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May 4, 2006
CENSUS ERROR UNFAIR TO MARRIED SAME-SEX COUPLES
StatsCan Segregates Married Same-Sex Spouses
Ottawa. Egale Canada is dismayed with Statistics Canada over its error in treatment of same-sex couples in the upcoming census this May 16. The census form instructs same-sex couples who are married to check the “Other” category at the bottom of the list of relationships, rather than checking the top box marked “Husband or wife.”
“Everyone who completes the 2006 Census will see that our relationships are segregated,” said Gilles Marchildon, Executive Director of Egale. “We’re already getting phone calls from dismayed members and we’re concerned about the subtle yet widespread impact of millions of Canadians seeing that our marriages are denigrated in this way.”
StatsCan claims they didn’t have time to update the census since the passage of the Civil Marriage Act last July. However, for the 2001 census StatsCan added the new category “same-sex common-law partner” after the laws of Canada were changed in June 2000 to recognize unmarried same-sex couples.
“In fact, marriage licences have been issued to same-sex couples in much of Canada for almost three years,” said Laurie Arron, Egale’s Director of Advocacy. “This June 10 will be the third anniversary of same-sex couples being issued marriage licences in Ontario. And by the fall of 2004, marriage licences were being issued in provinces and territories representing 87% of the population. StatsCan has had plenty of time to update their census question to fairly treat married same-sex couples.”
Egale is recommending that same-sex married couples list their relationship as “Husband or wife” rather than “Other”. According to Statistics Canada, either response will be captured correctly as a married same-sex couple. In addition, Egale is calling on all concerned Canadians to add a comment on Page 6 of the questionnaire, such as “Same-Sex couples deserve equal treatment.”
“We call on Prime Minister Harper to direct StatsCan to advertise that married same-sex couples should, in fact, check the box marked ‘Husband or wife’,” added Mr. Arron. “That would send a clear message that the current law must be respected. It would also make it easier for StatsCan to tabulate the results.”
“People want to know how many same-sex couples are married in Canada,” said Mr. Marchildon. “For the first time, this census could provide that statistic. Instead, we’ve heard from some married couples that they won’t complete the census as a protest against this unfair treatment.”
The census does not have a question about sexual orientation or gender identity. Single gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified people are not counted specifically in the Census. For this reason, any statistics released by Statistics Canada will under-represent the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gender people in Canada.
Egale has advocated that Statistics Canada consult with the trans-identified community about the treatment of sex, which assumes that people are either male or female.
Egale Canada advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada. Founded in 1986, Egale’s work includes political action, legal interventions and public education and awareness.
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