Tag Archives: human-rights

A moment for Vriend on Monday…

April 2, 2018, marks the 20th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Vriend v Alberta, which made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal across Canada.

Twenty years ago, I remember a jubilant Thursday evening. My co-workers at A-Channel did not seem to think it was such a big deal. They bemusedly tried to peel me off the ceiling so I could focus on my job, lighting the evening news. When I made it to a gay bar that night, it felt like the weekend came early, combined with Mardi Gras, Halloween and Christmas.

Vriend kiss

Delwin Vriend, right, gets a congratulatory kiss from partner Andrew Gagnon at a post-verdict rally at the Edmonton Legislature. [Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Kevin Frayer]

Our post about the Vriend case in 2017 was one of the most read articles on the Calgary Gay History Project website to date. In honour of the 20th Anniversary, some new work has been written about the trials. Of particular note, is the accomplished Paula Simons and her work in the Edmonton Journal:

How the Vriend case established LGBTQ rights 20 years ago in Alberta — and across Canada

Gay rights pioneer Delwin Vriend didn’t set out to a be hero. He became one anyway.

From the Archives: The Vriend case is about bigotry

On March 19th, the University of Alberta hosted a forum and panel discussion for the Vriend anniversary (which Simons also moderated) called Pride or Prejudice? Celebrating LGBTQ2 RightsThe panel featured many of the legal minds working on the case in the 90s. This discussion of LGBTQ2 legal history was recorded for those of us who could not make it to Edmonton and is posted online.

The video is recommended viewing. There are many colourful recollections from the panellists that develop the story of the legal tussles encountered. Moreover there are interesting anecdotes, like Vriend v Alberta being cited internationally, such as in a recent court challenge in Belize which struck down their anti-sodomy laws in 2016.

So on Monday, take a moment to be thankful for the Vriend decision, and to all those who assisted in carrying us to victory some 20 years ago. Pause also to consider the approximately 400 million LGBTQ2 persons globally who live under the threat of criminal imprisonment, violence or even death because of who they are and who they love.

{KA}

 

 

Australia vote evokes our own marriage debates

This week, Australians voted for marriage laws to be changed to allow same-sex marriage, with the yes vote claiming 61.6% to 38.4%. The debate was divisive (and at times nasty), the vote was expensive, and many within and outside the country critiqued the idea that a plebiscite is an appropriate tool for determining minority rights.

australia

Australians celebrating the yes vote. Photograph: Scott Barbour, Getty Images, in The Guardian.

In Canada, the road to marriage equality had many speedbumps, twists, and turns. Here in Alberta, our political leaders strenuously resisted changes to the definition of marriage, including agitating for a national plebiscite on the issue.

Here is a brief timeline of Canada’s (and Alberta’s) journey to same-sex marriage.

September 1995. Openly gay, Bloc Québécois, Member of Parliament (MP) Réal Ménard introduces a motion calling for legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The House of Commons votes 124-52 to reject it.

March 1998. Another gay MP, New Democrat, Svend Robinson introduces a private member’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage. It does not pass first reading.

May 1999. The Supreme Court of Canada rules in M. v. H. that same-sex couples in Canada are entitled to receive many of the financial and legal benefits commonly associated with marriage.

June 1999, The House of Commons overwhelmingly passes a resolution to re-affirm the definition of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

March 2000. The Alberta Government passes Bill 202 which amends the provincial Marriage Act to include an opposite-sex-only definition of marriage. The bill also promises to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to insulate the legislation from any legal challenge based on Charter rights violations.

January 2001. Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Reverend Brent Hawkes attempts an end run for same-sex marriage by taking advantage of a little-used common law marriage protocol “reading the banns of marriage.” The Ontario registrar refuses to accept this marriage as legally performed triggering a lawsuit.

June 2003. The Court of Appeal for Ontario confirms a lower court ruling declaring Canadian laws on marriage violate the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter by being restricted to heterosexual couples. The court decides there would be no grace period for adjustment, making Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize same-sex marriage. (It also ruled the MCC banns marriages legal). Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announces that the Federal Government would not seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

July 2003. The B.C. Court of Appeal makes a similar decision.  Same-sex marriages are now allowed in British Columbia.

March 2004. The Quebec Court of Appeals rules similarly to the Ontario and B.C. courts and orders its decision to take effect immediately. Now, more than two-thirds of Canada’s population live in provinces where same-sex marriage has been legalized.

February 2005. The Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-38, is introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal minority government. He advises that it will be a free vote in the House of Commons. Many Liberals assert they will vote against the government on this bill. Then Calgary based Canada Family Action Coalition declares a boycott on Famous Players Theatres because of a ten-second ad that urges moviegoers to contact their MPs to say they support same-sex marriage

May 2005. Paul Martin’s minority government survives an impossibly close (153-152) motion of confidence, almost scuttling the legislation.

June 2005. Bill C-38 passes third reading in the House of Commons in an extended debate well into the evening of June 28th. The vote total is 158-133. The Prime Minister allows the Liberal backbenchers a free vote but whips his cabinet into voting for the bill causing Minister Joe Comuzzi, a traditional opponent of same-sex marriage, to resign from cabinet. The voting breakdown is:

Party For Against Absentees Total
Liberals 95 32 4 131
Conservatives 3 93 2 98
Bloc 43 5 6 54
NDP 17 1 1 19
Independents 0 2 2 4

Calgary Centre MP Lee Richardson is one of only a handful of Conservative MPs who vote in favour of Bill C-38. Stephen Harper controversially claims that “the law lacks legitimacy because it passed with the support of the separatist Bloc party.” NDP MP Bev Desjarlais is stripped of her position in the NDP’s shadow cabinet for voting against it. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein opines that the Alberta Government might opt to stop solemnizing marriages entirely, suggesting that the Government would issue civil union licences to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

July 12, 2005, Klein concedes that expert legal advice suggests that refusing to marry same-sex couples had little chance of succeeding in a court challenge. “Much to our chagrin,” he adds.

July 20, 2005. Bill C-38 receives royal assent after passing in the Senate the previous day. The law affects Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the only jurisdictions in Canada whose courts had not yet decided in favour of same-sex marriage.

December 2006. Prime Minister Stephen Harper brings a motion to reopen the definition of marriage with his Conservative minority government.  The House of Commons defeats the motion 175-123. Prime Minister Harper declares the issue concluded.

Epilogue:

In a recent interview, former Prime Minister Paul Martin acknowledged his conflicted voting history on the issue. Martin noted that he opposed same-sex marriage in 1999 but later realized that he had not given sufficient consideration to the question. He related a personal anecdote of close family friends who have a lesbian daughter. She was happily partnered in Vancouver. He emphatically said: “What right do we have to deny happiness to people?” This personal revelation helped make Canadian history.

{KA}

Klippert Month – Week 1

We at the Calgary Gay History Project hope the Federal Government is still working on a posthumous pardon or equivalent for Calgarian Everett Klippert (1926-1996). November 7th, 2017, will be the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling, which fully criminalized gays, and precipitated the legislated decriminalization of homosexuality.

So to recognize that milestone in Canadian LGBTQ2 history, we are posting Everett articles all month!

One of the facts presented in his defence, at virtually all of his court cases, was his steadiness as an employee. Everett left school after grade 8 to work and to support his family. His older sister Leah ran their household and he and his eight brothers were required to hand over their wages to Leah for expenses.

Everett’s father operated a grocery store in Bridgeland, and Everett’s first job was working in the shop along with some of his older brothers. By the time he was 17, he was working at Crystal Dairy, the ice cream division of Calgary’s Union Milk Company. He said that it was when he started working there that he became sexually active with other men.

Crystle Dairy

The Union Milk Company at 130 – 5th Avenue SE in June 1950. Source: Glenbow Archives.

After nine years employed at the dairy, he got a job he loved more, driving buses for Calgary Transit. He was a favourite bus driver too. There are stories of his regular passengers skipping earlier buses to specifically ride home with him due to his friendly, congenial nature.

bus break
Everett Klippert used to go attend bus driver coffee brakes like this one in Eau Claire. Source City Archives via Calgary Metro.

At his first trial in Calgary in 1960 his defence lawyer, W. P. Maguire noted that Klippert “had been steadily employed for 17 years and but for his weakness (sex with men) he would be, at 33, a normal run of the mill man, married with children.” For that reason, he urged a punishment of probation only and not incarceration

Sadly, he was sentenced and served a four-year jail term. When Everett was released in 1964, he quickly departed town both to start over and to spare his family any more shame. He made his way to a job in Pine Point, North West Territories on a lead from a friend and secured a position as a garage mechanic’s helper at the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada, Limited (which was renamed Cominco Ltd. in 1966).

N-1987-021-0063

Everett Klippert worked in the garage at Pine Point from May 1964 until he was arrested in August 1965. Photo: Pine Point Revisited.

He was arrested and tried again for homosexual activity in 1965. At his trial, Everett’s garage foreman, Melvin Logan, was called as a witness on behalf of the defence. When asked about Everett’s performance, the foreman said: “He was very good, a very willing worker, hard worker, easy to get along with, very cooperative. He got along with everyone in the shop very well – no trouble at all.” Furthermore, it was revealed that Everett was friendly with the Logan family. He would go over for supper occasionally and was trusted to babysit the two small Logan children.

During both times Everett was in the penitentiary, he worked in the shoe shop. One of the psychiatrists who interviewed Klippert in 1965 reported:

“I talked to the man in the shoe shop with whom Mr. Klippert worked, and he gave an excellent report; that he is a good worker; that he minded his own business; that he is a sensitive man. He spoke very highly of him. He also informed me that he found life in the penitentiary extremely painful to him because I think he is a sensitive man and some of his colleagues are, well less than that and I think they made life a little bit, considerably rough and difficult for him.”

Klippert copy

Everett Klippert in stripes. Source: Klippert Family Photo.

Tragically, this difficulty would be long-lived. Klippert would remain in jail until 1971 for no known reason, even though Parliament decriminalized homosexuality in 1969 as a result of his unjust prison sentences.

{KA}