Back to top

CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2002

Quebec's Bill 84 to Allow Same-Sex Civil Unions

Supporters of Quebec's proposed legislation on same-sex civil unions are celebrating as Bill 84 makes its way through the final stages in the National Assembly.

McGill professor of social work Shari Brotman says "the legislation creates something as similar to marriage as you can get without actually granting a marriage licence."

Brotman, who is also a spokesperson for McGill's Project Interaction, a campus and community group advocating for gay and lesbian rights, says the downside of the soon-to-be introduced civil union is that it will not be recognized outside Quebec.

Her colleague in Project Interaction and the school of social work, Bill Ryan, calls the law "a stopgap measure until full equality is reached in the laws regulating conjugal relationships in Canada."

Ryan and Brotman support Montrealers Michael Hendricks and Rene LeBoeuf, who launched a Charter challenge to the federal marriage laws in 1998.

Debate on same-sex marriage heated up on campus in 2001, when it became known McGill professors Margaret Somerville and Katherine Young were preparing to serve as expert witnesses in the defence of Canada's prohibition against same-sex marriages.

Project Interaction, with the support of Queer McGill, a student group promoting equality for gays and lesbians, launched an e-mail campaign, circulated a petition, held gorilla-style teach-ins in the student services building and challenged the professors to public debate.

According to Ryan, these actions expanded into "a national mailing campaign, accompanied by several political actions, in order to make the academic community aware that our university was being used to sustain discriminatory laws."

Somerville and Young were in the end not called as witnesses, Ryan says. And now, little more than a year later, the legality of same-sex unions, and parental roles, is being drafted into Quebec's civil code.

Which leaves Ryan and Brotman with something to celebrate.

"Everyone says it will put Quebec just behind Holland as the most progressive place in the world," says Brotman. "If only the federal government would change the marriage laws, we could say we were world leaders."