House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is not a single piece of material bearing my name that the hon. member can show anybody that shows I have linked pedophilia to homosexuality. That is absolute nonsense.

It has been a propaganda tool used by those who are opposed to the views I advocate to make me seem something I am not. What I have said and will continue to say is sexual orientation, as a phrase, means far more than heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. Recognized experts in the fields of law, medicine and psychiatry who have appeared before various committees of the House have given that testimony. It is not I, but they.

None of them has made any link between homosexuality and pedophilia. What they have said is various types of sexual orientations are within that term. They have said pedophilia is a type of sexual orientation. That is the debate and that has constantly been twisted by the hon. member and others to indicate that I have somehow linked pedophilia with homosexuality. That is a total and complete falsehood.

I ask the hon. member if he would agree with me that Dr. Stephen J. Wormith, chairperson, and Dr. Howard Barbaree, member of the criminal justice psychology section of the Canadian Psychological Association, have indicated that sexual orientation is a key and fundamental component of pedophilia.

John Conroy, chair of the committee on imprisonment and release, national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association said: "I would take the definition that you raised a minute ago. That has certainly been the definition I have always understood, homosexual, heterosexual or some other sexual orientation. It could be any kind of sexual orientation and it could be something that is illegal".

My point is that if we are to have debate, that is fine. Let us stick to the facts, not lies.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I trust at the conclusion of my time you will want to draw to the attention of the hon. member his unparliamentary language.

On the definition of sexual orientation, perhaps the hon. member is not aware these words have been included in legislation in Canada since 1977, in the province of Quebec since 1977, in seven provinces and one territory. They have been included in jurisdictions throughout the world and not once, never, have those words ever been used to defend any illegal conduct.

For the hon. member to suggest that somehow sexual orientation could be interpreted in a way that would include illegal conduct of whatever nature flies totally in the face of reality. If this were to happen, I would suggest that somewhere in the world in the course of the last 20 years someone might have raised that point. Nobody ever has.

It is just as when we talk about the definition of family. This is another example where the hon. member has said this legislation might actually lead to the recognition of gay and lesbian families.

The fact of the matter is that gay and lesbian people are involved in committed, loving relationships. The fact of the matter is that family in Canada today is a concept that certainly extends well beyond the definition that was proposed by the Reform member from Edmonton yesterday who talked about family being a heterosexual couple with children.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1 p.m.

An hon. member

That's right.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

A Reform member says that is right. Are they saying that single parent families are not families in Canada? That is absolutely unbelievable. For a party that suggests it believes in

the family to say that the only families it recognizes are families which are headed by mothers and fathers and have children is unbelievable. That is what Reformers are saying.

It is ironic that the best known Canadian family around the world was a family composed of a brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older brother and sister who were never married and their adopted child, Anne Shirley, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables. When Matthew died, Marilla's friend, Rachel came to live with the family and they adopted twins.

God forbid: the Anne of Green Gables family is not the tradition family. When I hear the member for Scarborough West and when I hear Reform Party members saying that we should define family to exclude gay and lesbian families I say they should wake up and look at the reality of the constituents they represent because it includes gay and lesbian families.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has raised the question of the use of the word lies. The Chair did not think the member was addressing the word lies to accuse that member of using lies. Would the member for Scarborough West wish to clarify that point?

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course I was not referring to the hon. member. I had already stated that the attempt to link those two has been done by many. I did not wish to cast any aspersions whatsoever on the hon. member, and he knows that.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1 p.m.

Vaudreuil
Québec

Liberal

Nick Discepola Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that I will share my speaking time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.

As the member for Vaudreuil, I am especially proud of the fact that the government tabled this bill. This bill recognizes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Canada.

The bill amends the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding sexual orientation to the prohibited grounds of discrimination already listed in the act, including race, colour, religion and sex.

This will bring the wording of the act in line with court decisions prescribing that sexual orientation be included in or added to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination contained in the act so that the act will be consistent with the Canadian Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously recognized that sexual orientation was a ground of discrimination similar to those listed in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter applies to all legislation passed by this Parliament, including the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The proposed amendment will make this act consistent with the rights protected under the charter as well as with court decisions granting gays and lesbians the same protection against discrimination as other Canadians enjoy.

Those who object to sexual orientation being recognized as a prohibited ground of discrimination make it a matter of moral values, when this is mainly a legal matter. No one in this country should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. This is a basic matter of justice and fairness. We have no business judging people on the basis of their homosexuality or heterosexuality. On the other hand, we have a duty to protect all Canadians against discrimination in our society.

The courts and people of Canada have recognized the fact that gays and lesbians form a vulnerable group. They have historically been disadvantaged and been the victim of stereotypes, social biases and considerable discrimination in our society.

No individual should be less deserving of being recognized as a full fledged member of Canadian society because of his homosexuality. All deserve the same respect, the same consideration and the same protection under the law of the land.

According to recent polls, most Canadians feel that gays and lesbians should enjoy legal protection against discrimination as regards employment and services. Canadians support the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

All recognize that sexual orientation, like sex, race or religion, should not have a bearing on the right to employment or services. The Canadian Human Rights Act seeks to prevent discrimination at the federal level in the areas of employment and provision of goods and services. It applies exclusively to federally regulated departments, agencies and corporations. The act provides a recourse to anyone fired or unfairly treated by an employer, or to whom goods or services are refused on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Gays and lesbians must enjoy the same legal protection as all Canadians, so that no one in our country is a victim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This amendment provides such victims with a quick and inexpensive way to engage in a conciliation and settlement process.

Eight provinces and territories already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in their own human rights legislation. They are Quebec which, since 1987 already, has had such an act, as well as Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

This amendment aligns the federal act with the provincial ones, while also ensuring that it provides the same protection to any person who is discriminated against on the basis of sexual

orientation. The amendment promotes greater fundamental justice and equity for all Canadians.

Some people have raised various concerns regarding this amendment. It is important to address these concerns. First, the protection granted to homosexuals does not apply in the case of pedophilia. Judicial and administrative tribunals have interpreted the expression "sexual orientation" as meaning homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. Pedophilia is a specific crime in the Criminal Code, regardless of whether it is committed by a heterosexual or a homosexual: it has nothing to do with someone's sexual orientation.

In addition, this amendment does not call into question the definition of the family, marriage or spouse, or the fundamental role of the family in Canadian society. Neither does this amendment lead to the automatic recognition of benefits for same sex partners, or open the door to homosexual marriages or the adoption of children by homosexual couples.

The sole purpose of this amendment is to provide protection for gays and lesbians against discrimination with respect to employment and the provision of goods and services in areas under federal jurisdiction. It must also be pointed out that the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply to religious, cultural or educational institutions under provincial regulation. This amendment will therefore not affect these institutions. The fears raised by this amendment do not, in general, take sufficient account of the context and true scope of this amendment.

We believe that this amendment is necessary in order to ensure a certain basic equity in order to protect all Canadians against types of discrimination they encounter in their daily lives.

The Canadian Human Rights Act, more than any other kind of legislation, reflects the values of a country and of a people. Tolerance, equity, and justice are fundamental principles of our Canadian identity. Canada is recognized internationally as one of the countries in the world with the greatest respect for human rights. We cannot accept that people in this country continue to be victims of discrimination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. The purpose of this amendment is to correct precisely this situation and to ensure greater equity for all Canadians in our society.

Canadian society recognizes the importance of an individual's right to be respected. Each individual is unique and distinct, and must be able to count on the same protection under the law. Everyone has a sexual orientation, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, and this distinction must not be used to justify different protection from that enjoyed by the majority of Canadians against discriminatory practices. This amendment makes it possible to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in federal work places or in federally regulated businesses, such as banks or airlines.

The exclusion of sexual orientation in Canadian legislation offers basic protection against discrimination, such as in the case of dismissal, or the refusal to provide services simply because a person is gay or lesbian.

Although this is only a minor amendment to the act, I would like to conclude by saying that this bill nonetheless constitutes an essential amendment to ensure equal treatment and opportunities for all Canadians. This bill will help build a society in which discrimination is not tolerated and in which there is equal protection for all individuals. This amendment makes it possible to ensure that gays and lesbians receive the same basic protection against discrimination enjoyed by all other Canadians. It is a question of rights, of justice and of fundamental fairness.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, because of the great interest in this bill and because of the lengthy list of speakers, some of us will not have an opportunity to speak, so I am hoping to make a few of my points by asking questions and making comments.

I listened very carefully to my colleague. I have two comments to make and two very simple questions for him.

He indicated, and he is absolutely correct, that sexual orientation is contained in the human rights codes of numerous provinces. I wondered if he was aware that sexual orientation is contained in the human rights act of the territory of Yukon and that the sexual orientation phrase is defined in the human rights act of the territory of Yukon. It is defined as follows: "Sexual orientation means heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual and refers only to consenting adults acting within the law". If he is aware of that, I would ask him if he thinks it was incorrect to define the phrase in the Yukon human rights code.

Second, I hold in my hand the Criminal Code of Canada. It is my assertion that nowhere in this book is the word pedophilia used. There is no such thing in the Criminal Code of Canada as the crime of pedophilia. If a person commits certain sexual acts against a child, that is a crime. Pedophilia is no more a crime than thinking about planning a murder. There is no crime in planning a murder. There is a crime in acting on those thoughts.

I wonder if the hon. member would agree with me that the so-called crime of pedophilia is not in this book, but that it is the acting out of the desires of people which are specifically banned.

Canadian Human Rights Act
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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fundamental issue is whether it is a moral issue or whether it is an issue of discrimination. I have conscientiously looked at all the alternatives. I have a family. I am

the father of four. I believe this is fundamentally an issue of discrimination.

As a practising Catholic I do not want to get into the debate of whether someone is more religious than another person. No religion tolerates discrimination. That is what the issue is. We are adding two simple words to the act and if we have differences of opinion on that I respect everyone's differences.

I am in the fortunate position today to be a member of this House. If it was my daughter or my son that was discriminated against, what would I want and how would I want my son or daughter treated?

I have a gay employee who has worked for me for the last 15 years. I have never had to put him in the back of the shop. Thanks to his contribution to my small businesses we have prospered.

When I talked to him at great length over it there is one question that he asked me that I could never answer and that convinced me. He said: "Why is it wrong for one human being to love another human being?" I have no answer for that and until I have an answer then I have to say discrimination is intolerable in our society.

That is the direction from which I come at it. I respect others who do not share that opinion, but it is for that reason I will be voting in favour of bill tonight. I thank the Minister of Justice who has put this initiative forward.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me first reiterate that the Canadian Human Rights Act only applies to the federal government and to federally regulated businesses like banks, railways, airlines and telecommunications companies, and governs employment and the provision of goods and services in each of these sectors, which covers only 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce.

The rest of the Canadian workforce is covered by the provincial and territorial human rights codes. I am also satisfied that the act does not apply to religious, cultural or educational institutions; they are not under federal jurisdiction.

In 1995 royal assent was given to Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts in consequence thereof. In section 718.2 of that act, the words sexual orientation were added. The act contained many beneficial changes, but what some members of the House focused on was the inclusion of the words sexual orientation in the list of grounds for discrimination. These two words have created a lot of concerns on the part of many people who understandably have brought them forward in various ways.

This debate is here again with the inclusion of sexual orientation in Bill C-33 which is to protect those who work under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As we know, this inclusion will prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians. This discrimination is already prohibited in seven provinces and one territory, and B.C. is one of these provinces.

Many Canadians are concerned that the amendment will open the door to other demands, such as same sex benefits. I would like to comment that nothing earthshaking has happened in the above provinces since the legislation was introduced. There was no request to include the same sex benefits.

For me it is a matter of human rights. I believe that everyone in the world should be treated equally. I also believe that I must protect those who suffer discrimination yet have no voice. My role as parliamentarian is to give them a voice. I do not think it is up to me to judge people or the way they behave.

We are also talking about the family, and I would like to say I believe in extended families. Families that include everyone whose presence means comfort and compatibility. Those we are compatible with are not necessarily those closest to us.

The family has changed in recent decades. When I was in Italy, I belonged to a large family. I have only one brother, but my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my uncles and aunts, my cousins and my friends were part of the family. I got along very well with many of them.

My father and my mother were always in the picture. In Canada, my family simply includes a son who is now 28. All the rest of my family is in Italy and I often find comfort in my friends. Believe me, many people in my riding are in the same situation so what is the family? A nucleus of people who choose to be together and rejoice in each other.

If we have concerns about the family, we show little faith in the family because the family has always taken care of itself and has survived through thick and thin. In fact, there is nothing more meaningful or more comforting than a family and its members in the manner in which we choose them. Families are resilient. Families are as strong as their members are.

Let me add that Roget's International Thesaurus on page 884 uses the following synonyms for family: kinfolk, race, brood, lineage, offspring, community; quite a wide choice of synonyms. Is the world not a large family?

Let me add that the proposed legislation will not change the definition of family, marriage or spouse. It will, however, do something extremely important. It will send a message that discrimination is unacceptable under all circumstances, a message that Canadians have been upholding all along.

It is a message which we heard loud and clear when in October 1994 an Angus Reid poll told us that 81 per cent of respondents said they would be bothered if a lesbian or a gay colleague experienced discrimination in the workplace; 81 per cent also indicated their belief that gays and lesbians experience discrimination in the workplace; 48 per cent of Canadians said they personally knew someone who was gay or lesbian; 36 per cent stated that they had a gay or lesbian friend; 12 per cent stated that they had a gay or lesbian co-worker; and 12 per cent said that they had a family member who was gay or lesbian.

Because of these statistics and my convictions, I believe in this bill, which respects the rights of individuals. After all, we are talking about human beings, about people who face serious and often threatening difficulties and who, at the same time, must pretend to be different from what they are because of the consequences.

Why do we permit this hypocrisy in a country like ours, where families are separated because of immigration, life situations or other reasons? We should be able to accept and understand everyone without discrimination. The rights of all our fellow citizens must be protected, and we must understand that, the day after this bill is passed, nothing will change. We will, however, be able to count on a law that will enable us to put a stop to all discrimination and to help those who need help. It is too bad there will still be people who will not enjoy the same rights.

In conclusion, in my opinion all the amendments proposed to the legislation were a travesty because this bill addresses the concerns of people discriminated against and nothing else. Therefore, I support the bill and I have been voting in its favour.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I repeat, I am rising on questions and comments as I will not have an opportunity to speak because of the long list of members who wish to address the issue. I want to take the opportunity to make some of my points this way.

I want to commend the hon. member for her remarks and her belief. However, she did say one thing and I wonder if she was aware of something. She indicated that the changes to the human rights codes of the other provinces did not lead to demands or calls for same sex benefits.

Is she aware of the speaking notes of Attorney General Marion Boyd? The attorney general of the province of Ontario introduced Bill 167 in the province of Ontario and it flowed, in my submission, from the change to the human rights act of the province of Ontario. She said on May 19, 1994: "I have today introduced legislation which will provide same sex couples with rights and obligations equal to those of opposite sex common law couples". What was her justification for so doing? She stated: "Our government regards this issue as one of fundamental human rights," which is the exact same argument that is being put forward today.

In view of the controversy that spawned in the province of Ontario, would the hon. member not allow for the possibility that some will use the changes to the human rights laws that we are passing today as a justification under the argument of fundamental human rights to press their case with the tribunals and with the courts to provide same sex couples with rights and obligations equal to those of opposite sex common law couples and if not, why not?

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, let me thank my colleague for taking this issue to heart. It is important that we can express our feelings and our opinions in this country. I believe that we should all propose what we believe in.

Yes, in a way I apologize. In fact, I should have remembered that Ontario has gone through this legislation. My own opinion is that it may have flowed from the human rights act but not necessarily so.

We are not discussing that right now. What we are discussing and what we have to concentrate on is the lack of rights for some people who work in the federal government or in other companies that are under federal jurisdiction. This is what I concentrated on and what I am concerned about. Whenever something else comes on board then I will have to focus on that and consider it for what it is worth.

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1:25 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is my second opportunity to put a few words on the record with regard to Bill C-33.

This bill, as members know, has raised very high emotions in many members of Parliament on both sides of the issue. There have been some words spoken and actions taken that will reverberate long after this bill is forgotten and the House moves on to something else, which is the way this place works. Whatever is top of mind today is not top of mind tomorrow.

The concern that many people in our country have with this bill is the way in which the government brought this bill forward, carried it through the House, through committee and back into the House again. It does not bring credit upon this House or upon our country.

It does not give the citizens of Canada the benefit of the doubt that we could make a reasoned decision, that we could come together in harmony, that we could do what is right for all people connected to this issue. Those Canadians who are part of the gay and lesbian community may feel that this is just a small but important step, one which is long overdue and which will give them equality before the law just as everyone else has. Other Canadians, most of whom are in the middle, are not all that

exercised one way or the other. Then on the other side of the scale we have those Canadians who feel this is a very dramatic change on the social mores of our country and should be considered carefully before we go forward.

The tragedy of this debate, in the pell-mell rush to get the bill through, is that people on both sides feel somewhat trampled, particularly people who oppose this bill who are said to be in some way discriminatory, or that they are homophobic, or that they are somehow unkind and mean-spirited people. If people in our country do not have the opportunity to have their voices heard in Parliament, why should they then feel that they are part of Parliament? Why should they feel that they are represented?

We are not cheerleaders. Our job is not to stand and say that whatever the government or any group brings forward is just fine. Our job is to measure, to temper and to test the laws as they come forward.

We know in a majority government that at the end of the day our country will have a law that exactly represents the will of the government even if that government is elected with 43 per cent of the popular vote. That is the way our government works and that is the way it is. We have to accept that.

I know many people from the gay and lesbian community honestly feel that to even question the veracity of this bill or the honesty by which it has been brought forward is in some way deprecating our fellow citizens who are gay or lesbian.

I know there has been debate in the House which has tried to make the point to link certain unlawful activities with homosexuality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is not right. It is not fair. We have to distinguish and separate what is lawful in our country and what is not. It is not made lawful because of adding two words to the human rights act to include the words "sexual orientation".

I speak for myself, but there are many in the House who understand that the nature of family in the country has changed dramatically over the years. We know there are families which are composed very differently.

In committee the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve brought forward his definition of family. It is particularly beautiful. His definition of family is people who are joined together under the common bonds of love, mutual support and mutual protection. That description aptly describes the nuclear family. One would hope it would be the foundation of the description of the family.

Families change as many people in the House know. My family is not a nuclear family. I have been divorced twice and married three times. It is not something I am proud of. We do not have a traditional family, but we do have a family that has love, mutual support and mutual protection. Our extended family has that as well.

Our eldest daughter was adopted. At 21 her adoptive parents supported her in finding her birth mother. We got to know one another. We were visiting with her adoptive parents and as would happen, friends of her parents asked who these people were. Greg was stuck for an answer so he said they were special relatives. We thought about it and about the relationship we have as a family and the strength that Kate's mother Nancy had in supporting her to find her birth mother. Nancy said it did not take a lot of strength and courage.

How can we possibly hurt someone by loving them? How can we love someone too much? How could it possibly hurt if another family loves a person?

No one can tell me anything about the nature of families and mutual support and how important it is for us to be flexible and as a society to be open and supportive, even if these relationships are not ones we feel comfortable about. It is really none of our business. On the other side of the coin, marriage and family have a longstanding societal and religious significance. That should not be taken lightly either. That is the essence of this debate.

In my view, it would have been far more difficult for me to come to the decision, and it has been a very difficult journey for me, to vote against the bill if it had been brought forward honestly and dealt with the real issues at hand. The real issues in my view are not the issues surrounding discrimination. We are all protected from discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are all protected against discrimination today by virtue of the fact that we are human beings.

However, this bill introduces two words, sexual orientation, into the statutes of our country. The effect of introducing those two words will be to give a foundation to the courts to further continue to interpret laws which would essentially support putting same sex relationships on the same plane as heterosexual relationships.

If that is what we as a country want to do, then let us do it. Let us bring forward legislation that states exactly that and debate it on its merits. Let us not do it in a Trojan horse fashion saying that this is legislation designed to prevent discrimination, that anyone who would vote against it would obviously be in favour of discrimination and not acknowledging that what is sure to follow has not been brought forward honestly into this debate.

Had that debate come forward, this House may have been able to find a way to accommodate both sides. I mentioned in the House previously the notion of a registered domestic partnership. If this is not the intent of the government, it would have been possible for the government to have written the legislation initially to accommodate the concerns of people who feel threatened by it. It could have limited the scope of the legislation explicitly to human rights issues or it could have accepted considered and reasoned amendments which would have done so.

If these amendments were accepted, it would have allowed many more Canadians to support the bill. I believe most Canadians are pretty charitable. Most Canadians would have nothing to do with discrimination against anyone, including by virtue of someone's sexual orientation.

A private member's bill was tabled today in the House. Its preamble states: "An act providing for equal treatment for persons cohabiting in a relationship similar to a conjugal relationship". There is nothing wrong with that being brought forward. It is entirely appropriate that such a bill would be brought forward. However, it is evidence of the fact that this debate is not over.

The people with whom I have had contact in the gay and lesbian community would be the very first to say that it is not over. They will press their case, as they have the right to do, as hard as they possibly can until the battle is won. I want to put on record that from my point of view the people from the gay and lesbian community with whom I have had any contact have been absolutely forthright and absolutely honest in their intent in what they are trying to achieve and why they are trying to achieve it. There has been absolutely no suggestion otherwise.

As with many members, I find myself greatly discomforted in voting against this bill. None of us should in any way want to have our hands in anything that would discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or for any reason, although we are dealing specifically now with sexual orientation.

At the same time I am charged with the responsibility of representing not just my constituents who are concerned about the impact of this bill, but all Canadians who are concerned about this bill. When I rise this evening to vote against the bill it will not be with any sense of satisfaction or joy; it will be with considerable sadness and with a heavy heart.

I know there will be people who will think that my doing so is a repudiation of them as human beings or that in some way I am making a value judgment. I am not. I recognize and I accept that people are born the way people are born. We are who we are and that is the way it is. I celebrate love and companionship. Who am I to tell anybody else how or whom they should love? However, that does not allow me to forget my responsibilities to the people who sent me here and the obligations I bring to this high office.

In a few short hours we will be voting on this bill. There will be many people in the months to come who may say that we would have been wise to have given more consideration to exactly what we are doing. The House gave the same consideration to the $2 coin as it has to this fundamental question. This is a question which is fundamental to many Canadians on both sides of the issue.

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. I know he has personally wrestled with this issue. He spoke earlier this week at a reception hosted by EGALE. I want to signal the extraordinary contribution which has been made by EGALE, John Fisher, the late Les McAfee, and others in this long journey.

The member has shared with this House in a very personal way the fact that his son, J.R., is gay. One of the important elements of this legislation is to ensure that those who apply for jobs within the federal jurisdiction are not discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. The son of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest could apply for a job in a bank, on a railway, in telecommunications or some other job within the federal jurisdiction and he could be turned down. The employer could say that he does not want him because he is gay and he might hurt his business, or maybe the employer would let him work at the back of the shop but not at the front.

I would plead with the hon. member. Does he not understand? Does he not recognize that if this bill does not go through his son, his own flesh and blood, would have no recourse in law other than that which is pursuant to a court decision which may be in conflict with another Alberta court decision? Does he not recognize that we need this legislation to at least prohibit that kind of discrimination, not just against his son but against all gay and lesbian people in this country?

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1:40 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I answer the question of the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway, I want to acknowledge the courage he showed in being the first man to come out here in the House of Commons. I also acknowledge the courage of the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. It is not an easy thing to do. I recognize that.

The question my friend posed to me is central to the agony I have had to endure in determining how to vote on this issue. If the nub of my friend's question was discrimination, if I felt that were the case, then nothing could prevent me from voting in favour of this legislation.

Such is not the case. My son, as are all Canadians, is already covered by the charter of rights and freedoms. He does have recourse. I received a list of companies that have already extended benefits to same sex couples. It is as long as my arm.

Society is already way past that question, which is not to say there is not real foundation to that question. Twenty years ago or ten years ago, imagine having the Egale gala on Parliament Hill. Not even 20 years ago there were teams of people going through the federal government and the armed forces who were called the queer police. They were ferreting out people to take them out of their jobs. Those people in the gay community, those citizens of Canada who are gay-forget the gay community-or lesbian have a foundation on which they should feel the necessity of such a law.

If it were limited to the notion of the prevention of discrimination, even if it were not necessary, even if it were redundant, I would support it. It begs the question why would the Minister of Justice not accept amendments that would limit the bill specifically to what he says it is to make it possible for me and many others in the House to support it.