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Canadian Omnibus Equality Bill Expected

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THE Canadian government is expected to introduce omnibus legislation this week to amend a multitude of existing federal laws and create equality or approach it for same sex couples.

The bill will effect everything from old age pensions to income tax to immigration.

Speaking on behalf of the Liberal government yesterday at a news conference, where the lobby organizations Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) and the Foundation for Equal Families presented 6500 postcards supporting equality for same sex relationships, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Women Heidi Fry said:  "It isn't a matter of whether, but when."  She explained that since coming to power in 1993 the government has moved forward steadily on ending the last bastion of legislative discrimination against gay and lesbian Canadians.

"We're optimistic of a positive government response," EGALE Executive Director John Fisher told  "It's a window of opportunity and we're keen that the government will move on this."

Recent Supreme Court decisions have forced the government to act on the issue.  The high court ruled in the spring of 1999 that Ontario's Family Law Act was unconstitutional and ordered that province to amend it.

Ontario's amendment of that Act in November created a separate category for same sex relationships, though, as the anticipated federal bill this week is expected to do as well.  The Liberal government rejected considering same sex couples as equivalent to married heterosexual ones earlier this year, classifying them as "common-law."  Continued use of this classification by the federal government is speculated in order to ease the bill's passing.

An estimated 140,000 Canadian couples will be effected by it.
With the sanctioning of gay couples as common-law ones would come new obligations in addition to rights.  The pooling of the couple's income would have significant ramifications in some cases for income tax, for example.  An estimated 140,000 Canadian couples will be effected by it.

Further details will be available when the bill is introduced in Parliament later this week.  It is expected on Thursday or Friday.