Canada Post has unveiled the fourth stamp of its Canada 150 program—this honouring the 2005 passing of the Civil Marriage Act, the federal legislation that made marriage equality the law across Canada.
That year, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first outside of Europe to extend marriage equality to its citizens.
The unveiling was held May 9 at The 519 on 519 Church St. The new stamp depicts a section of a rainbow flag, which is a familiar symbol of pride for the LGBTQ2S (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Two Spirit) community.
With support growing, more than 20 countries have legalized same-sex marriage on the national level around the world; however, for many in the LGBTQ community, the conversation around and the fight for equality continues today.
DECADES OF DEBATE
On Feb. 1, 2005, the Civil Marriage Act was introduced as Bill C-38 and subsequently passed in the House of Commons and the Senate before receiving Royal Assent on July 20, 2005. Marriage equality had officially become the law of the land.
The federal decision culminated following decades of debate in faith communities, private homes and courtrooms across the country. Those battles relate to the theme of the second Canada 150 stamp, which celebrated the patriation of the Constitution and the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
By the late 1990s, with the Charter in effect, the community began to consistently win these court challenges.
In 1996, the federal government passed Bill C-33, which added sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act. By 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled same-sex couples should have the same benefits and obligations as opposite-sex common-law couples in regards to social programs they contribute to and participate in. One year later, Parliament passed Bill C-23, which made the court ruling law.
In early 2001, activists then focused on winning the right to marry. Battles were occurring throughout the provinces, but one battle in Toronto garnered national media attention.
After Rev. Brent Hawkes married two same-sex couples in a ceremony in Toronto, the city refused to issue marriage licences for these unions, igniting the public debate and spurring on a series of high-profile court battles.
The legal battles concluded on June 10, 2003, when the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. It was deemed a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Following the decision, Michael Leshner and Michael Stark were married in Toronto, the first same-sex couple to wed after the ruling.
The other court battles taking place across the country resulted in more provinces legalizing marriage equality: B.C. in July 2003, followed by Quebec, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia in 2004. Two years later, on July 20, 2005, the Government of Canada passed the federal legislation that legalized marriage equality across the country.
In addition to being available as a booklet of 10 stamps, this fourth issue will also available as a booklet of eight stamps—a first for the Canada 150 set.
The entire set will be available for purchase in post offices across the country as well as online on June 1 (although pre-ordering is open now).
The first stamp of the Canada 150 series was unveiled in Montréal on April 27 by Habitat 67 architect Moshe Safdie. The second stamp, this in celebration of the Constitution and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was unveiled on May 3 on Parliament Hill. The previous stamp was unveiled by Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen on May 4.
The remaining unveilings will take place on:
- May 16 in Regina, Sask.;
- May 25 in St. John’s, Nfld.;
- May 30 in Iqaluit, Nunavut;
- May 31 in Winnipeg, Man.; and
- June 1 in Vancouver, B.C., where the program’s final two stamps will be unveiled.
With each stamp unveiling, videos and archival footage will tell the story of that stamp subject on canadapost.ca/canada150.