2 min

Red Deer, watch out

All those queer couples add up

If you gathered them all up in one place, declared same-sex couples in Canada could easily displace the entire population of Red Deer, Alberta (population 60,000).

They could also control the federal riding of Timmins-James Bay (population 72,000) in Ontario.

Not that they’d want to.

The results of Statistic Canada’s 2001 Census – the first to ask Canadians if they live with a same-sex partner – suggest that same-sex couples prefer to live in big cities, with 81 percent living in Canada’s 27 major metropolitan areas.

The biggest concentrations of homo couples are in Ottawa and Vancouver (0.9 percent of all couples in those cities are same-sex), followed by Victoria and Montreal (where 0.8 percent of couples are same-sex).

Toronto trails in concentration, since only 0.06 percent of all couples here are same-sex. This city, with a measly 6,685 declared same-sex couples, can still be considered a haven for singles. Or a place where people are too cynical to fill out census forms truthfully.

Of more than seven million couples in Canada, 34,000 identified as same-sex partners – that’s 68,400 individuals. That adds up to 0.5 percent of all couples and three percent of all common-law couples.

Here are some other breakdowns of the data.

* 45 percent of the same-sex couples were female, versus 55 percent male, possibly upsetting the stereotype that lesbians are more likely to settle down while gay men play the field

* 15 percent of the female couples declared having children, while three percent of the male couples did

* There are 55 same-sex couples on little Prince Edward Island, 35 in Yukon, 30 in the Northwest Territories and 15 in Nunavut – if you’re passing through, drop by and say hi

* Among all (straight and gay) Canadians, 16 percent of couples are common-law. In Quebec that number jumps to 30 percent, as marriage becomes increasingly passé among young Quebeckers.

The same-sex statistics come with several caveats. First, the census only asked about same-sex relationships, not about sexual orientation, so the numbers don’t say that much about the number of homosexuals in this country.

As well, Statistics Canada says that, if the experience of other countries is any indication, there was serious underreporting of same-sex couples because of first-time jitters and concerns about outing. In Aurora and Orangeville, for example, there were no same-sex couples reported.

“People are a little uncomfortable with the question and what the information might be used for,” says Michelle Douglas, who is president of the group Foundation For Equal Families and who has been in a same-sex relationship for four years. She says that in the US, where the question has been asked for 10 years, there was a dramatic increase in responses over time.

Asking about sexual orientation would have been even harder, says Douglas, which is one of the reasons Stats Can doesn’t bother.

“It’s an enormous challenge to ask that question and get good data,” she says, “because one person fills out the form for the household and a queer person might not be out.”

Douglas is especially pleased with all the lesbian moms.

“It’s an important reminder for people who can ghettoize queers in this country by saying we don’t have families,” she says.

John Fisher, executive director of the national queer lobby group Egale Canada, says he wasn’t surprised by the results.

“Of course, for us, human rights has never been a numbers game,” Fisher says. “The question is only going to get a very narrow slice of the community, but the results can provide some visibility and a reasonable start.”