You have stated that it would not be legally necessary to use the notwithstanding clause to protect a statutory definition of marriage that excludes same sex couples. As law professors, we strenuously disagree. We refer you to the letter posted at h


We also note that the Quebec Court of Appeal did strike down a statutory opposite-sex definition.

It appears to be your intention to pass a law that you know is almost certainly unconstitutional and then leave it to the courts to clean up the mess. This would be untenable and irresponsible and we call on you to take a more responsible approach, namely to first refer your proposed legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada.

You have insisted that the Supreme Court would defer to Parliament’s decision to adopt a discriminatory definition of marriage, despite the overwhelming weight of legal jurisprudence to the contrary. If you truly believe that, then you should have no hesitation in agreeing to a Supreme Court reference.

Passage of a law taking away the right to civil marriage from same-sex couples without first testing its constitutionality would be legally reckless.

If your government proceeds to pass a law that is so clearly unconstitutional, the result will be legal confusion, a lack of uniformity, and unnecessary, protracted and costly litigation. Provinces won’t know whether to follow clear court rulings or a law they know to be unconstitutional. There will be lengthy legal battles as litigation proceeds in numerous provinces and through several levels of court before finally reaching the Supreme Court some years down the road.

Undoubtedly, courts will order the government to pay the cost of this litigation. As your proposed law is declared to be constitutionally invalid province by province and territory by territory, the result will be a legal patchwork across the country. As noted by the Supreme Court in its December 2004 Same-Sex Marriage Reference decision at paragraph 69, “uniformity of the law is essential.” We agree.

In the extremely unlikely event the Supreme Court finds your legislation constitutional, then you can proceed knowing the notwithstanding clause is not required. If not, then, given your promise not to use the notwithstanding clause, we expect you would cancel any plans to move forward with your proposed legislation.

Mr. Harper, we call on you to indicate publicly whether you support a Supreme Court reference of your proposed legislation before it is passed by Parliament. It is the only responsible course to take.

Professor Martha Jackman, University of Ottawa
Professor Hugo Cyr, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Brenda Cossman, University of Toronto
Professor Karen Busby, University of Manitoba
Professor Janet Mosher, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor Allan Hutchinson, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor Pierre Mackay, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Mary Jane Mossman, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor François Chevrette, Université de Montréal
Professor Jennifer Nedelsky, University of Toronto
Professor Angela Campbell, McGill University
Professor Ken Norman, University of Saskatchewan,
Professor Dr. Lorna Turnbull, University of Manitoba
Professor Freya Kodar, University of Victoria
Professor Ruth Sullivan, University of Ottawa
Professor Denise Réaume, University of Toronto
Professor Alain Roy, Université de Montréal
Professor Roland Penner, University of Manitoba
Professor Lorraine Weinrib, University of Toronto
Professor Jacques Desmarais, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Andrée Lajoie, Université de Montréal
Professor Steve Coughlan, Dalhousie University
Professor Annie Rochette, University of British Columbia
Professor Jennifer Bankier, Dalhousie University
Professor Ellen Zweibel, University of Ottawa
Professor Rebecca Johnson, University of Victoria
Professor Lisa Fainstein, University of Manitoba
Professor Bruce Broomhall, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor François J Larocque, University of Ottawa
Professor Michelle Thériault, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor France Houle, Université de Montréal
Professor Dr. DeLloyd Guth, University of Manitoba
Professor Michelle Giroux, Université d’Ottawa
Professor Myron Gochnauer, University of New Brunswick
Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor Kathleen Mahoney, University of Calgary
Professor Bernard Duhaime, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Louise Rolland, Université de Montréal
Professor Rose Voyvodic, University of Windsor
Professor Richard Moon, University of Windsor
Professor Reem Bahdi, University of Windsor
Professor François Crépeau, Université de Montréal
Professor Barney Sneiderman, University of Manitoba
Professor Stéphane Émard-Chabot, University of Ottawa
Professor William Bogart, University of Windsor
Professor Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto
Professor Joanne St. Lewis, University of Ottawa
Professor Susan Drummond, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor Michèle L. Caron, Université de Moncton
Professor Rosemary Cairns Way, University of Ottawa
Professor Anne Saris, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Tamara M. Buckwold, University of Alberta
Professor David M. Tanovich, University of Windsor
Professor Ravi Malhotra, University of Ottawa
Professor Christine Morin, Université Laval
Professor Lucie Lamarche, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Sanda Rodgers, University of Ottawa
Professor Renalda Murphy, Dalhousie University
Professor Sylvette Guillemard, Université Laval
Professor Bernard Dickens, University of Toronto
Professor Gemma Smyth, University of Windsor
Professor Denis Boivin, University of Ottawa
Professor Kim Brooks, University of British Columbia
Professor Sharryn Atkins, Queen’s University
Professor Angela Fernandez, University of Toronto
Professor Teresa Scassa, Dalhousie University
Professor Isabel Grant, University of British Columbia
Professor Lisa Philipps, Osgoode Hall Law School
Professor Jutta Brunnée, University of Toronto
Professor Winnifred Holland, University of Western Ontario.
Professor Sophie Lavallée, Université Laval
Professor Wendy Adam, McGill University
Professor Natasha Bakht, University of Ottawa
Professor Dr. Jennifer Schulz, University of Manitoba
Professor Michel Morin, Université de Montréal
Professor Sébastien Lebel-Grenier, Université de Sherbrooke
Professor John A. Yogis, Dalhousie University
Professor Diane L. Demers, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Kathleen A Lahey, Queens University
Professor Serge Roussel, Université de Moncton
Professor Heather McLeod-Kilmurray, University of Ottawa
Professor Jennifer Llewellyn, Dalhousie University
Professor Sophia R. Moreau, University of Toronto.
Professor Jane Bailey, University of Ottawa
Professor Dawn Moore, Carleton University
Professor Debra Parkes, University of Manitoba
Professor Aaron A. Dhir, University of Windsor
Professor Patricia Hughes, University of Calgary.
Professor Louise Langevin, Université Laval
Professor Sheila McIntyre, University of Ottawa
Professor Melanie Randall University of Western Ontario
Professor Marie-Claire Belleau, Université Laval
Professor Nicole LaViolette, Université d’Ottawa
Professor Beverley Baines, Queens University
Professor David Fewer, University of Ottawa
Professor Darlene Johnston, University of Toronto
Professor Jennifer Koshan, University of Calgary
Professor Robert Currie, Dalhousie University
Professor Simon Roy, Université de Sherbrooke
Professor David Lametti, McGill University
Professor Tina Piper, McGill University
Professor E. Richard Gold, McGill University
Professor Evan Fox-Decent, McGill University
Professor Ronald B. Sklar, McGill University