Canadian Justice Minister: All Same-Sex Marriages are Legal, Valid

Seeking to allay concerns about the legitimacy of same-sex marriages performed for foreigners in Canada following news yesterday about a pending court case, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson spoke out today at a Canadian Club luncheon:

NicholsonSpeaking at a Toronto luncheon Friday, Mr. Nicholson blamed the Liberal government that preceded his for not filling a “legislative gap” that has left thousands of same-sex couples in an agonizing position of being unable to divorce should they feel a need to.

The situation has been “completely unfair to those affected.” Mr. Nicholson said. “I want to make it clear that in our government's view, these marriages are valid.”

Nicholson added:

The Civil Marriage Act will be changed to ensure that any marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized in the couple's home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada nonetheless, he said.

“This will apply to all marriages performed in Canada,” Mr. Nicholson said. “We have been clear that we have no desire to reopen this issue – both myself and the Prime Minister consider this debate to be closed.”


  1. Zlick says

    Kudos to the lawyer for that divorcing couple on her strategic move to outrage the world, and bring that pressure down on the Canadian government (which can do something about it), and not wait till the court ruled and there’d be nothing she could do about it.

    True, she had to rely on the world being reactive idiots who took this for a court ruling and not the mere lawyer’s argument that it was – – but I can’t argue with either success or with recognizing the gullibility of humans as a whole.

  2. says

    This marriage issue deals with Canadian sovereignty. For Canada not to recognize a marriage performed on its own territory if that type of marriage is illegal in another country, is putting foreign laws above Canadian laws. It makes Canada subservient to U.S. law, for one, against which any good Canadian should protest.

  3. AG says

    I eagerly expect the Conservative Party haters here to admit that they were completely wrong yesterday.

  4. BobN says

    “On Friday, he expressed empathy with those caught up in the confusion and assured them that changes will be made to ensure that both their marriages and divorces are legally valid.”

    Uh… if the marriages are valid, there’s no need to change the law. If you have change the law to make them valid, they aren’t valid until you do.

    Something stinks to high heaven here. These aren’t stupid people; there’s something behind these weird statements that SOUND good.

  5. Lauren says

    The thing is, this sidesteps the issues us Canadians are actually upset about. We knew that they’d uphold same-sex marriages in Canada, but it’s the people who came here from other countries to get married, and then left. There are people across the globe who have given their workplaces fraudulent paperwork for their company benefits, have adopted children illegally, have filed their taxes illegally. All because at no point, did any Canadian official bother to check or bother to tell these people that the marriage is only good in Canada. Read more here: and p.s. Harper, you had lots of time to a) look into this and b) issue an intelligent statement. I’ve heard that this first happened in August, so there’s been enough time to let the crown lawyers bring this to higher-ups. And this is amid a flurry of claims that Harper and his government are pushing a hidden agenda based on unpopular ideology.

  6. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    Sounds like the problem isn’t so-much in the wording of the Canadian marriage laws for marriage, but in the laws governing the scope of authority of divorce courts that created the ambiguity that the Canadian Govt. needs to fix. One set of statutes doesn’t mesh-properly with the second set of statutes.

  7. Stephen says

    So they have to alter the law which was pushed through parliament in the last days of the Liberals? So doesn’t that mean that it isn’t the Conservatives fault that the law is being interpreted the wrong way? That it is indeed the Liberals fault cause they rushed it through before checking all angles?

  8. says

    “I eagerly expect the Conservative Party haters here to admit that they were completely wrong yesterday.”

    Not sure there was a lot of hating, on TR at least, but there’s nothing to admit. The Civil Marriage Act had a confusion in it that was widely interpreted to mean that Canada was permitting illegal marriages of non-Canadian same-sex couples. Now, “The Civil Marriage Act will be changed to ensure that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada nonetheless.” The Justice Minister has admitted that the Act needs to be changed (i.e. they are the ones who were wrong), and it’s probably going to happen quickly because people were rightly concerned about the legal quagmire.

  9. CanadianObserver says

    What is obviously required is that the federal Divorce Act be amended to remove the residency requirement — and, since these hearings are held at Queen’s Bench, it is obviously a federal responsibility. It is just as obviously time for the Cons to get off their asses and address this.

    An essential “benefit” of being married is the right to access the courts in the event of marriage breakdown to ensure a fair and equitable division of assets, etc. — failure to protect this right calls “equal” marriage itself into question.

    This right of access should be based on a clear appeal to the Charter, and should override what are otherwise reasonable residency requirements under the current Divorce Act.

    Ultimately, the problem lies outside of Canada in those jurisdictions that refuse to recognize valid marriages sanctioned by the Canadian government. I am left wondering if the principle of comity will apply to judgements of Canadian courts in regards to divorce decrees affecting individuals or couples not resident in Canada. That is another can of worms this issue opens… is there the suggestion that the Canadian government is supposed to intervene in any foreign proceeding that would be required to see the conditions of a divorce decree respected?

    While it makes an amusing revenge fantasy to picture a Canadian government playing tit for tat and refusing to accept the validity of marriages performed and/or divorce decrees (or their equivalent) from certain backward jurisdictions (oh, the majority of American states) that refuse to extend full recognition to Canadian marriages and decrees, that isn’t going to happen. The musings of one Canadian lawyer notwithstanding, “marriage tourists” are going to have to take into consideration the existing legislation in the jurisdiction they chose to reside in rather than counting on foreign jurisdictions to somehow remedy all the situations they may find themselves in.

  10. Randy says

    What nonsense. There was never any issue about these being valid marriages until THEIR lawyer made the baseless claim that they were invalid.

    This falls perfectly in line with the long-standing Conservative tactic of “create a useful crisis”. Now they get to reopen the Marriage Act, without it looking like it was there idea (which it certainly is).

    If you aren’t asking yourself why, you’re very naive.

  11. says

    there are some things that are the same in both the US and Canada – Gay Conservatives are wusses who will take any chance they can to lash at “liberals”, in the hopes their fathers will overhear and perhaps, for a brief moment, be a little bit less ashamed of them.

    it tends to not work, right Mr. S. Grosser? 😉

  12. ah123 says

    The Harper conservatives always like to throw in a cheap shot because they just hate the Liberals. They forget they have been in power for several years. And if it was up to the conservatives, gay divorce wouldn’t even be an issue because they would have not passed it in the first place. Who can forget Harper’s “free vote” when he took power? So much for voting your conscience when he whips his MPs into voting patterns. Hypocrite. At least they are now correcting a problem they didn’t want reopened.