House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was family.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.

One petition contains 60 signatures from concerned farmers in my constituency, including people from St. Albert, Morinville, Busby, Alcomdale, Rivière Qui Barre, Calahoo, Stony Plain and Spruce Grove.

The petitioners call on parliament to recognize that the family farm is one of the cornerstones of Canadian society and that the federal government must act immediately to protect the interests of Canadian farmers both at home and abroad by campaigning against foreign subsidies to agriculture.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the other petition contains 50 signatures from residents in St. Albert, Morinville and Edmonton. They call upon parliament to use the year 2000 budget to introduce a multi-year plan to improve the well-being of Canada's children and to fulfil the 1989 resolution of the House to end child poverty by the year 2000.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from over 100 of my constituents, which include members of the Pine Ridge Bible Chapel and also the Emmanuel Pentecostal Church of Port Perry. They call on parliament that Bill C-23 affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution. They request the withdrawal of Bill C-23.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my privilege and honour to bring in thousands of names from Newfoundland to Victoria supporting Bill C-232 and it happens to be my own bill on Hepatitis Awareness Month. I personally wish to thank Mr. Joey Haché of Ottawa for supporting us and getting these signatures forward in order to get that bill passed very quickly.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I am tabling several petitions.

The first two petitions are with regard to the mail route couriers. Many of the people in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap depend upon these couriers to deliver and pick up their mail. Some would like the right to form a union and bargain collectively. It is my pleasure to table these petitions today.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is also a pleasure to table several petitions from residents of my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap who express their serious opposition to Bill C-23. They are justly concerned that the government is not doing enough to protect the institution of marriage, define it as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I join them in asking the government not to base any benefits or legislation on people's private sexual activity.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 72 will be answered today. .[Text]

Question No. 72—

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

With regard to the money given by the department of Indian affairs to the Treaty Six Tribal Council for employment programs for the last three years: ( a ) what was the total amount given each year and ( b ) what is the specific breakdown of how this money has been spent?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

In so far as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is concerned the response is as follows.

There are two tribal councils in the treaty six area of Alberta. They are the Yellowhead Tribal Council west of Edmonton and the Tribal Chiefs' Association, also known as the Tribal Chiefs' Ventures Incorporated, located in the St. Paul area. A third first nation organization within the treaty six area comprising all treaty six first nations in Alberta is the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. The confederacy is not a tribal council.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has not provided employment program funding to the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations or to the tribal councils during the past three years.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act
Government Orders

April 10th, 2000 / 3:10 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, prior to question period I was making the point that the effects of Bill C-23 are not necessarily benign, although members opposite would lead us to believe that they are. I would like to point out that for hundreds of generations and in almost every society I am aware of there have been social proscriptions against homosexual unions.

Now we are more civilized. We do not attempt, as Mr. Trudeau would say, to interfere in the bedrooms of the nation. That is fair enough. But we should remember that all through history, heterosexual unions have been recognized as having a social purpose. They have never been considered to be purely recreational or even sentimental arrangements.

Marriage is the foundation on which civil society rests. Society extends certain benefits to strengthen and support the institution. To extend those same benefits to homosexual couples for no good reason inferentially diminishes the institution.

I frankly do not care how homosexuals choose to organize their lives, but to treat their unions as de facto marriages is downright silly. That is not just my personal opinion. In June 1994 the present government House leader wrote in a letter to a constituent, “I do not believe that homosexuals should be treated as families. My wife and I do not claim we are homosexuals. Why should homosexuals pretend that they form a family?” What happened? In six years there seems to have been a slight change of opinion over there, at least on the part of the House leader.

In 1996 when we were debating Bill C-33, we were repetitiously informed that the bill was not a Trojan horse, that it was purely a matter of protecting homosexuals in the workplace and in securing accommodation, that there was absolutely no future intent of bringing in same sex benefits.

Here we are four years later and where is that promise of the Liberals now? I guess what we have is just another indication that a Liberal's word does not count for much, because this is what they told us. They told it to us over and over and over again. Now times have changed and four years have passed. What is next? How many more years will it be before this government or another one with the same stripes decides that it wants again to do some social engineering and starts to redefine the entire institution of marriage.

This is incremental. This is the Liberal way. The Liberals have been doing it not only in the field of marriage and family, but in several other areas as well. The camel's nose goes into the tent and little by little he edges his way in and knocks the tent down.

This has got to stop. There is no sound basis, no social reason, no fiscal reason and no political reason for changing the status quo with respect to benefits. Why the government has decided to take this leap I have no idea. I am sure that Mr. Trudeau is appalled but he is no longer here. I am appalled. A lot of people are appalled.

It is not a question of moralizing. It is a question of common sense.

Not too many years ago, if anyone had suggested that homosexual couples living together under the same roof should be awarded the same social benefits as married people, they would have been laughed out of town. It would have been considered hilarious. Yet here we are. Is this progress? I doubt it.

I do wish that the government would reconsider and take another look at this hasty legislation. A lot of amendments are coming up that, although they will not fix it, could certainly improve it.

I challenge the government in the interest of common sense, if nothing else, to give very serious consideration to some of the amendments my party has laid on the table. It should look at the bill again, remember what country we live in, and think about the people in Canada who are by and large terribly offended by the legislation.

I have received more correspondence, more phone calls and more e-mails about the bill than I have ever in my seven years in parliament received about any other legislation. This tells me something and it should tell the government something.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a fair bit of the debate on this issue, especially at report stage last week and again this week. I feel there are some things I need to say which in a sense respond to comments that have come largely from the other side of the House.

This should not be necessary and this should not be relevant, but I feel I need to establish my credentials to speak on family matters. The fact is that I have been married to the same man for 37 years. I have borne and raised three children and spent a good part of that time as a full time, stay at home mother. I now have grandchildren. I now also have a somewhat older mother who needs a fair bit of family care. We are all a family.

According to some people in the Chamber, I am no longer a family because my husband and I can no longer have children. Therefore we should not be entitled to any benefits because we do not fit that old criterion of the family unit being there to raise children. We have been there and done that.

Families in Canada come in many different shapes and sizes these days. Families can be people looking after elderly parents. They can be brothers and sisters living together. They can be members of a family looking after other members of the family who are not able to care for themselves. Families are not necessarily mothers and fathers. One-third of marriages end in divorce, which is a pretty sad figure until we consider that the other two-thirds end in death.

The fact is that people establishing committed, loving relationships of long term duration is to the benefit of society at large. That is what the bill is about. The bill is about recognizing that not every family is the same.

We have a very clear law on marriage which has been recognized in common law for a century and a half. It is now also included in the preamble to this legislation, but also for nearly half a century we have recognized other kinds of relationships outside marriage.

We have recognized common law relationships for a long time now for the purposes of establishing the obligations and the benefits of those relationships. We have not considered them the same as marriage in the legal sense, but we have nonetheless recognized that these are generally committed, long term relationships that have many of the same qualities as a legal marriage.

What has bothered me in this debate is the way we have been speaking about fellow human beings. It has bothered me a great deal that we have talked about hundreds of thousands of our fellow Canadians as if they are somehow inferior human beings. I can put it no other way.

Homosexuality is a fact of life for many Canadians. It is not a choice of lifestyle. It is a fact of life. It seems to me that the comments I have heard on this topic have forgotten completely the people we are talking about are somebody's sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins or next door neighbours. For most of our history these people have had to live in secret, hiding who they are and feeling a sense of shame about who they are because of the societal attitudes I have heard expressed in the Chamber. It is hardly an attitude of inclusiveness toward our fellow Canadians.

It is this attitude which leads young people who realize in their teens that they are not heterosexual to have a whole layer of difficulty added on to growing and developing into adults, not because of who they are and what they are but because of the attitudes of society.

None of us can expect to be whole human beings if we are hit every day, as our society does, with the kinds of messages I have been hearing in the House, the message that what we are is shameful, to be hidden and despised.

I will say it again. These people are somebody's sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. In my view if what we are doing with the legislation, as we did with common law marriage nearly a half century ago, is encouraging and recognizing long term committed relationships I believe that is to the benefit of all society. I do not see how anyone could argue that this takes away from the institution of marriage. I do not see how anyone could argue that this weakens the moral fibre of society.

I must say I have been somewhat mystified by the total preoccupation with sex on the other side of the House. The bill says nothing about sex. It talks about committed, long term relationships. I am married. Whether or not I am married in law has absolutely nothing to do with whether my husband and I have sex, nor whether two people having sex has anything to do with their being recognized as a legitimate, long term relationship for the purposes of the bill.

I heard talk about the importance of having both parents as if somehow recognizing same sex relationships for the purposes of benefits and obligations would ensure that every child has two parents. As I said earlier, one-third of all marriages ends in divorce. The fact is that we as a society have to deal with that. We have to deal with the fact that communities and society are responsible for children as much as the two parents who happen to have borne them.

Today I only want to say that to the extent people live with dignity, they live full and complete lives and our whole society benefits. What we have done until now is to relegate same sex relationships to the back alleys of society and in many cases the back alleys of our cities. That is not healthy for the people involved and it is not healthy for Canadian society.

I recognize that the bill offends the sense or morality of some people but it does not deal with sin. It does not deal with our sense of morality. It deals with legal benefits and legal obligations. I am quite entitled to feel how I want about what activities I think people might be engaged in, in their homes. They are quite entitled to feel however they want about mine. The legislation has nothing to do with that. It makes no moral judgments. It simply says how people are to be treated in society and what obligations they have to each other.

I belong to a religious tradition that has in its background something called the Inquisition where for a long time people thought they could coerce others into sharing their beliefs. It was a period of some shame and for which the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church has recently apologized.

I will not sit here in the Chamber and make decisions as if everybody in Canadian society has to share my beliefs and conform to my particular moral standards. I do not think any of us has the right to do that. It harms society when we do that and it ultimately harms ourselves when we judge some people in our community and society to be less worthy and inferior.