on tonight. We remember landing in a snow storm in early November. The swirling flakes reminded us of the twisted SELECT to read "Wayne's World - The Gag Reflex"logic of the opponents of equal marriage. After all, during severe weather people are supposed to follow the advice of the former MP for Saint John, Elsie Wayne - 'Just shut up and go home'. Well thankfully for New Brunswick, Canada, and indeed the world, the people of New Brunswick are made of sterner stuff and so many of these people come into our thoughts on this historic night.

With admiration, we think tonight of people like Wayne Harrison and Ross Leavett, who afforded us the privilege of Saint John Pride 2003 - Same-sex marriage comes to town.sharing the inaugural Saint John's pride march with them. We recall jubilantly their June 2004 marriage here in Toronto and the unwavering commitment to equality that brought them to Philadelphia's Equality Forum to crusade for equality. Yet we will always feel a twinge of regret that the political climate of the day made it impossible for them to get married at home at that time.

We think proudly of Carl Trickey and Jim Crooks, our gracious hosts at that bastion of elegance Mahogany Manor, who have spent years advocating for their right to be married at their church in their home town. As opponents of equality have continued to try and obstruct equality, we take comfort in the fact that they have finally found the justice that they sought from the courts in New Brunswick.

Arrested!  New Brunswick defies new common law  recognizing same-sex marriage.We reflect on the courage of Art and Wayne Toole, a couple who have, with the utmost dignity and grace, combated entrenched bureaucratic homophobia by asking for equal access to a legal name change following their legal marriage. This simple request, if made by an opposite sex couple, would have resulted in a fee and a receipt - in Art's case it resulted in insults and legal action.

We fondly recall all those people who helped us tell our story and, more importantly, allowed us to hear and learn from the stories of those in New Brunswick. We smile broadly at a walking stick taken from the Mactaquac dam given us by the eloquent Ed Leslie - a walking stick we have proudly carried to help us along our way. Thankfully that way had been smoothed for us over many years by countless brave souls. People like the gracious Haifa Miller, the ever-elegant Leslie Jeffrey, the tireless Sarah Rose Werner, the feisty and blessed Reverend Bob Johnson, the loving and wise Judith Meinert, the dedicated Greg Daborn, the tireless Richard Halifax Pride 2004Blaquiere, the always supportive Jason and Larry of East Coast Bears, the gifted Arthur Motyer and Alisdair Maclean and most particularly, one of the newest members of the Order of Canada, the eternally inspirational Eldon Hay.

We have received similar inspiration from every province, state, and country that we have visited on our journey to full and equal marriage. Thank you to all.

The vote has finished with 158 members choosing to support equality while only 133 decided to oppose it and yet even before the final numbers were announced we received confirmation of the justness of our cause. After all, what could cause an untouched champagne cork to pop just as the last vote was counted?

Cheers!


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