OTTAWA, July 20, 2005 – The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice and Attorney
General of Canada, announced today that the Civil Marriage Act has received Royal Assent.
The Act extends equal access to civil marriage to same-sex couples while respecting religious freedom,
and will apply across Canada as of today. The Act represents the commitment of the Government of Canada
to upholding the Constitution, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "It is
anchored in two foundational Charter rights", said Minister Cotler, "the right of
every Canadian to equality without discrimination, and the right to freedom of religion. It protects
the rights of minorities but does not take away the rights of anyone else, be they religious communities
or opposite-sex couples."
Bill C-38 was the subject of intensive debate and discussion both in the public forum and within the
House of Commons and the Senate. It was preceded by unanimous rulings of our courts in eight provinces
and one territory, which found that the opposite-sex requirement for civil marriage is discriminatory
and so violated the Charter; and by the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada which
upheld the constitutionality of same-sex marriage as being not only consistent with the Charter
but flowing from it.
"Indeed", said Minister Cotler, "I would say that this has been an exemplary democratic discussion and
debate" including the trialogue between Parliament, the people and the courts " and one carried out
with dignity and respect for the wide range of deeply held views expressed. It is a tribute to Canada
that such a debate can take place, demonstrating our values of respect for both equality rights and
freedom of religion, as well as tolerance for diversity. Clearly, this Bill has been one of the most
thoroughly studied and widely considered in recent memory."
"I want to personally thank the many groups and individual Canadians who actively and respectfully
participated in this debate, by taking the time to appear before the House and Senate Committees, or by
making their views known to their MPs," said Minister Cotler. "The Act is stronger for the fact that
there has been so much involvement by so many on this important issue."
During the parliamentary process, three further references were added to the Bill, including a generic
amendment "for greater certainty" to strengthen the freedom of religion principle, involving the
protection against the withdrawal of any federal benefit, or the imposing of any sanction or
obligation, by reason of any person or organization exercising their freedom of religion and conscience
under the Charter, including the advocacy of marriage as the union of one man and
one woman only.
The Act includes consequential amendments to eight federal laws: the Canada Business Corporations
Act, Canada Cooperatives Act, Civilian War-related Benefits Act, Divorce Act, Federal Law and Civil
Law of the Province of Quebec Act, Income Tax Act, Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, and
Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act. These amendments were made to ensure the equal
treatment within federal law of opposite-sex and same-sex married couples.
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Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice
Media Relations Office
Department of Justice Canada