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The New Canadian Equality:  What It Means, Exactly
Reports from the Omnibus Bill Expert Panel
ONLINE:  SATURDAY FEBRUARY 19, 8:23 PM EST (GMT-5).

The Omnibus Bill Expert Panel

Diane Harras, PFP,
Representative,
Investor's Group,
Ottawa, ON, Canada.
harrad1@investorsgroup.com, (613) 798-7700 X 460.

Ted Mann, LLB,
Mann and Associates,
Ottawa, ON, Canada.
ekmann@magi.com,
www.ggmlaw.com,
(613) 722-1500.

Grant Jameson, BA, LLB,
Partner,
Gowling, Strathy & Henderson,
Ottawa, ON, Canada.
jamesong@gowlings.com,
www.gowlings.com,
(613) 786-8663.

Dick Surgeson, BComm, CA, Surgeson Carson Chartered Accountants,
Ottawa, ON, Canada.
(613) 567-6434.


Please note:  The information in these reports is not to be taken as advice.  It has been provided by gayottawanow.com and the volunteers on the Omnibus Bill Expert Panel in the interest of the Community becoming aware of the anticipated effects of the bill.  Should you require or desire advice on this matter, please contact the informed professionals on the Panel for consultation.

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'An Historic Day for Equality Rights in Canada'
Dear Fellow Canadians,

We firmly believe the Canadian Government and Her people, regardless of one's sexual orientation, deserve the respect from the rest of the world.  You should celebrate your triumph, shout about the progress and simply cherish the beauty of basic human right to live in harmony without any form of discrimination.

Even though we live in a country which is way behind in regards to social development for gay and lesbian (hang on ... that's right we don't have any), we believe you and your Government have set an example for the rest of the world to follow.  My partner and I live in fear everyday for our lives (homosexuality is illegal and punishable) and all we hope for is one day, we'll be able to enjoy what all Canadians are enjoying now, which of course is very unlikely to happen.  We're a binational couple, only wanting to stay together (we've been for almost 4 years) and it hasn't been easy for us to do so.  We've been dodging many political bullets that keep us apart all these years.  Never mind about any equality law for us.  There's not a day where we live that we don't face discrimination.  It's Jurassic age here in comparison to Canada.

Now you understand why we are so happy for you, our fellow Canadians, when we heard the passing of the equality bill.

The World should look at Canada and learn from Her.  We're proud of you, your country and at the same time, envy your freedom.  Canada did it with pride.

Regards,
Eurasian Couple
South East Asia.

 
Introduction

Upon closer examination, the conceptual effect of the Canadian federal omnibus legislation introduced February 11th, entitled C-23 or "An Act to Modernize the Statutes of Canada in Relation to Benefits and Obligations," in proposing federal recognition of same sex couples, will be to increase the legal significance to gays and lesbians of life's classic milestones and elements:  getting "married" (that is, living common-law - gay couples cannot actually get married), income tax, and death.

Although gayottawanow.com reported on the day of the bill's introduction that compliance by gay couples to the proposed benefits and obligations will be voluntary should the bill pass, as was stated by Ministry of Justice officials in a media briefing, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) declared on its website this week that compliance (for their purposes, anyway) will most certainly not be voluntary, starting in 2001.

This was confirmed by the Ministry of Justice yesterday.  Like it or not, should the bill pass, gay common-law couples will be treated by the federal government in the same way as their opposite sex counterparts:  a day-to-day de facto common-law relationship will be considered an official common-law relationship, and possible attempts to declare otherwise in federal government dealings and jurisdiction are being considered by professionals as likely ill-advised.

The largest impact on the affairs and lives of gay couples, beyond the symbolic significance of legal recognition federally of their relationships, and the protections which flow from that recognition, is arguably in the area of financial arrangements, especially future ones.

Gayottawanow.com's extended coverage through its Omnibus Bill Expert Panel begins with a report from financial planner Diane Harras.  Ms. Harras identifies those areas of financial planning for gay couples which will be effected by the proposed changes, and emphasizes the increased importance that documentation of one's financial plans will have with legal recognition of one's relationship.  (Go to Financial Planning:  Documentation Essential.)

Omnibus Bill Expert Panel lawyer Ted Mann concludes similar independently:  statute would best not be relied on to define the parameters of a gay couples' legally sanctioned relationship.  Mr. Mann looked at legal ramifications of the bill, including the absence of a domestic partnership registry, and emphasizes that a prenuptial agreement will increase in importance should the bill pass.  (Go to Legal Ramifications (General):  Pre-Nups Even More Important.)

The proposed legislation also includes amendments to several areas of commercial law.  Lawyer Grant Jameson, who specializes in this area, discusses the additional obligations that gay men and lesbian women would have with regards to their partner's business affairs and some corporate context dealings between them. (Go to Legal Ramifications (Commercial): Partners to Take Greater Care in Dealings.)

Income tax is a fourth area which is significantly effected with the proposed changes for gay couples.  Chartered accountant Dick Surgeson, the Omnibus Bill Expert Panel's tax specialist, reports on changes in eligibility for social benefits and tax credits with linked income tax returns.  Mr. Surgeson cautions that the decision to declare common-law status during the income tax "transition period" up to 2001, which actually allows the status to be elective, should be considered carefully.  (Go to Income Tax: Eligibility for Credits and Declaring Status Prior to 2001.)

And finally, the omnibus bill proposes to change a few sections of Canada's criminal code.  Because these changes are not reported here, it will suffice to say that gay couples may want to seek credible explanation of them in the interest of becoming informed.  The changes appear to include the couples' legal responsibility for providing the necessities of life to "their" children.

A quick conclusion follows the reports.  (Go to Conclusion.)

Gayottawanow.com wishes to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the members of its Omnibus Bill Expert Panel for donating their time and expertise in the interest of the Community becoming informed on this issue.