Commons extends common-law status to gays in pension rules


M vs. H family law ruling leaves future uncertain

The federal Liberals have not yet introduced legislation authorizing the formation of a police force of sex inspectors or “conjugal cops,” although government critics argue that such an initiative is necessary to help them implement Bill C-78.

The pension reform bill was passed by the government on May 25, despite being opposed by every opposition party in the House of Commons. Opposition parties had a number of concerns about the bill, one being amendments apparently designed to accommodate same-sex relationships. Pro-family MPs from the Reform Party and the Liberal backbench raised objections to the replacement of the words “surviving spouse,” “wives,” and “widow” by the term “survivor.”

Such legislative reforms were simply a matter of time since the Liberals surrendered to the will of the Ontario Court of Appeal in its Rosenberg decision last year. The ruling declared unconstitutional the opposite-sex definition of “spouse” in the Income Tax Act. Attempting to slip them through as a couple of clauses in a huge 200-page, 231-clause bill, however, was seen as a less-than-honest attempt to minimize the amount of opposition to the changes.

Whether due to the homosexual issue or because of other controversial economic reforms in the bill, the government rammed the large and complex bill through Parliament in a very short period of time, even voting to limit debate on two separate occasions.

Reform MP Garry Breitkreuz was outraged, pointing out that this was the fifty-second time that the Liberals had used “closure” to limit debate on legislation since they came to power.

“There’s only one reason for the government to use such undemocratic means to pass legislation and that is to ram it through before the public really find out what’s going on,” he said at the time.

Now that the government had discarded marriage as the determining factor for who could receive a pension contributor’s survivor benefits, it had to use another mechanism. With Bill C-78, the Liberals decided to make sex the qualification, proposing to extend survivor benefits to married couples and-or couples who cohabit in “a relationship of a conjugal nature.”

It was this proposal which conjured up images of sex police and brought ridicule against the party of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who said years ago when he decriminalized homosexual acts that the government does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation. Some members of Parliament proposed finding alternative qualifications for receiving survivor benefits, but the government went ahead and passed the bill without making the necessary changes.

Due to the impact of these amendmentson the understanding of marriage and family, several Liberal backbenchers voted against the legislation as it proceeded through the House. Six of them opposed their government at the final reading and three choose not to vote. The defiant Liberals were Tom Wappel, Murray Calder, Charles Hubbard, Pat O’Brien, John O’Reilly, Dan McTeague, Paul Steckle, and Rose-Marie Ur.

Mr. Wappel spoke against the bill during debate in the House of Commons, where he accused his government of using Bill C-78 as a step to endorsing same-sex marriage.

“The allegation made by my own party is that we are simply keeping federal pensions in line with court decisions,” said Wappel. “I have three things to say to that. That is bunk. That is baloney. That is balderdash.”

Despite the threat that concerned MPs and some pro-family groups saw in Bill C-78, very little grassroots opposition was mounted against the bill. Reform family issues critic, Eric Lowther, sent out messages encouraging Canadians to make their views known to their MPs, as did a few pro-family groups such as REAL Women of Canada and the Canada Family Action Coalition. No campaign, though, was mounted against the bill, and even several pro-family MPs, including Liberals Albina Guarnieri and Paul Szabo, and independent John Nunziata, voted in favour.

With Liberal plans to pass amendments to the Citizenship and Immigration Act allowing homosexuals to sponsor their partners into the country as spouses – and rumours that the government may introduce a pro-homosexualist omnibus bill in the fall – REAL Women is urging Canadians to begin immediately to mount a counter-offensive.

A recent statement by REAL Women vice-president Gwen Landolt warns that the government has “become emboldened by the M vs. H decision,” and that the C-78 vote indicated only a few Liberals will vote against further changes.