COLF Letter to Prime Minister Chretien Regarding Rights and Benefits for Same-Sex Partners

Tuesday, January 26 1999

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, P.C., M.P.,
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

On behalf of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, I would like to express our surprise at the media reports that the Government is seriously considering sweeping changes to dozens of pieces of legislation to confer rights and benefits upon same-sex partners.

For us, it is important to maintain legal distinctions between heterosexual couples and homosexual partners. The institution of marriage and the traditional understanding that spouses are of the opposite sex have strong roots in our society and laws. Surely, the Government can think of a way to respond to the legal challenges it faces from same-sex partners without redefining terms that millions of Canadians cherish and undermining an institution that plays a pivotal role in society.

We are deeply concerned that equating homosexual partners with married and common-law couples could lead to a redefinition of marriage. Is it the intention of your Government to move in this direction? In our view, it is neither possible nor right to make same- sex relationships equivalent to marriage given the important role it plays in the stability of the family and the “biological and social realities” underlined by Mr. Justice La Forest in the Supreme Court of Canada decision of Egan v Canada:

Suffice it to say that marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d’être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship.

Restricting the definition of marriage and spouse is not a question of treating homosexual partners unfairly or unequally but recognizing the unique capacity of heterosexual couples to procreate and that most children are nurtured in these family units. Such an essential and irreplaceable contribution to the future of our society should be supported.

Furthermore, the question needs to be addressed as to whether there is a principled basis for conferring benefits on same-sex partners while excluding other pairings that do not have a sexual component to their relationship (e.g. friends, siblings, parent/adult child). The latest Angus Reid Poll suggests that most Canadians would think not.

We are also concerned that the proposal appears to have been taken without consulting the many sectors of society for whom the historical and traditional understandings of marriage and spouse are very important. Such a fundamental change in public policy requires meaningful and broad consultation. The hasty hearings on amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996 do not meet that test.

Should the media reports be accurate, we urge your government to reconsider its plans. There can be no question of the importance of upholding dignity and justice for all Canadians regardless of sexual orientation. Nevertheless, it is our firm conviction that neither should the Government waver in its willingness to preserve and defend the institution of marriage.

We ask you to take our concerns into account as you struggle with these profound questions.

Yours very truly,

+ Most Rev. Adam Exner, OMI
Archbishop of Vancouver
Catholic Organization for Life and Family

c.c. The Honourable Anne McLellan
Minister of Justice