Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-identified (LGBT) Teachers and Students and the Post-Charter Quest for Ethical and Just Treatment in Canadian Schools

André P. Grace, Ph. D., Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta, Canada

This paper was presented at “Building Inclusive Schools: A Search for Solutions,” a national conference sponsored by the Canadian Teachers' Federation in Ottawa, Ontario, November 17 to 19, 2005.

IntroductionTop of page

The individual rights of Canadians are protected under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect in 1985. Section 1 of the Charter tells us that there can be no hierarchy of rights in Canada. This legislated reality challenges us to deliberate and mediate differences in respectful and responsive ways. Following the Charter, K-12 education as a mainstream Canadian institution must engage in public ethics that protect and respect the diversity of characteristics of persons including race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, and sexual orientation. While protection against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation has arguably been provided since 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada clearly confirmed sexual orientation as an analogous ground to other characteristics of persons in 1995 in Egan and Nesbit v. Canada. In keeping with Section 15 of the Charter, protecting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified) students and teachers from bias, prejudice, and discrimination is part of the responsibility of Canadian K-12 education. Being that education is a provincial/territorial jurisdiction, the ministries of education and the teachers’ federations and associations in every province and territory have to accept this responsibility and be there for every teacher and student. This requires both building and sharing LGBT knowledge and resources. Moreover, it requires providing opportunities to principals, teachers, and guidance counselors to engage in professional development that has two clear aims: (1) building awareness and understanding of LGBT issues, and (2) addressing issues in ways that abet just and inclusive education. This work is central to overcoming societal, cultural, and individual ignorance. After all, ignorance often leads to fear and misunderstanding, which, in turn, can lead to violence. This fact is well documented in Douglas V. Janoff’s (2005) book Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada, which documents the history of violence toward LGBT Canadians and immigrants.

In 2002 Canadians celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the patriation of our Constitution from Britain, which enabled the Federal Government to control future amending of the Constitution solely through the Canadian Parliament. That pivotal event in 1982 was coupled with the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution. Since then, Canadian Courts have protected the Charter and the individual rights of Canadians, which, in Section 15, include constitutional protection from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation1 This process of protecting the Charter has involved a persistent and ongoing questioning of the unifying nature of our Constitution and the inclusive nature of our Charter. The Charter, which is arguably Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s greatest legacy to our nation, was central to his vision of building a Just Society advocating inclusion and reflecting the diversity that is metaphorically described as the Canadian mosaic. Key decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledging and accommodating sexual orientation have proliferated, particularly since the mid-1990s. Canadian research indicates that successful efforts of LGBT individuals to attain rights in legislative, educational, and other sociocultural contexts are inextricably linked to progress made in the legal arena. However, while acknowledging the significant impact of the Charter in aiding legal and legislative progress for LGBT Canadians, Lahey (1999) notes a key factor impeding our full Canadian citizenship: lesbians, gays, and others across sex, sexual, and gender differences lack constitutional personhood. This exclusion limits exercising our full legal capacities as human beings and limits progress that can be made in social, economic, and political contexts. It has impacted not only material contexts like rights in terms of inheritance, but it has also, on a much deeper and important level, impacted our rights and responsibilities as persons as we mediate life in our circles of intimate response and beyond.

One of the three most crucial of all Supreme Court of Canada decisions advancing citizenship rights, as ranked by Peter W. Hogg, the former Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, Toronto is the decision in Vriend v. Alberta that confirmed equality rights for lesbian and gay citizens of Canada (Saunders, 2002). Delwin Vriend, an educator at Kings College, Edmonton, Alberta, had been dismissed in 1991 on the pretext that his employment violated that conservative institution’s religious policy. The Supreme Court of Canada handed down its long-awaited decision in Vriend on April 2, 1998. The Supreme Court’s decision was in the educator’s favor in his legal challenge to have sexual orientation read into the then existing Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act.2 In its judgment, the Supreme Court deemed that Act unconstitutional. Most importantly, in confirming equality rights for lesbian and gay Canadians, the Vriend decision provided both an impetus and a requirement for teacher federations and associations to design and implement inclusive policies and practices that address the needs of LGBT teachers and students in Canadian schools. Vriend ultimately had repercussions for Alberta and other Canadian provinces and territories that had not yet moved on their own to extend provincial/territorial human rights legislation to prohibit discrimination against lesbians and gays. Overall, Vriend has done more though than require provinces and territories to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in their human rights legislation. It has challenged Canadian people to rethink a social, cultural, educational, and historical mindset that has excluded or erased fellow citizens because their ways of being and loving do not fit within the confines of a heteronormative society. As well, it has provided them cause to reexamine their attitudes, values, beliefs, and actions in relation to lesbian and gay people whom the Supreme Court of Canada has accorded the right to live and work free from discrimination in safe and secure surroundings.

Vriend and other legal and legislative moves that have assisted lesbians and gays3 in their struggle to attain the rights and privileges of full Canadian citizenship indicate significant progress in building a Just Society that acknowledges and accommodates sex, sexual, and gender differences. Canada has come a long way since December 22, 1967 when then Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau proposed amendments to the Criminal Code that resulted in the decriminalization of homosexuality. As Trudeau spearheaded this law reform and moved Canada away from state control of individual freedoms like those embodied and embedded in sexuality, he made the poignant and memorable assertion, “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” (Goldie, 2001, p.18). The amendments passed in 1969. Prior to this liberating historical event, a Canadian citizen could be jailed simply for being a homosexual. As Warner (2002) points out, the threat or reality of incarceration provides just one example of the historical abuse, mistreatment, and exclusion of LGBT Canadians. For example, in 1953, on the heels of the hidden Holocaust in which many lesbians and gays had been persecuted and slaughtered in Nazi concentration camps, Canada’s Immigration Act was amended to declare homosexuals a prohibited class whose entry into the country could be denied. As well, in its own expression of McCarthyism in the post-World War II era, the Canadian Government prohibited homosexuals from holding positions in foreign affairs, the military, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Indeed, until the early 1960s, the federal Department of External Affairs summarily dismissed homosexuals found working in its midst.

While the amendments to the Criminal Code in 1969 did not result in much legal or legislative progress abetting gay liberation in the 1970s and 1980s, these decades are important as a time of prolific lesbian and gay community building in Canada, which was marked by LGBT consciousness raising and the celebration of pride in same-sex orientation (Warner, 2002). Indeed what might be called a gay MTV effect became a pervasive cultural phenomenon as gays and lesbians flocked to Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver to live in communities in the areas of these cities that became known as gay ghettos. As the following selected chronology of the progress of the gay liberation movement in Canada indicates, most legal and legislative progress has occurred since the mid-1990s. In the wake of Egan and Nesbit v. Canada, which resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledging sexual orientation as an analogous character of person in Section 15 (1) of the Charter for the first time, there have been significant advances in the human and civil rights of LGBT Canadians. Thus, even though subsequent changes in social disposition and cultural behavior toward LGBT citizens have been slow among the populace and across educational and other institutions, the chronology shows that, in recent years, LGBT Canadians have had good reason to celebrate on National Coming Out Day in Canada (October 11th).

LGBT Liberation: Canadian Timelines


E. Klippert was sentenced to jail for acknowledging that he was gay, was unlikely to change his sexual orientation, and had had sex with men over a 24-year period. He was confined to prison for an indefinite time period and labeled a “dangerous sex offender” by the Supreme Court of Canada. His incarceration incited debate about Canada’s treatment of homosexuals under the Criminal Code.


Federal Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau proposed amendments to the Criminal Code to change laws against homosexuality.


Homosexuality is decriminalized.


E. Klippert is finally released from prison.


Québec became the first Canadian jurisdiction to include sexual orientation in its provincial human rights code, stating it was illegal to discriminate against homosexuals in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodation.


The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended that sexual orientation be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.


Bill C-242 was defeated and sexual orientation was not added to the listing in the Canadian Human Rights Act of characters of person protected from discrimination.


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms formed a unique section of the revitalized Canadian Constitution that was patriated from Britain.


Section 15 of the Charter (the equality provision protecting individual rights) came into force.


The Parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights released a report (Equality for All) that recommended the Canadian Human Rights Act should include sexual orientation as a form of illegal discrimination.


Ontario became the second Canadian jurisdiction to include sexual orientation in its provincial human rights code.


Haig v. Canada upheld a lower court ruling that stated Section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act violated Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not including sexual orientation as a character of person to be protected from discrimination. As a result of this ruling, sexual orientation was read into the Act and the Canadian Human Rights Council began accepting complaints based on sexual orientation. However, the bill to change the Act was not passed until 1996.


The Federal Court removed the ban on homosexuals being allowed to serve in the Canadian military.


Egan and Nesbit v. Canada was the first Supreme Court of Canada case to deal directly with sexual orientation under Section 15 of the Charter. J. Egan and his partner J. Nesbit had sued the Government of Canada for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act. The Act defined spouse in terms of opposite-sex relationships. The outcome of the case was not in favor of the plaintiff and spousal benefits were denied. However, the Supreme Court was unanimous in its agreement that sexual orientation was an analogous and protected category under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also declared that an opposite-sex definition of partnerships contravened Section 15 of the Charter.


Bill C-41 was proclaimed, which amended the Criminal Code of Canada to ensure that stricter penalties were introduced for any crimes motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.


Bill C-33 amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation in Section 3 of the Act.


As a result of the decision in Vriend v. Alberta, sexual orientation was read into the Alberta human rights legislation. More importantly, equality rights were granted to lesbian and gay Canadians.


Bill C-78 was proclaimed, making it the first federal legislation to provide outright same-sex benefits for civilian and uniformed government employees and Members of Parliament.


M v. H led to legal recognition of same-sex relationships. M and H had been a lesbian couple for over 10 years. In 1992, upon dissolution of their partnership, M sued H for spousal support under the Ontario Family Law Act. The Act defined spouse in terms of opposite-sex partners. The Ontario Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the definition violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the phrase a man and a woman should be replaced with two persons. H appealed but the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decision. Neither M nor H continued with the case, but the Ontario Attorney General appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that Ontario’s definition of spouse was unconstitutional and gave Ontario six months to change the Act.


Bill C-23 was proclaimed. This omnibus legislation extended social and tax benefits and obligations in all federal statutes to include same-sex couples.


Bill C-11, the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, was passed. Section 12 (1) of the new Act recognizes “common law partners,” including same-sex partners, as members of the family class for the first time.


In Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a 7-2-majority decision, ruled in favor of James Chamberlain, a Surrey, BC kindergarten teacher who sought to use three children’s books that depicted same-sex families in his classroom. The Court ruling emphasized the responsibility of the School Board to carry out their public duties in accordance with strictly secular and non-sectarian principles, which includes a responsibility to avoid making policy decisions on the grounds of exclusionary beliefs.


The Ontario Superior Court ruled that the provincial government must register gay and lesbian marriages, making it the first time that a Canadian court had ruled in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages under the law.


The Québec Superior Court found the opposite-sex definition of marriage discriminatory and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


The BC Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favor of a redefinition of marriage that includes same-sex couples, citing that any other form of recognition falls short of true equality. The Court suggested that the redefinition of marriage should read the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.


Svend Robinson’s Private Member’s Bill C-250 was passed expanding Section 318 of the Criminal Code of Canada so that the definition of identifiable group, which refers to any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin, would also include sexual orientation. Bill C-250 made it illegal to incite hate propaganda against gays and lesbians.


On December 9th in the Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the proposed legislation to extend the capacity to marry to persons of the same sex is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court maintained that this judgment was in keeping with “one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation: that our Constitution is a living tree which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life” (SCS, 2004, p. 2). Moreover, the Court held that “the guarantee of religious freedom in Section 2 (a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs” (p. 3).


On June 28th Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, passed a third and final reading in the House of Commons. On July 20th, thirty-four years to the day that Everett Klippert was released from prison, Bill C-38 was passed by the Canadian Senate and became law. Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriage after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.

LGBT Issues in Canadian EducationTop of page

Following are excerpts from the judgment of Justice Robert MacKinnon in the Marc Hall case, pp. 5-14 (See Grace & Wells, 2005). The judgment approved the application for an interlocutory injunction that provided an immediate order allowing Marc to attend his Catholic high-school prom with the partner of his choice. The decision came on May 10, 2002, just a few hours before his prom, enabling Marc to attend with his boyfriend Jean-Paul Dummond.

The social history evidence before me clearly discloses that gay men and lesbian women have been treated as less worthy and less valued than other members of society. Canadian law has accepted that homosexuality is not a mental illness or a crime but rather an innate characteristic not easily susceptible to change. Stigmatization of gay men rests largely on acceptance of inaccurate stereotypes – that gay men are mentally ill, emotionally unstable, incapable of enduring or committed relationships, incapable of working effectively and prone to abuse children. Scientific studies in the last fifty years have discredited these stereotypes. … The record before me is rife with the effects of historic and continuing discrimination against gays. The evidence in this record clearly demonstrates the impact of stigmatization on gay men in terms of denial of self, personal rejection, discrimination and exposure to violence. … It is one of the distinguishing strengths of Canada as a nation that we value tolerance and respect for others. All of us have fundamental rights including expression, association, and religion. … We, as individuals and as institutions, must acknowledge the duties that accompany our rights. Mr. Hall has a duty to accord to others who do not share his orientation the respect that they, with their religious values and beliefs, are due. Conversely, for the reasons I have given, the Principal and the Board have a duty to accord to Mr. Hall the respect that he is due as he attends the prom with his date, his classmates and their dates.

Sexual-minority students like Marc Hall and sexual-minority teachers have been marginalized in Canadian education as the expected replicator of a heteronormalized society and its heterosexualizing culture (Grace & Benson, 2000; Grace & Wells, 2001, 2004, & 2005). However, with equality rights of Canadians enshrined in Section 15 of the Charter, LGBT teachers and students have increasingly turned to the Courts to use the force of law to fight for their rights in schools and other educational settings. Thus the force of law has been countering the exclusionary force of history. As indicated earlier, that history is a record of the denial of the rights and privileges of full citizenship to LGBT Canadians who have never been as visible, vocal, safe, and secure in sociocultural contexts as those whose sex, sexual, and gender differences go unquestioned (Grace, 2001). The preceding excerpts from the judgment of Justice Robert MacKinnon provide a conspectus of this history of disenfranchisement.

Have post-1982 legal and legislative changes in Canada translated into full access and accommodation for LGBT teachers and students? They have not. While these changes have laid a basis for increased LGBT access and accommodation in culture and society, transformation of Canadian K-12 education so that it becomes more inclusive remains a slow, incremental process. LGBT teachers and students still confront heterosexism and homophobia daily in the generally conservative climate and culture of schools. Since support for LGBT rights in Canada coexists with continuing disapproval of LGBT citizens on political and moral grounds, LGBT teachers and students remain in a paradoxical struggle to be cared about in a caring profession. Indeed there has been a profound silencing of homosexuality in Canadian classrooms (MacDougall, 2000).

The 1998 Report on Education in Canada, which failed to provide any focus on sex, sexual, and gender differences, states, “Education reflects and influences the social, economic, political, and cultural changes happening around it” (CMEC, 1998, p. 3). At this juncture, Canadian K-12 education as a key public institution is being asked to respond to a prevalent and pervasive focus on legal and legislative changes with respect to acknowledging and accommodating sex, sexual, and gender differences. Indeed issues regarding these differences have made their way into schools, and LGBT teachers and students are increasingly expressing their needs and demanding their human and civil rights. One thing is now clear in K-12 schools in Canada: Gay is NOT going to go away. Thus changes to Canadian laws and legislation in relation to sex, sexual, and gender differences are requiring changes to educational policies and practices. The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) is proving to be a leader in this regard. Following the Vriend decision in 1998, the ATA moved quickly to protect LGBT students, passing a resolution at its 1999 annual representative assembly (ARA) to include sexual orientation as a category protected against discrimination in its Code of Professional Conduct. Then, at its 2000 ARA, ATA members provided the same protection to LGBT teachers by voting to include sexual orientation as a category of person protected by equality provisions in its Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities for Teachers. At its 2003 ARA, the ATA became the first teachers’ association in Canada to include gender identity in its Code of Professional Conduct, thus protecting trans-identified students. In 2004 the ATA provided the same protection to trans-identified teachers. In 2005 the ATA passed a resolution to enable and support the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliance groups in Alberta high schools.

With inclusive education across sex, sexual, and gender differences mandated by the ATA, all members of the Association have an ethical responsibility to act in light of these changes and demands that are focused on recognizing, respecting, and honoring the dignity and worth of LGBT individuals. However, this can be most stressful work and any teacher (or, for that matter, any member of any educational interest group) might be fearful. For example, LGBT teachers could fear the repercussions of being out and visible in their workplaces. They could also fear becoming role models for LGBT students because there are those in society who would conflate this role with being a recruiter to some misconstrued LGBT cause. Straight teacher allies could fear being labeled homosexual if they visibly support LGBT colleagues and students. Thus educators doing this work for social justice have to be courageous risk-takers.

However, beyond the practical fears that some teachers and some others with vested interests in K-12 education may have, and beyond the moral apprehensions of those citizens who do not understand and thus ignore or fear LGBT differences, everyone in education has to act in keeping with the constitutional guarantees respecting and accommodating LGBT citizens. This means that all we all have to address LGBT issues in relation to the social (being and interacting) and cultural (acting and doing) fabrics of schools as teachers’ workplaces and students’ learning environments.

Concluding PerspectiveTop of page

Progressive moves in Canadian law and legislation provide a framework to develop institutional supports and cultural practices enabling the acceptance and accommodation of LGBT citizens in education and other sociocultural contexts. However, in dispositional and practical terms, Canadian culture and society lag behind the law and legislation in building the kind of inclusive domain that legal judgments and legislative acts have guaranteed. Despite some progress in education, there is still a pressing need to focus on diversity, equity, welfare, and inclusion in relation to LGBT teachers and students who need personal and professional supports. There is also a pressing need to educate teachers, school administrators, and other interest groups including parents, politicians, and church groups regarding sex, sexual, and gender differences and the rights of LGBT citizens with respect to these differences. Such community education is timely and vital. It is part of building an inclusive ethical pedagogy and a Just Society. It is part of according LGBT persons the rights and respect that every Canadian is due.

BibliographyTop of page

Books and Book Chapters

Cintrón, R. (2000). Ethnicity, race, and culture: The case of Latino gay/bisexual men. In V. A. Wall & N. J. Evans (Eds.), Toward acceptance. Lanham, MD: American College Personnel Association.

Espin, O. M. (1984). Cultural and historical influences on sexuality in Hispanic/Latina

women: Implications for psychotherapy. In C. Vance (Ed.), Pleasure and danger: Exploring female sexuality. London: Routledge.

Ferguson, A. D., & Howard-Hamilton, M. F. (2000). Addressing issues of multiple

identities for women of color on college campuses. In V. A. Wall & N. J. Evans (Eds.), Toward acceptance. Lanham, MD: American College Personnel Association.

Goldie, T. (Ed.). (2001). In a queer country: Gay & lesbian studies in the Canadian context. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Grace, A. P., & Wells, K. (2004). Engaging sex-and-gender differences: Educational and cultural change initiatives in Alberta. In J. McNinch & M. Cronin (Eds.), I could not speak my heart: Education and social justice for gay and lesbian youth (pp. 289-307). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina.

Janoff, D. V. (2005). Pink blood: Homophobic violence in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lahey, K. A. (1999). Are we persons yet? Law and sexuality in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

MacDougall, B. (2000). Queer judgments: Homosexuality, expression, and the courts in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Smith, A. (1997). Cultural diversity and coming-out processes. In B. Greene (Ed.),

Psychological perspectives on lesbian and gay issues: Vol. 3. Ethnic and cultural diversity among lesbians and gay men. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Warner, T. (2002). Never going back: A history of queer activism in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Papers Published in Conference Proceedings and Journal Articles

Grace, A. P. (2001). Being, becoming, and belonging as a queer citizen educator: The places of queer autobiography, queer culture as community, and fugitive knowledge. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education, Laval University, Québec City, PQ, 100-106.

Grace, A. P. & Benson, F. J. (2000). Using autobiographical queer life narratives of teachers to connect personal, political and pedagogical spaces. International Journal of Inclusive Education 4(2), 89-109.

Grace, A. P. & Wells, K. (2001). Getting an education in Edmonton, Alberta: The case of queer youth. Torquere, Journal of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Studies Association, 3, 137-151.

Grace, A. P., & Wells, K. (2005). The Marc Hall prom predicament: Queer individual rights v. institutional church rights in Canadian public education. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(3), 237-270.


Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Educational Website. 2004. Accessed November 1, 2005. Developed by Kristopher Wells, this educational Website is an encompassing resource for schoolteachers. It provides suggestions and guidelines to help teachers address homophobia and heterosexism in their school, classroom, and community environments. It contains research articles, background papers, teacher narratives, and an extensive listing of provincial, national, and international resources.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Archives. 2002. The Charter at 20. P. Saunders. Accessed December 2, 2002.

CBC Archives. 2003. B.C. Court Backs Same-Sex Marriages. Accessed February 25, 2004.

CBC Archives. 2003. MPs Vote to Protect Gays under Hate Law. Accessed February 25, 2004.

CBC Archives. 2005. The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage. Accessed November 1, 2005. The CBC, Canada’s government-funded multimedia corporation, keeps archives that include a rich database on historical and contemporary aspects of gay liberation in Canada.

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. (CMEC). 1998. Report on Education in Canada. Accessed November 15, 2001. In Canada education is a provincial/territorial jurisdiction. Since education is not federally controlled, the CMEC was set up to enable provinces and territories to share and deliberate about the state of education in their jurisdictions. The CMEC Website is a resource providing documents and other information to inform those interested in historical and contemporary issues in Canadian education.

Equality for Gay and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE Canada). 2004. Accessed February 25, 2004. EGALE Canada was founded in 1986 to advocate for Canadian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. Similar to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in the USA, EGALE engages in political action to achieve more equitable laws for LGBT people; intervenes in legal cases that have an impact on LGBT human rights and equality; and increases public education and awareness by providing information to individuals, groups, and the media.

Gay and Lesbian Educators of British Columbia (GALE-BC). 2004. Accessed February 25, 2004. GALE-BC was formed in 1990 as a community-based educational advocacy and resource group. As part of its mandate, GALE-BC emphasizes the need to work towards the full inclusion of LGBT students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the BC educational system. GALE-BC is the largest community-based LGBT educational organization in Canada. It actively supports Gay-Straight Alliances in BC Schools.

Supreme Court of Canada (SCS). (2004, December 9). Reference re same-sex marriage (2004 SCC 79; file no.: 29866). Accessed December 9, 2004.

EndnotesTop of page

1Sexual orientation is defined here as sexual desire and need for affectional or erotic partners of the same, opposite, or either sex. Therefore, both heterosexuals and homosexuals have a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity, e.g. a person born a biological male but whose gender identity is that of a female can be oriented to either a male or a female person as the object of his/her desire and need. It is essential to note: “Definitions of sexual orientation may vary, in part, due to the fact that many cultures have a wide range of perceptions and attitudes about sexual behavior depending on factors such as gender, religion, and social status” (Ferguson & Howard-Hamilton, 2000, p. 286; see also Espin, 1984; Smith, 1997). It must be kept in mind that not every society has created sociological categories or defined people according to their sexual desire or behavior. In other words, “gay” or “homosexual” are not universal designations with similar meanings everywhere (Cintrón, 2000, p. 307). Gender identity is defined here as the gender (a psychological and/or socially constructed state that is distinct from biological sex, i.e. female or male) to which an individual identifies; a sense of being a woman or a man; a sense of being masculine or feminine based on desired ontology or kind of being not biological sex; gender identity has a personal and emotive sense to it.

2The current revised provincial human rights legislation in Alberta is entitled the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.

3The Supreme Court has yet to hear any case involving the human or civil rights of bisexual, transgender, or transsexual citizens (Lahey, 1999).