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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages


Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada

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cartoon about marriage in canada

cartoon about SSM in Canada

Two opposing sound bytes about the federal Bill C-38 which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada during mid-2005:

bullet"Since the beginning of history marriage has changed very little." Focus on the Family Canada. 1
bullet "There are eight different family/marriage structures in the Bible. Consider the legalization of same-sex marriages in Canada in 2003 onwards; same-sex marriages in Massachusetts in 2004;  inter-racial marriages in 1967 and marriage by African Americans in the 19th century." From an Email by a person who prefers to remain anonymous.

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Brief summary of SSM in Canada:

Holland and Belgium were the first political jurisdictions in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry. In mid-2003, the province of Ontario became the third. Subsequent lawsuits in other provinces forced other reluctant provincial governments to legalize SSM.

On 2005-FEB-01, the Canadian federal government, under the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, introduced bill C-38 to legalize SSM in all ten provinces and three territories.

By 2005-JUL-19, courts had ruled that same-sex couples could marry in eight out of the ten provinces of Canada, and in one out of the three territories. A court case was active at the time in the Northwest Territories. The two provinces that had traditionally been the slowest to grant lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons equal rights are also the most religiously conservative: Alberta and Prince Edward Island. They remained intransigent on the matter of marriage equality.

Bill C-38 passed its final vote in the House of Commons during the evening of 2005-JUN-28. The vote was close: 158 to 133. The bill passed its final vote in the Senate by a vote of 47 to 21 with three abstentions on 2005-JUL-19. It was signed into law on 2005-JUL-20 by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Governor General, who usually proclaims legislation, was incapacitated at the time for medical reasons.

The main result of the bill was symbolic: same-sex couples could marry anywhere in Canada for the first time. The government considered their relationships equal to those of opposite-sex couples. Previous to this date, about 10% of Canadian same-sex couples lived in provinces and territories where they could not marry. After this date, they were able to do it more conveniently. They could marry within their province or territory without the nuisance of having to go elsewhere in Canada to marry.

Four and a half years later, during 2006-DEC, the Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper mounted an attack on SSM by attempting to reopen debate on bill C-38. His motion was defeated in the House of Commons.

The federal Conservative Party, still under Prime Minister Harper, resumed the attack during 2012-JAN, in the court. This time, they attempted to forcibly terminate marriages that had been solemnized by visitors to Canada. This provoked instantaneous and strong opposition. The Government quickly retreated.

Starting on 2013-OCT-24 and continuing at least until 2014-FEB, "" conducted a poll of Canadians, asking the question: "Should the government allow same sex marriage?." Over 95,000 Canadians had voted by 2014-FEB-20:

Among those who expressed an opinion results were:

pie chart giving polling results

4% were uncertain, refused to answer, or expressed a different point of view. 3

It is important to remember that for this poll, and all other polls taken over the Internet, the vote is not based on a random selection of persons. Only individuals who have Internet access, who come to the ISideWith web site, and who were motivated to respond to the poll were counted. If a truly random selection had been made, one could expect a slightly different result.

During a Conservative Party convention during 2016-MAY, the delegates voted 1036 to 462 to delete the party's traditional opposition to marriage equality from their policy book. There is some speculation that the Conservative Party may lose members and votes in future elections because of their decision in favor of marriage equality.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletBackground material: timeline-gay-marriage-in-canada-2005 to now.htm
bullet Brief overview of SSM in Canada

bulletIntroduction to SSM <<< Americans in particular should read this first


Major events and current status of SSM in Canada: <<< This is also important

bulletMarriage laws in Canada

Timeline of the granting of LGBT rights in Canada:

bulletTimeline of recent SSM court decisions, government actions, etc
bulletPredictions of long term effects of same-sex marriage in Canada
bulletDo you want to get married in Canada?
bulletText of court decisions, documents, research papers, etc.
bulletPositions taken towards SSM by various groups in Canada
bulletReactions by conservative Christians:
bulletFocus on the Family's "Mom & Dad" ads
bulletBishop Henry's pastoral letter and resultant human rights commission complaints
bulletReligious pressure on MPs by the Roman Catholic Church

bulletPublic opinion:

Polling data from:

bulletAnecdotal comments about SSM

bullet SSM activity at the provincial / territorial level:
The following essays discuss the process by which SSM was legalized one province and territory at a time across Canada. This material is primarily of historical interest at this time, because a federal law made SSM available everywhere in Canada -- except for Prince Edward Island (PEI). On 2005-JUL-20. PEI capitulated when faced with a lawsuit.

bulletAlberta: Forced to recognize SSM by federal legislation.

bulletBritish Columbia: Forced by court order.

bulletManitoba: Forced by court order.

bulletNew Brunswick: Forced by court order.

bulletOntario: Forced by court order.
bulletPart 1 From the reading of the banns to the Ontario Divisional Court decision.
bulletPart 2 Reactions to the decision; Parliamentary commission.
bulletPart 3 Appeal to, and decision of, the Ontario Court of Appeals.
bulletPart 4 Initial reactions to the court decision.
bulletPart 5 Later reactions.
bulletPart 6: Attempts by religious and social conservatives to appeal the ruling.
bulletPart 7: Housekeeping amendments by the legislature
bulletOne child with three legal parents: Ontario court decision
bulletOne child with three legal parents: Ontario court decision

bullet Newfoundland / Labrador: Forced by court order

bulletNorth West Territories: Forced by federal legislation

bulletNova Scotia: Forced by court order.

bulletNunavut: Forced by federal legislation

bulletPrince Edward Island: Forced by federal legislation

bulletQuebec: Forced by court order.

bulletSaskatchewan: Forced by court order.

bulletYukon: Forced by court order.

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bulletSSM activity at the national level:
The following essays discuss the process by which a federal law was developed which enlarged the definition of marriage in Canada to include all loving committed couples -- both opposite sex and same-sex.
bulletFederal parliamentary commission on SSM & discussion paper

bulletFederal government decision to legalize SSM.

bulletInitial reactions to the government decision
bullet Timeline of subsequent developments:
bullet2003-JUN-25 to AUG-11 Draft marriage act; Supreme Court reference
bullet2003-AUG-12 to AUG-21 Civil union option; Alliance Party motion
bullet2003-AUG-22 to SEP-7 Various rallies & attacks on government
bullet2003-SEP & OCT Motion shelved; attempts to appeal lower court decision
bullet2003-NOV to 2004-SEP-15 4th reference added; First SSM divorce. SSM in Quebec

bullet2004-SEP-16 to OCT-04 SSM in Manitoba & Nova Scotia.
bullet2004-OCT-04 to OCT-07 The hearing before the Supreme Court.
bullet2004-OCT-08 to NOV-26 Private member bill; "spouse" redefined; survivor pensions.
bullet2004-DEC-01 to DEC-11 Supreme Court of Canada decision; interpretations.
bullet2004-DEC-12 to 2005-JAN-20 Posturing prior to the recall of Parliament.
bullet2005-JAN-21 to JAN-31: More posturing.
bullet2005-FEB-01 to FEB-02: Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is introduced to Parliament.
bullet2005-FEB-03 to FEB-15: Debate continues.
bullet2005-FEB-16 to FEB-18: Debate continues.
bullet2005-FEB-19 to MAR-29: Debate continues. Conservative amendment fails.
bullet2005-MAR-30 to JUN-14: Bill's second reading, committee review.
bullet2005-JUN-15 to JUN-28: Bill is passed by the House of Commons.
bulletReactions to the passage of C-38 in the House.
bullet2005-JUN-29 to JUL-17: Bill is considered by the Senate and committee.
bulletThree selected speeches for and against C-38 in the Senate.
bullet2005-JUL-18 and 19:  Bill is debated by the Senate.
bullet 2005-JUL-19:  Senate debate continues.

star 2005-JUL-19 and 20: Debate concludes. Bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law.

bulletPositive reactions to the SSM law.
bulletNegative reactions to the SSM law
bulletSubsequent development during 2005

bullet2006-JAN to JUN activity SSM to be revisited?
bullet2006-JUL to NOV activity More speculation on the future of SSM

2006-DEC:  Federal Conservative party attacks SSM by attempting to reopen debate on SSM

bullet Is the matter settled?   Part 1   Part 2

bulletThe Federal Government's "Reference" to the Supreme Court
bulletThe path forward; predicted future timeline
bulletSame-sex parenting: a massive study commissioned by Liberals, suppressed by Conservatives
bulletPotential roadblocks to implement SSM across Canada
bulletWill provincial governments be able to opt out of registering SSM? The answer is no
bulletThe rights of clergy and others to refuse services to same-sex engaged couples

bulletBriefs submitted to the government by various groups:
bulletAnalysis of a brief submitted by the Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and Family
bulletUnited Church of Canada submission
bulletEvangelical Fellowship of Canada submission

bullet Developments after 2006:

2007: Ontario court decision: a child with three legal parents

bullet 2011: Saskatchewan: Conflict with marriage commissioners


2012-JAN to now: Federal Conservatives reopen attack on SSM. Census data. Other topics: 

  • Part 1  2102-JAN: Federal Conservatives attack SSM, then stage a speedy retreat.
  • Part 2  2012-JAN: Attack and retreat (Continued)
  • Part 3  2012-JAN to SEP: Problem surfaces over visitors who married in Canada and find that they cannot obtain a divorce.
  • Part 4  2013-MAY to JUN: Bill C-32 to fix the divorce problem finally solved.
  • Part 5  2016: The Conservative Party of Canada modifies its platform to take neutral position on gay marriage.


2016: Ontario: Passage of "All families are equal act," for same-sex couples and infertile opposite-sex couples"

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Site navigation:
"SSM" means "same-sex marriage"

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

Home >Religious information > Basic info > Canada> here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Redefinition of Marriage: A Focus on the Family Q&A,", undated, at:
  2. The red and white banner is is a custom graphic copied from Tania's site at:
  3. "Should the government allow same sex marriage?," ISideWith, as of 2014-FEB-20. at:

Copyright © 1998 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-FEB-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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