Canadian LGBT History/LGBT Rights

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1970s[edit]

In 1975 and 1976, there were large scale protests after the police raided gay establishments in Quebec and in Ottawa in preparation for the 1976 Olympics.

In 1977, Quebec became the first jurisdiction (larger than a city or county) in the world to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" in the public and private sectors. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and certain services and other activities, but it does not apply to federally regulated activities. The same year, the Immigration Act, 1976 was amended, removing a ban on homosexual men as immigrants.[1]

1980s[edit]

In 1982, Canada patriated its Constitution, to which it added the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15 of the Charter, which guarantees equality "before and under the law" and the "right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination" does not explicitly list sexual orientation, but was designed to be inclusive and allow the courts to find that specific grounds are included. In 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that "sexual orientation" should be 'read in' to Section 15.


In the 1980s, several attempts were made to add "sexual orientation" into the federal government's Human Rights Act, an amendment that did not take place until 1996.

1985-1989[edit]

In 1986, sexual orientation was added to the Ontario Human Rights Code as a prohibited ground for discrimination. Like most other human rights acts in Canada, this act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, services and certain other activities in the public and private sectors, but it does not apply to federally regulated activities. Egale Canada is founded.

In 1987, sexual orientation was added to the Manitoba Human Rights Code, and included in the newly adopted Yukon Human Rights Act.

In 1988, New Democratic Party Member of Parliament (MP) Svend Robinson became the first MP to come out, declaring that he is gay to the media outside the House of Commons. In the same year, the United Church of Canada became the first church in Canada to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians.[2]

1990s[edit]

1990-1994[edit]

In 1991, sexual orientation was added to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.

In 1992, then-Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, Kim Campbell (who later became Canada's first female prime minister) announced that Canada was lifting its ban on homosexuals in the Canadian Forces, allowing them to serve openly and live on-base with their partners.[1] Canada was one of the first modern countries to allow homosexuals in the military.[citation needed] Sexual orientation was added to the human rights laws of New Brunswick and British Columbia.

In 1993, sexual orientation was added to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Act. The Supreme Court rejected a discrimination claim based on sexual orientation in Canada (Attorney General) v. Mossop.

In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians could apply for refugee status based on their sexual orientation. A raid in a Montréal bar where 300 persons were maliciously (and falsely) charged with being in a bawdy house eventually turned into a scandal that eventually led to the resignation of the chief of police.

1995-1999[edit]

In 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Egan v. Canada that "sexual orientation" should be 'read in' to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a part of the constitution. The ruling had a wide impact since section 15 applies to all laws, including human rights acts that prohibit discrimination by all employers, landlords, service providers and governments. A court in Ontario ruled that gay and lesbian couples wishing to adopt jointly should be allowed to do so, making Ontario the first province to allow this. Currently, nearly all provinces allow gay and lesbian couples (and single gays and lesbians) to adopt children. The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation.

In 1996, sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act, an anti-discrimination law that applies to federally regulated activities throughout Canada.

In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in the Vriend v. Alberta case that section 15 of the Canadian Charter, as interpreted in Egan v. Canada, required that the Alberta human rights law be read and applied as if the words "sexual orientation" were included. Glen Murray was elected Mayor of Winnipeg becoming the first openly gay Mayor of a large North American city. The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation.

In 1999, gays and lesbians scored a major victory when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in w:M. v. H., that gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights as heterosexual common-law couples. In June 1999, a 216–55 vote in the Canadian House of Commons supported preserving the legal definition of "marriage" as the union of a man and a woman.[2] Sexual orientation is included in the newly adopted Nunavut Human Rights Act.

2000s[edit]

2000-2004[edit]

w:Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf, the first legally married same-sex couple in the Canadian province of Quebec

In April 2000, the federal Liberal government responded to the 1999 Supreme Court decision by passing a bill (C-23) which amended 68 federal statutes, including pension benefits, bankruptcy protection, income taxes, old age security, and immigration, among others, to grant equal rights to homosexual common-law couples.

In 2000, in the case of w:Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada (Minister of Justice), the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that gay publications, even those that were sexually explicit were protected by the freedom of speech and expression clauses in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium, however, has continued to litigate against what it considers to be discriminatory border practices.

In 2001, NDP MP Libby Davies publicly acknowledged she had a female partner, becoming the country's first (and so far only) female Member of Parliament to come out, although she does not state how she identifies.

In 2002, sexual orientation and gender identity were included in the Northwest Territories Human Rights Act.

In 2003, the British Columbia Court of Appeal made a unanimous decision that limiting the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples violated equality rights. The ruling was not effective immediately, but allowed a two year transition period for Ottawa to legally recognize same-sex marriage.[2] In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decision of a lower court to allow same-sex marriage.

In May 2004, the House of Commons and the Senate passed Bill C-250, which added "sexual orientation" to the "hate propaganda" section of the Criminal Code, thus making it illegal for people to propagate hate based on sexual orientation. This did not include clergymen however.

In July 2004, Scott Brison, who had previously run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was appointed Minister of Public Works and Government Services by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, becoming Canada's first openly gay cabinet member.

In December 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada replied to the federal government's draft legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. The Court ruled that the federal government has the exclusive authority to define marriage, that same-sex marriage was constitutional and was far from violating it, in fact "it flowed from" it, and that religious officials can't be forced to perform gay weddings. The Court refused to answer whether or not the traditional definition of marriage was consistent with the Charter.

2005-2009[edit]

On June 28, 2005, by a vote of 158–133, the House of Commons passed Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act and on July 19, 2005, by a vote of 47–21, the Senate gave its approval to the bill.

On July 20, 2005, C-38 received royal assent from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, w:Beverley McLachlin, acting in her role as deputy governor general. Canada became the fourth country to officially sanction same-sex marriage nationwide, behind the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. Same-sex marriages began in Ontario and British Columbia in 2003, with other provinces following via court challenges. The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a religious same-sex marriage that was performed in January 2001 legally valid, thus retroactively making it the first legal same-sex marriage in modern times (as The Netherlands did not legalize same-sex marriage until April 2001).

In 2006, the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights was held in Montreal, culminating with the issuance of the Declaration of Montreal. The Borough of Ville-Marie in Montreal soon became the first government in the world to adopt the declaration, and the New Democratic Party became the first political formation in the world to do so at its convention in September.

As of 2009, all provinces and territories had included "sexual orientation" in their human rights laws, and the Northwest Territories include "gender identity" in theirs.

2010s[edit]

In February 2011, the House of Commons passed New Democratic Party federal MP w:Bill Siksay's Bill C-389, which will amend the federal Canadian Human Rights Act to include "gender identity" as grounds under Canadian federal anti-discrimination laws, at third reading, but it died on the order paper in the Senate when Parliament was dissolved.

References[edit]

  1. a b "History of the Canadian Peoples, 1867–Present," Alvin Finkel & Margaret Conrad, 1998
  2. Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ssm-chron
Canadian LGBT History
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Pre-colonial HistoryOverview • Two Spirit
New FranceOverview
British North AmericaOverviewBuggery Law • Alexander Wood
Early CanadaOverview
Inter-war CanadaOverview
Post-WWII CanadaOverview
1960s OnwardOverviewBill C-150LGBT PublicationsBathouse Raids and RiotsPride ParadesLGBT ServicesLGBT Rights