By SHAWNA RICHER
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
HALIFAX -- Cameron MacLeod and Vincent DuJohn, a young couple with eager dreams of home ownership and children and pets, are thrilled that same-sex unions such as theirs have been counted for the first time in the census.
The 2001 census, released yesterday, is the most detailed look at the modern family in years and now includes a count of same-sex couples as families.
"It's exciting to be recognized for the first time," said Mr. MacLeod, a 26-year-old corporate computer teacher. "To be counted adds meaning and legitimacy to my partnership, not just for me personally, but also so other people might recognize their discrimination. To see society shift in this way is a very big step."
The two men met as students at the University of New Brunswick more than three years ago, and moved here to Atlantic Canada's largest city to pursue their careers and start their life as a couple.
Mr. MacLeod and Mr. DuJohn are among 855 same-sex common-law couples from Nova Scotia who chose to report themselves as living in such unions. Last June, Nova Scotia became the only jurisdiction in Canada to formally recognize same-sex couples as domestic partners.
Nationwide, 2.95 per cent of common-law couples identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Of the 11 million households surveyed in the census, 34,200 couples said they were living in homosexual relationships. The figure represents almost 3 per cent of 1,158,410 common-law couples counted, or about 0.5 per cent of both married and common-law couples.
"Up until now, the government could always say they didn't have to change policies because they didn't know how many gay and lesbian people there were," Mr. MacLeod said. "Now, they really can't ignore it. There are a whole lot of votes there."
Mr. MacLeod, raised in Ottawa, and Mr. DuJohn, from Fredericton, said they have avoided any serious physical or verbal discrimination. Both men's parents accept their sexuality, and they spend happy holidays at each other's families' houses. They are, essentially, the perfect statistic. And as they look toward their future, they also look forward to the next census.
"That will show far greater numbers," Mr. DuJohn, a 24-year-old actuarial analyst, said. "I didn't think the numbers would reflect the true situation. There's still a lot of fear in telling the government information like that, but hopefully that will change now.
"Actually, next time, I'd like to see the question just ask if people are married or common-law, and forget the distinction between homo or heterosexual. If we're going for equality, then not having that distinction should be the goal, right?"
The pair is interested in how the findings will influence the way the government defines marriage, especially since the numbers are almost certainly low.
"The results don't tell us there are 34,000 same-sex couples, but rather that there are at least that many living in every community and raising children," John Fisher, executive director of Egale, the national gay-rights group, said.
The census reported that 15 per cent of common-law lesbian couples have children but only 3 per cent of male partners do. Mr. MacLeod and Mr. DuJohn hope to bolster their numbers.
"I definitely want to be a daddy. For sure, we're planning on it, some day," Mr. MacLeod said.