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

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the justice committee process I was part of was perhaps the most disrespectful and undemocratic process I have been through in 23 years of elected office. The committee was stacked to achieve a vote that it looks like was wanted by the upper echelons of the government. Three Liberal members, colleagues of mine, refused to come out of the hall to give us quorum along with some other opposition members so that we could even discuss another view opposite to theirs. It was an incredibly disrespectful process. I was very disappointed. It was a sad day to be a member of Parliament, let alone a member of that committee.

One colleague on the committee said there were more witnesses who supported same sex marriage than not. That is not the point and my colleague has referred to it. The preponderance of evidence, particularly the expert evidence from various fields, overwhelmingly argues for leaving the definition of marriage exactly as it is. It has served this country and this world quite well.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to share my time today with the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

The issue that has brought us here is our shared concern over the court decision that has ordered Parliament to redefine the institution of marriage to include same sex couples.

Most Canadians believe that the institution of marriage is an important part of our society. The legal definition of marriage, the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, has existed in Canada since Confederation and the Canadian courts have consistently applied this definition until very recently. Let me say in no uncertain terms, I support the traditional definition of marriage.

Lower court rulings this summer in Ontario and Quebec ruled that same sex couples are entitled to be legally married and ordered Parliament to change the laws accordingly.

Initially the justice minister appealed the trial court decision and referred the matter to the House of Commons justice committee to get input from Canadians. Hearings were conducted across Canada for several months and thousands of Canadians submitted their views through written briefs or oral presentations.The overwhelming response that committee members received through mail and telephone calls reflected a strong desire in retaining the traditional definition of marriage.

Although the justice minister asked the justice committee to travel across the country and hear representations on same sex marriages from all walks of life, he did not wait for the committee to produce its report before making a final decision on this matter. He simply accepted the decision of unelected judges. This undemocratic process has effectively silenced the voices of thousands of Canadians who submitted briefs and made oral presentations to the committee.

Let me make one other point clear at this time. The jurisdiction to review and strike down laws that violated the Constitution that was given to the courts by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 did not include jurisdiction for the courts to rule on the issue of sexual orientation. During the debates and numerous votes that led to the final draft of the charter, Parliament was very clear in holding that the issue of sexual orientation did not fall within the scope of the text of the charter. This issue was to remain within the scope of Parliament's jurisdiction to consider and legislate.

Notwithstanding the clear direction of Parliament, the courts have simply ignored Parliament's decision and improperly amended the Constitution themselves by reading in the term “sexual orientation” into our Constitution. It is on that erroneous basis that our courts continue to act.

In 1999 members of Parliament voted 216 to 55 in favour of a motion brought forward by the Reform Party, now the Canadian Alliance, holding that marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman and to take all necessary steps to protect that definition.

The Prime Minister, the current justice minister and the future Liberal leader all voted in favour of the motion at that time, although all three now have changed their position to agree with same sex marriage. In fact, the then justice minister, the member of Parliament for Edmonton West, speaking for the Liberal government, assured Canadians of the government's intentions when she stated:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.

She went on to assure Canadians:

Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages. I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

Why did the Liberal government mislead Canadians? Why have the Liberals broken their promise from barely four years ago?

The Liberals promised to take all necessary steps to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. They have now broken that promise.

Their new promise is to protect the rights of religious organizations to refuse to marry same sex couples. This does not in any way comfort us. In recent years we have seen a Catholic school forced to allow a same sex date at a school prom, despite constitutional guarantees of religious independence. We have seen a teacher and guidance counsellor suspended without pay for expressing an opinion on teaching material. We have seen a printer fined for refusing to print in his own shop materials that conflicted with his religious views.

The Liberals have so far failed miserably in protecting religious freedom and there is no reason to believe that they will now begin to do so effectively. In an attempt to leave the impression that Parliament will in fact determine the definition of marriage, the Prime Minister has announced that there will be a free vote on the legislation that he has referred to the Supreme Court on the issue of same sex marriage. This legislation is without legislative or constitutional significance if the present charter does not protect existing religious freedoms. The proposed legislation will do nothing of the sort.

Furthermore, the free vote offered by the Prime Minister to members of Parliament on same sex marriages is meaningless. The proposed legislation will simply spell out the procedural basis by which these marriages will be implemented. Even if Parliament rejects the proposed legislation, same sex marriages are now legally valid in Canada. This so-called free vote is simply a cynical communications exercise by the Liberals to try to hide the fact that they have let unelected judges make the laws of our country.

Such a fundamental change to an important social, legal and religious institution as marriage should not even be contemplated without the input of Canadians and elected parliamentarians. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened and this issue has been forced on Canadians by an unelected and unaccountable judiciary.

Canadians must continue to call for the Liberals to live up to their promise to Canadians to defend marriage. The Canadian Alliance has consistently maintained that we will live up to the commitments that Parliament made on this issue in 1999. The Canadian Alliance will continue to call on the Liberal government to keep its promise to Canadians. I would encourage each and every person watching to contact the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister and the prime minister in waiting to remind them of the commitment they made on the issue in 1999.

The Canadian Alliance firmly believes that this is an issue that should be decided by Parliament after MPs have heard from all Canadians, not the courts. This issue relates not only to the institution of marriage, but deals fundamentally with the institution of Parliament and our future as a democratic nation.

Democracy was not a gift that came easily to the western world. Let us be very vigilant before we entrust its future to those who are not accountable to the people, or those who, like our Liberal government, take the voice of the people for granted.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the Halpern case in 2001 before the Ontario Superior Court, the court then cited the modernization of benefits act, C-23, and the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union that was put into that legislation in the year 2000. The court dismissed that definition as the preamble of the legislation, which incidentally it was not, it was part of the body of the legislation. Nevertheless it dismissed that definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others on the justification that it was not really meant to be a legislative definition, it was merely a clarification.

Had that judge read the debates in Hansard he would surely have come to another conclusion.

The question for the member is, if the courts can change the law without paying any attention to the debates of Parliament, is there any point in Parliament having debates at all?

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1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, not being a lawyer I cannot give a legal opinion, but I agree totally with the member that there is no place for Parliament at all if the courts can come forward and make these kinds of decisions.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the comments of the member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar. I want to admit at the outset that I do not even like in my own response the kind of intolerance that I find rushing to the surface in response to some of the arguments that I find so offensive that are offered in this debate. I work hard at trying to curb that reaction.

I listened very carefully to the member. She is not the only member on both sides of the House who has invoked the argument that the institution of marriage is so important to our society that we have to protect it. She talked about it being central to the lives of many Canadians. I find myself struggling to try to understand that if that is the weight of the argument, what is it that makes it impossible for such members of Parliament to extend the full benefits of traditional marriage to same sex couples?

I want to ask a question of the member quite sincerely. If she were the mother of a daughter who was involved in a same sex relationship and who wanted to commit to all of the aspects of a traditional marriage and take on the responsibilities and the obligations that go with that and engage in the joyful expression of that in a public way as we celebrate other marriages, would she not have a problem denying that opportunity to her own daughter?

If I could go one step further and ask the member to try to imagine if she had a daughter who was involved in a same sex relationship and her daughter bore and was raising a child, would she not have difficulty in saying to her grandchild that his or her parents had no right to celebrate their marriage as an institution equal to the marriage relationship that is available to all other citizens? I ask that question in all sincerity because I think that is something that every member of Parliament should be prepared to recognize as being at the heart of this debate.

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1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am the mother of three children and the grandmother of five granddaughters. I love every one of them dearly. I believe that Parliament, and not the courts, should make the decisions for my children on social issues.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not for a moment doubt that the member loves her children and her grandchildren. Of course she loves them.

I want to beg her again to address the questions I raised. If one of those children that she loves wanted to participate in the full aspect of marriage as an equal to other citizens who enjoy the full benefits of marriage, could she deny it? To go further, would she address the question of whether she could deny her grandchildren the opportunity for the parents of those grandchildren who happen to be a same sex couple to enjoy the full benefits of marriage in our society?

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1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, other than the label of marriage, my children can enjoy everything else.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday I raised a point of privilege in the House and Hansard made an error that I would like to see corrected on the record.

In citing a justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the audio record will reveal that I cited it as Mr. Justice LaForme. In Hansard it is the wrong name. I hope the record will be corrected. It is a pity because I thought it was an important point of privilege and I would certainly want the record to be exact.

The Environment
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day of the Ozone Layer. Canada was a principal architect of the 1987 Montreal protocol, which phased out substances that damage the earth's ozone layer. This year's theme, “Save Our Sky: There is a Hole Lot More to Do for Our Children”, emphasizes the need to remain vigilant about this important issue.

The Canadian government continues to work in cooperation with other countries to research the state of the ozone layer and fulfill our international obligations to protect the global commons.

Preservation of the earth's ozone layer continues to be equally as important today as it was 16 years ago. We have had much success thanks to the efforts of Canadian citizens, scientists and corporations.

I ask all members to join me in promoting these efforts to Canadians, especially to students and young people.

Firefighters Memorial
Statements By Members

September 16th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the second world war, 422 Canadian firefighters volunteered to assist their British allies in helping save lives on the home front. They were known as Team Mitzi.

Today, a senior team of Canadian firefighters is attending services at St. Paul's Cathedral, unveiling the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. The memorial includes the names of three Canadians: J.S. Coull, A. Lapierre and L.E. Woodhead. These men made the ultimate sacrifice fighting fires during the darkest days of the London blitz.

The monument erected today will ensure that their service and the 1,000 other firefighters who died alongside them are never forgotten.

Canadian firefighters put their lives on the line every day. Today we pay tribute to a proud moment in the history of Canadian firefighting. I encourage all Canadians to take a moment of silence and remember the sacrifice of the brave men of Team Mitzi.

Cambridge Choir
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Cambridge Kiwanis Boys' Choir and Young Men's Chorus celebrated its 25th anniversary with performances in cathedrals and historical churches throughout England.

For 25 years, the choir has performed at community centres, senior citizens' residences, and hospitals and churches in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. Founded by James and Jean Kropf, this remarkable choir is a member of the Royal School of Church Music, Choirs Ontario and the Choristers Guild and is supported by the Kiwanis Club of Cambridge. The choir has produced six impressive recordings and has been featured on local and national television.

I join all members in congratulating the Cambridge Kiwanis Boys' Choir and Young Men's Chorus on their many achievements and I wish them another 25 years of success.

Riding of Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Christian Jobin Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with some emotion that I rise in the House of Commons today to make my maiden speech.

Riding of Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear.

Riding of Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Christian Jobin Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say how proud I am to have been elected the member of Parliament for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière and to be able to work with all the members of this House.

My riding, Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, is located opposite Quebec City and borders the St. Lawrence Seaway over a distance of 45 kilometres. It is a rapidly developing riding, socially, economically and industrially, and is making great strides with respect to tourism as well.

I would like to remind you that the riding of Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière includes the second largest refinery in Canada, namely Ultramar, and also the Davie shipyard which also has the two largest drydocks in Canada. The shipyard is in difficulty and deserves the help of all parliamentarians in order to permit competition in shipbuilding within Canada.

I thank the House for its attention and for its welcome.