Canada Immigration to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Monday Magazine | August 7, 2004
Changes to federal immigration rules announced May 18 mean that same-sex partners who marry in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario will now have their marriages recognized for immigration purposes. The changes apply as long as one of the spouses is Canadian, or a permanent resident. “Society is changing, and there are new laws [permitting same-sex marriages] in these three provinces,” says Claire Despins, spokesperson for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. “Family reunification is very important to our department . . . we wanted to adopt an interim policy for marriages that occur in those three provinces.” If the Supreme Court of Canada approves same-sex marriage throughout Canada, Despins says, “then we will adjust the policy to reflect that.” The changes mean that as long as a marriage occurs in Ontario, B.C. or Quebec, and the couple can produce a provincially issued marriage certificate, then the spouse who has Canadian or landed-immigrant status can sponsor the other for immigration purposes. For community activist April Grant, the change is welcome news. “As an American who is moving up here and about to marry my Canadian spouse, I’m thrilled,” she says. “I hope this would spur the American government to do the same thing.” Grant and her partner plan to get hitched legally at this year’s pride celebrations—though they held a ceremony three years ago, they are “technically common-law,” she says. Michael Joyce, chair of UVic Pride (a University of Victoria Students’ Society constituency group) calls the federal decision a step in the right direction. “I’m really impressed that the government is moving to recognize same-sex marriages, even if some politicians are stalling on the issues,” Joyce says. He says there is room for improvement, though, since the regulations still only apply to three provinces. In Vancouver, Christine Morrissey of the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force agrees. “Certainly, it’s a change for the positive, it’s a step forward, it’s one more small step in terms of achieving equality,” she says. “But there still isn’t a level playing field . . . what [the new policy] doesn’t allow is for an American and a Mexican citizen who come to B.C. to get married to have their marriage recognized for immigration purposes. So if the American and the Mexican decide to immigrate to Canada, they cannot immigrate as spouses.” There are class issues associated with same-sex marriage and immigration too, she says. For example, even though same-sex marriage is recognized in three Canadian provinces, a non-Canadian partner would need a visitor’s visa to get to Canada to be married. “Usually, people of lesser economic means, or Canadians from a developing country, won’t benefit," Morrisey says. “Access to the right to marry should not be restricted.” Still, she says, last week’s decision is welcome news. “It’s good that finally, after a year, immigration has caught up with the changes in laws in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.” —Adrienne Mercer

Monday Magazine

Founded in 1975 to provide a critical voice in Victoria's political and cultural communities, Monday Magazine continues to shake British Columbia's conservative capital city with tell-it- like-it-is features and reviews. Targeting educated, active adults and Victoria's growing youth market, Monday...
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