To understand the historical event that took place over twenty years ago, we need to jump a little further back in 2000 to the month of February. In response to the Supreme Court’s May 1999 decision, the Liberal party had introduced Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act. The law would grant same-sex partners who have been living together for over a year the same rights and responsibilities as common-law partners.
The decision was centred on the “M v. H” case, which featured two Toronto women who had been living together for more than ten years. According to Ontario’s Family Law Act, “M” filed a spousal support lawsuit against “H” after the couple split up in 1992. The issue was that the statute defined “spouse” as “a man and woman” who have lived together for at least three years but are not married. The judge determines that the phrase “a man and woman” should be changed to “two persons” since it is illegal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill C-23 is approved by Parliament on April 11 by a vote of 174 to 72. The law grants same-sex couples in common-law relationships the same social and fiscal privileges as heterosexuals. The legislation has an overall impact on 68 federal acts that cover a variety of topics, including income tax deductions, bankruptcy protection, pension benefits, and the Criminal Code. Yet, the concept of “common-law relationship” is broadened to include same-sex couples but the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” remain unchanged.