COLF Letter to Federal Minister Massé Regarding Same Sex Benefits

Wednesday, May 05 1999

The Honourable Marcel Massé, P.C., M.P.
President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure
L’Esplanade Laurier, 9th Floor, East Tower
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R5

Dear Mr. Massé,

Re: Bill C-78

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family would like to congratulate you for attempting to respond to the claims of same-sex partners without affecting the definition of marriage. However, by extending pension survivor benefits for public servants to those who are cohabiting in a relationship of a conjugal nature with the contributor for at least one year immediately before the death of the contributor, you have used language which has always, by its definition, been associated with marriage, with particular reference to the sexual relationship between husband and wife.

In your effort to respond to the legal claims of same-sex partners, you seem to have lost sight of the underlying rationale for benefits, which is long term commitment and interdependence. Instead, the present proposal focuses only on the sexual relationship of people who live together. The basis for awarding benefits to married and common-law couples is not the sexual relationship per se but the reality that most children are born and nurtured in these family units. It is this essential contribution to the future of our society as well as marriage’s contribution to the stability of the family that is being supported not the sexual relationship as such.

For our part, we would prefer to see the distinctions maintained between heterosexual couples and homosexual partners because the social contributions are not the same. Nevertheless, we recognize that the Government is attempting to respond to court challenges and social pressures in a way that protects the institution of marriage and the common understanding of the term “spouse”.

In an effort to be constructive, we suggest that in legislative attempts to extend benefits:

  1. You should try to find another way to benefit people who are living together in a relationship of some permanence and inter-dependence. Once the decision is made to extend benefits to those relationships that do not have an inherent expectation of dependent children, there would appear to be no principled basis for restricting benefits to those in a sexual relationship, leaving out others who live together in equally long- term and mutually dependent relationships such as siblings, friends, relatives, adult child/parent, etc.
  2. In recognition of its deep meaning and immense importance to so many Canadians, the definition of marriage and terms associated with it such as spouse and conjugal must be protected.

We appreciate that the Government is struggling with these complicated social questions and hope that you will take our concerns and suggestions into account.


+ Most Rev. Adam Exner, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Vancouver
Chairperson, Catholic Organization for Life and Family