Maurice Vellacott, MP -Saskatoon-Wanuskewin
Vellacott defends marriage commissioner under attack
– Saskatchewan’s first case of refusal to perform same-sex ceremony –
For Immediate Release July 13, 2005
OTTAWA – Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) has learned that the Saskatchewan marriage commissioner facing a complaint from two homosexuals wanting him to marry them is Orville Nichols from Regina. The two homosexuals who issued the complaint are Mark Jaegli and Brian Runge of Regina. Nichols has already received public attention as one of at least three marriage commissioners who have filed human rights complaints against the province over this issue. Several months ago, Nichols filed a complaint before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, objecting to the province’s violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the province’s human rights code by discriminating against him on the basis of his conscience and religious freedom.
Yesterday, Vellacott expressed consternation upon learning that the Saskatchewan Justice Minister is investigating this complaint against a marriage commissioner. The federal Justice Minister has appealed to the provinces to attempt to find a balance between the constitutional protection for religion and conscience and the new political “right” of same-sex marriage, but Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell has made it clear that he believes marriage commissioners should resign if they won’t perform same-sex marriages.
“That approach violates the spirit and letter of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Vellacott. “This is not how official bilingualism policy is implemented. When it comes to bilingualism requirements, government services must be available in both official languages, but not necessarily by the same person. Bilingualism is rooted in the Charter, yet attempts have been made to implement policies in a fair-minded fashion,” added Vellacott, who is a Conservative Party critic for Official Languages.
“There are other marriage commissioners in Regina who are prepared to solemnize a homosexual marriage,” said Vellacott, noting that Manitoba lesbian, Stefphany Cholakis, the first Manitoban to register a same-sex marriage, has also urged governments to show some tolerance and find an acceptable compromise. She said that her province should not force marriage commissioners to marry homosexuals, arguing that there are enough commissioners willing to perform the ceremonies. Commissioners “should have a choice. I don’t think they should be pressured,” she said.
“The provincial government would be out of line to make a decision on the complaint by these homosexuals prior to hearing Nichols’ own complaint against the province,” said Vellacott.
For further comment, call (613) 992-1966 or 297-2294