On December 2, MPPs voted to amend Ontario’s Human Rights Code to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The amendment, part of Bill 7, and omnibus bill bringing Ontario legislation in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, passed after weeks of intense lobbying from groups on both sides and after a week of intense debate in the legislature.


Those in favour levelled charges of “homophobia,” “McCarthyism,” and disseminating “hate literature” at the groups lobbying for the amendment to be rejected. Conservative MPP Susan Fish (St. George) went so far as to call her colleagues opposed to it as “anti-homosexual bigots.”


Two Conservative MPs, Yuri Shymko (High Park-Swansea) and terry O’Connor (Oakville), announced that they were boycotting the vote because adequate public debate on the amendment had not been allowed. The amendment was introduced in a private member’s bill by Evelyn Gigantes (NDP – Ottawa Centre) towards the end of the public hearings on Bill7. This gave no opportunity for the public to make known their views to the committee studying the legislation. No one was able to adequately enlighten those who questioned why the amendment had been allowed at all, since sexual orientation is not specifically mentioned in the Charter and Bill 7 was supposed to be merely “housekeeping” legislation.


The only party allowing a free vote on the controversial amendment, thus giving MPPs the opportunity to vote on conscience, was the Progressive Conservative party. And the majority of Conservative MPPs spoke passionately and voted against the amendment, even though the party leader Larry Grossman (St. Andrew-St. Patrick) spoke and voted for the amendment. Only a handful of Liberals and NDP members went against party discipline and voted against (for full details of how the vote went , see below). Seven Liberals, three NDP and five Conservatives absented themselves from the House when the vote was taken.


Those MPPs who voted against the amendment showed great courage. Many of them read into the record letters from their constituents alarmed at the hidden implications. Many referred to the statements of concern received from such organizations as the Coalition for Family Values, the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops and REAL Women of Canada.


Attorney General Ian Scott, who opened the debate, downplayed the hidden implications of such legislation. “The purpose of this legislation is not to exalt their status,” he said, “…nor to alter any of the fabric of our society…It does not alter the law of marriage. It does not downgrade the family as the central institution of our country. It does not alter or modify individual or societal values.” The purpose of the amendment, he said is to protect homosexuals employment, accommodation and in the provision of services.


“Provision of services” can mean many things. As a 1985 directive from the Ministry of Community and Social Services pointed out to children’s aid societies, human rights legislation of this type could have an impact of adoption and fostering arrangements. Although child welfare laws provide that “the best interests of the child” are the major consideration, human rights legislation takes precedence over all other provincial legislation, except the Criminal Code.


Within a few days of the vote, some homosexuals were already saying that they expected the legislation to cover their rights to family benefits. John Argue will demand that OHIP extend family benefits to himself and his mate as soon as the legislation becomes law. Their three-and-a-half year partnership is stable as any “heterosexual” union, he says and the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will be obliged to give them coverage.


Karen Andrew already has a court case under way, seeking OHIP family coverage for herself and her lesbian partner. Her lawyer, Howard Goldbalt, told the Toronto Star that “the spirit of the new law clearly implies that persons of the same sex can be considered spouses.” Ms Andrews said that “gays really can be part of society. We, too, will have the right to adopt or foster children. We, too, will now be able to get family rates at the Y. And what about pensions for gay, surviving spouses? There’s going to be a lot of big changes.”


The amendment to the Human Rights Code is expected to become law almost immediately. Ontario now joins Quebec as the second province in Canada to add “sexual orientation” to its Code. Following the amendment in Quebec, in 1978 the Gay Rights Association sued, and won its case against the Montreal Catholic School Board who had refused to rent its space to the group for a meeting.


How they voted


Following is how Ontario MPPs voted on December 2 on the amendment in Bill 7 that adds “sexual orientation” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in The Ontario Human Rights Code.


FOR, 64




James Bradley (St. Catharines)

Robert Callahan (Brampton)

Elinor Caplan (Oriole)

Sean Conway (Renfrew North)

David Cooke (Kitchener)

Joseph Cordiano (Downsview)

Alvin Curling (Scarborough North)

John Eakins (Victoria-Haliburton)

Murray Elston (Huron-Bruce)

Herbert Epp (Waterloo North)

Edward Fulton (Scarborough East)

Bernard Grandmaitre (Ottawa East)

Christine Hart (York East)

James Henderson (Humber)

Kenneth Keyes (Kingston and The Islands)

Vincent Kerrio (Niagara Falls)

Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights)

Remo Mancini (Essex-South)

James McGuigan (Kent-Elgin)

Gordon Miller (Haldimond-Norfolk)

Lily Munro (Hamilton Centre)

Bernard Newman (Windsor-Walkerville)

Robert Nixon (Brant-Oxford-Norfolk)

Steve Offer (Mississauga North)

Hugh O’Neil (Quinte)

David Peterson (London Centre)

Jean Poirier (Prescott-Russell)

Caludio Polsinelli (Yorkview)

David Ramsay (Timiskaming)

Douglas Reycraft (Middlesex)

Jack Riddel (Huron-Middlesex)

Anthony Ruprecht (Parkdale)

Edward Sargent (Grey-Bruce)

Ian Scott (St. David)

Gregory Sorbara (York North)

Joan Smith (London South)

Ronald Van Horne (London North)

Christopher Ward (Wentworth North)

William Wrye (Windsor-Sandwich)




Susan Fish (St. George)

Philip Gillies (Brantford)

Larry Grossman (St. Andrews-St. Patrick)

Dennis Timbrell (Don Mills)




Richard Allen (Hamilton West)

Michael Breaugh (Oshawa)

Marion Bryden (Beaches-Woodbine)

Brian Charlton (Hamilton Mountain)

David Cooke (Windsor-Riverside)

James Foulds (Port Arthur)

Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre)

Anthony Grande (Oakwood)

Ruth Grier (Lakeshore)

Patrick Hayes (Essex North)

Richard Johnston (Scarborough West)

Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt)

Robert Mackenzie (Hamilton East)

Elie Martel (Sudbury East)

Ross McClellan (Bellwoods)

Edward Philip (Etobicoke)

Bob Rae (York South)

David Reville (Riverdale)

Melvin Swart (Welland-Thorold)

David Warner (Scarborough-Ellesmere)

Bud Wildman (Algoma)






Maurice Bossy (Chatam-Kent)

Raymond Haggerty (Erie)

Robert McKessock (Grey)

David Smith (Lambton)




Philip Andrews (Lincoln)

George Ashe (Durham West)

William Barlow (Cambridge)

Reuban Boetz (Ottawa West)

Claude Bennett (Ottawa South)

Leo Bernier (Kenora)

Andrew Brandt (Sarnia)

Donald Cousens (York Centre)

Sam Cureatz (Durham East)

William Davis (Scarborough Centre)

Gordon Deon (Wentworth)

Ernie Eves (Parry Sound)

Luc Guindon (Cornwall)

Bud Gregory (Mississauga East)

Michael Harris (Nipissing)

Mickey Hennessy (Fort William)

Cameron Jackson (Burlington South)

Jack Johnson (Wellington-Dufferin-Pearl)

John Lane (Algoma-Manitoulin)

Nicholas Luluk (York West)

Margaret Marland (Mississauga South)

Bruce McCaffrey (Armourdale)

George McCogue (Dufferin-Simcoe)

David McFadden (Eglinton)

Allan McLean (Simcoe East)

Ronald McNeil (Elgin)

Frank Miller (Muskoka)

Robert Mitchell (Carleton)

Peter Partington (Brock)

Jack Pierce (Rainy River)

James Pollock (Hastings-Peterborough)

Alan Pope (Cochrane South)

Earl Rowe (Simcoe Centre)

Robert Runciman (Leeds)

Howard Sheppard (Northumberland)

Bette Stephenson (York Mills)

Norman Sterling (Carleton-Grenville)

Ross Stevenson (Durham-York)

James Taylor (Prince Edward-Lennox)

Noble Villeneuve (Stormont-Dundas-Glengary)

Douglas Wiseman (Lanark)






Richard Ferrara (Wellington South)

Rene Fontaine (Cochrane North)

Donald Knight (Halton Burlington)

Gilles Morin (Carleton East)

Lawrence South (Frontenac-Addington)

John Sweeney (Kitchener-Wilmot)




Antonio Lupusella (Dovercourt)

Karl Morin-Strom (Sault St. Marie)

Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon)




James Gordon (Sudbury)

Terrance O’Connor (Oakville)

Yuri Shymko (High Park-Swansea)

John Turner (Peterborough)

Paul Yakabuski (Renfrew South)


Richard Treleaven (PC, Oxford), chairman of the committee of the whole house, where Bill 7 was debated, was not eligible to vote except in the event of a tie. Neither was Hugh Edighoffer (L. Perth), the Speaker of the House.