Intro & list of abbreviations /
List of pages /
What we got: The details
Federal human rights protection
Stories recorded here deal only with efforts to affect federal and constitutional law.
There were many, many more on long-running battles to include the term "sexual
orientation" as a prohibited ground of discrimination in municipal anti-bias bylaws and --
especially --- in provincial and territorial human rights codes.
See Victories and defeats for the story to 1982,
by when Quebec was the only province to have amended its human rights law (in
Dec 1977). For the record, here's when other provinces and territories did so -- or, despite
inaction by their governments, had sexual orientation "read into" their human rights laws
by court decisions based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Ontario: Dec 1986
- Yukon: Feb 1987
- Manitoba: Jul 1987
- Nova Scotia: Jun 1991
- New Brunswick: May 1992
- Saskatchewan: Jul 1992
- British Columbia: Jul 1992
- Alberta: Read in by provincial court Apr 1994; overturned on government
appeal to higher Alberta court, Feb 1996; that 1996 ruling itself overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, Apr 1998, forcing Alberta to prohibit anti-gay discrimination
- Newfoundland: Read in by provincial Supreme Court Aug 1995; ruling stands
- Prince Edward Island; Northwest Territories: No action -- but local human rights agencies, citing the Charter, have said they would hear complaints based on sexual orientation
- TBP May 74: Federal human rights code excludes gays. Otto Lang, minister
of justice, responds 14 Feb 74 to letter from GATE on "proposed establishment of a federal
human rights committee"; says intention is to limit protections to "race, national or ethnic
origin, colour, religion, sex and marital status."
- TBP Oct 75: Phoney privacy law won't protect gays. Story notes first reading
of federal human rights bill, 22 Jul 75 (unnamed; Bill C-72 in McLeod, who gives 21 Jul
75 as date Lang introduced it).
- TBP Dec 75: Lang rejects gay protections. In (undated) Sep 75 letter to GO,
Lang says proposed human rights bill will exclude gays from its protection.
- TBP Apr 76: Coalition will urge MPs to put gays in human rights act. NGRC
preparing brief, The Homosexual Minority and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Act would cover employment only with federal government and its agencies, Crown
corporations, and companies under federal charter (such as banks, airlines, and railways).
- TBP Nov 76: Human rights act to be reintroduced. Justice minister Ron
Basford will table new bill in new session of Parliament set to begin mid-Oct. NGRC
wrote him 30 Aug 76 to ask if sexual orientation will be included. Reports no response to
- TBP Dec 76: No protection for gays in Human Right Act. NGRC says 10
member groups and many individuals have written Basford, with no response. Federal
Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Canadian Association of University
Teachers, and Canadian Federation of Civil Liberties and Human Rights Associations have
all backed inclusion of sexual orientation in proposed Act. Story says Basford told a
reporter in the first week of Nov "that sexual orientation was being left out because he
wanted the [proposed federal human rights] Commission to start off in areas where there
were already precedents" in provincial human rights law.
- TBP Feb 77: Basford adamant on exclusion of sexual orientation. Form
letters sent by Basford, in response to appeals by groups above, continue to use lack of
precedent as excuse -- though bill includes unprecedented protection for persons "convicted
of an offence for which a pardon has been granted." Powers of proposed human rights
commission, and provisions for a person's access to information held on him or her by
government, seen as weak.
- TBP Feb 77: Gay rights a "fad issue": NDP leader. Ed Broadbent, head of
federal NDP, quoted in Maclean's magazine 29 Nov 76, saying his party "has got to stop
supporting every fad issue or minority concern that comes along, whether it's the
homosexual minority or whatever." (But story above says Broadbent told NGRC he had
written Basford to support inclusion of sexual orientation in proposed Canadian Human
Rights Act (CHRA).)
- TBP May 77: Support grows on sexual orientation issue. Appearing before
House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs (date not given),
the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Labour Congress back inclusion of sexual
orientation in CHRA. Story lists five more groups in support, including the United Church
of Canada. In Commons debate, members from all three main parties speak in support:
Gordon Fairweather (PC); Pierre DeBané (Liberal); and John Gilbert (NDP).
- TBP Jun 77: Canadian Human Rights Act: No rights for Gays.
Amendment put forward by Gordon Fairweather to add sexual orientation to CHRA is
defeated in committee (no date given). Only Fairweather and Stuart Legatt (NDP, who had
introduced a similar amendment) voted in favour.
- TBP Jul 77: Rights act adopted[,] gays still left out. CHRA passes
House of Commons 2 Jun 77, expected to pass Senate and receive royal assent by end of
June. Sexual orientation is (as expected) not included.
- TBP Dec 77: Fairweather, friend. In first major speech, 25 Oct 77, after
appointment as Chief Commissioner of Canadian Human Rights Commission (newly
established by the CHRA), Gordon Fairweather reiterates support for inclusion of sexual
orientation in Act.
- TBP Oct 78: Human rights charter "full of holes" according to Chief
Commissioner Fairweather. Head of the CHRC criticizes proposed Charter of Human
Rights and Freedoms (sic; "Human" later dropped), part of constitutional plan
released "several months ago." Speaking to joint Senate / House of Commons
committee studying the proposals, Fairweather urged addition to Charter of protections
based on physical handicap, marital status, and sexual orientation.
(First mention of the Charter, which was meant to enshrine fundamental rights in the
constitution -- more broadly binding than protections in the CHRA. Part of effort to
"repatriate" Canada's constitution, as embodied in the British North America Act, 1867,
from the U.K. Parliament at Westminster. Later this effort was called, simply, "patriation":
the constitution had never resided in Canada, so could not be "repatriated.")
- TBP Nov 79: Canadians favour rights for gays, but RCMP, Army still stand in
way. Reports release, mid-Sep 79, of Sexual Orientation: A Policy Planning
Report, prepared for the CHRC. Among its recommendations: "apply pressure to
RCMP, Armed Forces and government departments to engage in full, frank and open
debate on the issue; advocate that all employers who come under jurisdiction of the Act
[CHRA] adopt official statement on sexual orientation and hiring policy."
Sidebar to story, Poll vaunting, reports CHRC survey released 26 Sep 79.
Responding to hypothetical hiring of "self-acknowledged homosexual" by the RCMP, 68
percent would support such a hiring, 25 percent would not. "The Ottawa Journal
quoted Michael Dare, head of security services in the RCMP, as saying there are no plans
whatsoever to change the service's longtime policy of barring homosexuals."
- TBP May 80: Federal rights body will fight for sexual orientation, says head.
Gordon Fairweather, speaking in Edmonton in support of 19 Mar 80 brief by Alberta
Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (rejected by Alberta Human Rights Commission) says
the CHRC "has been relentless in trying to convince legislators the time is past when
discrimination on the basis of sexual preference should be allowed."
- TBP Jun 80: Protect gays in federal code, Rights Commission report urges.
In its third annual report, the CHRC calls again for inclusion of sexual orientation in
- TBP Jun 80: MP private bills call for amended code. Patricia Carney (PC) and
Svend Robinson (NDP) each say they will introduce a private member's bill to include
sexual orientation in CHRA.
- TBP Aug 80: Liberals reaffirm gay rights protection. At national convention,
Winnipeg, 5 Jul 80, Liberal Party of Canada (governing party, to Sep 1984) adopts
resolution to include sexual orientation in CHRA. Similar 1978 resolution had used the
term "sexual preference"; story notes party officials later "professed not to know of any
- TBP Feb 81: CALGM calls for gay rights in constitution. Canadian
Association of Lesbians and Gay Men, appearing 11 Dec 80 before Joint Senate / House of
Commons Committee on the Constitution, calls for inclusion of sexual orientation in
proposed Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
- TBP Mar 81: Gays closed out: Charter of Rights. Joint Committee on the
Constitution agrees 28 Jan 81 to add "physical and mental disability" to proposed Charter,
but, on 29 Jan, not "sexual orientation." Vote on latter is 21 to 2 against, with only NDP
members of committee voting in favour.
- TBP Sep 81: Bear-hugged bill dies. MP Pat Carney's bill to include sexual
orientation in CHRA fails to survive second reading in Commons, 19 Jun 81. Liberals
ostensibly speaking in its favour "talked it out" beyond the one hour of debate allowed for
private members' bills. An aide to Carney described Liberal tactics on the bill as "bear-
hugging it to death."
- TBP Oct 81: Rights body reaffirms support. In its report for 1980, the CHRC
reiterates -- again -- its support for inclusion of sexual orientation in CHRA.
- 17 Apr 1982: Constitution Act, 1982 proclaimed, consolidating all related
acts since the British North America Act, 1867 as the Constitution of Canada. Includes
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- due to take effect 17 Apr 1985,
giving provincial and federal governments 3 years to bring their statutes into line with it.
- TBP Jan 83: Minister ignores rights proposal. "Justice Minister Mark
MacGuigan admitted November 30 before the House of Commons Justice Committee that
the government intends to ignore a recommendation from the Canadian Human Rights
Commission (CHRC) that the Human Rights Act be amended to protect gay people."
- TBP Mar 83: Another try: getting into the Act. Svend Robinson's bill to
amend CHRA may go to committee in April. "This is the first time we've gotten this far,"
he says. Earlier, justice minister MacGuigan had "left observers puzzled by his claim that
the CHRC already had considerable latitude to interpret the existing Act with regard to
sexual orientation." CHRC says the minister must define such latitude.
- TBP Apr 83: Across Canada (briefs; individual stories not titled). Robinson's
bill tabled in House 9 Mar 83. Not expected to pass second reading.
- TBP May 83: Rights activism urged. GO and other groups prepare for
committee hearings due in early May on Robinson's bill, now expected to pass second
- TBP Jun 83: Tory MP stifles public hearings on sexual orientation. Jake Epp
(PC) votes against Robinson's bill, 11 May 83; bill dies. (Bill needed unanimous vote in
Commons to pass second reading and go to committee). Epp says: "The general public, the
vast majority of Canadians, does not support the legislation before us."
- TBP Dec 83: Legal restraints and better hopes. Special report on symposium,
"Homosexuality and Justice", Laval University, early autumn. Notes that Charter of
Rights, to come into effect 17 Apr 85, may offer protection because its list of prohibited
grounds of discrimination is not exhaustive. (See next story.)
- TBP May 85: Equality committee to raise gay issues. Parliamentary committee
set up to look at questions raised by government discussion paper, Equality Issues in
Federal Law, tabled in Parliament 31 Jan 85 by new PC justice minister John Crosbie.
"The paper outlined areas of existing law which may conflict with equality provisions
contained in Section 15 [of the Charter of Rights], which comes into effect April 17."
The same story reports that a new private member's bill, introduced by Svend Robinson 4
Mar 85 to amend the CHRA, had survived second reading and would go to the committee stage (as Robinson's 1983 bill had not).
Some notes on the Charter
The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) binds only the federal government, its agencies,
and federally incorporated businesses. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an entrenched part of the Constitution of Canada, much more far-reaching in its effects. It
guarantees fundamental rights to all Canadians and grants equal protection in law from
discrimination, whatever its source. Section 15 (1) of the Charter, under Equality Rights,
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection
and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without
discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental
or physical disability.
(Emphasis added: the term "in particular", included in the Charter's
third draft, means that Section 15 could be used to challenge discrimination on grounds
other than those listed.)
Section 15 (2) allows for "positive" discrimination aimed at "amelioration of conditions
of disadvantaged individuals or groups." This subsection would become central in
Canadian jurisprudence, distinguishing "equity" -- equality of effect achieved
through differential treatment -- from a more limited (but much more common) notion of
"equality" as sameness of treatment, regardless of material or historical
Other sections of the Charter potentially limit application of Section 15. Four of them
deal with protection of pre- existing rights from abrogation by the Charter, including
aboriginal treaty and land- claim rights (Section 25), and the rights of separate, state-
supported Catholic (and in some cases Protestant) schools in existence at the time a
province joined Confederation (Section 29). But the most important limitations are in the first
and second- last of its 34 sections:
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set
out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be
demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. (Emphasis added.)
33. (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of
Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall
operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this
Both sections clarify that rights are not absolute. They echo the earlier codicil in the
Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960: no law of Canada could abrogate the rights it enumerated
"unless it is expressly declared by an Act of the Parliament of Canada that it shall operate
notwithstanding the Canadian Bill of Rights." Section 1 of the Charter improved on that --
saying such exemptions must be "reasonable" and "demonstrably justified" -- but
governments could still invoke the "notwithstanding" clause to "opt out" of the Charter.
And some would try.
Full text of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
is available online.
- TBP Jul 85: Going through the motions: Gays flock to the Equality
Committee, but are the government MPs listening? House of Commons Sub-
Committee on Equality Rights tours the country, taking deputations on both the Charter and
Svend Robinson's bill to amend the CHRA. Hears from: Vancouver Gay and Lesbian
Community Centre, Lesbian and Feminist Mothers Political Action Group, Gay Rights
Union, and Gayblevision in Vancouver; GATE, Dignity, and Womonspace in Edmonton;
and eight groups in Winnipeg supporting sexual orientation protection, including the Gay
Media Collective, Lesbians for Equality, and the Winnipeg Presbytery of the United
Church of Canada.
- TBP Aug 85: The gay question makes its mark: The Equality Rights Sub-
Committee seems to be getting serious about gay rights. Committee "descends on
Toronto" 17 & 18 Jun 85. Briefs presented by RTPC, CGRO, Rites
magazine, and gay activist lawyer Peter Maloney. Story says "There is some reason for
restrained optimism" and reports that Maloney has received support from the federal justice
department's Human Rights Law Fund to prepare report on gay community position on
Section 15 of Charter. Committee was in Halifax 6 Jun 85, heard deputation from Gay
Alliance for Equality; scheduled later for other Maritime cities, and Ottawa. Its reporting
deadline has been extended from 5 Sep to 15 Oct 85.
- TBP Sep 85: Cause for a (small) celebration. Analysis of Section 15 of the
Charter of Rights notes that "inclusion of the words 'in particular' leaves the section open-
ended, suggesting there can -- and surely will -- be complaints [against discrimination]
based on other grounds, including sexual orientation." Charter already seen as far more
powerful than Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960; court decisions based on Charter so far have
limited powers of RCMP and provincial film censor boards, and overturned statutory rape
law as discriminatory. Separate story reports appearance by GO before Equality Rights
committee, Sep 85. Hearings also set for Whitehorse, Calgary, and again in Vancouver.
- TBP Nov 85: Poll favours gay protection. Reports Gallup Poll, conducted
12-14 Sep 85, asking 1,043 respondents if they agree with (various) human rights
commission proposals "to make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal."
Nationally, 70 percent said yes. Poll financed by Gay Community Appeal of Toronto and
done to "have good effect on the Equality Rights Sub- Committee."
- TBP Jan 86: Equality committee calls for gay rights. Equality Rights Sub-
Committee issues its unanimous report, Equality for All, 25 Oct 85, saying that
"the prohibited grounds of discrimination enumerated in Section 15 are simply illustrative
and do not exhaust the forms of discrimination" covered by the Charter. Recommends: end
to ban on homosexuals in Armed Forces and RCMP; inclusion of sexual orientation in
CHRA; assurance that security clearance guidelines not discriminate on basis of sexual
orientation; and a uniform age of consent. Government must respond by 21 Feb 86. Letter
from Svend Robinson, appearing on same page, urges reader to "Write for your rights."
- TBP Jan 86: Opposition leader wants gay-positive reading of Charter. Federal
Liberal leader John Turner says, 9 Nov 85, that sexual orientation should be included in
CHRA. Gay Liberal Peter Maloney predicts Svend Robinson's private member's bill to do
so will soon be passed by the House of Commons.
- TBP Apr 86: Victory for gay equality. Responding to Equality for
All, justice minister John Crosbie tells House of Common, 4 Mar 86, that government
will "take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that sexual orientation is a prohibited
ground of discrimination in relation to all areas of federal jurisdiction." No legislative
proposals are made; Svend Robinson says: "Don't hold your breath!"
- TBP Aug 86: Nova Scotia to ban gay cops. Provincial attorney general Ron
Griffin says he will invoke Section 34 of the Charter (actually Section 33, the
"notwithstanding" clause; see under May 85, above) to "opt out" of federal anti-bias
provisions allowing gays to enlist in RCMP (which also served, except in Ontario and
Quebec, as provincial police force). Media uproar ensues; Nova Scotia government
distances itself from Griffin's remarks.
- TBP Apr 86: Cheap Charter challenges: Fast-tracking and funding now
available to define equality rights. Ontario Divisional Court ruling, 29 May 86, allows
simplified "application" process, reducing likely duration of Charter-based anti-
discrimination cases from up to 4 years to 3 or 4 months. Canadian Council on Social
Development, a non- government agency, had launched federally funded Court Challenge
Program Sep 85, with panel to select equality rights cases for funding set up 2 Jul 86.
- TBP Dec 86: Keeping their promise: EGALE keeps feds on course;
destination is equal rights for gays. Report on founding (undated) of Equality for Gays
and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) in Ottawa. Group lobbies for fulfillment of promises
made by John Crosbie 4 Mar 86 (see Apr 86, above) but "believes that pressure from
rightwing groups may force the government to reverse its stand."
- Xtra 18 Apr 87: Names can hurt you: New homophobic hate campaign
targets federal MPs. CGRO and RTPC urge letters (with samples provided) to MPs
and justice minister Ray Hnatyshyn, to support inclusion of sexual orientation in CHRA.
RTPC's George Smith says MPs are getting "two dozen or more letters, on average, each
day opposing this legislation" (expected to be introduced soon) in campaign organized by
the Coalition for Family Values.
- Xtra 13 Jul 87: Justice delayed: You can help unblock federal gay right
bill. EGALE says amendments promised more than a year ago (on 4 Mar 86) are
stalled in cabinet; urges more letters, directly to cabinet ministers.
- Xtra 16 Oct 87: Got a Charter in our pocket: It's time to press the feds to
deliver on gay rights. EGALE says government, "preoccupied with the Meech Lake
accord and free trade," is unlikely to move on sexual orientation protection unless pushed.
Actions planned in Kingston, London, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Toronto.
(Meech Lake constitutional accord, requiring agreement of all provinces to new amending
formula, failed in 1990. Free trade agreement with US -- major issue in 1988 election,
which PCs won -- signed in 1988.)
- Xtra 3 Mar 89: Personal and political: A year after coming out, MP Svend
Robinson ponders his agenda. Robinson, who had come out publicly (though long
known to be gay) 29 Feb 88, says: "For the 12th time in ten years, I guess, I will be
reintroducing a private member's bill that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in all areas of federal jurisdiction." (He
did so 12 Apr 89.)
- Xtra 14 Apr 89: 'See you in court!' Tories won't budge on human rights
act. EGALE fundraiser, 2 Mar 89, Ottawa (called "Whatever Measures Are Necessary
-- Respect Your Commitment" with entertainment by CBC's CODCO), attended by reps
from all three federal parties. PC MP Ken Montieth, speaking for justice minister Doug
Lewis, reported to "say that the government believes the open-ended language of Section
15 of the Charter of Rights includes protection for the gay and lesbian minority and it
would someday be proven." He was booed by the audience of 500.
- Xtra 24 Nov 89: It's unconstitutional! Federal court rules bias against
gays violates Charter of Rights. In Federal Court of Canada ruling, 6 Nov 89, on case
of Les Beu and Tim Veysey (see Other rights in law), judge notes that
"sexual orientation is not a prohibited ground listed under section 15 [of the Charter of
Rights] but, in my view, it is an analogous ground recognized by ... provincial and
territorial human rights acts, as well as the House of Commons Parliamentary Committee
on Equality Rights." Ruling effectively "reads in" sexual orientation to Section 15.
- Xtra 11 Oct 91: Act ruled unconstitutional. In case of Graham Haig and
Joshua Burch (see Canadian Armed Forces), Ontario Court, General
Division (formerly Supreme Court of Ontario) rules 23 Sep 91 that Canadian Human
Rights Act, because it does not include sexual orientation, violates the Charter of Rights
and is therefore unconstitutional. Court gives federal government six months to amend
CHRA, or it will be struck down in its entirety. Government appeals. Story notes postcard
campaign urging amendment of CHRA, spearheaded by Svend Robinson and concluding 26 Jun 91; justice minister Kim Campbell had said at the time, "I intend to
bring forth the amendment in the fall and have it in place by the end of this calendar year."
- Xtra 21 Aug 92: Gay rights get into the act: Court adds sexual orientation to
federal rights act, stymies Tory homophobes. Ontario Court of Appeal, upholding 23
Sep 91 decision in case of Haig and Burch, rules 7 Aug 92 that CHRA should not be
struck down but must have sexual orientation read into it. Justice minister Kim Campbell
says 12 Aug that no decision has been made to appeal; deadline is 30 Oct 92. Story notes
media reports suggesting Campbell's promised amendment of CHRA in 1991 had been
frustrated by "vocal homophobes" in PC caucus. She says she still plans to introduce the
(31 Oct 92 G&M story, "Ottawa accepts court ruling on gay rights", says government
decided 30 Oct 92 not to appeal 7 Aug decision, and accepts reading of sexual orientation
into CHRA. "As a result of yesterday's decision, homosexuals will now have an undisputed
right to use the Human Rights Act to protect themselves from discrimination.")
- Xtra 25 Dec 92: Ploys R us: Tory human rights amendments reach a new
low in political compromise. Justice minister Kim Campbell introduces Bill C-108, 10
Dec 92, to amend CHRA to include sexual orientation -- and to define "marital status"
solely as a relationship between persons of the opposite sex. Same definition had been
found unconstitutional, as a violation of the Charter, by Ontario human rights tribunal (in
the Leshner spousal benefits case, not tracked here); Campbell says she believes that
decision was "wrong."
- Xtra 11 Jun 93: Senate bill goes to Commons: Legislation could amend
human rights act. Bill S-15, private bill introduced by PC Senator Noel Kinsella
(former member of New Brunswick Human Rights Commission) to add sexual orientation
to CHRA, passes Senate 3 Jun 93. Must pass House of Commons to become law.
- Xtra 24 Dec 93: Year-end compendium reports, for Oct 93, "The Liberals are swept to
power in the federal election. Senator Noel Kinsella's Human Rights Act
amendment is lost [i.e., dies on order paper as pre-election parliamentary session ends], as
is Kim Campbell's [Dec 92] bill to amend the Act to include sexual orientation."
- Xtra 23 Dec 94: Prime minister's fears delay changes: Jean
Chrétien worries that Canadians aren't ready, sources say. Introduction of bill
to amend CHRA to include sexual orientation, promised by justice minister Allan Rock by
Christmas, is delayed. Story says: "The prime minister is reluctant to spend political capital
on what he sees as a contentious issue. ... Petitions opposing the amendment have been
tabled in the House of Commons virtually every day since April." Vocal opponents include
Liberal MPs Roseanne Skoke (Nova Scotia) and Tom Wappel (Ontario). Sidebar story,
Reform divided, says that "As dissident backbench Liberals embarrass [their own
government], four Reform MPs may break ranks with their party's anti-gay policy and
support human rights protection." Rock promises another try in the new year -- but doesn't
- Xtra 31 Mar 95: Justice minister puts onus on community: Allan Rock
apologizes again for breaking his promise. In interview the previous week, Rock said:
"I think it's important to keep a prod on the government to move forward with these
matters. ... It's the right thing to do and it should've been done a long time ago." Liberal
caucus still resists. Comments came on release of CHRC annual report, calling (as it had
every year since 1978) for inclusion of sexual orientation in CHRA. Report says CHRC
commissioner Max Yalden had also urged government to revise Income Tax Act to allow
same-sex spousal coverage in group insurance plans.
- Xtra 9 Jun 95: Checkered victory: No pension for spouse of 47 years,
court rules; and (continuation) Supreme Court leaves door ajar. In decision on
the Egan case (see Other rights in law), Supreme Court rules 25 May
95 that Old Age Security Act limitation of benefits to spouse of the opposite sex is allowed
by the Charter of Rights -- qualifying as a "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably
justified in a free and democratic society."
But court also affirms that denial of benefits is discriminatory in principle: by a unanimous decision, justices rule sexual
orientation is an "analogous ground" covered by Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms. Activists see fundamental victory in "loss" of Egan case.
(Jim Egan had been a one-man homophile movement in Toronto from the late 1940s until
his move to British Columbia in 1964. See online article on David Adkin's film Jim Loves Jack, which covers both
his early activist career and the Supreme Court case. Egan and his lover Jack Nesbit were
grand marshals in Toronto's 1995 Lesbian and Gay Pride Day parade.)
- Xtra 15 Feb 96: Rights amendment. Bill Graham, Liberal MP for Rosedale
(heavily gay downtown Toronto riding), says 9 Feb 96 that he and other members of
caucus "have been strongly lobbying the Prime Minister' Office and the minister of justice"
to amend the CHRA. On same page: 411 days: Xtra begins running regular item
with "number of days gone by since federal Justice Minister Allan Rock broke his promise
to the gay and lesbian community" -- based on Rock's own deadline of 31 Dec 94 for
introduction of sexual orientation amendment to CHRA.
- Xtra 29 Feb 96: PM shuts us out. New session of Parliament opens 27 Feb
96 with Speech from the Throne (government's policy agenda for the session) that doesn't
mention amendment of CHRA.
- Xtra 29 Feb 96: Pressuring the Liberals: Tory senator introduces human
rights bill. PC Senator Noel Kinsella, 28 Feb 96, again introduces private bill to amend
CHRA (see 11 Jun 93 above). Story notes: "In recent weeks, some of Canada's top
newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, have criticized the delay on human rights." In
response to question from MP Réal Ménard, prime minister
Chrétien says inclusion of sexual orientation in CHRA "is part of our promise and
we hope to find the time to adopt it some day."
- Xtra 28 Mar 96: Lies & more lies: Ten years of broken promises
from the feds. Story notes 10th anniversary of PC justice minister John Crosbie's
promise, 4 Mar 86, to "take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that sexual
orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination in relation to all areas of federal
jurisdiction." Tracks Tory failures to Oct 1993, Liberals ones since. Prime minister
criticized 19 Mar 96 by CHRC commissioner Max Yalden for his delay; the next day
Chrétien says his government will introduce CHRA amendment before the end of
its mandate in 1998.
- Xtra 25 Apr 96: Rights bill. NDP MP Svend Robinson, 16 Apr 96,
introduces yet another private member's bill to amend CHRA.
- Xtra 9 May 96: Keeping the promise -- sort of: Justice minister's good
intentions hurt by PM's machinations. Allan Rock (his broken- promise count up to
485 days) introduces Bill-33, to include sexual orientation in CHRA, on 29 Apr 96. "It's
already read into the federal statute," he says (see 21 Aug 92 above), "but because we don't
feel the courts should be making policy for the country, we've decided to expressly provide
it in our act." Preamble to Bill C-33 says government affirms "family as the foundation of
Canadian society" -- but does not define "family". Story says opposition to bill is well-
organized, led by Canadian wing of U.S. group, Focus on the Family.
- Xtra 23 May 96 (p 11): Weird science: Odd ducks obsess about
'unhealthy lifestyles' in human right debate. Reform MP Grant Hill, in (undated)
committee hearings on Bill C-33, says it will promote "HIV, gay bowel syndrome,
increasing parasitic infections [and] lowered life expectancy." Hill, an MD, roundly
criticized by other doctors and by the Canadian Medical Association.
- Xtra 23 May 96 (p 20): Equality for all: Gay men & lesbians are no
longer 'second class citizens'. House of Commons votes, 9 May 96, on Bill C-33.
Prime minister allowed free vote (not imposing party discipline); 28 Liberals vote
against bill but it passes 153 to 76 -- at last adding sexual orientation to CHRA by
legislation, not simply by court ruling. Last- minute amendment to define "family" in bill
- Xtra 20 Jun 96: On side: Senators pass human rights amendment.
Senate approves Bill C-33 on 5 Jun 96, in vote of 54 to 5. Bill expected to receive Royal
Assent and become law by the end of the month. (No date found for Assent, but it was
End of the story of sexual orientation protection in federal / constitutional law -- two
months shy of 25 years since "We Demand." See Other rights in law for
later developments in related areas.
Intro & list of abbreviations /
List of pages
Previous page (Other rights in law)
Victories & defeats: A gay and lesbian chronology 1964-1982
What we demanded; What we got (Summary
on Federal human rights protection)