Canada Prepares for Extended Debate, Vote, on Same-sex Bill

Canada’s government begins another week of debate, the first time in 17 years that the federal government has agreed to extend their sitting, with a focus on the controversial same-sex legislation to legalize same-sex marriage throughout Canada.

On Thursday, the House of Commons voted 191 to 108 in favor of extending their spring sitting, after the Bloc Quebecois joined the Liberals to back the extension. The Liberals gained the Bloc support with a promise that bill C-38, which would grant marriage rights to same-sex couples, would be voted upon during the extension.

Bill C-38 has been the source of heated debate since its introduction by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin in February. Most provinces in Canada already recognize same-sex marriage, after several court rulings declared that a law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman violates the rights of citizens.

On Thursday, Judge Judy Clendenning opened the way for same-sex marriages in New Brunswick. Clendenning ruled in favor of four gay couples, saying that the definition of marriage should be changed to a union “between two persons.” Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut are the only provinces that continue to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

The proposed legislation would extend same-sex marriage rights to all parts of Canada. Conservatives and a few members of the Liberal party oppose the bill. Recently, MP Pat O’Brien left the Liberal Party, citing his opposition to the legislation and the party’s intentions to push the bill through the Commons as quickly as possible.

The extended sittings are expected to allow thorough debate over the legislation, although Conservatives have expressed fears that the Liberals will force a vote on the issue, just as they forced a vote on a budget plan on Thursday night, which led to its passage.