Australian High Commission
Responsibility for Bermuda

Capital Pride 2020

A conversation on Marriage Equality

Ottawa Capital Pride takes place in August each year. To celebrate this year we’re hosting a special interactive YouTube online event ( to discuss marriage equality in Australia, Canada and Ireland. This online event will take place on Wednesday, 26 August at 7pm EST. We are co-hosting this Pathways to Marriage Equality event with our friends in the Irish Embassy in Canada. We are delighted that Rev. Dr. Robert Oliphant, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will join the discussion and Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol and Global Affairs Canada's LGBTIQ2+ Champion, will moderate.

Overview of pathways to marriage mquality

Marriage equality in Canada, Ireland, and Australia was achieved in three very different ways, but all with the same goal in mind: achieving marriage rights for members of the LGBTIQ2+  community. Canada was the first of the three countries to bring in marriage equality. From 2003-2005, marriage rights were introduced in a number of provinces as a result of court orders. In 2005, the Civil Marriage Act was enacted, granting marriage rights to LGBTIQ2+ Canadians nationwide. In May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise marriage equality by popular vote. 62% of the Irish population voted Yes in the marriage equality referendum, and so the equal right to marriage for LGBTIQ2+ people is now enshrined in the Irish constitution. Between September and November 2017, the Australian Government conducted a voluntary postal survey to ask the Australian people whether or not they were in favour of marriage equality. 61.6% of the respondents voted Yes in this plebiscite, which led to the introduction of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. This became law in December 2017. Over the course of this webinar, the speakers will discuss the various ways that equality was achieved, by each giving an overview of the different ways marriage rights were enacted in their respective countries. They will also share their personal experiences of each of their country’s marriage equality movements, and offer their insights on how the LGBTIQ2+ community was affected before, during, and after the various campaigns. There will be an opportunity for viewers to ask questions, and to share their own thoughts and experiences through the comment section on the YouTube live stream.

Rev. Dr. Robert Oliphant, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
H.E. Ms. Natasha Smith, Australian High Commissioner to Canada
Ms. Laura Finlay, Second Secretary, Embassy of Ireland

Mr. Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol of Canada

Speaker Bios:

Robert Oliphant, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Rev. Dr. Robert Oliphant was elected to the House of Commons on October 19, 2015 and re-elected on October 21, 2019, representing the federal riding of Don Valley West. He previously served in that position from 2008 until 2011 where he served as Official Opposition Critic for Veterans Affairs and for Multiculturalism. In December 2019, Rob was appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Rob works closely with the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to ensure constructive Canadian leadership in the world and promote Canada’s interests and values globally. Rob’s recent legislative accomplishments include an Act which outlaws discrimination against genetic characteristics as well as an Act he co-sponsored which creates a national dementia strategy. Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, he has a Masters of Divinity from the Vancouver School of Theology, at the University of British Columbia and served congregations in Newfoundland, Quebec, Yukon and Toronto. He earned a Doctorate from the Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago in 2008.

Natasha Smith, Australian High Commissioner to Canada
The Australian High Commissioner to Canada is Her Excellency Ms Natasha Smith. Ms Smith took up her appointment in February 2018. Ms Smith is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Ms Smith has served overseas as First Secretary in Indonesia and Counsellor at the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York. Ms Smith’s career in DFAT and previously the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) spans over 25 years and has included a broad range of policy, program and corporate roles, in Australia and overseas.  This has included leading the Afghanistan and Pakistan, Workforce Strategy and Security, and Humanitarian Response Branches. She was also a member of the Task Force charged with overseeing the major change process to integrate AusAID and DFAT into a single department. Ms Smith is also one of DFAT’s inaugural Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Champions. 

Laura Finlay, Second Secretary, Embassy of Ireland
The Second Secretary at the Embassy of Ireland, Laura Finlay, holds an MSc in Equality Studies from the School of Social Policy, Social Work, and Social Justice in University College Dublin, where her research focused on the Irish transgender rights movement. Over the past decade, Laura has contributed to the expansion of the LGBTQ activism landscape in Ireland at a policy and practice level within a range of contexts including the University and NGO sector. She gives regular talks and workshops around Ireland about LGBTQ history, queer identities, coming out, and trans inclusiveness. Before beginning her posting in Canada, Laura’s desk in the Department of Foreign Affairs was in the Strategy and Performance Unit, working on the Departmental approach to gender equality, and equality and diversity issues. Prior to this, she worked primarily in the voluntary sector. Amongst other roles, Laura was the national LGBT Rights Officer for the Union of Students in Ireland, and is a former board member of Dublin LGBTQ Pride, where she served as the parade director. Laura was the volunteer co-ordinator for the 4th European Transgender Rights Conference, and sat on the board of directors of the Transgender Equality Network in Ireland for 5 years, only resigning when she joined the Irish Civil Service.

Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol of Canada
Stewart Wheeler has been Chief of Protocol of Canada since January 2019. From July 2016 to December 2018 he served in the Ontario Public Service as the Assistant Deputy Minister of International Relations and Chief of Protocol in the Cabinet Office – Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. Stewart has over 20 years of experience in Canada’s Foreign Service, with postings in Washington, London, Bogota, Kabul and from 2012 to 2016 as the Ambassador of Canada in Iceland. In his overseas assignments he has covered policy areas including: US congressional relations, trade promotion, Arctic foreign policy, energy trade policy, human rights, peace processes, post-conflict reconstruction, and public affairs. At headquarters in Ottawa, Mr. Wheeler has also had a variety of assignments, serving as parliamentary relations officer, departmental spokesperson in the Press Office, deputy director of Mexico Relations, deputy director of corporate and internal communications, and director of Cabinet relations. He received the Minister’s Award for Foreign Policy Excellence in 1999 for his work on the Kosovo Task Force and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He earned the Operational Service Medal – South-West Asia Ribbon, for his civilian service in Afghanistan in 2010-2011. Stewart Wheeler is currently Global Affairs Canada’s LGBTIQ2+ Champion.