Canada Heritage Web Site:
Sexual Orientation and Human Rights
Throughout the world, sexual relationships between persons of the same gender have often been the cause for discrimination by state law and society.
In Canada, before 1969, same-sex practices between consenting adults were considered crimes punishable by imprisonment. That year, the Canadian government passed an omnibus bill decriminalizing private sexual acts between two people over the age of 21 – a breakthrough in treating gay men, lesbians and bisexuals equally under the law.
Almost ten years later, in 1977, Québec became the first jurisdiction in Canada to amend the province's Charter of Human Rights to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
The Canadian Human Rights Act bans (or proscribes) discrimination, including the unequal treatment of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. In 1996, it was amended to explicitly include sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. This inclusion of sexual orientation in the Act was an express declaration by Parliament that gay and lesbian Canadians are entitled to "an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have..." (Section 2). The Canadian Human Rights Commission , which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Act, provides further information about human rights and sexual orientation. Complaints, progress and other activities are all included in the commission's annual reports .
Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every individual is to be considered equal regardless of religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability. In Egan v. Canada,  2 S.C.R. 513 , the Supreme Court of Canada held that although "sexual orientation" is not listed as a ground for discrimination in section 15(1), it constitutes an analogous ground on which claims of discrimination may be based. In Vriend v. Alberta,  1 S.C.R. 493 , the Court held that provincial human rights legislation that omitted the ground of sexual orientation violated section 15(1).