In a widely anticipated move, the Supreme Court of Canada on Oct. 9 avoided direct comment on the current political machinations aimed at redefining marriage, by quashing an application for leave to appeal by religious and pro-family coalitions that were fighting lower-court decisions on the matter.
The court gave no reasons for its refusal to hear an appeal of the June 10 Court of Appeal decision that redefined marriage as between “any two persons.” The groups seeking leave to appeal were original-party intervenors to the Halpern case, including the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, representing religious concerns, and Focus on the Family, REAL Women of Canada and the Canada Family Action Coalition, representing pro-family advocacy concerns.
While the court was within its bounds to avoid giving reasons for hearing a case, the refusal to hear from original party intervenors on a matter of such fundamental social importance is certainly curious. In the last major homosexual “rights” case preceding the Halpern case, known as M vs. H, the court agreed to hear an appeal of a lower-court ruling from an intervenor, even though the parties to the case had already settled out of court.
Brian Rushfeldt, of the Canada Family Action Coalition, told The Interim he knows why the court didn’t want to address the marriage issue. “The court obviously found itself in a quandary. If it did hear the appeal, it would have either had to contradict it’s own judgement in the 1995 Egan case, where it explicitly upheld marriage as between a man and a woman, or by upholding marriage, it would have totally embarrassed its friends in Parliament, the Chrétien-Martin Liberals, who are already pushing ahead with a plan to redefine marriage based on lower-court rulings.”
However, Rushfeldt said, “It now seems obvious the Supreme Court agrees with the lower courts, but did not have the courage to say so. A responsible court would have clarified the current judicial perspective on marriage under the Constitution for all provinces. Instead, we have two provinces where the law reads one way, and eight provinces and the territories where it reads the other.”
Despite the loss in the courts, CFAC has not given up the fight. “We are going to step up the pressure on individual MPs to defend marriage. The Chrétien-Martin legislation on the issue can still be defeated,” said Rushfeldt. Indeed, the number of MPs who are for or against redefinition are very close.
The issue will likely play a role in the next election. CFAC says it will make the election a “referendum” on marriage. The group will be publishing MP score cards, which will show how MPs voted, for distribution in churches.
Rushfeldt offered a final warning to MPs who will not defend marriage. “We may not be able to change the vote of every MP on this issue, but come the next election, we can change who is sitting in their seats.”