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EGALE is a national organization, with members in every province and territory of Canada, committed to advancing equality and justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.
Before each federal election, EGALE distributes a questionnaire to Members of Parliament and candidates on issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities. The responses to this questionnaire are distributed to constituents and media across Canada so that voters may make informed choices about where candidates stand on these important equality issues.
Instructions for filling out the questionnaire:
1. Relationship recognition
Earlier this year, Parliament enacted legislation to provide same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples with most of the rights and responsibilities of opposite-sex married couples. The Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act responded to rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada that failing to recognize same-sex relationships equally constitutes discrimination in violation of the equality guarantees of the Charter of Rights. A 1998 Angus Reid poll showed that more than two-thirds of Canadians support equal rights and responsibilities for those in same-sex relationships.
Q. 1: Do you agree that those in same-sex relationships should have the same rights and responsibilities as those in opposite-sex relationships?
2. Family recognition
A number of federal parties in their policy platforms have indicated that it is a priority to ensure that federal laws address the needs of families. This raises the question of whether same-sex couples are included within each party’s definition of “family”. It should also be noted that an increasing number of same-sex couples are raising children.
Q. 2: Do you agree that government programs designed to address the needs of families should not discriminate or differentiate between opposite-sex and same-sex families?
3. Equal marriage rights
A recent Angus Reid poll shows that a majority of Canadians support allowing same-sex couples the equal right to marry. No research or study has ever identified any threat to heterosexual families as a result of allowing same-sex couples to marry. Courts in the United States have ruled that denying same-sex couples the ability to marry is unconstitutional. On September 12, 2000, the Dutch Government approved a Bill providing same-sex couples with the equal right to marry. In Canada, section 91 of the Constitution Act clearly provides that the question of who can marry lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. Although not all would choose to marry, restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples only denies lesbians and gays the choices available to heterosexuals, relegates gays and lesbians to second-class status and reinforces societal prejudices that same-sex relationships have lesser value.
Q. 3: Do you support providing same-sex couples with the equal right to marry under federal law?
4. Use of the “notwithstanding” clause
EGALE is currently active in a number of court challenges to provide same-sex couples with the equal right to marry. We expect the Supreme Court of Canada to rule that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are in clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights. Some MPs, however, have publicly called for the use of the constitutional “notwithstanding” clause to ensure the continued denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry. The “notwithstanding” clause gives governments the power to override Court decisions and violate the human rights of Canadians. In EGALE’s view, this clause is an extraordinary measure, which should never be used to maintain discrimination against a group of Canadians in circumstances where no identifiable harm would otherwise result.
Q. 4: Do you oppose using the “notwithstanding” clause to deny same-sex couples the equal right to marry?
5. Family Class
Heterosexuals have an automatic right to sponsor an opposite-sex husband, wife or fiancé(e) to immigrate to Canada as a member of the "family class". Lesbians, gays and bisexuals cannot sponsor the immigration of a same-sex partner on equal terms. Sometimes same-sex partners are admitted to Canada on "humanitarian and compassionate grounds", but this remains discretionary and arbitrary. A number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, permit same-sex spousal immigration. Bill C-31, which was recently introduced into Parliament, would expand the “family class” to include same-sex partners.
Q. 5: Do you support amendments to immigration legislation and/or regulations to enable Canadians to sponsor a same-sex partner to immigrate to Canada on an equal basis as an opposite-sex partner?
6. HIV testing
The Department of Immigration has recently announced that it is considering a proposal to require mandatory HIV testing of prospective immigrants (except refugees and those applying under the family class). Those testing HIV-positive would be automatically barred from immigrating to Canada. Such a policy would contravene the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, issued in 1998 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which expressly point out that “[t]here is no public health rationale for restricting liberty of movement or choice of residence on the ground of HIV status.” HIV-positive persons are not a threat to public health and safety. HIV is not a contagious disease and cannot be transmitted through casual or social contact. To pursue a policy which implies otherwise is to promote discrimination on the basis of a medical condition. Existing immigration regulations do permit the exclusion of prospective immigrants with medical conditions which could impose a burden on the public purse, but these applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. A policy of mandatory exclusion precludes any consideration of the individual applicant’s personal circumstances or likely contributions to Canada, and singles out HIV for discriminatory treatment.
Q. 6: Do you oppose mandatory HIV-testing of prospective immigrants and the automatic exclusion of those testing positive?
7. Discrimination against Transgendered People
Since 1996, lesbians, gays and bisexuals have been protected from sexual orientation discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Transgendered Canadians, however, do not have explicit protection from discrimination, despite facing high levels of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Following a year-long national consultation process, the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel unanimously recommended earlier this year that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to explicitly protect transgendered people from discrimination.
Q. 7: Do you support amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to explicitly protect transgendered people from discrimination?
8. Transgendered protection
In 1994, the Government passed legislation (Bill C-41) providing increased sentences for crimes motivated by hatred on certain grounds, including sexual orientation. Transgendered people are not explicitly covered by these provisions. The implication is that hate crimes against transgendered people are not considered as serious as hate crimes against other protected groups.
Q.8: Do you support amending the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code to include increased sentences for crimes motivated by hatred against transgendered people?
9. Hate propaganda
In addition, Bill C-41 applied only to sentencing. The substantive "hate propaganda" provisions in the Criminal Code prohibit promoting hatred or genocide against certain groups, but the list of groups does not include lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered people. Thus it is illegal to promote the genocide of Jews, racial and ethnic minorities and other groups, but promoting the killing of lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered people remains perfectly legal. The Supreme Court of Canada, in upholding the constitutionality of the hate propaganda provisions in the Criminal Code, has stated:
"The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and, in restricting the promotion of hatred, Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons."
The government has recognized that “[e]quality for all Canadians includes freedom from hatred and harassment” and pledged to “take measures to combat hate propaganda.”
Q. 9: Do you support amending the hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code to prohibit the promotion of hatred and genocide against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people?
10 & 11. Discrimination in censorship
Courts have held that Canada Customs systematically discriminates against gay and lesbian material imported into Canada. Materials have been classified as "obscene" solely because they are lesbian or gay in character, when equivalent heterosexual materials are not so classified. In some cases, perfectly innocuous materials which are readily available in mainstream bookstores and public libraries have been seized by Canada Customs when destined for lesbian and gay bookstores.
Q. 10: Do you agree that lesbian and gay material should not be classified as "obscene" unless equivalent heterosexual material would also be so classified?
Q. 11: Do you agree that the Government should provide education workshops for Canada Customs officials to ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in carrying out their duties?
12. Age of Consent
The Criminal Code provides different ages of consent for different types of sexual activity. The age of consent for vaginal intercourse is four years younger than the age of consent for anal intercourse. Canadian Courts have ruled that unequal age of consent laws are unconstitutional and actually undermine education efforts about the spread of HIV by driving behaviour underground and impeding young people’s access to information which could save their lives.
Q. 12: Do you support reducing the age of consent for anal intercourse to ensure an equal age of consent for all sexual activity?
13. Court Challenges Program
The Court Challenges Program was established by the federal government to provide funding for groups and individuals seeking to advance their equality and language rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Program is essential to enable disadvantaged communities to further their constitutional right to equality and to enable all Canadians to have equal access to justice. Currently, the Court Challenges Program can only sponsor equality challenges to federal laws. This means there is no funding for challenges to provincial laws even when these cases involve questions of national importance with significant Charter implications for federal legislation. For the past several years, members of the Program have sought federal support for an expansion of the mandate of the Program to include Charter challenges to provincial laws which raise questions of national importance.
Q. 13: Do you support extending the mandate of the Court Challenges Program to cover Charter challenges to both federal and provincial laws which raise questions of national importance?
14. Party Attitudes
Members of Parliament act as role models for the broader community and help to set standards for Canadian values and beliefs. Some MPs have made public statements calculated to undermine the human dignity and fundamental equality of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. In the absence of a strong response from party leaders, such statements are often assumed to represent the position of their party.
Q. 14: Do you agree that party leaders have a responsibility to discipline, or at least publicly censure, caucus members who promote intolerance and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people?
Q. 15: Have you spoken in the House of Commons or elsewhere about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered issues?
Please provide details:
Thank you for your cooperation.
We look forward to receiving your response as soon as possible.
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