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 amendment.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member commented that if certain amendments had been adopted this legislation would have been acceptable to him.

I refer to one of the amendments he put forward, that the bill be amended to define family as meaning a heterosexual couple with their natural or adopted children.

As I pointed out to the member in a note, does that mean if I were a woman with four young children and my husband had the bad grace to die on me, I would not be considered a family under Canadian law? If I were living with my husband, having raised our children and maybe our mother was living with us, sharing our meals, bathing in the same bath tub, using the same washing machine, looking after each other, that we would not be a family?

According to his definition we would not be. I would like him to explain why that amendment to the legislation would have made sense to him. Is he aware the Canadian Human Rights Act is already being interpreted as if discrimination based on sexual orientation were in it?

Does he not think employers, providers of services, have the right to know they cannot discriminate? Right now they do not by reading the legislation.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising these questions because it gives me a chance to put on the record clarification.

We exchanged some notes last evening during the vote. The amendments which came forward in my name, had I had the opportunity to withdraw them I would have. I think the point was very well made. When the amendments went in it was to refer to marriage and family. When the amendments were printed it was family. I should have caught it but I did not and I apologize.

This is one of the reasons for the good faith of the members assembled here. They are able to have a look at legislation and say that it does not make sense, and it was deservingly defeated.

However, there are other members who brought forward amendments which would have served the same purpose and they were defeated as well.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I accept what the hon. member said, that some motion went in in his name which did not reflect his position.

My question to him is a very straightforward question. If that is the case, why did he vote for an amendment which excluded single parent families? Why did he vote in favour of it?

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was in that long silent walk home, as I was considering the events of the day, when I thought perhaps I blew it that time.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Francis Leblanc Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my 20 minutes with the hon. member for Burlington.

I welcome the decision of the Prime Minister to permit a free vote on this legislation. The subject matter of Bill C-33 is a human rights issue. It is also a moral issue. As a moral issue it is important that members of Parliament be permitted to vote according to their conscience.

I do not wish to have my support for this legislation misconstrued as having been coerced. I realize many of my constituents have different views on this question. I know those views are deeply held and the product of sincere conviction. I respect those views. I want to explain how I have come to my position.

Those who oppose the bill fear it will have the effect of giving social approval to homosexual relationships, to same sex marriages and to same sex benefits through the courts, or that it will make it possible for crimes such as pedophilia to be protected by human rights laws. They argue Bill C-33 grants special rights to gays and lesbians.

Are these concerns valid? Let us remember what Bill C-33 does. Bill C-33 makes a slight amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Act is a federal law which prohibits discriminatory practices in the workplace and in access to goods and services in activities which are the legislative responsibility of the Parliament of Canada. For the purpose of this legislation, these activities include the Government of Canada itself, banks, airlines, railways and telecommunication companies.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is about discrimination related to employment and access to goods and services in these sectors of our economy. It sets out what is discrimination and the recourse and remedies available to individuals when it occurs.

Under the current act the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for which a pardon has been granted. Bill C-33 adds the words sexual orientation to these categories.

It is important to emphasize the words are sexual orientation. This ought to provide reassurance to Roman Catholics, of which I am one. I quote from a recent letter to the Prime Minister by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Most Reverend Francis J. Spence, Bishop of Kingston.

The letter, which I obtained through the courtesy the Most Reverend Colin Campbell, Bishop of Antigonish, has been helpful to me in considering my position on this legislation. In his letter Bishop Spence points to a distinction made by the church which he says "is not often made in the public debate between orientation-inclination-and behaviour".

Bill C-33 is entirely about orientation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with behaviour. The term is entirely neutral. It applies equally to persons who are victims of discrimination because they are heterosexual as to those who are victims of discrimination because they are homosexual.

It has nothing to do with whether a person is sexually active or not. The celibate homosexual gets the same protection under Bill C-33 as the most promiscuous sexually active heterosexual. What counts is whether the individual is the victim of discrimination in the workplace or in terms of access to services strictly because of his or her sexual orientation. The bill has nothing to say positive or negative about the behaviour itself.

At the same time, Bill C-33 does not in any way invite or encourage an individual to express or practise or flaunt his or her sexual orientation or desires in the workplace. It in no way changes what are acceptable social norms of behaviour in this regard. If an employee or a customer in a federally regulated institution chooses to behave in a lewd or sexually aggressive or inappropriate way he or she can expect no protection from discipline under Bill C-33. They are subject to the same actions related to sexual harassment or sexual assault or immoral conduct and so on as exists under present laws. However, even in those cases the individual is entitled to due process before the law and not to be the object of systematic discrimination.

Will Bill C-33 lead to the legalization of such crimes as pedophilia? The answer is now. Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. It is a crime. It a crime regardless of whether the offender is heterosexual or homosexual. It is an offence under the Criminal Code which is a totally separate statute in no way affected by the bill.

Will Bill C-33 end up sanctioning same sex marriages or the granting of same sex benefits? No. These are completely separate issues that have nothing to do with the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Act has to do with discrimination in terms of employment and access to goods and services. It has nothing to do with marriage. Nor does it apply to same sex benefits.

Bill C-33 is not about homosexual unions. It is not about same sex benefits. It is not even about sex. It is about human rights. Bill C-33 advances the moral proposition that it is a violation of fundamental human rights to deny a person access to services or to discriminate against someone in terms of employment purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I ask the hon. member's co-operation and I will certainly see that he has the opportunity to complete his remarks in the fullest following question period.

Forestry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the week of May 5 to 11 is National Forest Week, a time when public awareness of Canada's forest resources is encouraged by the Canadian provincial forestry associations.

Canada has 10 per cent of the world's forests. These forests form a vital part of our economy, supporting over 350 communities and providing jobs for over 800,000 Canadians. With $50 billion of shipments annually Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers of forest products. In my riding of Thunder Bay-Atikokan the forest and lumber industry is a significant employer.

This year's National Forest Week theme is "Forest Regions: Varied Treasures". This theme reflects the fact that various parts of the country support different types of forest ecosystems. In Canada we have 10 distinct forest areas, each of which offers its own treasures.

Figure Skating
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this House to recognize the determination and relentless hard work of Josiane Fréchette, from Sainte-Perpétue-de-Drummond.

Josiane is a brilliant figure skater. She won a gold medal in the Canadian championship, Atlantic division, pre-novice level, and she came first in the short program, novice level, in an international invitation competition, the Residential City Cup, which was held in the Netherlands this year.

Having been selected by the Quebec figure skating federation for the fourth year in a row, Josiane will attend a provincial figure skating seminar.

Thank you, Josiane, for giving those around you this example of faith and perseverance. Our hearts are with you.

Quebec has another reason to be proud of its young people.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Sharon Hayes Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation has been shrouded in a deliberate campaign of misinformation by the justice minister.

The minister is doing this dance of deception in order to deny the truth and consequences of Bill C-33. He portrays the bill as the simple addition of two words in an act, a simple two clause bill that this House should dispose of quickly that will simply address discrimination. Not so.

The truth is this bill will have profound consequences that will impact Canadian family by redefining it, and that undermine the fundamental principles of equality.

The minister continues to mislead and dodge the truth, while the government rams the bill through the House in record time. Under false pretences, the government has disabled democracy.

History will be the judge of these nine days that have mocked our parliamentary institution and the Canadian people.

National Unity
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate two high school students in my riding for their contributions to the pursuit of national unity. To Sarah Boyd and Michael Holmes, both students at Parry Sound High School, I say well done.

These two young constituents tied for first place in an essay contest that I launched in all of the high schools in my riding to promote pride in Canada.

In her essay Sarah urges Canadians to speak out and to contribute their skills to helping Canada remain strong and united. She suggests linking towns of similar sizes to promote understanding and strengthen community bonds.

In his essay, Michael advocates encouraging corporations to make unity their responsibility. He advocates pairing community newspapers to facilitate a shared letters to the editor venue that fosters kinship and understanding.

I am proud of the efforts of all those who entered my national unity essay contest. Today I ask my colleagues to join with me in saluting Sarah Boyd and Michael Holmes.

Firefighters
Statements By Members

May 9th, 1996 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week the International Association of Firefighters is in town.

A number of statements have been made in the House lauding the work of firefighters and the risks they take on behalf of all of us. I would like to echo those sentiments.

However, the best way we can honour firefighters is for the House and the government to take their policy recommendations seriously with respect to Operation Respond, a proposal they made for dealing with hazardous materials which they would like to see set up in Winnipeg as a pilot project. I encourage the government to get moving on that. It should also get moving on the proposal with respect to a public benefit for firefighters and similar service people who lose their lives in the line of duty, and also recommendations with respect to the Canada pension plan.

The government should take all these recommendations to heart and we should see some action on these very soon.

Bill C-33
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the public wants individual members of Parliament to have more say in reflecting their opinions.

I note that the British system allows for a degree of independence provided by a tiered disciplinary system. I am most pleased that my leader has provided a free vote on Bill C-33.

With free votes it will be even more important to attempt to understand and represent the views of all constituents. To this end I have had a personal and professional poll prepared in my riding of Durham, asking the people what their attitudes were to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

While there was a clear case of polarization, it was evident that the majority was in favour of the changes which they saw as a matter of human rights. I hope this will herald a new era of relaxing to some degree the discipline in this place in order that members can more effectively represent their constituents.

With this newfound liberty, members will have to be more diligent in ensuring that they fully understand the views of their constituents. I look forward to a more liberalized parliamentary system

City Of Montreal
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday, Montreal launched a promotional campaign under the theme "Montreal, you are my city".

This two-year operation was the fruit of concerted efforts by the City of Montreal, the Government of Canada, 11 private corporations, and the vast majority of local media.

This multimedia operation offers concrete proof that the climate in Montreal is changing and that all stakeholders will now work toward a common goal.

The hon. member for Outremont and Secretary of State for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec was happy to announce, on behalf of the Canadian government, a financial contribution of $1 million.

This is another fine example of this government's commitment to work in partnership with other socioeconomic stakeholders to improve conditions in Montreal and Quebec.

National Nursing Week
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week being National Nursing Week-whose theme this year is "Ask a nurse"-I take this opportunity to draw attention to the important role played by nurses in keeping everyone healthy.

I wish to pay them a special tribute in this House so that these professionals know we are aware of the upheaval their profession is going through: the job cuts in hospitals, the shifting of part of the work to patients' homes, the review of duties and of the training required to practice their profession in this new environment. That is quite a lot.

I therefore want to recognize their strength of character, their dedication and their determination to provide quality care despite the uncertainties of tomorrow.

They are true professionals. On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to commend the nurses of Abitibi, Quebec and Canada for their professionalism and their strong dedication to their communities.

National Forest Week
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Mr. Ed MacDonald, a forester from Vancouver Island, for donating 300 coast cedar seedlings to help celebrate National Forest Week. They are available today in the opposition lobby.

The seedlings remind us that trees clean the air and protect watersheds, in addition to sheltering wildlife and providing both recreation and jobs for people. Eight hundred and eighty thousand people work directly or indirectly in forest industries which produced $49 billion in products in 1995, more than half of which was in the export industry, making us number one in the world.

Even given the limitations of the new softwood lumber agreement with the United States, forestry contributes more to the balance of trade than agriculture, fishing, mining and energy combined. The people of Canada, primarily through their provincial governments, have a big say in what happens in our forests because most of them are publicly owned.

Therefore we must choose wisely regarding land use decisions, including native land claims, to protect forestry, the backbone of Canada's economy.