Canadian Pride Legal History

February 28, 2008



Everett Klippert is sent to prison indefinitely as a "dangerous sex offender" for acknowledging to police that he is gay, has had sex with men over a 24-year period, and is unlikely to change. The Supreme Court accepts the decision.

1967 December 22

Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau proposes amendments to the Criminal Code which, among other things, would relax the laws against homosexuality. He says "I think the view we take here is that there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter."


Trudeau's amendments to the Criminal Code pass, decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada.

1971 July 20

Everett Klippert is released.

1977 December 16

Quebec includes sexual orientation in its provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, making it the first province in Canada to pass a gay civil rights law. The law makes it illegal to discriminate against gays in housing, public accommodation and employment.


Canada gets a new Immigration Act. Under the Act, being a homosexual is removed from the list of inadmissible classes.


The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends in its Annual Report that "sexual orientation" be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

1980 May 2

Bill C-242, an Act to Prohibit Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation, gets its first reading in the House of Commons by private member MP Pat Carney. The Bill, which would have inserted "sexual orientation" into the Canadian Human Rights Act, doesn't pass.

MP Svend Robinson introduces similar bills in 1983, 1985 1986, 1989, and 1991. In 1991, Robinson tries to get the definition of "spouse" in the Income Tax ActCanada Pension Plan Act to include "or of the same sex." The following year he also tries to get the "opposite-sex" definition of "spouse" removed from Bill C-55 which would add same-sex widows and widowers to survivor benefits provisions of federal pension legislation. All the proposed Bills are defeated.

1985 April 17

The equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15, comes into force. It states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. In May, 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously declares that individuals are also protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation under section15.

1985 October

The Parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights releases a report titled "Equality for All." The Committee writes that it is shocked by the high level of discriminatory treatment of homosexuals in Canada. The report discusses the harassment, violence, physical abuse, psychological oppression and hate propaganda that homosexuals live with. The Committee recommends that the Canadian Human Rights Act be changed to make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.


Ontario adds "sexual orientation" as a prohibited ground of discrimination in its Human Rights Code.


Manitoba and Yukon add "sexual orientation" to their respective human rights legislation


Nova Scotia adds "sexual orientation" to its human rights legislation.


British Columbia and New Brunswick add "sexual orientation" to their respective human rights legislation.

1992 August

In Haig and Birch v. Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal rules that the failure to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act is discriminatory. Federal Justice Minister Kim Campbell responds to the decision by announcing the government will take the necessary steps to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

1992 September

A Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario declares the opposite-sex definition of spouse in the Ontario Human Rights Code is in violation of section15 of the Charter. The Tribunal goes on to rule that the provincial government's denial of employment-related pension and other benefits to its employees, including the complainant Michael Leshner, is discriminatory. Because the Tribunal decision only binds the government, other lesbians and gays are forced to fight their employers on a case by case basis.

1992 December

Michelle Douglas, a Canadian Forces soldier, comes out as a lesbian, and is given a "Change of Circumstances Report". The Canadian Forces Interim Policy states that if you admit to being gay you can agree to be released or can stay with "no promotion, and no career courses"; you will no longer be engaged militarily, will not be advanced and you will be on a list of gay personnel. Douglas signs the release, feeling there is no alternative.

Douglas then files a complaint under the Security Intelligence Review Committee ("SIRC"). The Minister of National Defence attempts to prohibit the SIRC from investigating. In 1990 the Court rules the complaint can go forward.

At the same time Douglas also files her own lawsuit for damages. Shortly before the trial the parties sign an agreement stating that her Charter equality rights had been denied and that the government's policies regarding service of homosexuals in the Canadian Forces are contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act. This is adopted as a judgment of the Court on December 1, 1992.

1992 December 9

As promised, Justice Minister Kim Campbell introduces Bill C-108 which would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act. But the Bill, which would also restrict the definition of "marital status" to opposite-sex couples, doesn't pass first reading.

On June 3, 1993, the Senate passes Bill S-15, another attempt at adding "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act, but the Bill doesn't make it to the House of Commons because Parliament is dissolved for the 1993 federal election.


Saskatchewan adds "sexual orientation" to its human rights legislation.

1993 February 23

In the Mossop case, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that the denial of bereavement leave to a gay partner is not discrimination based on family status as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the case isn't a complete loss -- two of the judges find that the term "family status" is broad enough to include same-sex couples living together in a long-term relationship. And, the majority of the Supreme Court also notes that if section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been argued (discrimination based on sexual orientation), the ruling might have been different.

1995 May

The Supreme Court rules on the case involving Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit, two gay men who sued Ottawa for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act, after living together for 48 years. A majority find that this treatment is discriminatory, but constitutional. All nine judges agree that sexual orientation is a protected ground under the Charter and that the protection extends to partnerships of lesbians and gay men. Justice Sopinka finds that the legislation violated Section 15 of the Charter, but he states that the government should be granted some time to respond to the widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians, because their claims to equality are "novel". The Court rules against Egan and Nesbit.


A Newfoundland Court rules that "sexual orientation" must be read into the Newfoundland Human Rights Act. Newfoundland formally amends the legislation in 1997 adding "sexual orientation" as a prohibited ground.


Four Ontario lesbian couples make joint adoption applications. In each case, one member of the couple is the child's natural mother, and she wants her partner to be allowed to adopt so that they can both be the child's legal parents.

The adoption legislation only allows joint adoptions if the applicants are spouses. "Spouses" are defined as persons of the opposite sex. The main issue before the Court is whether the adoption legislation's spousal definition violates the Charter's equality guarantee. The Court finds that the Charter has been violated.

The primary purpose of the adoption legislation is to make sure that children's best interests and well-being are protected. The Court finds that there was "no evidence at all" that heterosexual couples are better parents than same-sex couples.

The Court orders that the definition of spouse in the adoption legislation be read in and applied to include same-sex couples.


In Ackerstrom and Moore v. Treasury, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal says "It is now crystal clear that the law is that denial of the extension of employment benefits to a same-sex partner which would otherwise be extended to opposite-sex common-law partners is discrimination on the prohibited ground of sexual orientation."


The federal government passes Bill C-33 which adds "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act.


The British Columbia Family Relations Amendment Act and the Family Maintenance Enforcement Amendment Act add gays and lesbians to the definitions of "spouse" and "parent", giving them rights and obligations with respect to custody, access, guardianship, spousal and child support, and support enforcement.
Unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, can now opt into the matrimonial property regime by domestic contract, obtaining all of the rights and obligations that are given to married couples.


In 1991 Delwin Vriend, a lab instructor at King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta, is fired from his job for being gay. The Alberta Human Rights Commission refuses to investigate the case because discrimination based on sexual orientation isn't covered by the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act.

Vriend takes the government of Alberta to court and, in 1994, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench rules that sexual orientation must be added to the act. The government appeals in 1996 and the decision gets overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

On April 2, 1998 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rules that the exclusion of homosexuals from the province's Individual Rights Protection ActCharter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court says that effective immediately the Act will be interpreted to include homosexuals even if the province doesn't change it. The Alberta government chooses not to use the notwithstanding clause, despite pressure from conservative and religious groups.


PEI adds "sexual orientation" to its human rights legislation.


A Quebec Human Rights Tribunal rules that an employer has breached the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms when it terminated an employee after she returned from undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. The Tribunal declares that the protected ground of "sex" in section 10 of Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms includes not only the state of a person but also the very process of transformation that is part of transsexualism.

1998 April 23

In the Rosenberg case, Ontario's Court of Appeal declares that the Income Tax Act definition of "spouse" which excludes same-sex partners from registering private pension plans with Revenue Canada violates section15 of the Charter and is not saved by section1. Section 1 allows a discriminatory law to stand if the government can show that a Charter breach is justifiable The case was brought by a union whose pension plan was denied registration by the government because it covered the spouses of two lesbian employees.


Three separate decisions by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal make it clear that discrimination against transsexuals constitutes discrimination because of sex and is prohibited under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

In the Sheridan case, A BC Human Rights Tribunal rules that discrimination against a transsexual constitutes discrimination because of sex. A nightclub patron who was a pre-operative male to female transsexual was denied access to the women's washroom in 1995. The nightclub had a policy that preoperative transsexuals had to use the washroom of their birth sex. In addition, the nightclub had a strict i.d. policy and the complainant was denied entry one evening because she did not resemble the picture on her driver's licence.

The Tribunal ruled that the washroom policy was discriminatory. To its credit, the nightclub had changed its policy in 1996. The complainant was awarded $2000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. The Tribunal also ruled that the nightclub had justified its strict i.d. policy and, given that the complainant had had ample time to change her identification, the refusal of entry was not discriminatory.

In September, a BC Human Rights Tribunal rules that the Vancouver Lesbian Connection discriminated against a preoperative transsexual based on sex.

In October, a BC Human Rights Tribunal orders the Office and Technical Employees Union, Local 15 to cease its discrimination against a transsexual member and to pay her damages. The member was involved in a dispute with her employer regarding the use of the company washroom. The Tribunal found that the union had treated the complainant worse that it would have treated other union members in similar circumstances and that her status as a transsexual was a factor in her treatment.

1999 May

The Supreme Court of Canada rules same-sex couples should have the same benefits and obligations as opposite-sex common-law couples and equal access to benefits from social programs. The ruling centres on the "M v. H" case which involves two Toronto women who had lived together for more than a decade. When the couple broke up in 1992, "M" sued "H" for spousal support under Ontario's Family Law Act. The problem is that the act defined "spouse" as either a married couple or "a man and woman" who are unmarried and have lived together for no less than three years, or are parents of a child and have had a relationship of some permanence.

The judge rules that the definition violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and declares that the words "a man and woman" should be replaced with "two persons." "H" appealed the decision. The Court of Appeal upholds the decision but suspends and gives Ontario one year to amend its Family Law Act.

Although neither "M" nor "H" choose to take the case any further, Ontario's Attorney General appeals the decision of the Court of Appeal, which brings the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court rules that the Ontario Family Law Act's definition of "spouse" as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional as is any provincial law that denies equal benefits to same-sex couples. Ontario is given six months to amend the Act.

1999 October 25

Attorney General Jim Flaherty introduces Bill 5 in the Ontario Legislature entitled An Act to Amend Certain Statutes Because of the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in the M. v. H. case. Instead of changing the province's definition of spouse, which the Supreme Court essentially struck down, the government creates a new same-sex category, changing the province's Family Law Act to read "spouse or same-sex partner" wherever it had read only "spouse" before. Bill 5 also amends more than 60 other provincial laws, making the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples mirror those of common-law opposite-sex couples.

2000 February 11

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's Liberals introduce Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, in response to the Supreme Court's May 1999 ruling.

On April 11, 2000, Parliament passes Bill C-23, with a vote of 174 to 72. The legislation gives same-sex couples the same social and tax benefits as heterosexuals in common-law relationships.

In total, the Bill affects 68 federal statutes relating to a wide range of issues such as pension benefits, old age security, income tax deductions, bankruptcy protection and the Criminal Code.

2000 March 16

Alberta passes Bill 202 which says that the province will use the notwithstanding clause if a court redefines marriage to include anything other than a man and a woman.

2000 March 30

Ontario Human Rights Commission releases a Policy on Discrimination and Harassment because of Gender Identity. The policy focuses on persons whose gender identity diverges from their birth-assigned identity and reflects the Commission's position that discrimination against transgender individuals is prohibited under Ontario's Human Rights Code under the heading "sex".

2000 June 7

British Columbia's Supreme Court affirms that the prohibition against discrimination based on sex includes discrimination based on gender identity including transsexualism.

2000 December 10

Rev. Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto reads the first "banns" - an old Christian tradition of publishing or giving public notice of people's intent to marry - for two same-sex couples. Hawkes maintains that if banns are read on three Sundays before the wedding, he can legally marry the couples.
The two same-sex couples marry on January 14, 2001. The following day, Ontario Minister Bob Runciman says the province will not recognize same-sex marriages: "It won't qualify to be registered because of the federal law which clearly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others."

2001 August

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules that Correctional Services of Canada has discriminated against a pre-operative transgender inmate contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Tribunal ordered CSC to formulate a policy that ensures that the placement needs of transsexual inmates are identified and accommodated and to formulate a new policy regarding inmate access to sex reassignment surgery.

2001 August

Two lesbian couples file complaints in 1998 and 1999 when the Vital Statistics Agency does not allow the partner of the birth mother to be registered as a birth parent without going through a formal adoption. In August, 2001, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal rules that failure of the Vital Statistics Agency to register the births of children in a non-discriminatory fashion is a breach of the BC Human Rights Code. The Tribunal orders the Agency to amend the Birth Registration form so that it provides the option of identifying, as a parent, a non-biological parent who is the co-parent of a mother or father.

2001 October

BC Supreme Court rules that exclusion of lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry is discriminatory under the Charter but is justifiable under section 1. Section 1 allows a discriminatory law to stand if the government can show that a Charter breach is justifiable. The Court said, among other things, that is was common sense that marriage is restricted to heterosexuals. The decision is being appealed.

2001 November

On November5, 2001, Ontario's Superior Court of Justice begins hearing argument on the right of lesbian and gay couples in Ontario to marry. A decision is expected by Spring 2002.

On November 8, 2001, Quebec's Court begins seven days of hearing into the right of lesbian and gay couples in Quebec to marry. A decision is expected by Spring 2002.

2001 November

Svend Robinson tables Private Member's Bill C-415 to amend the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code of Canada to add "sexual orientation." The present law bans promotion of hatred and violence based on "identifiable groups" and includes the following grounds: colour race, religion and ethnic origin.

2001 November

In 2000, the federal government passes the omnibus bill recognizing same-sex partners for all rights and responsibilities, including Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits. The law is made retroactive to January 1, 1998. Partners of those who died between April, 1985 (the date the equality section of the Charter comes in force) and January 1, 1998 are excluded. In November 2001, a $400 million dollar class action lawsuit is filed to seek CPP survivor benefits for this excluded group. The representative plaintiff, George Hislop, was in a relationship with his partner for 28 years before his partner died in 1986.

2001 December

Quebec National Assembly tables a draft bill that would recognize same-sex civil unions. Partners in a civil union will have, with a few exceptions, the same rights and obligations as married couples. The bill does not include adoption rights for same-sex couples.

2001 December

The Law Commission of Canada recommends "that Parliament and provincial/territorial legislatures move toward repealing legislative restrictions on marriages between persons of the same sex."

2002 January

A BC Human Rights Tribunal orders Vancouver Rape Relief Society to refrain from discriminating against trans women and to pay damages to the complainant, Kimberly Nixon. Nixon, a transgender woman, had filed a complaint in 1995 with the BC Human Rights Commission when she was expelled from a training program for potential counselors run by the Vancouver Rape Relief Society. The Tribunal found that Rape Relief did not make an effort of finding a way of including Ms. Nixon in the training program, it did not consider whether their methods of providing services could be adapted to accommodate Ms. Nixon or explore ways to deal with clients who may have been uncomfortable with Ms. Nixon's history. The Tribunal found that a blanket rule excluding all transgender women is not appropriate and that some individual assessment of skills is necessary.

2002 May 10

The Ontario Superior Court rules that Marc Hall, a gay student, has the right to take his boyfriend to the prom. Marc Hall was supported by a coalition of groups which includes the CAW.

2002 June

The Assemblée Nationale du Québec unanimously adopts civil union legislation. The Quebec government announces that civil union was designed to benefit couples, of the same or opposite sex, who wish to make a public commitment to live together and respect the resulting rights and obligations.

2002 Sept.

The Quebec Court rules that the opposite-sex definition of marriage is discriminatory and cannot be justified under s.1 of the Charter. The Court suspends its declaration that that the definition is unconstitutional for 2 years to give Parliament a chance to act. The Court rules that access to civil union is not sufficient. The ruling is appealed.

2002 Dec.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejects the Surrey School Board's attempt to ban from the classroom three books depicting same-sex families: Belinda's Bouquet, Asha's Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The Court rules that "tolerance is always age-appropriate". The School Board later again rejects the books on the grounds that, among other things, they contain poor grammar.

2003 June10

The Ontario Court of Appeal upholds a lower court ruling allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. Same-sex couples start applying for marriages within hours. The federal government announces on June 17 that it will not appeal the ruling. A group of religious and secular conservatives attempts to appeal the ruling instead but is not given standing by the Supreme Court of Canada in October, 2003.

2003 July 8

The British Columbia Court of Appeal rules that same-sex couples have the right to marry immediately. The Court had ruled favourably on the right of gays, lesbians and bisexuals to marry in May 2003 but had suspended that right until July 12, 2004.

2003 July 17

The federal government refers An Act Respecting Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage to the Supreme Court of Canada for review. The legislation defines marriage for civil purposes as "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others."

2003 Sept.9

Hearings begin in a class action lawsuit against the federal government. Gay and lesbians filed the lawsuit to claim survivor pensions under Canada Pension Plan. The federal government extended recognition to those who died after 1998. The lawsuit claims the proper date should be 1985, the year the equality section of the Charter came into force.

2003 Sept.16

A Canadian Alliance motion to limit the definition of marriage to "one man and one woman" is narrowly defeated in the House of Commons.

2003 Sept.17

Bill C-250 passes in the House of Commons adding sexual orientation of the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code of Canada.

(adapted and updated from CBC News Online - Owen Wood)

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