House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Absolutely. What we now have is a legacy. It has a legacy that talks to the fact that we need to reinvest in innovative health care, but it has to be publicly funded and publicly delivered.

We need to take a look at some of the really excellent practices happening throughout Canada. They talk about the fact that we can make health care a quality, affordable, long term strategy for all Canadians. That is where we need to spend our energy.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S.)

Madam Speaker, the hon. member on the other side might have a bit more credibility if she would admit that the NDP government in B.C. made its independent choices as to where it would put its money. It was responsible for any of the problems that now exist in terms of various social health programs.

Why is the hon. member not prepared to admit that the provincial NDP government was responsible for the problems in the health care system? That government was a disaster. Why will she not admit that?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, as soon as we talk about accountability, it is interesting to note that members of the House begin to point fingers at provincial governments. I thank the Bloc for talking about fiscal imbalance and the crisis being by many of our provinces.

Let me just talk about child care for example. British Columbia is struggling with a lack of child care spaces, again, because funding is not coming in on a consistent basis.

We need to talk about responsible partnerships between federal and provincial governments and talk about responsible fiscal arrangements that would allow provinces to fulfill their mandates in the direct delivery of service.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For clarification, the government member opposite is blaming the provincial NDP for the problems in health care in British Columbia. I am just--

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Order, please. The member is well aware that is not a point of order.

Is the House ready for the question?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to make some comments with respect to Bill C-38. I want to divide my remarks into four basic sections: first, I will briefly make some political observations; second, I will deal with how I see the history of this matter; third, I will discuss what I consider to be a duty to act; and fourth, I will examine Bill C-38 and what I consider to be its weaknesses.

Just a few words on politics. I am privileged to be in my 17th year as a member of Parliament. During that period of time I have served with three leaders of the Liberal Party and one interim leader of the Liberal Party. Throughout that time my opposition to same sex marriage has been well known. Yet it is obvious by the fact that I am the first Liberal backbencher to speak, in fact the first Liberal to speak immediately after the Prime Minister, that there is no underhandedness in determining who will speak to this bill on this side.

In 17 years under three leaders and one interim leader, never have I been asked to submit a speech to anyone to have it reviewed or to have it vetted. Not that it would work, but it has simply never happened. I lament that there are situations where people seem to think that is necessary in a House of free and open debate.

I would like to turn now to the history of this matter as I see it. Back in Chilliwack, British Columbia, in 1994, I issued my first speech on this matter. I predicted that if matters were not observed quickly and a halt was not put to the movement, same sex marriage would become a fact in this country.

In a paper dated November 16, 1994, which I distributed to all members of Parliament, so anyone who was a member of Parliament in 1994 received it, I outlined exactly how this would happen and the steps that would be used to achieve this objective.

Sadly for me, because I hoped I would be wrong, matters have proceeded exactly as I predicted almost 11 years ago. Unfortunately, people refused to listen and they refused to believe.

I wrote a letter to former justice minister, Mr. Rock, pointing out that there was a court decision in Ontario from the then divisional court where two judges to one had decided in favour of traditional marriage. My point was that the dissenting judge had found that traditional marriage was unconstitutional. I warned the justice minister of the day that two to one in favour of traditional marriage today could be two to one against traditional marriage tomorrow, and what was he going to do about it?

He had written a letter to a concerned Canadian and this is dated February 24, 1997. I want to quote two paragraphs from it. It reads:

I take your concerns and those of Mr. Wappel seriously, but I do not agree that it is necessary to legislate to define marriage in heterosexual terms and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify why. The definition of marriage in law in Canada is already the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Thus, the definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended, and will continue to defend, this concept of marriage in court. Let me assure you that this government remains committed to supporting Canadian families and that there are no plans to change the concept of marriage in Canada.

I was not reassured by the reassurance and therefore I proposed a bill to amend the Marriage Act of Canada to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage into law.

I explained to the then justice minister why this was necessary given the divisions that were beginning to appear in the courts in our country. I brought that bill forward and it was vociferously opposed by the Department of Justice of the day. A new justice minister took up the cause and wrote to a supporter of my private member's bill on April 24, 1998. Justice Minister McLellan stated:

I take your concerns and those of Mr. Wappel seriously, but do not agree that it is necessary to legislate to define marriage in heterosexual terms, and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify why.

Clearly, everyone can see it is the same wording as a year ago from a previous justice minister. It continues:

The definition of marriage in law in Canada is already the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It is not necessary to pass such legislation as in legal terms it would not add to or clarify the present state of the law in Canada.

Thus, the definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended, and will continue to defend, this concept of marriage in court. Indeed, the same concept of marriage is present throughout the world. Even in the few European countries...which allow limited recognition of same sex relationships, sometimes in the same manner as common law spouses, a clear distinction is maintained in the law between marriage and same sex partnerships.

The House considered a motion on June 8, 1999, which stated:

That, in the opinion of this 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 to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.

That motion passed 216 to 55. Among the members of Parliament who voted in favour of that motion were, according to Hansard , Mr. Cauchon, Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice), Madam McLellan (Edmonton West), Mr. Martin (LaSalle—Émard), and Mr. Rock.

In the year 2000 the House passed legislation known legally as the Statutes of Canada 2000, Chapter 12. In section 1.1 of that act, the House of Commons, in a government bill, supported by the Government of Canada, enacted the following legislation. This is not a preamble; this is legislation.

For greater certainty, the amendments made by this Act do not affect the meaning of the word “marriage”, that is, the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

In the face of that, in June of 2003 along comes the Court of Appeal decision in Halpern. In the meantime, the Prime Minister of the day had mandated the justice committee of Parliament to go across Canada to study this issue, make recommendations, and deliver a report to Parliament so that Parliament could debate this issue.

This brings me to the next part of my speech concerning duty bound to act. I maintain that it was the duty of the prime minister of the day and the justice minister of the day to uphold the laws and integrity of Parliament. As we have already heard, two justice ministers had already stated that the law was clear. A motion had been passed by Parliament supported overwhelmingly, including the government members and the cabinet, that the definition was included in a statute of the Parliament of Canada and the justice committee was mandated to study this issue.

After Parliament was adjourned and we were no longer sitting in caucuses, the Court of Appeal decision came out. Contrary to this duty to act to support the laws of Canada and the Parliament of Canada and the integrity of the Parliament of Canada, the prime minister of the day, without consultation with caucus, without consultation with Parliament, and without letting the justice committee finish its job, decided not to appeal the Court of Appeal decision of the province of Ontario, effectively undercutting and undermining his own legislation and the expressed will of Parliament.

I would now like to explain my views on why I consider Bill C-38 to be discriminatory, a sham, and a hoax on parliamentarians and Canadians. I am going to refer specifically to each of those categories.

In my view this bill is discriminatory. It has been argued that same sex marriage is somehow a right. This is not legally accurate. The Supreme Court, in the reference decision, did not declare that permitting same sex couples to marry was a right. Absolutely no country in the entire world has declared it to be a human right, including the two countries which presently allow same sex marriages. No one has done that.

How can something be a right when it is not recognized in law by anyone in any country in the world, including the Supreme Court of Canada, as a declared right? Therefore, to say a right is a right in the context of same sex marriage is legally wrong.

Then we have to turn to section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which talks about laws being enacted without discrimination; in this case, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We have to look at the institution of marriage then.

Is the institution of marriage discriminatory? Of course it is, by its very nature. We cannot get married unless we are of a certain age. That is discrimination on the basis of age. We cannot get married if we do not have proper mental capacity. That is discrimination on the basis of disability. We cannot get married unless we are of the proper bloodline. That is discrimination on the basis of who our parents are or who our siblings are, including, as we will see later, adoptive children.

It discriminates against religion because it says we can only have in this country, not in the world but in this country, one spouse: one wife or husband. This is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation because it says we must marry someone of the opposite sex.

To my mind the bill seeks to “fix” discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by allowing people of the same sex to marry, but at the very same time the bill continues to permit discrimination on the basis of age. People still have to be of a certain age even though according to our laws, they can legally have sexual intercourse at the age of 14, but they cannot marry at the age of 14. It discriminates continuously on the basis of mental capacity and who decides on the mental capacity. It discriminates on the basis of bloodline and indeed, this particular bill perpetuates that discrimination in clause 13. It states:

Subsection 2(2) of the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act is replaced by the following:

(2) No person shall marry another person if they are related lineally, or as brother or sister or half-brother or half-sister, including by adoption.

It discriminates and continues to discriminate on the basis of religion because it says in clause 2:

Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.

That discriminates against those religions that believe that it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one spouse. That is discrimination on the basis of religion.

Therefore, why is it acceptable to remove discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but continue to permit and perpetuate in legislation and common law other forms of discrimination? Either we eliminate all forms of discrimination or we leave the current definition alone. It has worked for millennia. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That brings me to the subject of polygamy. Some say that raising polygamy is a red herring and has nothing whatsoever to do with this bill. That is utter legal nonsense. Polygamy is currently against the law, section 293 of the Criminal Code.

At the stroke of a judicial pen, that section can be declared unconstitutional on the basis of section 15 charter guarantees of freedom of religion. People say that is not going to happen, but I am going to give two real life examples.

The first one is the very definition of marriage. The law of this country was the common law for millennia. The law was that people had to be of the opposite sex. With the stroke of a pen, that which was illegal was made legal by the courts, not by the Parliament of Canada.

Section 159 of the Criminal Code reads: “Every person who engages in an act of anal intercourse is guilty of an indictable offence...”. It goes on. There are exceptions: “...any two persons, each of whom is eighteen years of age or more,both of whom consent to the act.” That is fine. There is no problem there.

That section was challenged on the basis that it was discriminatory because of age. Justice Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeal struck that section down because it was contrary to the age discrimination in section 15, in her view.What did that mean? That meant that for the Criminal Code of Canada, written into the laws of this country, which denied anal intercourse to people under the age of 18, with the stroke of a judicial pen that which was illegal became legal.

Why would members think, when those two examples have already occurred, it is beyond the pale that a judge at the stroke of a pen will declare polygamy legal because the law against it discriminates on the basis of religion?

Those who argue in favour of polygamy will say, “How can we end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in marriage but continue to permit discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs in marriage?” Where is the logic in opposing this argument?

Why is this bill a sham? First, the preamble is sleight of hand. It is meaningless legally. A court can refer to and follow preambles and has, and a court can ignore and has ignored preambles. The courts have already ignored the express will of Parliament, as I read from section 1.1 of the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, so why does anyone think they will not ignore a preamble?

Why is the bill a hoax? Clause 3 of the bill states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court in the reference decision has stated clearly and unequivocally that this subject matter is out of bounds to the federal Parliament; it is ultra vires federal Parliament. That is not the member for Scarborough Southwest speaking. That is the Supreme Court of Canada speaking:

Legislative competence over the performance or solemnization of marriage is exclusively allocated to the provinces under s. 92(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867....Section 2 of the Proposed Act is therefore ultra vires Parliament.

Section 2 of the proposed act was virtually the same wording that is in Bill C-38. The court goes on to say:

While it is true that Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to enact declaratory legislation relating to the interpretation of its own statutes, such declaratory provisions can have no bearing on the constitutional division of legislative authority. That is a matter to be determined, should the need arise, by the courts. It follows that a federal provision seeking to ensure that the Act within which it is situated is not interpreted so as to trench on provincial powers can have no effect and is superfluous.

That section has no effect and is superfluous, according to the Supreme Court of Canada. How can a justice minister put a section into an act which the Supreme Court of Canada has already said is ultra vires Parliament of Canada? He cannot do it.

In conclusion, I just want the people of my riding to remember that I was very clear in my position. In June 2003 in my householder, I said:

--Parliament, by statute, reaffirmed the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

For me, there can be no other definition of this term.

This has been my consistent public position since I entered public life in 1988, four elections ago. My position is firm and unalterable. I will do all I can as an individual to try to preserve and promote the only definition of marriage I know.

I ask the Parliament of Canada to defeat this legislation and ensure that marriage remains between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Madam Speaker, many countries and states have extended or are considering extending the same rights in law to same sex couples. Some countries in fact have established provisions to recognize partnerships as civil unions with some or all of the same rights in law that married couples have. These include such countries as Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, France and Germany.

The government of the member opposite has said that the position of the Conservative Party is not moderate or not reasonable. Given that many of the European countries, as well as many moderate governments around the world, have adopted positions similar to ours, I wonder if the member opposite could comment on this.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is asking two questions, one about civil unions and the other about politics.

Obviously the nature of this place is such that one side is going to say that the other side is wrong. We saw what happened in the last election. We saw what happened in the reports of the debates of the leaders' speeches. This is a very emotional topic. People take their positions very carefully and strongly. To my mind, this matter should be debated in, if I may put it this way, a very legalistic manner, to take a look and see what the ramifications are.

From the point of view of civil unions, my answer would be this. If we take the analogy of a hockey game, particularly a Stanley Cup hockey game, one never worries about the next game until one wins the period one is in. There is no point in even discussing civil unions if the bill passes, because if the bill passes we will have same sex marriage in this country. To my mind, the object is to defeat this bill. Once Parliament has spoken and the same sex marriage bill is defeated, then Parliament will have to come to grips with what the alternatives are.

Clearly one of the alternatives is civil unions. That was discussed when we were speaking to the pension benefits act. It was spoken to in a whole series of discussion groups, both within the Liberal Party and across the country. It is one of the alternatives that has been suggested. The member is absolutely right: many countries have adopted it.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The member will have seven minutes and thirty seconds at the next round of debate.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Definition of Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

February 18th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

moved that Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker,I rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage.

I was first elected to this House in June 2004. As a new member of Parliament, I was pleased when I was drawn fourth overall in the lottery on private members' business. Under the rules for private members' business this meant that I would be able to introduce a bill and have it considered, debated and voted on by members of Parliament.

I must say, however, that my work on this bill has been a reality check and illustrates to me that the democratic deficit our current Prime Minister had promised to slay is indeed alive and well.

My bill is unique in that it is relevant to the debate we are having in this House today on the Liberals' plan to change the definition of marriage. It is also unique because it is the only private member's bill in this session that has been deemed non-votable.

This private member's bill, like the government's Bill C-38, provides a legislated definition of marriage. However, unlike Bill C-38, my bill defines marriage as it always has been known: as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

However, my bill will not be voted on, as the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs ruled that my bill would be non-votable. The Liberals prevented my bill from bill being voted on so that this issue would only come forward to this House in their timing.

This constitutes, in my opinion, a gross interference by the Liberal government in private members' business. Private members' business is limited to only a few hours per week and there is already too little opportunity for members of Parliament to represent their constituents in this House.

To say the least, I also found the rationale for the committee's rejection of votable status for my bill to be without merit. I find that the process that led them to the decision was certainly flawed.

First, the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business met in private and in camera, without any representation from me, and acted as judge, jury and executioner of my bill by declaring it non-votable.

I of course appealed this decision to the full membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where the membership also prevented my bill from being made votable. Their flawed argument was that my bill was clearly unconstitutional.

To suggest that my private members' bill is clearly in violation of the Constitution is to take on the role of justices of the court, not parliamentarians. It is the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage that was the very issue in the reference the Attorney General of Canada put forward to the Supreme Court on January 28 of last year. The reference question states:

Is the opposite-sex requirement for marriage for civil purposes, as established by the common law and set out for Quebec in section 5 of the Federal Law-Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent?

The committee prejudged the outcome of this important reference to the highest court of the land and therefore acted contemptuous to both the Supreme Court of Canada and to the Attorney General of Canada.

I argued at committee that if the constitutionality of even the common law definition of marriage, let alone a legislated definition of marriage, were clear, then there would be no need to ask the Supreme Court of Canada the question.

The Attorney General had put a bona fide question to the court. Why would the Attorney General waste taxpayers' money and the high court's time to answer a question that clearly had already been answered?

Under our judicial system, a decision of a provincial court only has application within the province in which that decision was rendered. The only court decision that applies to every province is that of the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, this is the definition most recently upheld by Parliament as part of the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act.

In this respect, the ruling of the committee was in breach of the law passed by Parliament four years ago.

The definition of marriage contained in the bill is the same one that is the law in four provinces and two territories in this country. Further, British Columbia and Ontario courts of appeals went to great lengths to emphasize that they were changing the common law definition of marriage and that there was no legislated definition of marriage for them to deal with.

Bill C-268 contains a legislated definition of marriage with which the courts have not yet dealt.

Oftentimes a provincial court of appeal decision is overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada in favour of the reasoning of the original court. In both B.C. and Ontario there are lower court decisions that found the traditional definition of marriage was in fact constitutional. Further, the Supreme Court of Canada has never indicated in any ruling that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional. To the contrary, when the Supreme Court ruled in the Egan case, Justice La Forest stated:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing, philosophical and religious traditions.

He went on to say, “In this sense marriage is by nature heterosexual”.

In spite of all this, the committee found that my bill was clearly unconstitutional.

The Standing Orders do not say that a bill is non-votable because it may, could, likely, or possibly violates the Constitution. The threshold is much higher. A bill must clearly violate the Constitution to be deemed non-votable. I submit that in light of the facts that I have already set out, my bill fell far short of that threshold.

In the meantime, since the committee ruled my bill non-votable, the Supreme Court has finally rendered its decision in the reference case. In the case it did not in fact find that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional. As a matter of fact, it did not answer the very question that was put to it by the attorney general and therefore it put the issue back into the hands of Parliament. This is exactly what my bill would have done.

The great irony of my bill and the government's bill is that the Supreme Court ruling did not in any way whatsoever indicate that the traditional definition of marriage contained in my bill was unconstitutional. However, the court did rule that the government's bill, specifically the clause that purports to protect religious freedoms, was in fact ultra vires and unconstitutional.

I think it is important for members to remember, and for Canadians to understand, that allowing my bill to proceed through our democratic process in no way indicates support for the substance of the bill, but failure to do so clearly indicates suppression of democracy. By denying parliamentarians the opportunity to vote on my bill, we are subverting the limited democratic gains that we have made in the House.

We must remember that it is the role of Parliament to legislate, not to determine the validity of legislation. That role in our system is filled by the courts. It is the responsibility of Parliament to deal with matters of important social policy.

At every turn the Liberal government has sought to avoid meaningful public consultation and debate on the very important and foundational issue of marriage. When the House of Commons considered the issue of same sex marriage in 1999, not that long ago, the then justice minister and current Deputy Prime Minister clearly stated to Canadians, “The government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages”.

At that time the government supported a motion which promised to use all necessary means to defend the traditional definition of marriage. In a true free vote the motion passed the House of Commons by a margin of 215 to 55, with the current Prime Minister and most of the then cabinet voting in favour of the traditional definition of marriage.

We fast forward a few years and today the position of the government stands exactly opposite to the position it promised to uphold in 1999. Instead of using all necessary means to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, the government is relying on a whipped vote to force cabinet ministers and some parliamentary secretaries to support legislation that would change the definition of marriage. Simultaneously we know that intense pressure is being applied on the government's own backbenches to ensure a favourable outcome for the government's controversial legislation.

What occurred between 1999 and 2005? How can something that is not considered a fundamental right in 1999 suddenly be so promoted in 2005?

The simple answer is that over the past five years the government has slowly, methodically and deliberately circumvented the democratic process. It has used litigation at lower court levels to try to create a fait accompli on the issue of same sex marriage.

Over the past several years, individual judges in lower courts of several provinces have struck down the traditional definition of marriage. However, the federal government refused to appeal lower court rulings, suddenly adopting the position that same sex marriage constitutes a fundamental right.

The federal government went so far as to stack the justice committee for an important vote on whether to appeal the Halpern Ontario Court of Appeal decision in this matter. It has further argued that Parliament itself has no right to respond to these rulings with legislation to protect the traditional definition of marriage.

In essence, the government attempted to shut down all meaningful debate on a vital question that has far-reaching policy implications. It was especially urgent for the Liberals that this issue not be front and centre in the last election, so they did all in their power to stifle debate and public input.

Last year this hidden Liberal agenda hit its first major snag. The government had referred the issue of same sex marriage to the Supreme Court asking four questions, one of which was whether the traditional definition of marriage was constitutional. Although federal lawyers tried to argue before the court that the traditional definition of marriage was not constitutional, the Supreme Court refused to be drawn into the political debate and declined to answer the question.

As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court, when we read its decision, contemplated answering the question either way. This has returned the matter to Parliament, which is exactly where it should be, for the consequences of what the government is attempting to do are serious.

Same sex marriage could have a profound implication on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in Canada. For example, we have seen already where marriage commissioners in several provinces have already lost their jobs for refusing to agree to same sex marriage because it goes against their conscience. In an interview on CPAC on December 12, 2004, the deputy House leader for the Liberals stated that public servants, such as marriage commissioners, who refused to accept same sex marriage should be sanctioned or fired. That is shameful.

There is now a great concern in Canada that if same sex marriage is legalized, it will have a profound and long-lasting implication for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and it will become increasingly difficult for people who do not agree with same sex marriage to participate in public life.

While the government has claimed that it will protect religious freedoms, the evidence does not support this assertion. After all, past promises to use all necessary means to protect the traditional definition of marriage were violated in less than five years.

Moreover, a clear signal has already been sent by virtue of the fact that even cabinet ministers will not be permitted a free vote on this question. If even the rights of cabinet ministers to express their views on an issue of personal conscience cannot be protected, one can hardly place much confidence in promises to protect the freedom of other Canadians.

Further, the justice committee heard evidence that warned of the social impact on changing the definition of marriage. Experts testified that we were embarking on a policy experiment that would have a profound impact on the way we view relationships and value marriage in our society.

It was for these reasons that I introduced my bill, so that Canadians could be engaged in a debate that the Liberals tried to prevent from taking place. I am pleased that we were able to spark an interest in this issue. I am grateful to the thousands of Canadians who expressed support for our effort to preserve our most basic social institution.

In light of the fact that the committee members did not have the benefit of seeing the Supreme Court's decision before they made their own decision, and in light of the fact that the court has not ruled that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional, I would now ask for unanimous consent that my bill be made votable.

Definition of Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?