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The BBC's Ian Gunn in Vancouver
"Canada's main opposition party is concerned it further erodes the institution of marriage"
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Saturday, 12 February, 2000, 09:34 GMT
Canada unveils equality law for gays

Same rights for gay and heterosexual couples Same rights for gay and heterosexual couples

The Canadian Government has unveiled legislation giving equal rights to homosexual and heterosexual couples for the first time.

Under the proposals nearly 70 statutes will be changed, and tax rules, welfare benefits, pensions and citizenship will be applied to all common-law couples regardless of sex.

This legislation sends the clear message that the era of discrimination is nearing the end
Gay activist John Fisher
The legislation follows a significant ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court last year, recognising the status of same-sex partners.

The Canadian Justice Minister, Anne McLellan, said the bill was about fairness and tolerance, but did not mean gay people would be allowed to marry.

"Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. There is absolutely no confusion about that," she said.

She added that the bill would not change the definition of "spouse" to include gays.

Every single statute that bears on marriage is being amended to include homosexual pairings
Pro-family official Peter Stock
Gay rights activists have welcomed the legislation. A delighted John Fisher, the executive director of the gay rights lobby group Egale, said: "This legislation sends the clear message that the era of discrimination is nearing the end."


But Canada's main parliamentary opposition party is concerned that the legislation will further erode the institution of marriage.

And conservative groups accused the government of being out of step with public opinion.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan Justice Minister McLellan: Equal rights for all
They challenged the government's argument that the bill was not about marriage.

The national affairs director of the conservative Canada Family Action Coalition, Peter Stock, said: "Every single statute that bears on marriage is being amended to include homosexual pairings."

He added that: "When you assign all the rights and benefits to these nonmarital relationships, you are in fact saying that these (relationships) are equivalent to married."

Other critics of the proposals say the bill must be extended to all people who are dependent on each other, for example two sisters or brother and sister living together.

The changes will require the approval of the Canadian parliament but Justice Minister McLellan said she hoped to push the legislation through parliament by the summer.

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14 Aug 99 |  Americas
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01 Feb 99 |  Europe
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