2 min

Pawk, pawk, pawk

Tories avoid talking as spousal rights deadline looms

M VERSUS H. Attorney-General James Flaherty's minions are suspiciously silent on the Supreme Court Of Canada's order. Credit: Xtra files

The Tories have six weeks to change Ontario law to allow for same-sex spouses – or else.

But there’s not a peep coming from Queen’s Park.

“They know they need to do it quietly,” says Tom Warner of the Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario (CLGRO).

“Cabinet has to decide whatever it is they’re going to do,” says Warner, who notes that the legislature is back in session Thu, Oct 21.

Ontario has until next month to bring its Family Law Act in line with the now famous M versus H decision.

The Supreme Court Of Canada declared the act’s spousal support section unconstitutional, saying it discriminates against same-sex lovers who have split up. The judges, in an overwhelming eight to one decision, decided that homos, too, should be on the hook for splitting cash, just like heterosexuals.

If Ontario doesn’t take action by Nov 20, then all common-law couples, homo and hetero, will be dropped from the section – and only married folks will be covered.

“If they do nothing,” says Warner, “they deprive common-law couples of rights.”

That could cause chaos.

During the election, Premier Mike Harris said he was unlikely to invoke the Constitution’ opting out clause, which would allow the province to ignore the ruling and stay the course. “I’m not a fan of the notwithstanding clause at the best of times,” Harris said back in June. “We respect the Constitution of Canada.”

But no one knows what’s up.

Warner says CLGRO has been unable to get a meeting with Attorney-General James Flaherty, the man responsible for introducing any legislation.

And the minister’s communications advisor, Nancy Daigneault, has not returned numerous phone calls from Xtra.

“Our concern is that they may do nothing. Or more likely, that they would do the minimum necessary,” says Warner. “That is, amend the Family Law Act but not deal with any of the other laws that also have a similar definition… or that they might be selective in terms of what laws they would do.

“So we’re putting together a bit of a campaign to put pressure on them to make sure that all of the laws containing ‘spouse’ or similar terms would be amended, and hope that we can get some pressure brought to bear over the next week or two.”

The lengthy and historic legal battle began in 1992, when M and H split up. H worked in the pair’s jointly owned ad agency, which started losing money. H took on another job, and mortgaged the house.

M couldn’t find a job, and eventually left with $5.64 on her bank account.

The two women eventually settled, but the government of Ontario chose to take the constitutional issue all the way to the country’s top court.