Harassing the squeamish

Toronto-area MPs are key in marriage battle

Some members of Parliament who have been supportive of same-sex marriage are starting to waffle.

Activists say that opponents of same-sex marriage are flooding MPs with messages against the bill, expected to be introduced in February. There’s worry that the pro-side – more confident, less crazy people who actually have lives – is being drowned out. Especially considering that the bill only directly affects homos, who make up a small portion of the population.

“There are a lot of MPs torn between doing what they think is the right thing to do and doing what they think their constituents want them to do,” says Laurie Arron of the group Canadians For Equal Marriage (CEM). “They need to hear from us to give them the confidence they need to vote for the legislation.”

While Conservative MPs are expected to vote in a block against the bill and the New Democrats, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal cabinet en masse for the bill, a handful of Toronto-area MPs hold the balance of power.

“There are undecided people around the country, but the MPs seem to be concentrated around here,” says Arron, who recommends a phone call over e-mail, fax or letter as a method of contact.

Several of the MPs in question come from ethnic or religious minorities where the balance between human rights and religious values is particularly precarious.

Ruby Dhalla, Liberal MP for Brampton-Springdale. Handpicked by Prime Minister Paul Martin to run here (much to the chagrin of some of the members of the riding association), Dhalla hasn’t publicly expressed support or opposition to the bill. She told The Ottawa Citizen she will vote how the majority of her constituents want her to vote

Lloyd St Amand, Liberal MP for Brant. A community-minded lawyer, St Amand quotes Pierre Elliott Trudeau on his website, but has kept his head down on same-sex marriage

Wajid Khan, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Streetsville. One of a handful of Muslim MPs, Khan did not fill out a CEM survey, though, during the election, one of his assistants told CEM he would support the bill. A Toronto Star survey filed him under undecided

Susan Kadis, Liberal MP for Thornhill. As a city councillor in Vaughan, Kadis brought forward an (unsuccessful) motion to declare Pride and told York-region.com last month she would support the bill. But she’s considered to be under siege by conservative lobbyists

Bev Oda, Conservative MP for Clarington-Scugog-Uxbridge. Oda was one of three Conservative MPs who said they would support same-sex marriage. (The others are Port MoodyWestwoodPort Coquitlam’s James Moore – who last month issued a detailed statement on his website in favour of the bill – and Newmarket-Aurora’s Belinda Stronach.) But last month she told The Globe And Mail she’d changed her mind and would poll constituents as to how they’d like her to vote


Gary Carr, Liberal MP for Halton. This former Conservative MPP hasn’t said much about the issue since last June when he said he favoured the traditional definition of marriage and protection for churches who don’t want to wed same-sex couples

Carolyn Parrish, independent MP for Mississauga-Erindale. Once one of the strongest Parliamentary supporters of lesbian and gay rights, Parrish’s feud with Martin seems to have had an effect on her personal beliefs. Though she claims to support same-sex marriage personally, she says her constituents oppose it and that she’ll vote against the bill

Navdeep Baines, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Brampton South. The youngest sitting MP has spoken in favour of the bill – and protecting freedom of religion

Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Liberal MP for Nunavut. Though she voted against the Alliance motion restricting the definition of marriage and in a tough nomination battle chastised her opponent for having a watered-down stance on human rights, Karetak-Lindell now claims she’s undecided.

* Contact information for MPs is found at Parl.gc.ca.

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine, CBC.ca, Readersdigest.ca and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight