House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was courts.

Topics

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, during the past four years there have been 24 deaths on a 25 kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park in my riding.

I have been asking the government for 10 years to do something about this dangerous road. The transport minister says it is not his problem; it is the problem of the heritage minister. She says it is not her problem; it belongs to Parks Canada. Parks Canada says it is not its problem; it does not have enough money in its budget to even consider it. Failure to widen this highway is sheer negligence.

I ask the Prime Minister today, who in the heck is in charge of fixing this highway?

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, this road needs to be improved. We will soon be announcing, under the infrastructure fund, a strategic investment by the Government of Canada to ensure that happens, to protect the lives of those who travel this road, to ensure that Banff National Park is accessible, and to upgrade the infrastructure in that park.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, last March, a report from Status of Women Canada confirmed that employment insurance restrictions on individuals returning to the labour market were affecting a disproportionate number of women, particularly those seeking parental benefits, as well as those who are self-employed, who continue to be excluded from this program.

Can the parliamentary secretary for Status of Women Canada tell us what she has done to date to remedy the situation criticized by that report?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question gives me the opportunity again to recognize that the government has doubled parental benefits, not only providing benefits for Canadian mothers but also for Canadian fathers.

As well, we find that the employment insurance system, by moving to an hours based program, allows more women to be eligible for employment insurance.

We also find that more women are working and, in fact, as a result of the increased jobs in our strong economy, women are working and bringing home employment wages to help support themselves and their families.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Minister-President Professor Dr. Wolfgang Boehmer, President of the Bundesrat of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, today, as parliamentarians we each bring to the floor of the House a condensation of the myriad heartfelt expressions from the nation's citizens on this subject of marriage. I pray that the product that is distilled from the debate today will be positive and not toxic or debilitating to the future health of our country, its families and its people.

I find it somewhat curious that some in this debate have said that we should not even be dealing in Parliament with anything at all that has a religious connotation, notwithstanding the fact that marriage of course is supported by those of a religious or non-religious view.

Let us consider our history. From aboriginal spiritual beliefs to the spiritual declarations of our first explorers, to recent changes of Canada's Constitution, we see that it is the rule, not the exception, that we allow religious expression and views in all places. Canada's constitutional founders and framers, in pre-1867 Charlottetown discussions, accepted the suggestion of an Atlantic Canadian premier that our nation's motto should be taken from the Bible, from the book of Psalms, chapter 72, verse 8, which says, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea”. And so it remains today on Canada's coat of arms right here in the House of Commons, and in courtrooms and classrooms across the country.

The granite foundations of this very building, the Peace Tower, have scripture verses carved into them. When our Constitution was repatriated, an important phrase was placed in its preamble declaring Parliament as “recognizing the supremacy of God”. That is in the preamble of our Constitution. Our national anthem rings forth the prayerful plea “God keep our land”. At the beginning of every day right here in Parliament, Mr. Speaker, you lead us in public prayer.

Given these past and present historical realities of our nation, respected by believers and non-believers alike, let us please dispel this notion that religious expressions or reflections on the topic of marriage or on any other issue should be prohibited.

There is a book in the parliamentary library entitled Religion, the missing dimension of statecraft which is very helpful on this subject. One of several reasons that Bill C-250 is so ill advised, intolerant and dangerous is that it could be used to squash freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this regard. As a matter of fact, on the question of changing the meaning of marriage, it should be noted that the narrowly activist views of the member for Burnaby--Douglas are not even representative of the 3% of our population who claim to be homosexual. Official statements have come forth from representatives of the homosexual community who believe the definition of marriage should be left intact and not changed at all. It is important to note that this activist assault on marriage is not even unanimously supported by the homosexual community.

It brings me to the matter of people whether we are talking about people who have a religious or non-religious persuasion. People are being described as hateful or homophobic because they disagree with the homosexual lifestyle or because they want to see the marriage definition left alone. Many people have been intimidated into silence out of the fear of being stung with these labels and accusations.

On the other side of the ledger, I have seen books, articles and seminars which decry marriage as hateful and evil, and as a dangerous institution. While I profoundly disagree with that position, I will never try to legislate into silence those who propagate such a view, and nobody should.

Let us look at the trend that is developing. It is deplorable that a school teacher in British Columbia has been savaged because he made public in a newspaper his views about homosexuality. School board members in Surrey have been verbally and legally attacked because they voted not to expose grade one children to homosexual literature and other examples abound. This quasi-legal bullying has taken place without the added clout of Parliament or the Supreme Court trashing the heterosexual definition of marriage.

Imagine the programs of compulsory social reprogramming that will befall proponents of heterosexuality should we erringly vote today to change the clear meaning of marriage. This forced culturalization is taking place now with those who err in the area of political correctness, and it is happening with a vengeance in other jurisdictions also. It can happen here further. Let us not encourage that by changing the definition of marriage in our Parliament today.

Further to the question of definition is the incumbent lack of definition of what may evolve months or years from now as marriage itself is redefined, given the total lack of definition of the term sexual orientation. I have asked for definitions of that term and cannot get that definition.

Critics sneer at those who suggest that an open-ended definition of marriage would soon result in legal challenges from those demanding the right to legal recognition of other types of partnerships such as multi-partner marriage, either on religious grounds or for reasons of orientation. That concern that some have raised should not be derided or dismissed. Those demands are already in fact on our doorstep. As a legislator, I have already sat and received a presentation made to me with that request, for the change in the definition of marriage to allow multi-partner marriages.

In Canada, on this matter of rights, adults and in some cases children as young as 14 years old already have the right to cohabit in any consensual relationship they want. Same sex benefits apply in most union and corporate contracts already. Quebec has a domestic relations act. Alberta has a civil unions act. Ontario and other provinces make similar provisions already for same sex unions. This should cause even less compulsion and not more by the activists who want to change the definition of marriage. It does make one wonder, what is the real agenda driving this tiny group of activists?

While on the topic of activism, we need to address the matter of the courts. Our present system of democratic and judicial checks and balances has been widely predicated on some realities, first the reality that human beings are imperfect and at times human beings will choose to do what is wrong and in pursuit of their own freedoms they will rob others of their freedoms.

Society also recognizes that human beings, as being created by God, have certain rights which need to be protected. Along with that there is an awareness that there will always be demagogues who believe they can create utopia on earth by enforcing their particular system on society as a whole. Marxism and Fascism represent two such examples.

Not perfect but in a fairly good attempt to deal with these realities, western democracies devised a somewhat ingenious yet utilitarian way of parliamentary democracy whereby elected citizens would make the laws while the courts would rule on those who break the laws, laws given to the courts by the elected legislative assemblies.

Judges would be protected from political and mob intimidation by being given long tenures of service and citizens would be protected from out of touch law makers by having the electoral power on a regular basis to throw them out of office and elect those who would create better laws or repeal bad ones.

This somewhat precarious social equilibrium has served us fairly well up until the last couple of decades. Following a disturbing international trend, Canadian judges are increasingly upsetting the social apple cart by taking it upon themselves to read into existing legislation things which were never intended by the elected framers of that legislation.

This lack of respect for the democratic process is unfortunately resulting in a growing lack of public respect for the judicial process and that trend, if it continues to go unchecked, will move us dangerously down the road to social anarchy. Along with that, citizens will wonder why we bother with elected democracy at all if a small group of selected, unelected and protected people are making all the decisions.

It has been unsettling enough to see courts telling governments what they can or cannot do on items such as reducing taxes or providing social benefits. The trend is now at its zenith as many of us watch in awe as unelected judges take it upon themselves to order parliaments to change the legal and dictionary definition of marriage.

Just as an aside, in talking to editors of the Oxford dictionary, they have no intention whatsoever to change the age old definition of marriage. They recognize better than the courts and some politicians that the definition of marriage predates governments, religious systems and in fact the written word.

We must restore the balance to our judicial and democratic process, and today we must stand for what we know to be true about the effect on society of marriage. History is clear, as cited by Toynbee and others, that no civilization has ever survived a societal decision to cease protecting and promoting this thing we call marriage, the legal, unique definition of a union between a man and a women.

I make these comments today encouraged by the majority view of my constituents and by the phrase in our Canadian constitution imploring me to recognize the supremacy of God and the conviction deep in my heart that Canada will not be able to handle financially or socially the effects and consequences of a parliamentary or judicial decree putting an end to marriage as we know it.

May we keep these things in mind as we debate this. May God keep our land.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a question which has come to me after listening to the debate today.

Several members on all sides of the House and somebody from the Conservative Party quite eloquently asked what it was about the idea of same sex relationships and their impact on heterosexual relationships? How will someone who has a longstanding, loving relationship with someone of the same sex dilute in any way impact on your own relationship which I gather is with someone of the opposite sex. I clearly do not understand why you have that problem seeing as we are talking about tolerance and loving relationships.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I remind the hon. member for Dartmouth to address her comments to the Chair.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have acknowledged that people can have relations with whomever they choose. They have the legal right in practically every province to do that.

The member asked what is there about different types of relationships that will dilute marriage. It is the changing of the definition of marriage that will dilute the notion of the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman.

About three years ago we saw a reversal in the somewhat disturbing trend of people abandoning the idea of marriage as a social institution as people once again began to embrace and put faith in the aspect of family and of marriage as defined between a man and a woman. Is it not now ironic that as society moves to embrace the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, the courts and their parliamentary accomplices are about to drive a legal stake through the heart of the definition of marriage? We do not have the mandate to do that. It is not our role to do that.

It is not other relationships that will affect marriage itself. It is we as elected people in conjunction with the courts ending marriage as we know it that will weaken marriage.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I recently read a very informative, insightful and well thought out column by Richard Gwyn which I do not know if any other members read. He said:

Now that the law is to be amended to legalize marriages between same-sex couples, in what way is an intimate relationship between a man and two women or between two men and a woman...less deserving of being recognized as a legitimate marriage?

He went on to say:

[It] is wrong only to assume implicitly that the current change--permitting same-sex marriages--will be the last change...

At some point, a marriage will cease to be a marriage in any recognizable sense of that term.

I want to ask the member if we are not running the risk of destroying the institution of marriage entirely. What is the member's opinion that same sex marriage is indeed a contradiction in terms, that marriage is a heterosexual relationship, is a unique form of sexual expression and is necessary to procreation?

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find myself agreeing with the premise of the hon. member's question. I made reference to it in my remarks. I would forewarn the member because he has raised the possibility.

Because there is no clear definition of what sexual orientation is and once we abandon a clear definition of what marriage should be, he has suggested, in quoting a reporter or journalist, that other types of relationships will come to the fore demanding legal recognition. I can almost guarantee he will be ridiculed and derided by some of the all-wise elites who say what a ridiculous notion that is. I do not think it is a ridiculous notion. It is a very clear possibility.

As I indicated, I have already had an occasion in my office where a gentleman was making a proposal that we should change the definition of marriage to accommodate his particular orientation to have more than one wife. As a matter of fact, he had two at that particular time. He had recently emigrated here. He was a hard-working guy, a taxpayer, a law-abiding individual, which I appreciated, but he wanted me to change the law so he could legalize the present relationship which he was now in. I told him that he was living that situation now and that he was not going to get arrested for that. However he was asking me to go out to my constituents and make a change to allow him to be legally recognized as married to two women now, and he suggested there could be more in the future, with all the incumbent rights.

As I referenced earlier, society cannot afford the effects of the abandoning of the definition of marriage. We cannot afford young couples moving away from an enhanced sense of responsibility when it comes to the upbringing of children. We cannot afford society moving away from a sense of responsibility to care for the aging members of a marriage union. We cannot afford, as the hon. member mentioned, society moving to embrace the rights and all the incumbent costs of a variety of types of relationships, some which maybe those of us here in the House have not even imagined or contemplated.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a consensus among us, and I am convinced there is, that this issue is complex, it is sensitive, it is emotional and it is divisive. This is why I think we should approach it with great mutual respect and with tolerance.

I would like to say here and now that I approach it with a feeling of total understanding of the position of the side that I do not share. At the same time, I have always had and continue to have a profound conviction and belief in the traditional definition of marriage.

While I treat the views of the other side with the greatest respect and sensitivity, I think we should be extremely cautious before we abandon the traditional definition of marriage and rely on the judgment of the Ontario court, which I have read and reread with a lot of seriousness. I would like to refer to that.

The position adopted by the judges was that the provisions of section 15(1), which enshrine the equality of individuals under law, when measured against the intent of section 1, which provides for reasonable limits in the application of rights and freedoms under the charter, should predominate. The court came to the conclusion that section 15 (1) should predominate because there were no grounds for invoking the reasonable limits under section 1. The court ruled unreservedly in favour of same sex marriage on the basis inter alia of section 15(1) of the charter.

Recently, before my colleagues, I deplored the fact that no consultation or debate took place as to whether we should appeal or not appeal to the Supreme Court, and how, if the decision were to refer, we should have had more debate or consultation as to what the substance of that reference should be. It was all imposed from on high. The Globe and Mail published a long article after my caucus intervention, following which I declined to give an interview, recognizing the confidentiality of caucus. It followed that up with an editorial questioning my good faith and bringing into comparison a speech I made in 1988 in the Quebec National Assembly about rights, a speech known as “rights are rights are rights”.

The contexts were totally different. In the 1988 case, the right of freedom of expression, a universal and fundamental human right enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, was taken away by legislation. Five resolutions of the party in power, my party, had been passed, saying we would recognize a judgment of the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court judged, we decided to use the notwithstanding clause to suspend the judgment.

What I said this time was very different. My questions were rhetorical in form. I addressed the whole question of limitation of acquired rights. I said that marriage in its traditional definition has been a universally accepted institution over the millennia. It is not just a matter of law. It is a complex web of social, legal, moral, religious, sociological and natural elements.

On this basis could it be, and it was a question, that the Supreme Court might see differently from the Ontario and B.C. courts regarding the reasonable limits provision of section 1 of the charter? Maybe not, but possibly yes. After all, this is why we have a Supreme Court: to have a court of last resort that reflects on these issues after lower courts have decided.

I looked at the judgment of the Ontario court. In its analysis, it says, “the issues raised in this appeal are questions of law”. It said further, “In our view, 'marriage' does not have a constitutionally fixed meaning”. In this it contradicts our previous justice minister, who felt it did. In saying it did not have a constitutionally fixed meaning, the court said that society evolves and compared this to banking and criminal law.

Many of us feel that marriage is far more than a strict question of law, that certain institutions, because of their intrinsic nature, are surely less flexible and evolutive than others. What about monogamy? Should it be evolutive under the law according to the evolving mores of society? Should we accept, in due course, poly-unions or polygamy because societal evolution dictates that way?

This is where the role of Parliament comes in. The role of Parliament is to address far more than the strict definition of laws. It is to take into account social mores and sociological impacts, all the various components that form a whole, a far broader concept of societal issues. Otherwise, EI as we know it today, employment insurance, would be ultra vires under the law because it does put people in different categories. An appeal would have given us time to address these issues and possibly craft a consensus among mutually respectful people.

When I married, I got married in two separate phases. There were two ceremonies, one a civil union, and, on a completely different date, a religious marriage. For me, I took the religious marriage as the date of my marriage.

There are solutions ahead of us if we had just looked at them, if we had discussed them, if we had had a debate here before the minister decided on his reference, which he imposed upon us, including the substance of it.

It is symptomatic that the U.K., which cherishes human rights just as much as we do, has decided to take 10 years to evolve on this issue and to find a consensus. It is symptomatic that so far only two nations in the world, the Netherlands and Belgium, have decided to put aside the universal acceptance of marriage.

I am extremely sad that because of the hasty and autocratic treatment of this very delicate issue by our government, we are now living polarization and emotion such that Canadians have been divided into two camps. The letters fly back and forth; the emotion is intense. I am convinced that if we had adopted a more judicious treatment of it, we could have avoided the division and malaise we have visited upon ourselves.

I keep hoping and praying, against all hopes I must say, but one has to hope, that somehow we will find it in ourselves, maybe through this debate, to get together and find a solution that is acceptable to those who claim that marriage is for all of us and to those who claim, like I do, that the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman should endure into the long term.

Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to express my sentiments on this to the hon. member who just spoke and get his comments.

My position echoes the sentiments of Norman Spector, who is a B.C. political commentator and in fact was previously a Canadian ambassador. For a variety of reasons, Canadians have an interest in finding ways to strengthen marriage, especially given the relationship between poverty and family breakdown. I really congratulate the hon. member for pointing out, I believe, that it is inappropriate to have the flavour of the month override the fabric of our society throughout the ages.

I acknowledge that gays and lesbians raise kids, that not all heterosexual couples have children, and that society allows infertile men and women to marry. However, these exceptions do not prove the rule and the rule is that gay and lesbian unions, while professing to share much in common with traditional marriage, can never be about procreation and therefore are different in one very fundamental respect. Neither the courts, political parties nor societies at large should seek to change or erode this distinction.

I look at this the way my parents would look at it. I know how they would feel. In fact, ironically, the hon. member knew my father very well, and I am sure he knows how he would feel on this as well. I appreciate the hon. member's words. I invite his comments on what I have said.