House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminal.

Topics

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

October 29th, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No.394, under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:15 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In order to commence the proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, I am now tabling the resumé of Jennifer Stoddart, who is the nominee of the Government of Canada for the position of Privacy Commissioner.

This is referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

moved that Bill C-447, an act to protect the institution of marriage, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, whoever thought that a bill would have been necessary in Canada to protect the definition of marriage? I certainly did not. That is what Bill C-447 is for, and I quote from the title page of the bill, “to protect the institution of marriage”.

Marriage is central to society, central to Canada and central to our continuation as a nation. I support the traditional definition of marriage as do my constituents by an enormous percentage.

I will explore this subject in the following way: one, what is the definition of marriage and why it is important; two, who wants to change the definition; three, what is the international experience; and four, Parliament versus judge made law.

One, the current definition of marriage states that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Why is that important to society? Marriage has been central to civilized society throughout recorded history. Marriage stripped of all its peripheral niceties is about children and giving children the best chance to grow to adulthood in health, safety and happiness. This is the reason for tax breaks by government, special holidays for children and parents, religious recognition of marriage and all the special treatment of marriage worldwide.

Picture the dad with his pretty little daughter sobbing in his arms, hurt in an accidental incident at school, comforted, loved and soothed. That is the reason that marriage is important. There is no institution, no group, no educator and no psychologist that can replace marriage as the foundation for rearing a child.

Two, who wants to change the definition? The idea of redefining marriage is a relatively new phenomenon. Activists have sought this redefinition in incremental steps since my arrival in Parliament 10 years ago. I accept their right to influence public policy by sound intellectual debate. I disapprove of the position that says debate of a contrary position is hateful or homophobic.

Proponents have framed this issue as an issue of human rights, equivalent to the battles for racial equality. Some Canadians accept that argument, but to me it is based on a false premise. This issue is based on behaviour and preference, neither of which is static or unchangeable.

Three, what is the international experience? Only two countries worldwide have redefined marriage to allow same sex marriage, the Netherlands and Belgium. These developments are recent. Interestingly the Dutch supreme court ruled for the traditional definition of marriage. Its legislators, the men and women accountable to the public, changed the law to allow same sex marriage. Just the reverse is happening here in Canada.

Many jurisdictions internationally, particularly in the United States, have brought in legislation to specifically protect the traditional definition of marriage, recognizing its unique character and importance. To be specific, defence of marriage acts are laws to protect the institution of marriage and they are proactive steps in this debate. This shows the broad diversity of action that different countries have taken.

Where then will Canada go? That brings me to the current situation in Canada, which I call judge versus parliamentary law, and label number four.

The legal system in Canada does allow challenges under our charter to even our most basic institutions. As court decisions made the traditional definition of marriage unsure, the Parliament of Canada expressed itself on June 8, 1999 on the definition of marriage with the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and that Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.

That motion passed 216 to 55.

Even more recent provincial superior court decisions stated that the traditional definition of marriage flew in the face of the charter's equality provisions. This was not a grey area, not an interpretation of a vague parliamentary position or law, but an area upon which Parliament had stated a firm and very fixed position. Six judges could flaunt the stated will of Parliament? I do not think so. Six provincial judges.

The Liberal government did not take all necessary steps to preserve the definition of marriage with a law as we were promised. The Liberal government did not wait to hear from its own committee that studied the issue in hearings across Canada. The Liberal government did not take any of the necessary steps and that, in my view, is not acceptable.

Even on Bill C-447 which we are discussing, by procedural tricks the Liberal dominated committee made this private member's bill non-votable, the first such decision in the history of our new rules on votability of private members' bills. It ensures that the House of Commons, the accountable legislators in Canada, will not have a vote on this fundamental issue. In my view that is some attention to the democratic deficit.

What has the Prime Minister and his cabinet actually decided to do instead? They are bowing down to the Supreme Court of Canada with a reference asking two basic questions. One, is same sex marriage okay with the charter? Two, will religious denominations be allowed not to participate in same sex marriage?

Instead of putting a law in front of Canadians to allow or disallow the exclusivity of traditional marriage, they shirk their duty. The question that should have been put to the Supreme Court of Canada is as follows: Is the traditional definition of marriage constitutional? That is the question Parliament should ask and could ask.

Bill C-447 also looks at the issue of recognizing unions outside traditional marriage, reflecting the fact that the provinces have jurisdiction in this area and in most cases have acted or are acting to provide the appropriate legal recognition of same sex couples and frankly to meet the equality provisions in the charter while leaving marriage alone.

Changing the definition of marriage is to strip marriage of all meaning. It is like changing the definition of grape juice to call it wine. The characteristics of both grape juice and wine will remain the same but the definition will have no meaning.

Marriage is for children, for procreation and protection. It is the fundamental unit of our society.

This issue must be decided by the Canadian public through their elected and accountable representatives. If we cannot function in Parliament to this end, we are withering in a poor shadow of our original purposes and ideals.

Imagine again the little daughter comforted on her daddy's knee, her mother bursting through the emergency room door with baby in arms, and the sobs of joy and relief as the injury is less serious than thought. There is an explanation of what happened and lessons learned. Marriage is for children. Marriage cannot be redefined lightly and judges cannot be the ones to redefine marriage.

If there has ever been an important issue in Canada, this is it. If there has ever been an election issue, this is it. If there has ever been an issue for Parliament to decide, this is it.

I stand for traditional marriage just like my constituents.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, is there time for questions and comments?

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

No, given that the bill is a non-votable item, there are no questions or comments and the debate lasts for only one hour instead of the usual two.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us tonight, Bill C-447, an act to protect the institution of marriage, is a very short bill with one main provision. The provision states “Marriage is the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”.

That wording should be familiar to members of the House since we had a vote on those very words less than six weeks ago in the form of an opposition day motion. The motion was defeated by a narrow margin. The bill we have before us today is just another way of attempting to bring the very same issue forward again, once more in a rushed manner and in an attempt to short-circuit what would be the responsible approach to this complex question set out by the government in July.

For that reason alone, Bill C-447 deserves to meet a quick end. However I have two further reasons that I would like to set out for my colleagues today.

First, the bill is flawed in that it is not, I suggest, intellectually honest with the House or with Canadians.

Second, the passage of the substance of the bill would have a potential impact on the rights of other minority groups in Canada.

Let me begin by explaining my remark about intellectual honesty. The fact is that the opposite sex requirement for marriage has been struck down by the unanimous decisions of the courts of appeal both in British Columbia and in Ontario. The lower court decision in Quebec also agrees that the requirement is unconstitutional. Yet the bill avoids this very fact, that essential fact that has resulted in this particular bill being ruled non-votable.

Bill C-447 is unconstitutional as Parliament cannot overrule a charter finding of discrimination, or at least not without deliberately doing so with the notwithstanding clause. That was the conclusion that we came to with respect to the opposition motion and it remains the conclusion today.

I am also quite concerned about the importance of protecting minority rights. The Liberal Party has long been known for its consideration of the rights of minorities, not the least of which is the determination to entrench the bill of rights into our Constitution in order to ensure that vulnerable minority groups have equal treatment under our laws. This means all vulnerable minority groups, both those that would be able to get their issue before the government of the day and those without the power to do so into the future.

I was and remain very proud of that philosophy, and its result in the charter. I think of it every time I read a newspaper report that expresses concern that the government is proceeding down this path to giving legal recognition to same sex unions against the will of the majority. I think about it because I, like many members, have come to support this decision on the need to legally recognize same sex unions a bit reluctantly.

I may not be entirely comfortable with the idea of changing the definition of marriage to include same sex relationships. It is still new for me, for many of my colleagues, friends and families, but I am persuaded because of the potential for impact on other Canadian minorities.

Most of us belong or know many who belong to one minority or another. As Canadians we pride ourselves on the ability of Canadian minority groups to maintain their distinct realities, be they racial, religious, linguistic or cultural. Unlike some other countries with a much greater push toward conformity, we respect the right of others to live something that we may not entirely believe in or agree with, so that they will in turn respect our right to live as we choose.

That is not to say that we are a lawless country. On the contrary. With these differences between us, we share a great many of our fundamental values. We are a nation that also prides itself on our rule of law and on our ability to live within those laws.

However, what happens when we as elected legislators ignore our responsibility to also protect those members of minority communities among us who are without voices, without representation? What happens then to the rule of law and to the values that stand behind our charter?

If one minority community can be deliberately discriminated against by law, then are not all minority communities at risk? This issue is not just about changing a definition of marriage with which all of us have grown up. It is about the essence of equality; the inclusion of all within our major social institutions.

I have heard a great deal of rhetoric on this issue lately. I understand and feel the concern that this change is happening too fast and that the majority of Canadians are being asked to see a fundamental change to a central social institution because of a very small minority group that believes they are discriminated against by being left out.

However, what happens when we do that traditional test for any equality issue? What does the issue sound like when we substitute one group for another? Black Canadians cannot marry each other or Catholic Canadians cannot marry each other. Does it not then start to sound as if we are keeping a minority group out of full participation in our society?

If marriage is as fundamental to them as it is to me, should they not also have the choice to decide to publicly demonstrate that same level of commitment to each other that I can choose to demonstrate with my spouse? I have heard some people put forward the objection that nothing is stopping gay and lesbian Canadians from marrying; they just have to marry someone from the opposite sex. That is insulting nonsense.

The medical community overwhelmingly agrees that sexual orientation, whatever its basis, is not as simple as choice. Why would anyone choose to be part of a minority that still suffers significant discrimination, as shown by the high numbers of adolescent suicides and other sad statistics?

As elected legislators, we may understandably first be concerned about those issues the majority of our constituents believe are important. However at some point we must also accept that we take on a larger responsibility beyond that to our own electors. We have responsibility to the future of Canada that is based on the strength of minority communities and their ability to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of Canadian life, particularly those we find of most importance in our own lives.

Finally, I wish to return to my initial concern with Bill C-447. It is premature and it attempts to short-circuit the responsible approach set out by the government in July to a complex question on which many Canadians have deeply held views.

The government has proposed an approach that is both balanced and respects the important roles of both Parliament and the courts. Its draft legislation creates a balance by fully respecting two fundamental charter rights: equality based on personal characteristics such as race, language or sexual orientation; and freedom of religion.

There are only two provisions. The first defines marriage to be a lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. The second states that “Nothing in this act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs”.

To further ensure freedom of religion, the bill has been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada, along with certain specific questions. The benefit of referring this draft bill to the Supreme Court for its advice is not in any way to preclude parliamentary process. Rather, it is to clarify for members of Parliament what is possible within the framework of the charter and, in particular, whether freedom of religion remains protected.

I believe the better way to proceed is to get all the information, to come back to the House and to debate the matter fully. Parliament is the place where this matter should be settled.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate on the nature and the institution of marriage, which continues to be an issue that divides the country. Hopefully the government will recognize the wisdom of resolving this matter in a manner that truly reflects the importance of marriage to our society.

It has always been my position, when questions of this nature are brought before the House of Commons, that members should study and reflect on the issue and look deeply into their own conscience. Personally I have found, through a thorough examination of my conscience, that I should promote the view of upholding the traditional definition of marriage because it is in the best interests of society.

When I examine this issue thoroughly, many observations come to my mind. First I call to mind that marriage is the only social union that can be a reproductive union. It directs mothers and fathers to the care and support of their children. It establishes the norm that children have a prima facie right to know and to be raised by their own mothers and fathers unless exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise.

When I see Parliament attempting to redefine marriage, I am saddened by the fact that the government is attempting to redefine the traditions and values of Canadian society. It is attempting to redesign an institution older and more fundamental to Canadian society than Parliament itself. I think of that and ask why Canadian laws should not embody the conviction that marriage is the principal social basis upon which our society seeks to ensure its stability and perpetuation.

Justice Robert Blair of the Ontario Supreme Court recognized that concept when he said “This remedy entails not merely an incremental change in law, but a very profound one”.

He pointed out that:

--the consequences and potential reverberations flowing from such a transformation in the concept of marriage...touch the core of many people’s belief and value systems....

That kind of statement leads one to think that Canadians, of whatever faith or ethnic background, whatever their sexual orientation, should resist any approach that would undermine an institution so essential to the well-being of Canadians, past, present and future.

I also worry that if the government continues on this reckless path, at some point a marriage will cease to be a marriage in any recognizable sense of the term. In fact, if the government should redefine marriage as being other than the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, what might prevent other arrangements or unions from petitioning the government to accept the union say of two men, two women, or two women, one man? I worry that the doors will be thrown wide open to court challenges by such interpersonal arrangements.

We have to ask ourselves where we want to be as a society in 25 or 50 years from now. Being a respectful and a tolerant society demands that we be compassionate to people of diverse identities. However attempting to use legal or political mechanisms to hack into an institution that is vital to the conjugal identity of heterosexual Canadians, and to totally reconfigure that institution to serve a very different type of sexual identity, puts forward an aggressive claim that goes far beyond concerns for tolerance and respect.

Tolerance must not subvert the right of others to maintain and foster the integrity of their own unique institution. No institution has been more central and more vital to heterosexual life and identity than marriage. That point is conceded on all sides of this debate.

One should not tear down one institution so valuable to society to build up another one. That does not represent the progress of fundamental human rights.

To change the definition of marriage in a significant way fundamentally alters a social institution that is beneficial to its participants, to children and to society as a whole. Government should be and must be supporting marriage. It must recognize that all relationships are not the same and should not be treated the same. This is what government is attempting to do: to say that all relationships are the same. Yes, there are other forms of relationships in our society besides marriage where people are supportive of each other. However, they do not serve the purposes of marriage or have the form of marriage.

I worry that Canada is headed down a very dangerous path, a path that we will one day regret. I worry that Canada is enthusiastically abolishing the old institutions out of which it grew; yes, Christianity, traditional family, the monarchy, and civil law rooted in natural law. We are dumping these things with no clear idea of what we will replace them with. Someone once said that people should not quit their job unless they have found another. The same principle surely applies to social institutions as well.

Let us remember as well that traditional marriage is an institution that predates modern democracy and has a similar form in every major culture and religion. It cannot be redefined without creating tremendous societal upheaval. This is not an area where government should be headed, because marriage, as I said, is the only social union that can be called and is a reproductive union.

We are all aware of what the courts have said in the past. We are all aware that government currently has the issue before the Supreme Court of Canada waiting for further direction, but I prefer to take my direction on this issue based on our history and our culture, based on my religion and based on my conscience. I urge all members to reflect long and very hard on this issue.

In redefining marriage, we are not just playing with words or semantics. We are playing with the basic building blocks of society itself. As a society, we should be careful what we wish for because we just may get our wish and a whole lot of woes we did not count on.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-447 is a bill that it is suggested we should debate around the protection of the institution of marriage. It is a very short bill. It has at its beginning several points that begin with whereas, the first one of which is, “Whereas marriage has from time immemorial been recognized as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”.

That in fact is false. Let us go back historically to the Christian period and the start of Christianity when Christ himself was alive on this earth, to the region he came from. The reality at that time was that polygamy was more common than a single relationship between one man and one woman. At the same period of time, and we could go back even further, the influence from Greece was still very prominent in Rome, in the modern world as they saw it at that time.

We know, if we look at history at all, that during the period of Greece's dominance of the world at that time, if I can put it that way, a number of the city states in fact recognized same sex relationships that were in the form of a union recognized both by the state and by religions of that period.

Therefore, as I have said, that initial whereas is not based on historical fact. Quite frankly, we can come down from that period through history to any number of other times, including times within the Catholic church where the Catholic church recognized same sex relationships and certified them within the structure of the Catholic church.

The second whereas reads that “because of certain court decisions, it is now necessary to clarify the meaning of marriage”. The bill goes on in the third whereas to say that “the Parliament of Canada, representing all Canadians, must be the final authority with respect to social policy decisions”.

In effect, these two points set up a conflict. I think it is accurate to say they reflect the reality of that conflict in our society, but what they do not reflect, and what they ignore or perhaps do not comprehend, is that in 1982 this country made a decision that when those conflicts existed between elements of society and government, this society, the Canadian society, the Canadian constitutional framework, would allow and authorize our court system to make a determination as to who was right in that conflict. That is the issue we are confronted with today and have been confronted with for a good number of years now.

We have had members of the gay and lesbian community saying that this is an equality issue, an issue that they see as a basic human right, and we have had the state in the form of legislation say no, they are wrong and this is the way it will be defined. We have that conflict.

Again, though, in 1982 this country and this Parliament adopted changes to the constitutional framework and adopted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At that time, they handed over to our courts the decision making power to deal with this type of conflict. We had the state on one side saying one thing and an individual group, in this case a minority group, claiming another. When we did that we did it consciously. We cannot go back at this point and say we did not understand it. Any parliamentarian elected to this House should have understood that. That is the system we function under.

Ultimately we have to allow this issue to go to the Supreme Court of Canada, as the government has now done. Lower courts have ruled on it, but the decision has to be made there. In effect, that is what is underway at this point. Until that happens, until we know what the ruling is on this issue from the highest court in the land, this legislation we have before us will have to wait.

I have to say that in terms of my reading of the law and my expectation of what the Supreme Court is going to do, it will rule on the charter and on equality rights in favour of the claim that is being made by the gay and lesbian community in the country. I will say that the Supreme Court is going to allow it and in fact mandate that this legislature recognize those relationships as full marriages.

I want to cover a couple of other points. There has been a great deal of criticism, and I think we have heard it in some of the speeches, about the way we are going about this. There has been criticism that the courts are unelected and that somehow this is anti-democratic and it is going to impinge on other people's rights, specifically within the religious community. There has been criticism that certain churches are going to be forced, against their principles, to marry same sex couples.

Anyone who has studied the law in this country will know that this argument is without merit. I will address my church specifically. The Catholic church has traditionally to this day refused to marry people who have been divorced. Unless they obtain an annulment within the canon law of that church, they cannot remarry within the church. That has existed for at least 40 or 50 years, since divorce became much more common in this country. There has not been one challenge to the Catholic church saying, “You have to allow me to marry within your church even though I'm divorced”. There has not been one successful case, not even a challenge.

The reason for this is that everybody and every lawyer in the country who knows anything, both about our charter rights and about family law, would tell us that this challenge would be unsuccessful, as it would be if gay couples ultimately are allowed to marry. The courts would be saying the same thing, which is that if these couples want to be married within the Catholic church and the Catholic church continues to prohibit those marriages, the courts are not going to force the Catholic church to marry them.

On the other hand, and I think this is often missed in this debate, a number of churches, including Christian churches, now want to allow and are beginning to allow gay couples to be married, that religion sanctifying those relationships, certifying, recognizing and in fact conducting a religious ceremony recognizing the sanctity of that relationship. If we were to prohibit that, if we were to pass this bill and it became law, we would be saying to those churches that they do not have the right to do that. We would be denying them that right. It would not only be a denial of rights to the gay and lesbian community but to the United Church, which has led the way in this regard. It would be told that it cannot conduct those marriages.

The other point I want to raise refers to some of the comments about undermining marriage that were made by the previous speaker from the Progressive Conservative Party. We can look to some examples, because there are two other countries that have moved down this path ahead of us. The Netherlands has had this in place for two years. In those first two years, the rate of marriage among heterosexual couples actually went up. The other argument was that somehow it was going to affect the birthrate. Its birthrate was not affected whatsoever. Belgium is now beginning to follow that example. My understanding is that it is having a similar experience.

I speak strongly against this bill. It is founded on principles or arguments that in fact are generally not accurate. On that basis, I speak very strongly against the bill going through.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-447 which I support. This should come as no surprise to most members.

The previous speaker spoke about 2,000 year old history. I also want to speak a little bit about history but not that kind of history. I want to speak about the history of a more closer contemporary time.

I was dismayed with the parliamentary secretary's speech. The parliamentary secretary's speech runs counter to the position of every single minister of justice that the Government of Canada has had since Canada was formed, with the exception of the last and current minister of justice.

The arguments that were put forward by the parliamentary secretary were the very arguments that for years and years were refuted by the Government of Canada. They were refuted in court case after court case as the Government of Canada, including this government, supported in the courts the traditional definition of marriage until June of this year. That is a little bit of recent factual history.

I want to read what the then parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, said on June 8, 1999, on this very issue. She said:

The institution of marriage is historically, culturally and by definition a heterosexual institution. In Quebec, a fundamental condition of a valid marriage has always been that the two people involved are of the opposite sex. That condition is inherent in the very institution of marriage.

She then went on to talk about the vast amount of consultation that the Government of Canada and the Department of Justice had with jurists across Canada: the Canadian Bar Association, the Chambre des notaires, the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Bar, and the Quebec justice department. She went on to say:

We can therefore see that all necessary precautions have been taken by government legal experts to ensure that the rule of law, which is well established in our country with respect to what constitutes a spouse, is not inadvertently changed.

She concluded by saying:

There is no issue here. The Minister of Justice--

That is the previous minister of justice:

--was clear this morning that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage. It has never said that it would and she put that on the record this morning.

That is historical fact from this government in 1999.

I introduced Bill C-225 on October 1, 1997, entitled an act to amend the marriage (prohibited degrees) act and the interpretation act. For all intents and purposes it said what the hon. member's bill currently says.

I warned everyone back in 1997 that this issue was coming. Of course, I was not believed. Of course, it was not coming. I was told that the definition of marriage was crystal clear, it was in the common law, it would never be changed, and that I should not worry about it.

The private members' committee refused to make the bill votable because it was so clear that the definition of marriage would never be changed because the common law was clear. The Department of Justice was supporting the common law definition and would argue it tooth and nail right to the Supreme Court of Canada. We debated the bill; however, it was not votable.

The hon. members for Burnaby—Douglas and Hochelaga—Maisonneuve both took the position that they did not agree with the bill. That was fine; they had a position. They have been historically consistent in the position that they have taken, as have I.

While we disagree, I can certainly respect that they have taken a position which they have not wavered on. I, too, have taken a position which I have not wavered on.

On March 25, 1998, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas introduced his own private member's bill which was basically an opposite of my private member's bill. I was flattered that he noticed it.

On March 28, 2000, the hon. member for Mississauga West introduced Bill C-463 which was virtually identical to my Bill C-225, with almost no changes except one or two minor variances. Was I angry? No, after all, imitation is the sincerest form of praise.

I was very pleased that he brought that forward. I was not pleased as to how the hon. member voted in the most recent vote with respect to this issue when he apparently voted contrary to the very bill he put forward in March 2000.

People are talking about this issue as a matter of human rights. It is not a matter of human rights and I am not alone in saying it is not a matter of human rights. The supreme court of New Zealand has found that this issue is not a matter of human rights. If the Supreme Court of Canada declares that this chair is a dog, it does not make this chair a dog. I do not have to believe that this chair is a dog because the Supreme Court of Canada says it is.

There is no court that I am aware of anywhere, outside of Canada, that has held that this issue is an issue of human rights. The two countries that have allowed same sex marriage have taken the issue squarely on what it is. They have stated that it is a question for society to decide whether or not it wishes to allow this as a matter of societal rules. Those two countries, Belgium and Netherlands, have decided that they are going to take this social position as a democratic country and permit same sex couples to marry. They have not hidden behind the nonsensical argument that this is a matter of human rights, and the supreme court of New Zealand has recognized that it is not.

What makes the Supreme Court of Canada right and the supreme court of New Zealand wrong, or vice versa for that matter? The point is that both are from the British legal system, and both have well known and well respected jurists. Members can decide one way or another; however, we cannot find any jurisdiction anywhere in the world other than Canada that has held this issue to be an issue of human rights, and it is not. It is for this House, not the courts, to decide this issue.

We must remember where we stood on this issue. We must remember our history. We must remember that this very government argued in the courts in favour of the current definition of the institution of marriage, and then virtually overnight flip-flopped. It is a fact. Why? It is this institution, not the executive branch, that must make this decision.

Referring matters to the Supreme Court of Canada with rigged questions are smokescreens. They do not ask the very obvious question, is it constitutional to limit marriage to heterosexual couples? That question was not asked of the Supreme Court. Why? Because those who are driving this agenda are afraid that the Supreme Court might say yes indeed, it is constitutional. The Supreme Court may not like it, but it may have to say it.

We also have section 91 of the Constitution, where we can say that for the peace, order and good government of this country we are enacting certain laws. The Supreme Court can also use section 91.

We were talking about history. I wanted to bring some history to this place. I also want to remind my own government that, up until this last Minister of Justice, every Liberal minister of justice since we were elected in 1993 has supported publicly, in the House and in the courts, the traditional definition of marriage. I say shame on them for changing their minds.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to enter this debate because we are probably debating one of the most significant bills the House has seen for a long time, Bill C-447 on the definition of marriage.

I am opposed to changing the definition of marriage. The definition of marriage, as it stands today, is one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I support that. Not only do I support it but the majority of my constituents support it.

I am here as a representative of my constituents. They elected me to be here and I am proud to say to the House that they elected me to represent them. They want the definition of marriage to be one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and that is what I will portray in the House.

The role of a member of Parliament to ensure that the institution of democracy is protected. This is an issue of democracy in the first instance. The government needs to recognize that its primary responsibility is to represent what the people want. It is a decision of how we want to govern ourselves. There is no doubt that we want to govern ourselves according to fundamental and basic democratic principles.

In this regard I want to refer to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It was in the process of debating this issue and drafting a report on same sex marriage issues. However, what happened on June 17? While the House was recessed, the Prime Minister stated that, despite the findings and recommendations of the justice committee, the government intended to make same sex marriages legal in this country. In the process the Prime Minister officially stripped Parliament of its exclusive prerogative to make the laws of this country.

Since when does a Prime Minister have that kind of audacity? It seems this one does. Prior to this, however, just before the House recessed, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was deliberately stacked with members of the government who favoured same sex marriage. That ensured the passage of a motion presented to the committee by the member for Burnaby—Douglas, a motion to approve the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling allowing same sex marriages.

In the greater context of this issue, the Liberal government's refusal to appeal the Ontario court ruling regarding same sex marriages meant that not only did it accept but it supported the courts making social policy decisions for Canada and for Canadians.

On June 10, when the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision determining that same sex marriages should be legal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Alliance immediately called upon the justice minister to appeal that ruling. He refused and instead brought in legislation that complied with the court's ruling.

Effectively, the Liberal government sanctioned the court's ruling on social policy matters, rendered the work of the justice committee irrelevant, ignored the majority vote of Parliament to protect the tradition of marriage, and stifled the voices of Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you were here on the day that 216 of us voted in favour of defining marriage as one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and 55 said no. Those opposed said that they would change that definition. Therefore, 216 voted in favour of keeping it and 55 said no.

Four years later, what has changed? All of a sudden marriage is no longer to be defined that way? Parliament did not say so. The Supreme Court said so and Parliament said it would let the Supreme Court rule. That is an absolute travesty. Parliament should be writing the law of this land not the courts.

The Canadian Alliance emphasized that point last night during our supply day motion. We called upon the government to bring in measures to protect and reassert the will of Parliament. That motion was defeated by the Liberal government indicating that it supported the courts in enacting social policy.

The courts have become a convenient refuge for the Liberal government, a convenient way for the Liberals to avoid making difficult decisions on divisive issues so they can insulate themselves from criticism. If there were ever a reason to criticize the government, it would be because it has abrogated the responsibility the people gave it.

Although many people have been quick to blame the judiciary, it is our federal government that deserves to be hammered because it has reneged. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have not had the courage and the vision to do the job they were elected to do. This is not just the opinion of this side of the House. It is an opinion that has been expressed time and time again in newspapers over the last number of months.

Many people in my constituency have come to me. The ratio of people who tell me that I am their representative and that they want me to support the traditional definition of marriage outnumbers the people who oppose that definition. It is just horrendous. It is about one hundred to one. That is the way the e-mails have gone.

We need to recognize that this bill reflects the honest and accurate opinion of most of the constituents who I represent. I am proud to support my colleagues who have the courage to present again this definition of marriage: one man, one woman, to the exclusion of all others, and I support it with everything I have.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will take this opportunity to address my comments, first, to the parliamentary secretary who stated in his carefully crafted address that he felt intellectual honesty was not demonstrated by this bill. I want to remind him that about half of his colleagues would vote for this bill.

It is interesting to note, if we look at the individual presenting a bill, we can say that we disagree with that person's position, arguments or logic. However, to say that this is not intellectually honest, I feel is an insult to many Canadians. I say that with respect.

Also, the current health minister, who was justice minister in 1999 when the original motion was put forward, said, and this was referred to by another member in his comments, that there was no attempt and that there would be no attempt by the government to redefine marriage. There now is an attempt, and if I were a cynic, I would say there is where the lack of intellectual honesty lies.

I will not say that because I believe the individuals who say this is an issue of human rights really truly believe that and pursue that with intellectual arguments. I listen to them and if I disagree with them, I will respect them. However, for the parliamentary secretary to have said as plainly as he did that this was not intellectually honest is, as I said, an insult to at least 50% of Canadians.

Second, he said this bill was premature. He said that we should wait for the judgment of the Supreme Court in the reference being put to it. In my view that has some intellectual component to it. That is a logical argument. However, I really truly question the validity of the way the question was posed because the Supreme Court cannot say that same gender marriage is not constitutional. Of course it is constitutional.

I tried to make this point specifically in my comments. The question is, is a restriction in marriage, the exclusivity of marriage, the heterosexual component of marriage constitutional? If the Supreme Court said no to that question, the argument has been addressed in Canada and Parliament would then formulate a law and it would be voted upon. However, I believe there is a circuitous mechanism used there.

To my colleague from the NDP who said that the 1982 Charter of Rights was the reason that we were bound in this decision, I would remind him that the Charter of Rights specifically excluded this topic of sexual orientation. I have quotes from our current Prime Minister that explain why that exclusion was put in place. The Charter of Rights had no jurisdiction here. It was read in by the courts. I believe, mistakenly, there was no furor and disagreement on that issue by Parliament.

In conclusion, I also note that had the cabinet voted its conscience on this issue, it would have succeeded. It voted as a block against the motion put forward in 1999, and again put to the House. To that end, by cabinet solidarity, by forcing this issue and preventing cabinet from voting its conscience, this issue failed.

Finally, this issue should have been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Two of my colleagues said that the Supreme Court has ruled on this. That is not the case. It was the superior courts of the provinces.

Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to speak on what I consider to be a fundamental issue for the country.

Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has been designated as a non-votable item, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 14, 2003, I asked a question in the House of the Minister for International Trade. At that time, and on a number of previous occasions, the minister led us to believe he was very close to an agreement on the softwood lumber crisis. He was all fired up about it, but once again things did not work out.

Today I met with heads of business in the Quebec and Canadian softwood lumber industry and they shared with me their fear that the federal government is engaged in negotiating with the Americans, on its own, an agreement which would in the end not ensure that they would get back all the money placed in trust in connection with the tariffs imposed by the Americans.

This same fear has been expressed by the workers as well. People are very anxious, because they really have no idea what the government's guidelines are. Right from the start, we said we would have to achieve free trade for softwood lumber, and we supported the government on this. However, as far as the means of ensuring our industries and workers of the necessary support to get through the crisis, much uncertainty and confusion still remains, among employers and employees alike.

I would like to know today from the government representative whether they will in fact ensure that the industries will be able to recover all the money they were forced to put into trust accounts. I would also like to know if there is any guarantee on the part of the government that there will not be any selling out going on, leading to acceptance of something akin to the near-agreement of some months ago, in order to negotiate a long term agreement. That near-agreement was opposed by many, including the Free Trade Lumber Council. Today letters were received from these organizations asking the Minister for International Trade not to settle the matter on this basis, “because in the long term we will lose out”.

Can the government representative give us the assurance that the outcome of the negotiations will be a return to free trade, recovery of the money the Americans owe us, and no sellout?

Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey
Ontario

Liberal

Murray Calder Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, at the onset of my speech, I want to state that my colleague from the Bloc has worked very tirelessly on this issue, and his constituents back home should be very proud of the work that he has done.

As the hon. member may know, the federal and provincial governments, together with the industry, have worked closely throughout this dispute. Excellent cooperation stems from our mutual commitment to defend the interests of affected Canadian lumber companies and the people they employ and the communities they are located in.

When the U.S. department of commerce imposed 27% countervailing and anti-dumping duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber in May 2002, following the expiry of the softwood lumber agreement, all levels of government, together with the industry, joined to challenge the U.S. findings as unfounded and protectionist. Together, we have pursued a two-pronged strategy initiating NAFTA and WTO challenges of the U.S. duty actions and engaging in discussions to find a durable resolution to this dispute.

The federal and provincial governments and industry have worked together to challenge the preliminary determination of the subsidy in the WTO, and I am pleased to note that we prevailed in that challenge. We are cooperating in our challenges of the final determinations of the subsidy and the threat of injury before both the WTO and NAFTA, and are confident that we will prevail in these challenges too. Canada is also challenging the final determination of dumping before the WTO, while the Canadian industry has taken the lead in challenging the dumping actions before NAFTA.

In the NAFTA challenges, separate panels have ruled that the dumping, subsidy and threat of injury determinations are inconsistent with U.S. law. The panels have ordered the United States to issue new determinations.

The other half of our strategy has been one of trying to find a way to resolve this dispute once and for all, and again, the level of cooperation between industry and governments has been remarkable.

The government has worked closely with the provinces during discussions with the U.S. government on a department of commerce policy bulletin that would guide changed circumstance reviews of the countervailing duty on Canadian softwood lumber. Throughout these discussions, which focussed on provincial policy, we were able to maintain a united Canadian front, and we are continuing to work together to press the U.S. to include a Quebec example in the policy bulletin.

Forestry largely falls under provincial jurisdiction in this country, and it will be up to the provinces to decide whether reforms in their forest management and timber pricing programs are required and to seek a changed circumstance review.

The government has been working hard to find a resolution to the dispute in the form of an interim measure that would replace U.S. duties pending provincial policy changes and changed circumstance reviews. Throughout these efforts, we have worked closely with provincial governments and the Canadian industry, and we will continue to do so.