Monday, April 2, 2007

YIKES Tories drafted law on religious rights

Tories drafted law on religious rights
BILL CURRY April 2, 2007 The Globe & Mail

OTTAWA -- Internal documents obtained by The Globe and Mail confirm that the Conservative government was preparing an amendment to the Criminal Code last fall dealing with same-sex marriage under the heading of "Freedom of Religion."

The Department of Justice released 1,200 pages of government records in response to a request under access to information law. The records are almost entirely edited.

The Globe requested all documents relating to policy options aimed at protecting religious rights and freedom of speech in relation to the same-sex marriage debate.

But the few phrases that were not blacked out reveal Department of Justice officials were drafting new legislation dealing with religious rights and gay marriage.

The Globe and Mail reported last October that the government was planning legislation that would allow public officials, such as justices of the peace, to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

The Globe also reported that the measures were intended to protect the free-speech rights of religious leaders and others who criticize homosexual behaviour. The report was based on confidential sources and a partial confirmation from then-justice minister Vic Toews.

Mr. Toews, who is now president of the Treasury Board, told The Globe then that the government was preparing options depending on whether a government motion to restore the traditional definition of marriage were to carry or fail.

The government's motion to repeal gay marriage was ultimately defeated 175-123 last December and after the vote, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters: "I don't see reopening this question in the future."

Asked yesterday about the documents, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government "has no intention of bringing forward such legislation."

When asked whether such legislation could be introduced if the Conservatives had a majority, spokeswoman Genevieve Breton said: "I'm not going to speculate on what can happen in the future, but at this point, it's definitely not there."

The Oct. 4 Globe report triggered a furor in the House of Commons, with the Liberals accusing the Conservatives of planning to "legalize discrimination against the gay and lesbian community."

Under fire in Question Period later that day, the Prime Minster urged the Liberals not to "engage in unfounded speculation about what this government is proposing."

The response to The Globe's request was delivered to the newspaper's Ottawa office on Friday afternoon as MPs were leaving town for a two-week recess.

The documents show Lisa Hitch, the Justice Department's senior counsel, held a meeting last September to discuss the existing protections for religious freedoms contained in the Civil Marriage Act passed in 2005 under the Liberals.

She also sent e-mails to her colleagues titled "Possible amendment to the Criminal Code."

Ms. Hitch's reference materials included a private member's bill on religious freedom, since defeated in the Alberta legislature, from Conservative MPP Ted Morton, with links to socially conservative websites such as;; and a website that does not currently work called ""

Senior Justice officials also traded e-mails under the heading "Binder of Freedom of Religion Material."

Mr. Toews was personally involved, sending e-mails to his deputy minister and top political aides on the issue. The e-mails are mostly blacked out.

On Oct. 13, 2006, he received a briefing note titled "Freedom of Religion final" but its contents are entirely blacked out on the grounds that it contains advice to the minister and is protected by privilege.


BAC said...

Yikes is such an appropriate word for this, and a lot of other things that happen on this planet! And that's probably why I chose it as the name for my blog!

And speaking of religion, and rights, there is a huge Blog Against Theocracy taking place this weekend. You can find out more about it at .


audacious said...

thanks for the link,

i'll go over and check it out