Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Canada census to count same-sex couples for the first time

Canada census to count same-sex couples for the first time
The Associated PressPublished: September 6, 2007

TORONTO: Canada will release its first census count of same-sex married couples next week, but some activists in the gay and lesbian community are not happy with the way the census treated the question.

Some object that gay couples were relegated to the census questionnaire's "other" box, and some asked whether same-sex marriage should be counted at all.

"I don't think we should be a segregated group just because we're same-sex married. Marriage is marriage," Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, an advocate group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights, said in an interview last month.

The group urged people to list their relationship as husband or wife rather than filling in the "other" box, and in the end it said many members simply chose not to complete the census in protest.

When Canada became the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005, its census officials hurried to include that group in the next count.

The term "spouse" was suggested during focus group testing but proved too confusing for participants, said Anne Milan, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada. Terms like "husband" and "wife" were also ruled out, as they are not commonly used in the gay community, she said.

The end result was an "other" box "where people were encouraged to include same-sex married couple as a write-in response.

Statistics Canada and Egale are talking about how to change the counting process next time.

Last November, the now-defunct advocacy group Canadians For Equal Marriage, based on its research of municipal records, reported that 12,438 marriage licenses had been granted to same-sex couples since 2003.

Same-sex common-law couples were recorded in the 2001 census. There were 34,200 such unions, representing 0.5 percent of all couples in Canada.

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