Call for a Federal Omnibus Legislation: A Canada-Wide Action

Original call to action – Summer, 1999

Send Prime Minister Jean Chretien a postcard calling on his government to amend all 58 federal laws that discriminate against same-sex relationships (and likely violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

On January 7, 1999 the Foundation For Equal Families served the Federal Government with an omnibus legal challenge of 58 federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.

EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) has mounted a postcard campaign to lobby the Prime Minister for legislation to change the definition of spouse now in all the discriminatory federal laws.

February 2000


The federal Liberal government introduced Bill C-23, an act to modernize the statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, which would change 68 laws affecting unmarried couples, and gives same-sex couples common-law status. The new law doesn’t include marriage or immigration, nor does it compel spouses to testify against each other (which the government is considering repealing). It also does not include the marital exemption to a higher age of consent.

The summary says: “This enactment extends benefits and obligations to all couples who have been cohabiting in a conjugal relationship for at least one year …” Gay couples would get: child-care tax breaks; pension benefits for a survivor’s partner; old age security supplement; income tax credit for dependant partner and children, also income-splitting; and conjugal prison visits; etc.

First reading was on Feb 11. Second reading was a few days later, a whipped vote 161-61, sending the bill to the committee stage on March 2. All 32 Reformers voted against; all NDPers in the House voted for; and Ian McClelland (who has a gay son) was absent. BQ 28 for, 10 opposed. 14 Liberals voted against (incl Wappel), and 5 PCers.

Some Liberal and Reform MPs refused to support the bill unless benefits are extended to other, non-sexual, cohabiting relationships. Cost is likely to be minimal or nonexistent as some couples will gain, some lose. It is not yet clear whether any part of the legislation will apply retroactively. For CPP, the bill will apply where a partner died after 1 January 1998 or where a claim had been filed before the bill was tabled on February 11.

The committee then agreed to hear from the right wing group RealWomen, while refusing to hear a submission from NAC, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. NAC president Joan Grant-Cummings:, “The absurdity of this matter is beyond comprehension. At least 50% of our membership are lesbians and there are no lesbian groups appearing before the committee.”

Regarding the Canadian budget, Chartered Accountants’ commentary, section on same-sex couples:

  • recognition of two persons regardless of sex who cohabit in a conjugal relationship and have done so for at least one year, will be considered spouses for tax purposes, effective for 2001+
  • same-sex couples may jointly elect to be considered spouses for 1998, 1999, 2000
  • same-sex couples may make spousal RRSP contributions; rollover RRSP plans on death; and claim spousal credits
  • but the law also affects GST credit; child tax benefits; and claims for child-care expenses.

March 2000

A letter sent out by John Fisher, EGALE…

Dear Friends,

We are concerned that calls to the Government opposing Bill C-23 are vastly outnumbering calls in support. I recognize that many members of our communities consider the passage of this Bill a “fait accompli” and may be assuming that no action is needed to ensure its passage, but I believe that such an approach underestimates the strength of the opposition to this Bill and also places too much trust in government’s willingness to “do the right thing”.

– John Fisher, EGALE

The Foundation For Equal Families has various press releases about this struggle. They also have posted the “Notice of Application” which was filed against the Federal Government.

From a notice sent out by Svend Robinson…

If you were living in a conjugal relationship with a same-sex partner who died after 1985 and you were together for at least one year after April 1985, you may be eligible under the new bill for benefits under the Canada Pension Plan Survivors’ Pension scheme. But unless your partner died after January 1998, you must put in a claim for this pension before the bill becomes law. In other words, if you are eligible, and your partner died after 1985 but before February 1998, you must act now. Contact your local CPP office and file a claim.

April 2000

Bill C-23, the “Modernizing Benefits and Obligations Act”, was passed in the House Of Commons and has been sent to the Senate. The text of C-23 after the third and final reading was posted by the Canadian government in English and inFrench.

Further information on the tax aspects of the bill has been written by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

As well, EGALE has further links about this action including:

  • a fact sheet about the fundamentally offensive “marriage amendment”;
  • and an analysis of the “Modernizing Benefits and Obligations Bill C-23”.

June 8, 2000

It looks as though Bill C-23 is going be passed by the Senate at 3rd reading, next week.

From the Senate Journals, June 8….

“The Honourable Senator Milne, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented its Sixth Report (Bill C-23, An Act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations) without amendment.

The Honourable Senator Hays moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Carstairs, that the Bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for a third reading at the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.”

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