Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And another thing

And another thing about Canada. While having coffee with a Montreal journalist, in the course of general conversation he referred to his husband. It was a natural and easy reference—no explanation required—exactly as it should be when someone refers to their spouse. So natural that it felt like a splash of fresh cold water, and I thought at the same time of New Zealand politicians' contorted writhings over the question of 'same-sex marriage.' Canada got over all that a long time ago and the sky, as far as I could tell in Quebec, has not fallen in; nor have centuries of moral tradition crumbled into decay. I'm reminded of Marilyn Waring's powerful inaugural professorial lecture at AUT in 2006 (not online, as far as I know, but I'm happy to email a copy to anyone who asks) when she compared Canada's bold enlightened approach to this issue with New Zealand's timorous tiptoeing. It all happened simultaneously around 2003-04, when Canada (under a conservative prime minister, Jean Chretien) was happily signing up to same-sex marriage legislation while New Zealand (under a supposedly centre-left prime minister, Helen Clark) was settling for a dismal compromise called 'civil unions.' In her lecture, Waring quoted from the Canadian Supreme Court judgment that cleared the way for the historic legislation. Let these words echo down the years: 'The "frozen concepts" reasoning [regarding marriage] runs contrary to 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.' So where's that 'living tree' in clean green modern New Zealand?

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