3 min

From oppression to equality

Covering the spectrum of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender legislation

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Egale Canada is preparing for the release of a hefty piece of read-ing material.

Outlaws and In-laws – Your Guide to LGBT Rights, Same-sex Relationships and Canadian Law is the first of its kind in Canada, says John Fisher, Egale’s director of advocacy.

“There are some more academic texts and some stuff done in the States but I’m not aware of any Canadian resource,” says Fisher of the 200-page education kit on Canadian legislation. “The purpose is to inform members of the community how they’re impacted by laws and legislation across the country. Every day at the Egale office we get calls from people wanting to know.”

Egale is a national organization with members in every province and territory that works toward advancing equality and justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people

“We do a lot of lobbying, legal work, community work,” Fisher explains, adding that the education kit took eight months to complete. “We thought it was high time to gather all that information together in one place.”

This education kit is in response to dramatic changes to legislation since 1999 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities that opposite-sex couples have. There have been hundreds of amendments to the law since then, which can make it confusing for the public.

In a simple, easy-to-follow style this kit covers the spectrum on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender legislation in Canada starting with the history of rights in Canada and the bleak days when homosexuality was a crime.

Each major topic is covered under its own heading and begins with an overview and concludes by identifying additional resources.

“There’s a whole range of topics covered,” offers Fisher. “The main focus was supposed to be on same-sex relationships. But really it covers a broad sweep of subjects.”

While all the sections are useful, the criminal law section is perhaps the most enlightening because it’s the area least understood. It covers the past and present of age of consent and anal intercourse provisions, child pornography laws, public sex and indecency laws, and bawdy house provisions. The kit review rights members of the GLBT community have when faced with cops, and offers advice on what to consider before pleading guilty or not guilty to an offence. It also explores issues such as hate crimes and the infamous “homosexual panic” defence.

“The law and the police are often stuck back in the era of the bathhouse raids,” says Fisher, adding that many people don’t understand their rights.

The kit then hits readers with a section on discrimination by defining it, outlining options if it happens, explaining how to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission and telling readers what to expect. The kit is laced with important information about the human rights commission and stresses that it is unlawful for your employer or anyone else to retaliate against you or punish you for making a human rights complaint.

The employment section is also useful and it covers, in detail, issues in the workplace such as employment contracts and workplace environments, including EI, worker’s compensation and benefits as they relate to the GLBT.

The models of relationship recognition section touches on definitions of common-law and same-sex relationships, registered partnerships and civil unions. There is an interesting section on how to go about registering your partnership in various provinces and what rights and responsibilities fall under the heading.

The kit also examines same-sex marriages and where the situation is in courts right now since, in the past few years, Ontario, Québec and British Columbia have all held that prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. At present, only Belgium and the Netherlands recognize same-sex marriages.

Parenting and children is another area Egale uncovers for readers, detailing specifics from the rules around gay men as sperm donors, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy to fostering, insemination, transgendered and transexual parents and parents with HIV/AIDS.

Still on the family note, Egale runs through domestic violence, dispelling notions of how it works in same-sex relationships and offering the legal options available to anyone who is abused.

Perhaps new to many, the section on the laws around terminating relationships explores the wisdom of same-sex partners signing a “cohabitation agreement” – a contract which will govern your financial affairs in the event of separation. The section goes on to detail what can be included in this document from pensions to pets. It also offers a grid of the reality of same-sex support across the provinces.

A section on immigration laws focuses mainly on sponsorship and recognition of same-sex partners as family and finally, there is a hearty section on financial issues. Here, everything from RRSPs, spousal or common-law contributions, pensions, the GST credit, Canada Child Tax Benefit, transferring property, insurance, student loans and wills is covered and it’s likely the most relevant section to everyone.

* Available in English and French for $20 though Egale Canada. 230-1043.