LGBT rights in Canada
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StatusSame-sex sexual activities were made lawful in Canada in 1969;[1] section of the Criminal Code in reference to anal intercourse was repealed in June 2019.[2] Conversion therapy illegal under federal law since January 7, 2022.[3][4]
Gender identityChange of name and legal sex available in every province and territory, under different rules, and without sex reassignment surgery
MilitaryLGBT people were authorized to serve openly in 1992.
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation beginning provincially in 1977; federally since 1996; gender identity or expression federally since 2017
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage legally available throughout Canada in 2005.
AdoptionLegal (particulars may differ within each province and territory)

In Canada, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are some of the most extensive in the Americas and in the world. Same-sex sexual activity was made lawful in Canada on June 27, 1969, when the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968–69 (also known as Bill C-150) was brought into force upon royal assent.[1] In a landmark decision in 1995, Egan v Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada held that sexual orientation is constitutionally protected under the equality clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[5] In 2005, Canada was the fourth country in the world, and the first in the Americas, to implement same-sex marriage nationwide.[6]

Canada was referred to as the most gay-friendly country in the world, when it was ranked first in the Gay Travel Index chart in 2021, and among the five safest in Forbes magazine in 2019.[7][8] It was also ranked first (indicating least dangerous) in Asher & Lyric's LGBTQ+ Danger Index in 2022.[9] The country's largest cities feature their own gay areas and communities, such as Toronto's Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, Montreal's Gay Village commercial district, Vancouver's Davie Village and Ottawa's Bank Street Gay Village.[10] Every summer, Canada's LGBT community celebrates gay pride in all major cities, with many political figures from the federal, provincial and municipal scenes.

In recent decades, Canada went through some major legal shifts in support of LGBT rights (e.g. decriminalization, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, gay marriage, homoparentality, blood donations, transgender rights and outlawing of conversion therapies). The 2020 Pew Research showed that 85% of Canada's general population (92% among Canadians aged between 18 and 29) had favoured social acceptance of homosexuality up from 80% in 2013.[11][12] Likewise, polls in June 2013 had shown an increase in the Canadian population's point of view, with a vast majority of Canadians to give their blessing to same-sex marriage, which was made available to all throughout Canada in 2005. The polls had also revealed that 70% of Canada's population had agreed that "same-sex couples should have the same rights to adopt children as heterosexual couples do," and that 76% had also agreed that "same-sex couples are just as likely as other parents to successfully raise children".[13] By 2020, 91.8% of those surveyed in a poll commissioned by the Privy Council Office said they would be "comfortable" if a next-door neighbour was gay, lesbian or bisexual and that 87.6% said they would be "comfortable" if a neighbour was a transgender person.[14]

History

Main articles: LGBT history in Canada and Timeline of LGBT history in Canada

Transgender people and cross-dressing practices have been recorded and documented in Canada for centuries. Different indigenous groups have had their own traditions and terms to refer to transgender people, gender variance or sexual identity. These First Nations had perceptions towards gender and sexuality which differed significantly to that of the Western world. Many transgender people in these traditional roles were in positions of reverence, where they acted as caretakers of children who had lost their families, spiritual healers and warriors in battle. The Cree term apêw iskwêwisêhot refers to people who are assigned male at birth but act, dress and behave as female, while the term iskwêw ka napêwayat has the opposite meaning, that being a person assigned female at birth but acts and behaves as male. Similarly, the Kutenai titqattek describes women who take on roles traditionally characterized as masculine, including hunting and warfare. The Blackfoot term aakíí'skassi (meaning "acts like a woman"; also spelt a'yai-kik-ahsi) describes men who dress as women and typically perform chores and activities associated with women, such as basket weaving and pottery making. Many other indigenous groups recognise similar terms: the Inuit sipiniq (ᓯᐱᓂᖅ), the Assiniboine wįktą, the Tlingit gatxan, and the Tsimshian kanâ'ts. Among the Ojibwe, male-to-female individuals are known as ikwekaazo, which literally translates to "men who chose to function as women", whereas female-to-male individuals are known as ininiikaazo. The European colonialists would describe such individuals as "homosexuals", "a curious compound of man and woman" or "berdache", meaning a catamite or a male prostitute. The term is now considered offensive and outdated. Following colonisation and the spread of Christianity by religious missionaries, many of these traditions began to die out. Transgender individuals were furthermore forced and assimilated into Europe-centric culture, and even among the indigenous peoples perceptions began to change. In the early 1990s, indigenous groups sought to reclaim many of their customs and traditions. LGBT indigenous groups proposed the term "two-spirit" to refer to a traditional and cultural "third gender". In modern times, two-spirit is frequently used by First Nations groups to refer to people who embody these gender traits, and is occasionally used to reference the entire indigenous LGBT community. As such, the terms LGBT2S or LGBTQ2S are increasingly used, with the 2S denoting two-spirited people; sometimes, this is denoted simply as 2, as in LGBTQ2. Records of homosexuality and same-sex relations also exist, notably among the Mi'kmaq, where the common phrase Geenumu Gessalagee, which translates to "he loves men", is used to refer to such individuals.[15]

During the British North American era, same-sex sexual activity between men was a capital crime. However, there is no surviving record of any executions; political figures were reluctant to enforce the law.[16] The death penalty was eventually repealed, though a broader law involving gross indecency between men was often enforced in the late 19th century.[17] During the early to mid 20th-century, the law often portrayed homosexual men as sex offenders, including the court case of Everett George Klippert. He admitted to having sex with multiple men, which resulted in his life imprisonment. Same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults was soon decriminalized in 1969 as a result of legislation introduced in 1967, with then-Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Pierre Trudeau who eventually became the 15th Prime Minister of Canada and famously commented, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."[18]

Up until 1973, homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness. Many treatments were used to cure people of their homosexual orientation: electroshock therapy, lobotomies, conversion therapies, etc. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality is not a mental illness. As a result, homosexuality was withdrawn from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), which is the diagnostic reference guide used by all health and social services professionals in North America. In 1999, the American Psychological Association acknowledged in its code of ethics that to treat homosexuality as a psychological problem, a sexual deviance or a form of psychopathology is unethical.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario in 2003, and was already legalized in eight of ten provinces and one of three territories when, on July 20, 2005, Canada became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide after the enactment of the federal Civil Marriage Act. Likewise, same-sex adoption was legalized in all provinces and territories under varying rules. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public and private accommodations is now prohibited by all provinces and territories, as well as the federal government. Transgender people are now allowed to change their legal gender in all provinces and territories under varying rules.

Constitutional framework

Main article: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Legal and equality rights

Participants at the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade
Participants at the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade

The Constitution of Canada does not explicitly grant or deny any right to LGBTQ+ people, however the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the open-ended wording of section 15 of the Charter protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Subsection 15(1) reads:

15(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Section 15(1) was written so as to protect against discrimination generally, with the enumerated grounds of prohibited discrimination, such race and sex, being examples of prohibited grounds, rather than a closed list. In its landmark ruling in 1995 in the case of Egan v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that sexual orientation was included within the bounds of section 15, as an analogous ground. Individuals were therefore granted equal protection against discrimination on the basis of that ground. The concepts of sex and physical disability in s. 15 have been interpreted to include transsexuality and HIV/STDs (see discussion below).[19] As articulated, and reaffirmed in 2008, "the promotion of equality entails the promotion of a society in which all are secure in the knowledge that they are recognized at law as human beings equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration".[20]

Section 15 applies to all laws and government institutions in Canada, including law enforcement authorities, but the Charter does not grant rights against the private sector. Instead, a complaint against a business would be brought under the applicable federal or provincial human rights statute. For example, a discrimination complaint against a restaurant would generally fall under provincial anti-discrimination legislation and not the Charter. However, the Charter is part of the Constitution and therefore is part of the supreme law of the land. Courts must interpret statutes consistently with the Charter, including human rights laws.[21] In private litigation, including human rights cases, "courts should, from time to time, re-evaluate the consistency of the common law with evolving societal expectations through the lens of Charter values".[22] Equality rights under the Charter therefore will provide guidance for the interpretation of equality rights set out in human rights laws.

In its 1998 decision in Vriend v Alberta, the Supreme Court found the failure of the provincial legislature to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in its human rights law was itself a violation of section 15 Charter rights. As of 2017, all provinces, territories, and the federal government explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination in their human rights acts.

Reasonable limits

The entire Charter is also subject to a general limit in section 1 that allows "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." The Oakes Test sets out the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of this exception. This analysis may consider conflicting Charter rights. For example, the right to equality based on sexual orientation under section 15 may be limited by the freedom of religion under section 2, and vice versa. It may also be limited by the right to denominational (religious) schools under Section 93 of the Constitution.

Enforcement mechanism

In the last decades, the rights of LGBTQ+ Canadians were largely enhanced due to several court decisions decided under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (French: Charte canadienne des droits et libertés), which was included in the Constitution of Canada in 1982, and came into force in 1985.

Some of the cases were funded under the Federal Government's Court Challenges Program,[23] which in 1985 was expanded to fund test cases challenging federal legislation in relation to the equality rights guaranteed by the Charter. There were also funding to challenge provincial laws under a variety of programs, but its availability had differed considerably from province to province.[24]

Notwithstanding

In addition, section 15 is subject to the "notwithstanding clause" of the Charter that allows the federal Parliament and the provincial Legislatures to declare that a law is exempt from certain sections of the Charter for up to five years, which exemption may be renewed any number of times. In 2000, Alberta amended its Marriage Act to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.[25] The law invoked the notwithstanding clause of the Charter, but the amendment was nevertheless invalid since the capacity to marry is a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction according to the Constitution.[26] The notwithstanding clause can only be used to make exceptions to the Charter; it cannot change the federal division of powers. In any case, the five-year exemption period expired in 2005.

The notwithstanding clause has never been used by the federal Parliament. It is generally believed that such a use would constitute a politically embarrassing admission that the law in question should violate human rights.

However, the notwithstanding clause is no gateway for a government to exercise unjust or oppressive uses of political power. Section 33 of the Charter, as the entire Charter, is also subject to section 1,[citation needed] and, as it applies only to sections 2 and 7 to 15, is of no force or effect for overriding section 1.

Division of jurisdiction between federal government and provinces

In addition to the Charter, another significant constitutional factor is the division of authority between the federal government and the provincial governments. Under the Constitution of Canada, some matters are allocated to the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal Parliament, while other matters are allocated to the exclusive jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures. Many of the issues which have direct impact on LGBT rights are under provincial jurisdiction.

Major subjects under federal jurisdiction are the criminal law power, and marriage and divorce. The criminal law power can deal with matters such as hate speech and sentence modifiers for bias motives. In the past, it has been used to criminalise LBGT conduct. The federal jurisdiction over marriage and divorce gives Parliament the power to determine which parties can marry, and also the rules governing divorces, also LGBT issues of interest.

Subjects under provincial jurisdiction include matters such as spousal support for unmarried couples, adoption, filiation of children, vital statistics (including identity documents such as birth certificates), child custody and support, education, housing, health care, pensions and social security. As well, most workplaces fall under provincial jurisdiction.[27]

Human rights law follows this allocation of subjects.[28] The Canadian Human Rights Act is of relatively limited application, applying mainly to the federal government and federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, aviation, and inter-provincial transportation. Provincial human rights laws apply to a much broader range of subjects. Provincial human rights laws apply to most schools, rental housing and health care, and workplaces.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity

Main article: Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968–69

Age of consent

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Canada since 1969. Since June 2019, the general age of consent to sexual activity is 16, the same as the age of consent for heterosexual activity. However, where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency, the age of consent is 18. The relationship must not be exploitative of the young person. Any form of sexual abuse and exploitation is seriously proscribed by law in respect of any person regardless of age. Age of consent laws also provide "close in age" exceptions for youngsters aged 12 through 15. Those exceptions are also subject to the same prohibitions where there is a position of trust or an exploitative relationship.[29]

Anal sex law

During the British North American era, same-sex sexual activity between men was a capital crime.[16] The death penalty was eventually repealed and a broader law involving gross indecency between men was often enforced in the late 19th century.[17]

In June 1969, Parliament passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968–69, which decriminalized sexual activity between men, with an age of consent for anal sex set at 21 years.[30] In 1985, the anal sex provisions in section 159 of the Criminal Code were relaxed, although the age of consent remained 18 years of age unless the parties were husband and wife.[31][32] Section 159 continued to make it a criminal offence to engage in anal intercourse if a third person was present, or if anal intercourse was conducted in a public place.[31][32]

After the enactment of the Charter, courts in Ontario,[33] Quebec,[34] British Columbia,[35] Nova Scotia,[36] and Alberta[37] each independently declared section 159 to be unconstitutional as a violation of the equality provision of the Charter.

On November 15, 2016, the Liberal Government introduced legislation to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code. The bill, C-32, would have ensured that all forms of consensual sexual activity be treated equally under the law, with an equal age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual acts.[38] The bill was later incorporated into a new bill, C-75, which was tabled in late March 2018. Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, a special advisor to the prime minister on LGBTQ2 issues, stated on behalf of the Government: "We heard from the community that section 159 is a piece of archaic legislation that has continued to affect young men, so it's important to get this debated and passed through the house."[39] On June 21, 2019, the bill received royal assent and was enacted as law.[2]

Apology to LGBTQ+ people

On November 28, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal apology in Parliament to members of the LGBTQ+ community:[40]

It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry... To members of the LGBTQ+ communities, young and old, here in Canada and around the world: You are loved. And we support you. To the trailblazers who have lived and struggled, and to those who have fought so hard to get us to this place: thank you for your courage, and thank you for lending your voices. I hope you look back on all you have done with pride. It is because of your courage that we're here today, together, and reminding ourselves that we can, and must, do better. For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologize. On behalf of the government, Parliament, and the people of Canada: We were wrong. We are sorry. And we will never let this happen again.

— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 28 November 2017

On June 21, 2018, the Governor General granted royal assent to the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act (French: Loi sur la radiation de condamnations constituant des injustices historiques).[41][42] The Act allows a person who was convicted of certain homosexual acts prior to their being lawful in 1969, or later on, of anal intercourse under the now repealed section 159 of the Criminal Code, to have the RCMP, and federal departments or agencies, "destroy or remove any judicial record of the conviction". The Act also requires that any provincial or municipal police force, or courts, which were involved in such convictions to be notified of the expungement order.

The Parole Board of Canada has stated that an expungement is different from a record suspension or pardon, which is for those who were duly convicted of a crime.

With expungement, the Government recognizes that those whose record of conviction constitutes a historical injustice should not be viewed as "former offenders." Their conviction was for an act that should never have been a crime and had the conviction occurred today, it would likely be inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If an application for expungement is approved, federal records of that conviction will be destroyed or removed. Unlike a record suspension/pardon, expungement is also available to those both living and deceased.[43]

One commentator stated that while a pardon is about the Queen forgiving someone for doing something wrong, an expungement means: "The Queen did something wrong. Will you forgive her?"[44]

Police chiefs of Canada apology

In December 2020, Police chiefs of Canada made a formal apology - for the decades of oppression and opposition towards homosexuality and LGBT rights within the 1960s through to today across Canada.[45]

We felt on the International Day of Human Rights this year was the right opportunity for us to make the apology, to reconcile our past, and to begin the healing process moving forward. On behalf of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I want to sincerely apologize for the harm we caused by not fully supporting Two-spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Communities. We now have a better understanding of the impact that specific laws, policies and decisions had on the community and how we contributed to institutional bias, intolerance, and the violation of human rights. We acknowledge the pain our actions have caused, the personal suffering, shame and trauma our public positions contributed to, and the deep distrust and divide that was created by the positions we took. We take responsibility for our past wrongdoings and, on behalf of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I am sorry.[46]

— Bryan Larkin, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, 10 December 2020

It is critical for all Canadian police services to show support to Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Transgender, and Queer (2SLGBTQ+) members within communities and organizations across Canada. We must stand together against homophobia, transphobia, and any other kind of marginalization, shaming, disrespect or hate. To ensure the national strategic priority would be translated into tangible and practical actions, the CACP created the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee with a mandate to support efforts to create and enhance police practices that promote fairness, equity and inclusion through the identification, mitigation and elimination of the impact of implicit bias and discrimination in practices and policies that may support systemic barriers, and to promote the advancement of diversity within policing institutions. It is essential for police organizations to recognize the impact of their words and actions. While we have improved to better practice and uphold principles of equity, diversity and human rights, there is still much work to be done and the CACP is working hard to support police organizations across the country in their efforts to champion the systemic changes that need to be made to create an inclusive and equitable society for all.[47]

— Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie & Suelyn Knight, Co-chairs of the CACP Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, 10 December 2020

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex marriage

Main article: Same-sex marriage in Canada

Provincial initiatives

Even before 2005, when Parliament enacted the Civil Marriage Act implementing same-sex marriage across the country, same-sex relationships were already recognized by many provinces, as some provincial statutes were already assigning the same rights and obligations to same-sex and opposite-sex couples living together.

In 2001, Saskatchewan enacted a pair of statutes relating to domestic relations. The two acts amended all provincial statutes which related to the rights and obligations of common law couples, and applied them equally to all common law couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex couples.[48][49]

In 2002, Quebec addressed the situation of conjoints de fait (de facto spouses), both same-sex and opposite-sex. The National Assembly amended the Civil Code of Quebec to provide same-sex and opposite-sex couples with an all-encompassing solution, the most extensive possible within provincial jurisdiction. The amendments created a legal status of civil unions.[50] Couples who choose to form such a union, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, benefit from the same effects as those of marriage, "as regards the direction of the family, the exercise of parental authority, contribution towards expenses, the family residence, the family patrimony and the compensatory allowance."[51] Since then, in addition to being bound to share a community of life, and owing each other respect, fidelity, succour and assistance, civil union spouses have the same rights, duties and obligations as married couples. However, unlike marriage, which is under federal jurisdiction, a civil union is valid only in Quebec, and may not be recognized outside of the province. The couple may be faced with unexpected problems if they are outside Quebec.[52]

Court decisions

Between 2002 and 2005, courts in several provinces and one territory ruled that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples is a form of discrimination that is prohibited by Section 15 of the Charter. The courts struck down the common law definition of marriage used under federal law, and held that same-sex couples had the right to marry in those jurisdictions. Trial courts deferred the effect of their rulings, to allow the federal government time to consider whether it would enact legislation or appeal the decisions. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal in its decision held that the new definition came into effect immediately in Ontario.[53] Courts in other provinces and one territory followed that approach, with the result that those Canadian jurisdictions became the third in the world to allow same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. By July 2005, same-sex marriages were legally recognized in all provinces and territories except Alberta, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, encompassing over 85% of Canada's population.

Federal government response

"March of Hearts" rally for same-sex marriage in Canada on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 6, 2004
"March of Hearts" rally for same-sex marriage in Canada on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 6, 2004

The Federal Government announced in the summer of 2003 that it would not appeal the decisions, and would draft legislation to allow same-sex marriages across the country. The bill was put before the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that it would withstand a Charter challenge by those who oppose same-sex marriage. In December 2004, the Supreme Court declared the proposed definition of "marriage" as being consistent with respect to all matters referred to in the Charter, and as falling within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada.[26]

Parliament passed the bill on July 20, 2005, making Canada the fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and the first to do so without a residency requirement.[54]

Public opinion

One study by Mark W. Lehman suggests that between 1997 and 2004, Canadian public opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage underwent a dramatic shift: moving from minority support to majority support and that this support was the result of a significant shift in positive feelings towards gays and lesbians.[55]

Adoption

Main article: LGBT parenting in Canada

The first province to allow adoption of children by same-sex couples in Canada was British Columbia in 1996.[56] Since then, adoption by same-sex couples has been legalized in Ontario (1999),[57] Nova Scotia (2001),[58] Saskatchewan (2001),[48] Newfoundland and Labrador (2002),[59] Quebec (2002),[50] Manitoba (2002),[60] the Northwest Territories (2002)[61][62] and Yukon (2003).[63] In Alberta, stepchild adoption was legalized in 1999.[64][65][66] Eight years later, in 2007, joint adoption became legal in Alberta.[67] New Brunswick legalized joint adoption in 2008,[64][68] while Prince Edward Island did so in 2009.[69] Nunavut legalized adoption by same-sex couples in 2011, and thus became the last province or territory in Canada to do so.[70] Three provinces (British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan) will grant parental status to three or more intentional parents allowing for a wider range of queer and trans families. These parents may be in addition or in place of the birth parent. However, some find the "law operated within some strong normative constraints."[71]

Discrimination and harassment protections

See also: Transgender rights in Canada

Enforcement mechanism

The Federal Government and every province and territory in Canada have enacted human rights acts that prohibit discrimination and harassment on several grounds (e.g. race, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation) in private and public sector employment, housing, public services and publicity. Some acts also apply to additional activities. These acts are quasi-constitutional laws that override ordinary laws as well as regulations, contracts and collective agreements.[72] They stand by the rule that every person has the right to the equal benefit of the law. They are typically enforced by human rights commissions and tribunals through a complaint investigation, conciliation and arbitration process that is slow, but free, and includes protection against retaliation. A lawyer is not required.

Anti-discrimination definitions

Sexual orientation is not defined in any human rights act, but is widely interpreted as meaning heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. It does not include transgender people.[73] The Federal Court of Canada has stated that sexual orientation "is a precise legal concept that deals specifically with an individual's preference in terms of gender" in sexual relationships, and is not vague or overly broad.[74]

As of 2017, all human rights acts include "gender expression" and/or "gender identity" as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Previously, human rights tribunals had interpreted their human rights acts as including gender identity and gender expression under the category of "sex" as a prohibited ground for discrimination.[75][76][77]

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has adopted the following definition:

Sexual orientation is more than simply a 'status' that an individual possesses; it is an immutable personal characteristic that forms part of an individual's core identity. Sexual orientation encompasses the range of human sexuality from gay and lesbian to bisexual and heterosexual orientations.[78]

And defines gender identity and gender expression as follows:

Gender identity is each person's internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person's gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person's sexual orientation. Gender expression is how a person publicly presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person's chosen name and pronoun(s) are also common ways of expressing gender.[77]

Similar definitions exist in other provinces' Human rights commissions, for example, Quebec's Commission defines sexual orientation as the emotional or sexual attraction to someone, and, as a personal characteristic, as being permanent or difficult to change.[79]

All human rights laws in Canada also explicitly prohibit discrimination based on disability, which has been interpreted to include AIDS, ARC and being HIV-positive, and membership in a high-risk group for HIV infection.[19]

Federal law

Main article: Canadian Human Rights Act

On June 20, 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA; French: Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne) was amended to include sexual orientation as a protected ground. The CHRA guarantees the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment and an environment free from discrimination in employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities or accommodation within federal jurisdiction, such as federal departments and agencies, the Canadian Armed Force, banks, radio and television stations, airlines, and interprovincial transportation facilities.

Attempts to add "gender identity and expression" as protected grounds began when NDP MP Bill Siksay introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons in 2005. When it failed to pass before Parliament was dissolved, he reintroduced the bill in 2006 and again in 2009, with additional provisions to add gender identity and expression to the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.[80] In February 2011, it passed third reading in the House of Commons with support from all parties, but was not considered in the Senate before Parliament was dissolved for the 41st Canadian federal election. Similar bills were introduced in the next Parliament, and Randall Garrison's bill was passed in the House of Commons, but it died on the Senate order paper when the 2015 federal election was called.[81]

In May 2016, the government introduced An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, to add "gender identity or expression" in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.[82] In June 2017, the Canadian Parliament passed the bill and it received royal assent a week later. The law went into effect immediately.[83][84][85]

Provincial and territorial laws

In 1977, the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which is both a charter of rights and a human and youth rights act, was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and later harassment, in 1982. Thus, the province of Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the world larger than a city or county to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, and harassment (including but not limited to mockery, insult, bullying, and intimidation at school, or at work), in the private and public sectors. The law was later amended to include gender identity and gender expression in 2016.[86] Since 2008, Quebec's Ministry of Justice has specifically been assigned for the fight against homophobia, so as to perform full social acceptance among and within Quebec's population. "The mandate of the Bureau de lutte contre l'homophobie is to oversee the implementation, monitoring and assessment of the Government Action Plan against Homophobia," which "promotes respect for the rights of sexual minority members," and sets down "the creation of safe, inclusive environments," as one of its five priorities.[87][88]

In 1984, in Manitoba, LGBT activists pushed for inclusion of protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation with tactics including a 59-day hunger strike by Richard North.[89] In 1987, Manitoba passed the Human Rights Code which included protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation.[90]

In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled in Vriend v. Alberta that the exclusion of sexual orientation from human rights acts was a violation of section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sexual orientation was thus protected by law under every jurisdiction in Canada. In 2009, Alberta became the last jurisdiction in Canada to add "sexual orientation" to its human rights code.

Since June 2017, all provincial and territorial human rights legislation explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, and some also explicitly include gender expression.[91]

LGBT discrimination protections table

Jurisdiction Sexual orientation Gender identity Gender expression Conversion therapy ban
Canada (federal) Yes
(since 1996)
Yes
(since 2017)[85]
Yes
(since 2017)[85]
Yes — Nationwide
(Since 7 January 2022)[92]
Alberta Yes
(since 2009)[93]
Yes
(since 2015)[94]
Yes
(since 2015)
Banned in some municipalities prior to enactment of federal ban: Strathcona County,[95] St. Albert,[96] and Edmonton[97] since 2019; Calgary,[98] Lethbridge,[99] the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,[100] and Spruce Grove[101] since 2020; and Fort Saskatchewan, and Strathmore[102] since 2021.[103]
British Columbia Yes
(since 1992)
Yes
(since 2016)[94][104]
Yes
(since 2016)
Banned in Vancouver since 2018, prior to enactment of federal ban.[105]
Manitoba Yes
(since 1987)
Yes
(since 2012)[106]
Yes
(Not explicitly included but implicitly included since at least 2016)[107]
Banned provincially since 2015, prior to enactment of federal ban.[108]
New Brunswick Yes
(since 1992)[94]
Yes
(since 2017)[109]
Yes
(since 2017)[109]
No provincial legislation prior to enactment of federal ban
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes
(since 1995)
Yes
(since 2013)[94]
Yes
(since 2013)[110]
No provincial legislation prior to enactment of federal ban
Nova Scotia Yes
(since 1991)
Yes
(since 2012)[111]
Yes
(since 2012)
Banned provincially since September 25, 2018, prior to enactment of federal ban.[112]
Ontario Yes
(since 1986)[113]
Yes
(since 2012)[114][115]
Yes
(since 2012)
Banned provincially since 2015, prior to enactment of federal ban.[116]
Prince Edward Island Yes
(since 1998)
Yes
(since 2013)[117]
Yes
(since 2013)
Banned provincially since 2019, prior to enactment of federal ban[118]
Quebec Yes
(since 1977)
Yes
(since 2016)[86]
Yes
(since 2016)
Banned provincially since 2020, prior to enactment of federal ban[119]
Saskatchewan Yes
(since 1993)
Yes
(since 2014)[120]
Yes
(since 2016)
Banned in two municipalities since 2021, prior to enactment of federal ban: Saskatoon[121] and Regina[122]
Northwest Territories Yes
(since 2002)
Yes
(since 2002)
Yes
(since 2019)[123]
No territorial legislation prior to enactment of federal ban
Nunavut Yes
(since 1999)
Yes
(since 2017)[124]
Yes
(since 2017)
No territorial legislation prior to enactment of federal ban
Yukon Yes
(since 1987)
Yes
(since 2017)[125][126]
Yes
(since 2017)[126]
Banned territorially since 2020, prior to enactment of federal ban[127][128]

Activities where equality guaranteed

Accordingly, discrimination, including harassment, based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV/AIDS status is prohibited throughout Canada in private and public sector employment, housing, services provided to the public and publicity. All aspects of employment are covered, including benefits for spouses and long-term partners. Examples of services include credit, insurance, government programs, hotels and schools open to the public. Schools open to the public are liable for anti-gay name-calling and bullying by students or staff.[129] LGBT Canadians have been allowed to serve in the military since the Douglas case was settled in 1992.[130]

Prohibited discrimination occurs not only when someone is treated less favourably or is harassed based on a prohibited ground, but also when a uniform policy or practice has a perhaps unintended disproportionately adverse effect based on the ground. This is called "adverse effect discrimination."[131] For example, it might in theory be discriminatory for schools open to the public to require parental consent for student participation in all school clubs, assuming that students are less likely to ask for or get permission to participate in gay–straight alliance clubs.

Exceptions

Human rights acts have no exceptions specifically for sexual orientation or gender identity, however, human rights acts typically include an exception for "bona fide requirements" or qualifications that applies to most grounds (e.g. sex, sexual orientation, disability), but only when the stringent requirements of the Meiorin Test are met.

Since human rights acts are quasi-constitutional laws, it is not possible for job applicants or unions, for example, to sign away equality rights.[72] However, other laws may explicitly say that they apply notwithstanding a human rights act. Furthermore, some collective agreements include broad non-discrimination provisions that actually expand upon the rights listed in human rights acts.

Schools and other educational institutions

Some schools have gay–straight alliances or similar groups to counter homophobia and bullying and provide support for LGBT students in school.
Some schools have gay–straight alliances or similar groups to counter homophobia and bullying and provide support for LGBT students in school.

The rights of LGBT students and staff in an educational institution vary considerably depending on whether the institution is religious and/or open to the public, since human rights acts only partially prohibit discrimination against pupils of private schools and the Charter only partly prohibits discrimination by churches, associations and businesses, while section 2 of the Charter protects freedom of religion and section 93 of the Constitution recognizes the right to denominational schools in some provinces.

The curriculum of public schools, particularly in British Columbia, are now being amended to incorporate LGBT topics. In reality, implementation of curriculum varies from school division to school division and often from teacher to teacher.

Religious educational institutions may in many cases discriminate based on sexual orientation against students and staff according to religious doctrine. Nevertheless, if they rent facilities to the general public on a commercial basis without regard to their religion, they may not refuse to rent them to LGBT groups.[132] Controversially, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favour of denying accreditation to a religious university in 2018, due to its policies banning students who have had gay sex or sex outside of marriage.[133]

However, most educational institutions, including privately owned schools open to the general public, are public services. They are subject to human rights acts and are strictly required to not discriminate against staff or students based on all the prohibited grounds, including sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS (and gender identity, see Grounds of prohibited discrimination above). They are strictly liable for harassment, name-calling and bullying of students and staff by staff on these grounds. In addition, as a result of the Jubran decision,[129] they are liable for most such behaviour by students. They may be liable for anti-gay bullying even if the victim is not gay, nor believed to be (e.g. when a bully knowingly makes a false claim that a girl is a lesbian so that she will be ostracized or bullied by others or pressured to have sex with a boy to prove otherwise).

Furthermore, it may not be enough for schools to progressively discipline bullies when this is ineffective. Schools are responsible for providing an educational environment that is free from discriminatory harassment, and this may require them to provide "resources to adopt a broader, educative approach to deal with the difficult issues of harassment, homophobia and discrimination."[129]

Public education governance bodies may place limits on the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion rights of teachers and school counsellors with respect to statements they may make regarding LGBT issues, both on and off the job. Teachers and school counsellors are considered to hold positions of trust and influence over young people and are required to ensure that their public statements do not impair public confidence in the school system or create an unwelcoming or intolerant school environment.[134][135][136]

In 2012, Ontario passed the Accepting Schools Act, which was enacted after growing concern regarding bullying behaviours and several tragic suicides of bullied students. The legislation is intended to identity and prevent bullying, which includes LGBT students, and provide resources and support for educators and students as they deal with bullying incidents.[137][138] Under the act, bullying is defined as repeated and aggressive behaviour by a pupil where, 1) the behaviour is intended by the pupil to cause, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to cause, harm, fear or distress to another individual, including psychological harm or harm to the individual's reputation and 2) the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, race, disability or the receipt of special education. Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Yukon have also enacted similar anti-bullying laws. Other provinces, including British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have established policies and action plans regarding bullying in schools.[139]

On June 18, 2020, the employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights revealed that its management would sometimes ask staff not to show any gay content on tours at the request of certain guests, including religious school groups.[140]

Hate speech and propaganda

Federal laws

The Criminal Code explicitly forbids communicating hate propaganda[141] against members of identifiable groups, which includes members of the public distinguished by sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.[142] Members of identifiable groups are thus protected against hate speech and publications. In addition to the prohibition on hate publications, the Criminal Code also provides against defamatory libel. Everyone, including LGBT people, is protected against defamatory libels, especially through books, pamphlets, newspapers and the open Web, that are "likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published",[143] either directly, by insinuation or irony, by words or otherwise.[citation needed] The Criminal Code also criminalises the act of advocating genocide, again against members of identifiable groups.[141]

Hate speech is also prohibited by regulations passed under the Broadcasting Act. Where a station, network or undertaking is operated for radio purposes, television broadcasting or discretionary services, "a licensee shall not broadcast programming that contains ... any abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of sexual orientation; any false or misleading news".[144][145][146]

Provincial and territorial laws

There are also prohibitions on hate publications in three provinces and one territory.[147] Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories have enacted prohibitions on hate publications in their human rights legislation. Alberta's law prohibits hate publications based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex and sexual orientation.[148] British Columbia prohibits hate publications based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.[149] Saskatchewan prohibits hate publications based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity,[150] while the Northwest Territories law prohibits hate publications based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.[151]

Supreme Court decisions

In R v Keegstra, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the criminal prohibition on hate propaganda, while in R v Lucas it upheld the offence of defamatory libel. The Supreme Court has upheld the prohibition on hate publications in human rights laws in two cases, Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor, and Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v Whatcott.

Conversion therapy

The 2014 edition of Pride Toronto
The 2014 edition of Pride Toronto

See also: Sexual orientation change efforts

"Conversion therapy," also known as "reparative therapy," refers to widely debunked and abusive medical, spiritual and psychological practices that falsely claim to be able to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression. Such practices were rejected and condemned by every mainstream medical and mental health organization, including the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society, citing potential harm and lack of efficacy.[152][153][154][155][156][157]

The law makes it a crime to subject a person of any age, consenting or not, to such treatment.[158] Conversion therapy is any attempt to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. However, because the practice has come under increasing scrutiny, a practice Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called 'despicable and degrading', providers frequently change their terminology to avoid detection. Some of those terms can seem relatively harmless at first glance. Here are a few examples: Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE); Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy (SAFE-T); Eliminating, reducing or decreasing frequency or intensity of unwanted Same-Sex Attraction (SSA); Reparative therapy; Sexual reorientation efforts; Ex-gay ministry; Promoting healthy sexuality; Addressing sexual addictions and disorders; Sexuality counseling; Encouraging relational and sexual wholeness; Healing sexual brokenness.[159]

Federal law

Parliament passed An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) (initially referred to as Bill C-4), in December 2021. The House of Commons gave unanimous consent to a motion that the bill be deemed to have been referred to a Committee of the Whole, read and passed through at all stages, on December 1, 2021. The Senate followed on December 7, 2021. The bill received royal assent the following day on December 8, and came into force on January 7, 2022.[92]

The Act imposes criminal penalties on anyone causing another person to undergo conversion therapy, removing a child from Canada to perform conversion therapy, advertising or promoting conversion therapy, and benefiting financially from conversion therapy. The Act includes both sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in its definition of conversion therapy, and protects both adults and minors.

An earlier bill that would have banned conversion therapy (Bill C-6) had passed the House of Commons in June 2021, but did not pass the Senate before Parliament was dissolved ahead of the September 2021 election.[160][161] Unlike C-4, the ban in C-6 would not have extended to adults.[162]

Provincial and territorial laws

In 2012, the professional order for Quebec psychologists (l'Ordre des psychologues du Québec) reaffirmed "its position that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder", and that it "opposes portrayals of sexual minority youths and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation".[163] Any complaints concerning aversive therapies, whether it be conducted by religious, professional or other practitioners, would be filed with either one of the professional orders and/or Quebec's Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, under the harassment clause, section 10.1 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,[164] or under the psychological ill-treatment clause, section 38 of the Youth Protection Act.[165] "No ideological or other consideration, including one based on a concept of honour, can justify any situation described in section 38".[166] In October 2020, the Quebec Government introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy.[119] It was passed unanimously on 9 December 2020 and given Royal assent on 11 December 2020. The Act provides that any person having undergone such therapy, that is, through spiritual or non-spiritual practice, service or treatment, may obtain reparation for the resulting injury.[167] In Quebec, an action for damages for bodily injury resulting from conversion therapy, cannot be prescribed anyway; such therapy, within the meaning of the Civil Code of Québec, constituting a criminal offence as violent behaviour suffered during childhood.[168] As a result, conversion therapy was made punishable and remediable by law in Quebec on December 11, 2020.[169]

On May 22, 2015, Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady announced measures to stop conversion therapy in Manitoba. Blady said the province's Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation – including how health care services are provided.[170] Blady also stated that "it is the position of the Manitoba Government that conversion therapy can have no place in the province's public health-care system."[171]

In June 2015, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act (Bill 77) was made law in the province of Ontario. The act bans conversion therapy on minors and forbids it from being funded under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan public health care for anyone, of any age. The bill was introduced by Cheri DiNovo, a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party, and passed the Legislative Assembly with the support of all three major political parties.[172]

On June 6, 2018, the Vancouver City Council unanimously voted to prohibit conversion therapy by businesses, regardless of age. The business licence bylaw applies to all licence holders, including religious groups.[173][105]

Three bills (one each from the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, the Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party) to ban the pseudoscientific and abusive practice were introduced in Nova Scotia.[174][175] On September 25, 2018, the Nova Scotia House of Assembly passed the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, the Liberal Party bill, with the unanimous support of all parties. The legislation received royal assent on 11 October and went into effect immediately. The act provides measures similar to Ontario's legislation, both in terms of prohibiting professionals from performing the therapy on minors, and prohibiting public funds from paying for the procedures for everyone regardless of age. However, Nova Scotia's age limit is set at 19 instead of 18, and its exception for competent consenting individuals has a minimum age limit of 16, whereas Ontario's act doesn't set any specific minimum limit with respect to competent consenting individuals. Nova Scotia's legislation also prohibits persons in a position of trust or authority (such as a religious leader) from making efforts aimed at changing the orientation or gender identity of a person under 19 years of age.[176]

In November 2018, Prince Edward Island MLAs unanimously passed a motion expressing support for a conversion therapy ban. The non-binding motion was brought to the floor by Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker. Health Minister Robert Mitchell argued to the best of his knowledge that conversion therapy is not practiced in the province. A queer rights advocate said he would like to see the province take the next step and introduce legislation.[177] In November 2019, MLAs unanimously passed the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection in Health Care Act. The bill, as supported by the Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island, was a collaboration between Health Minister James Aylward and Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker. The bill was granted royal assent on November 28 and went into effect immediately. The act is a combination of the legislation of Ontario and that of Nova Scotia, however, Prince Edward Island's legislation has used the age of 18 across the board whereas Nova Scotia's legislation uses the age of 16 for some aspects.[178]

In March 2020, the Yukon Government introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors.[179] It was passed and given Royal Assent on 9 November 2020.[127][180]

Intersex rights

Main article: Intersex rights in Canada

For Intersex Awareness Day in October 2018, Egale Canada published a statement calling on the Canadian Government to protect the rights of intersex persons, fulfilling "treaty body obligations under international law," and accompanied by a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture. The statement referred to Criminal Code [s. 268(3)], stating that it "allows for parents and medical practitioners to undertake nonconsensual, cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants".[181][182] In May 2019, the Canadian Bar Association made a similar call.[183]

Since 2017, besides male and female, Canadian passports have been available with an "X" sex descriptor.[184] In June 2019, Canadian authorities announced that non-binary people may also apply to have an "X" gender marker.[185]

Birth certificates in Canada are issued by provincial and territorial officials. As of 2019, Alberta, British Columbia,[186] New Brunswick,[187] Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories,[188] Nova Scotia,[189] Ontario, and Yukon allow for a "third gender" option ("X"). Some provinces, namely Ontario and Saskatchewan, also offer citizens the option of not displaying the sex field at all.

In January 2021, rights pertaining to the designation of sex in the Quebec register of civil status - for transgender, non-binary and intersex people - were upheld as a result of a ruling by the Quebec Superior Court.[190]

Blood and tissue donation

See also: Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy

Since 2019, Canada has had a three-month deferral period before men who have sex with men could donate blood.[191] On April 28,2022, Health Canada announced that it had accepted a request by Canadian Blood Services to change that policy and eliminate the three-month waiting period for gay and bi men, for donations of both blood and plasma. Instead, Canadian Blood services will implement a new screening policy for all donors, regardless of sexuality or gender, to identify individuals who have engaged in high-risk sexual activities. Individuals who have anal sex with more than one person will still be required to undergo the three-month deferral period. The new policy will take effect by September 30, 2022.[192][193]

The new policy will not apply in Quebec initially, since Canadian Blood Services does not operate in Quebec. The blood donation service in Quebec, Héma-Québec, has announced that it will apply to Health Canada to eliminate the waiting period in two steps, for plasma donations in the fall of 2022, and blood donations in the spring of 2023.[194] In the meantime, "residents of Quebec can donate at any Canadian Blood Services donor centre in Canada, though Canadian Blood Services does not operate centres within the province of Quebec."[195] Any blood donation made at a Héma-Québec donor centre will be acknowledged as part of a Canadian Blood Services donation count. Both blood banks collaborate with and maintain close links to each other, complying with Health Canada safety standards.[196]

Currently, the Semen Regulations under Canada's Food and Drug Act only allow specific men to donate semen. Restricted men include any man who has had sex with another man since 1977.

Extraterritoriality of LGBT rights

The Criminal Code applies throughout Canada and creates penalty for offences committed outside Canada, including against LGBT rights, as if they were committed in Canada, especially on board of an aircraft or a ship, or on any means of transportation to or from the Space Station. This includes any act, anywhere, that would constitute an indictable offence and a terrorist activity, as defined in the Code, for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, against a segment of the public and a Canadian citizen.[197]

Global Affairs Canada offers advice and information on safe LGBT travel abroad,[198] and can provide consular assistance and support, discrimination-free, to Canadian citizens, should they be in trouble or need help abroad.[199]

LGBT issues in international politics

Main article: LGBT refugees and asylum seekers in Canada

In 2008, Canada was part of the Joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered in the United Nations General Assembly, on behalf of 66 countries. Section 6 reads:

We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.[200]

Thereafter, in 2011, Canada was also part of a joint statement delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on behalf of 85 countries, for "ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity".[201] It recalled the 2008 Joint statement. Section 9 reads:

We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms

LGBT influence in national politics

See also: List of the first LGBT holders of political offices in Canada

Justin Trudeau at the 2015 Vancouver Pride parade, shortly after launching his election campaign
Justin Trudeau at the 2015 Vancouver Pride parade, shortly after launching his election campaign

In the House of Commons, four parties support LGBT rights with varying degrees. The New Democratic Party, Green Party, Bloc Québécois, and Liberal Party of Canada are the most vocal supporters of these rights. At its founding, the Conservative Party of Canada was largely opposed to LGBT rights, although some members, typically former members of the Progressive Conservative Party, have supported LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. Former members of the Canadian Alliance (CA) have generally opposed expanded LGBT rights, and a former CA MP was rebuked for calls to re-criminalize homosexuality.[202]

Since 2006, the Conservative Party has become a stronger advocate for LGBT rights in Canada and abroad.[203] In May 2016, Conservative Party delegates voted in favour of removing the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman from the party's official policy document, effectively changing the party's official position on same-sex marriage from opposed to neutral.[204][205][206]

The Liberal Party at the Montreal Marche des Fiertés
The Liberal Party at the Montreal Marche des Fiertés

Svend Robinson is notable for having been the first MP to come out as gay, in spring 1988. He has since been followed by other gay and lesbian politicians in Parliament: fellow New Democrats Libby Davies, Bill Siksay, Philip Toone, Craig Scott and Dany Morin; Bloc Québécois MPs Réal Ménard and Raymond Gravel; and Liberal Party of Canada MPs Scott Brison, Mario Silva and Rob Oliphant, as well as Senators Laurier LaPierre and Nancy Ruth.

As of 2019, there are four members of the House of Commons and two senators who openly identify as gay or lesbian.

Chris Lea, leader of the Green Party of Canada from 1990 to 1996, was the first openly gay political party leader in Canada. Svend Robinson became in 1995 the first openly gay candidate for the leadership of a political party with representation in the House of Commons, although he was not successful. André Boisclair, the former leader of the Parti Québécois, became the first openly gay leader of a party with parliamentary representation in North America; Allison Brewer, former leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party, was also elected leader as an out lesbian.

The following provinces have had openly gay provincial cabinet ministers:[207] Ontario (Kathleen Wynne, George Smitherman, Glen Murray), British Columbia (Tim Stevenson, Lorne Mayencourt, Ted Nebbeling), and Manitoba (Jim Rondeau, Jennifer Howard). On January 26, 2013, Kathleen Wynne became the leader of the Liberal party of Ontario and premier of that province (the largest of the country's thirteen provinces and territories, with approximately 39% of the country's population). Following the Ontario provincial election in 2014, Kathleen Wynne became the first openly gay leader to be elected with a majority mandate in all the commonwealth jurisdictions.[208]

ProudPolitics, a cross-partisan organization dedicated to providing networking and fundraising assistance to LGBT politicians and candidates inspired by the American Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, was established in Toronto in 2013.[209]

On November 15, 2016, Randy Boissonnault, Liberal MP for Edmonton Centre, was named Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 issues to the Prime Minister. The role involves advising the Prime Minister "on the development and co-ordination of the Government of Canada's LGBTQ2 agenda" including protecting LGBT rights in Canada and addressing both present and historical discrimination.[210]

On April 23, 2019, the Royal Canadian Mint launched a new dollar coin symbolizing equality with 3 million loonies placed into circulation to commemorate 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Canada.[211]

In August 2019, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson came out as gay in an op-ed to the Ottawa Citizen.[212]

Canada Pride Citation

The Canada Pride Citation Insignia of Honour and Badge.
The Canada Pride Citation Insignia of Honour and Badge.

In 2018, Canadian Member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault unveiled the Canada Pride Citation, a badge designed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority to be worn by LGBT members of the Canadian Armed Forces as a form of reparation for injustices historically committed against the community.[213][214]

On the subject of the Citation, General Jonathan Vance said:[213]

For many years, LGBTQ2 Canadians committed to serving Canada by wearing the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces despite knowing they could be persecuted for just being themselves. That took courage, and as an institution, we didn't recognize it and we didn't defend them. The Canada Pride Citation, which can be worn proudly on our uniform, is as an enduring symbol of our acknowledgement of past injustices and our commitment to ensure that this dark chapter in our history never happens again.

Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of National Defense, noted:[213]

With the Canada Pride Citation, we are acknowledging the historic unjust treatment of LGBTQ2 people, and the harm that it did. And we are recognizing the incredible depth of the commitment LGBTQ2 people showed to serving Canada, despite systemic discrimination. This citation is a symbol of our ongoing responsibility and determination to address barriers and make sure everyone feels safe and welcome being their whole selves.

Summary table

Right Status Note
Same-sex sexual activity legal
Yes
Since 1969
Equal age of consent (16)
Yes
Since 2019, nationwide
Romeo and Juliet laws apply equally to same-sex couples as to opposite sex-couples
Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment
Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (including indirect discrimination)
Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in housing, health insurance, facilities and public accommodations
Yes
/
No
Anti-discrimination laws in schools, colleges and education
Yes
/
No
Anti-discrimination laws in hospitals and homeless shelters
Yes
/
No
Anti-discrimination laws covering sex characteristics, gender identity and expression in all areas
Yes
/
No
[citation needed]
Federally: Since 2017; for gender identity and expression only
Prohibitions on hate speech
Yes
Federally: Criminal Code offence since 2004
Hate crime laws inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity
Yes
Same-sex marriage
Yes
Nationwide since 2005
Recognition of same-sex couples
Yes
Varies with jurisdiction
Stepchild and joint adoptions by same-sex couples
Yes
Governed by provincial laws across the entire nation
Adoption by single people regardless of sexual orientation
Yes
International adoption by individuals regardless of marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity
Yes
Canada allows single individuals and LGBTQ+ individuals to adopt. However, many LGBTQ+ individuals and parents face bigotry from countries that do not want single individuals or LGBTQ+ individuals to adopt, instead they favor a family structure that includes a mother and a father.
LGBT anti-discrimination law in adoption, custody, and visitation rights
Emblem-question.svg
Paid family leave for same-sex parents and couples
Yes
Since 2018[215]
LGBTQ+ people allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
Since 1992; see Sexual orientation and the Canadian military
Transvestities allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
LGBTQ+ individuals allowed to serve openly in government including law enforcement
Yes
LGBT rights and protections expanded to include LGBTQIA+
Yes
/
No
Conjugal visits for same-sex couples
Yes
Eligible visitors, who may not themselves be prison inmates, are: spouse, or common-law partner of at least six months[citation needed]
Right to change legal gender
Yes
Since 2017,[citation needed] none of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada require sex reassignment surgery for changes to sex markers on government forms. More precise regulations vary by province and territory, respectively.
Automatic parenthood for same-sex spouses after birth
Emblem-question.svg
Legal access to single gender-neutral bathrooms
Yes
/
No
Available in British Columbia; unknown in rest of Provinces, Territories and Federal level
Coverage for sex reassignment surgery
Yes
Available on a nationwide level since 2022 [216]
Transgender people allowed to participate in the sport of their gender identity and use restrooms and other gender-segregated spaces that correspond to their gender identity
Yes
Since 2018[citation needed]
Single-person restrooms with gender-segregated signage (and a lock) are given new signs saying "All-Gender Restroom" (by policy/law)
Yes
/
No
Gender confirmation surgery, puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and other transition-related healthcare for transgender people required to be covered under health insurance and provincial Medicare policies
Emblem-question.svg
LGBTQ+ education
Emblem-question.svg
Third gender option
Yes
Federally since 2017
Anti-bullying legislation in schools and colleges
Yes
/
No
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures
No
The criminal code [s. 268(3)] allows for parents and medical practitioners to undertake nonconsensual, cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants.
Intersex characteristics declassified as a physical deformity
No
Intersex individuals protected from discrimination on the basis of sex characteristics
No
Intersex individuals have recognition of their rights to physical integrity and bodily autonomy
No
Invasive surgical procedures banned for all ages
No
Discrimination against Intersex or non-binary persons is interpreted to be a violation of anti-discrimination laws when gender identity and/or sex is enumerated as a protected class
Yes
/
No
Legal recognition of non-binary gender
Yes
The recognition of non-binary people by provincial governments varies across Canada. All provinces and territories have removed requirements for surgery, but many still do rely on a medical model of transness
Legal recognition of non-binary gender on Canadian passports
Yes
Since 2019
Homosexuality declassified as an illness
Yes
Since 1973
Transgender identity declassified as an illness
Yes
/
No
Some Canadian provinces/territories are using DSM 5, others continue to use DSM 4 (Approval for ICD-11 is pending)
Transvestism declassified as an illness
Yes
/
No
Conversion therapy banned
Yes
Federally from 7 January 2022[217]
Religious counseling (Pastoral counseling) in relation to conversion therapy banned
No
Gay panic and trans panic defences banned in court
No
[citation needed]
Allowing trans-women in homeless shelters for women, to serve time in women's prisons and in women's changing rooms
Yes
/
No
Trans-women are allowed to serve time in federal women's prisons since December 27, 2017. Unknown on Provincial level.
Teaching same-sex sexual health
Emblem-question.svg
Access to IVF/Artifical Insemenation for lesbians
Yes
Equal access to surrogacy for all couples
Yes
Since 2004, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act has prohibited commercial surrogacy for all couples (regardless of sexual orientation).[218] However, altruistic surrogacy is permitted and surrogate mothers may be reimbursed for some expenses. Quebec law allows neither altruistic nor commercial surrogacy (but doesn't explicitly forbid it, and Quebec has reimbursed gay men for surrogacy costs).[219]
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
No
Commercial surrogacy is prohibited for all couples, regardless of sexual orientation
Gay males reimbursed for surrogacy costs
No
Sexual orientation and gender identity allowed as grounds for asylum
Yes
Prohibition on the detention of immigrants on the basis of their LGBT identity.
No
Prohibition of deportations of LGBT immigrants back to countries with the death penalty for homosexuality
No
Canadian census counts number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and recognizes a non-binary gender or Intersex option
Yes
LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination law in prisons, juvenile halls, and immigration detention centers, including but not limited to transgender people required to be housed according to their gender identity and coverage of transition care
Yes
/
No
Since 2017 transgender individuals can be housed in federal prisons according to their gender identity. Unknown on Provincial level.
Gay criminal records expunged
Yes
Since 2018[220]
Apology to LGBTQ+ people
Yes
Employment Equity Act include reference to sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender, gender identity and gender expression
No
Individuals allowed to run for and hold political office regardless of their sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender and gender identity
Yes
/
No
Unknown about rules regarding sex characteristics
Pride Month celebrated/recognized
Yes
Since 2016 the entire month of June has been declared pride month
Transgender Day of Remembrance observed
Yes
November 20th
LGBTQ+ history month observed
Yes
October
Gender "X" be placed on death certificates
Yes
/
No
While a number of provinces offer gender-neutral birth certificates, many in Canada's trans and gender-diverse communities say they are concerned their lived identity is not always reflected in official documents after their death
Prohibition on the banning or censoring of LGBTQ+ related content
No
Memorial honoring LGBTQ+ service members and veterans
No
Transgender-disenfranchising voting laws repealed/absent
Yes
/
No
Many transgender and non-binary individuals are having difficulties in voting which includes finding wrong name and wrong gender on voter identification cards
False 911 calls that discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity banned
No
Endorsable visas for immigrants and travelers who are legally recognized as non-binary or Intersex in their country of origin
Emblem-question.svg
Ban on police profiling on the basis of both perceived and/or actual gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation
No
Abolition of gender-based dress codes which may discriminate against transgender students at schools
Emblem-question.svg
Airport security systems no longer classify bodies by (assumed/profiled) sex designation, and do not flag trans bodies as "alarm" or "anomaly" when they do not match normal sex designations
Emblem-question.svg
Gay males and bi males allowed to donate semen
No
Lifetime ban since 1977
MSMs and female sex partners of MSMs allowed to donate blood and plasma
Yes
/
No
From 30 September 2022 outside Quebec, no later than 2023 in Quebec

See also

References

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Further reading