June 19, 2013 4:53 pm

House passes same-sex divorce bill in one night – after 1.5 years of waiting

Randall Garrison

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA- The NDP is claiming a “little victory” after a government bill addressing same-sex divorce passed in the House of Commons Tuesday night.

The bill, C-32, fixes a legal loophole dealing with residency requirements for foreign same-sex couples married in Canada who want to get divorced. It also ensures all same-sex marriages performed in Canada are valid.

The legislation now makes its way to the Senate, which is still sitting. The House adjourned for the summer Tuesday night.

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The bill was introduced by the government a year-and-a-half ago, in reaction to a Toronto court case involving a foreign lesbian couple who were told they could not divorce because they were never legally married in the first place.

It was a point of contention between the Conservatives and NDP, because the government wanted to pass the bill to the Senate by unanimous consent, while the New Democrats were looking for study and debate.

They couldn’t agree on anything until last night.

NDP MP Randall Garrison, his party’s public safety and LGBT critic, said he still does not understand why the bill took so long for the Conservatives to push through.

“I honestly do not know what took them so long because we could have reached this agreement a year ago,” said Garrison.

“We think of it as a little victory here at the end.”

The bill was one of five passed by the House by a unanimous consent motion Tuesday. Three of the bills, which originated in the Senate, will become law Wednesday. The other two go to the Senate.

The same-sex marriage bill was not studied in committee and adopted by the House in one night.

The Conservatives agreed to adopt one of Garrison’s amendments to the bill that would allow for residents to retrieve court documents in Canada if their home regions don’t legally recognize gay marriage.

But the government did not accept the NDP amendment for courts to deal with custody issues, pointing out foreign same-sex couples can still attend arbitration.

Garrison speculated that the Conservatives did not want some of their own members voting on the bill and that’s why it took them so long to move it through.

But a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said it was the NDP who stalled the process.

“When our government tabled this legislation, we made it clear at the time that we had no intention of reopening the same sex marriage debate, but we would fix the gap left in the law resulting from changes made by the Liberals in 2005,” Julie Di Mambro said in an email.

“We acted in good faith and put forward a speedy fix that would eliminate the gap in the law.”

She said Van Loan sought several times to obtain unanimous consent from the opposition to pass the legislation.

“We are pleased that the NDP have finally agreed to work with the government,” she said.

“Both the Prime Minister and the Minister have been clear that we consider this debate to be closed.”

The other government bill that passed to the Senate Tuesday night was C-54, which amends the government’s not criminally responsible legislation – despite questions around the Conservatives’ disclosure of accurate data.

Speaker Andrew Scheer is set to rule on a question of privilege about the data raised in the House by Liberal Ted Hsu when Parliament resumes in the fall.

The decision by the House to adjourn for the summer a few days early also nixed Conservative efforts to amend a private member’s bill to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist acts.

The bill originally sought to remove citizenship only from dual nationals who commit acts of war against the Canadian military.

But after a Canadian with dual citizenship was suspected of involvement in a bus bombing in Bulgaria, the government decided to expand the legislation.

The New Democrats opposed the change and engaged in a filibuster at committee until the clock ran out.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair calls the bill an odious piece of work while the Tories accuse the NDP of supporting the rights of terrorists.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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