House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was marriage.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to present two petitions on behalf of constituents in my riding of Cambridge. The first petition calls on the Parliament of Canada to secure funding for juvenile type 1 diabetes to the amount of $25 million a year for the next five years.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on Parliament to maintain and uphold the current law which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present to the House a petition of over 300 names of people in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. They call upon the government to maintain the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was asked by some constituents in my riding of Timmins—James Bay to present this petition opposing government legislation Bill C-38. As they are my constituents and it is their will that I present this petition, I am bringing it forward today.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of a number of citizens who reside in my riding of Palliser, most of whom are from the city of Moose Jaw. These petitioners wish to call to the attention of Parliament the following: that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in health care products; that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be properly classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs; and that the weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders through the judicious use of natural health products.

These petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I ask you to consider the request by the Bloc Québécois to hold an emergency debate on the critical situation faced by dairy producers in Quebec and Canada.

Last week, the Quebec federation of dairy producers launched a vast information campaign among Quebec MPs on the import of subsidized artificially modified milk ingredients.

Each MP in turn received a visit from local dairy producers calling for pressure to be exerted on the government to staunch the industry hemorrhage.

Need we recall the urgency of the situation? Imported artificial ingredients are costing Quebec producers $70 million and Canada's producers altogether $175 million. If nothing is done, 30% of Canada's dairy production will be replaced by milk substitutes.

The Government of Canada must respond decisively and quickly to this foreign intrusion by invoking article XXVIII of the GATT. It must do so before Quebec's and Canada's dairy industry, already hard hit by the mad cow crisis, disappears completely from our economic landscape in the next few months.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has considered the request by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and is of the opinion that it fails to meet the requirements of the Standing Orders. In my opinion, I cannot approve the request at this time.

The House resumed from May 2 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 motion that this question be now put.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to again join the debate on Bill C-38 on behalf of the residents of Niagara West--Glanbrook. As I have noted previously, the constituents of my riding have made it abundantly clear that they are against this radical change in the definition of marriage, which the Prime Minister wants to leave behind as his legacy.

Briefly I want to remind members of this Parliament, and particularly those who feel forced to support Bill C-38 or lose their cabinet posts, of how strongly Canadians feel about this issue. When was the last time, if ever, that their constituency offices or Ottawa offices received feedback from more than 10,000 people on a single issue? That has been the case in Niagara West--Glanbrook, with 90% of my constituents supporting the position that the definition of marriage must be maintained as being exclusively between one man and one woman.

Some might think that this debate is only for adults and that kids are not engaged. Let me tell the House about one of my young constituents. High school student Nalini Ramaden was so concerned about this issue that she had petitions filled out at her high school and had them delivered to my office here in Ottawa. I want to thank her for that.

I have been accused by some of being biased in favour of protecting the traditional definition of marriage, and yes, I am. I have always been upfront and transparent about my views. During the election I told voters that my intention was to maintain the institution of marriage as we know it. I asked for their support and they gave me their support. They recently reiterated their objections to Bill C-38 by contacting my office in massive numbers. I am listening to my constituents. I am acting on their directions by voting against this legislation.

I will ask members of cabinet again. Are they doing the same for their constituents or are their first loyalties to the Prime Minister's Office?

It is because of this flip-flopping back and forth on issues that trust and confidence in politicians are reduced. When members of Parliament say one thing between elections and then do another, it confuses constituents. When they write letters in support of marriage and then do not bring it up as an issue in an election, constituents are left to believe that these individuals still support it.

I believe that confidence and trust in politicians are very low these days. I recently received a letter from a constituent who only half-jokingly suggested that we need a police force to protect Canadians from politicians. It is truly sad that all politicians are being painted with the same brush, but the only way to change this is through consistently transparent and responsive decision making.

Monumental changes to fundamental pillars of our society cannot be made lightly. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the government is doing with Bill C-38. I urge members of the government to take a step in the right direction and restore confidence in Parliament by demonstrating accountability to voters. Shelving this legislation until Canadians are truly consulted would show the level of respect that our nation demands.

It is with tremendous respect for the residents of Niagara West--Glanbrook, who I am privileged to represent, that I will be voting against this legislation.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for the second time in this important debate on Bill C-38, the legislation to change the traditional definition of marriage to include same sex relationships.

As we all well know, this is a very difficult and, to some extent, emotional issue that has split the population of Canada more or less fifty-fifty, or perhaps pretty much along those lines, on whether to change the definition of marriage.

Unfortunately, as we know, there has been some disrespect and extreme comments or behaviour from some people, and I would emphasize in a minority of situations, on both sides of this argument.

A number of MPs have stood to defend the traditional definition of marriage. It does not matter what party we are in because this is an issue that transcends party lines. It is much bigger than partisan politics for me. I have spoken to other colleagues on all sides of the House who relate to the fact that they may have had the insult hurled at them from time to time that somehow they are homophobic or against gay and lesbian people if they defend the traditional definition of marriage.

That is a very unfair and unfortunate accusation to make. I have received that only a few times, fortunately, but I have had that accusation made to me. I would like to address that.

In June 1995, I supported Bill C-41, the so-called hate crimes legislation that added sexual orientation to the list of offences or reasons for violent crime. If a person committed a violent crime against someone because of his or her sexual orientation and if that person was found guilty it would be factored into the sentence.

I supported that legislation. I know for a fact, as all members do, that sometimes, unfortunately, in this country people are targeted for violence or intimidation because of their sexual orientation, if they are gay or lesbian. It is appalling to me as a Canadian and appalling to most Canadians of goodwill. That is why I supported the change in the hate crime legislation which would factor that into a violent criminal assault.

No one at that time called me homophobic. However, now, because some members are defending the traditional definition of marriage, somehow, in some people's minds, we become homophobic.

It is an unfortunate accusation to make. It is simply inaccurate in most cases. I believe most Canadians are not homophobic. They do know that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is in no way anti-gay or anti-lesbian to take that position. Unfortunately, people on our side of the argument have made homophobic comments and that is regrettable. However I am happy to say that in most cases we have heard very little of that, which is the way it should be.

If I am not opposed to Bill C-38 because I am somehow homophobic or I am against gay or lesbian people, then why am I vehemently and repeatedly speaking out against the bill and unable in good conscience to support the bill?

I sat on the justice committee from January to June 2003 when there were extensive hearings held on this very topic. I listened to expert witness after expert witness warn against the possible and probable negative consequences to marriage, to the family and to Canadian society if we were to give in to the gay and lesbian lobby that is driving this agenda in the courts.

Some of the most eloquent spokespersons against changing the definition of marriage were themselves gay and lesbian people. In my earlier 20 minute speech I mentioned an expert in this area, a gay Yale professor, William Eskridge, who argues eloquently against changing the definition of marriage.

John McKellar, who was an outstanding witness in committee, is an openly gay man and a founder of an organization called HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism. He argued very forcefully and eloquently that we should not change federal and provincial laws just to meet the demands of a small segment of the gay and lesbian population of Canada because not all gay and lesbian people of Canada are demanding that we somehow make marriage into something it is not, never has been and truly never can be, which is a relationship between two people of the same sex.

I would like to share the reactions of my constituents in London—Fanshawe because I have sought their opinions on this issue a number of times. As all members can relate to this, whether I have sought it or not, on a daily basis they give me their opinions in various forms on a constant basis.

In my riding of London—Fanshawe, 92% of my constituents who have taken the time to express their opinions strongly oppose changing the definition of marriage. I live in London, Ontario, which is an urban centre. People have the misconception that it is only in the rural part of Canada but that is wrong. Canadians from coast to coast to coast, of every political stripe and no particular political stripe, of every major faith and of no particular faith, Canadians in the millions oppose changing the definition of marriage for very sound and solid reasons. The constituents of London—Fanshawe are proof of that as 92% oppose changing the definition of marriage.

Having said that, some 60% of my constituents feel that whether they agree with a same sex relationship or not, it is their personal judgment and not their business that some people choose to live their lives that way. Some 60% of my constituents have made it clear to me that they would support some form of recognition in law of same sex relationships. However they do not support changing the definition of marriage and throwing out all the values to make marriage into something that it was never meant to be.

I think my riding is a pretty good sample of the feeling of Canadians in general. The polls are pretty clear that the majority of Canadians do not support changing the definition of marriage but that they do support some sort of recognition in law that same sex relationships exist in society and that they should have some recognition in law with an appropriate name, if we have to find a label, such as civil union or whatever, but certainly not to somehow threaten the future of marriage by changing the definition and setting into motion a series of very probable negative consequences, not that I say will follow, but that experts after experts in this area have predicted will follow if we take this course of action.

We know that eventually the bill will get to a legislative committee. I was pleased recently to get the assurance of the right hon. Prime Minister that he will do everything he can to encourage some public hearings on Bill C-38. Why is that important? I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, because I understand you will be chairing that particular committee.

The justice committee held extensive hearings from January to June, at which many excellent and expert witnesses on both sides of the argument appeared. What the committee did not do is finish its work. It was totally pre-empted by the Ontario Court of Appeal with its ridiculous ruling that instantly sought to redefine marriage in Ontario. That committee never reported. I think that evidence is too important to be lost. It is still on the record of course. It could be referenced by the legislative committee and the legislative committee ought to hold public hearings that would allow, if not individuals, at least important Canadian organizations the opportunity to have input.

I oppose Bill C-38 as a simple matter of conscience. I cannot support changing the definition of marriage under any circumstances whatsoever. It does not mean that I am homophobic or that I am against gay and lesbian people. My voting record shows that I have supported actions to protect their individual rights, such as Bill C-41 in June 1995.

It is a far cry from doing that and saying that I will be silent as we deconstruct marriage and open up the threat to marriage and the family. I cannot do that and I will never do that.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to have the opportunity to enter into the debate on Bill C-38 on behalf of the constituents of Macleod. In this time of political uncertainty I am proud to be a member of a political party that respects rights and traditions and encourages honest, public policy debates.

Over the past weeks I have listened to the initial debate on Bill C-38 but, most important, I have listened to my constituents in Claresholm, Okotoks, Vulcan, Granum, Nanton, Turner Valley, Fort Macleod, the Crowsnest Pass and other communities throughout the riding. I am impressed by the honesty, candour and passion which Canadians are approaching the debate. Canadians have been thoughtful on this issue and most have come to believe that Bill C-38 is not the right approach to address the issue of marriage.

Opposing Bill C-38 is not about denying rights. It is not about jeopardizing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the Prime Minister would like us to believe. It is a complex public policy issue and one that would have an impact on every Canadian.

I, like most of my colleagues on this side of the House, and many on the other side as well, believe in the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

However, in the course of this debate, those of us who support marriage have been told that to amend the bill to reflect the traditional definition of marriage would be a violation of human rights and an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I believe that this is an attempt by the Liberals to turn the channel and call those who do not agree with them to be un-Canadian. The Prime Minister does not want to debate the question of traditional marriage versus same sex marriage so he would rather focus on attacking their opponents as opposing human rights and the charter.

The Bill C-38 debate is about rights and recognition and about how to best balance the rights of homosexual couples within our society while at the same time upholding and respecting institutions that have great social importance to Canada, such as the traditional definition of marriage. In short, it is about responding and respecting the competing interests in this debate in a reasonable and compassionate way.

Much of the concern about the legislation comes from the Supreme Court decision released on December 9, 2004. The Supreme Court said that the federal government has the jurisdiction to redefine marriage to include same sex couples. It also said that churches are protected under the Charter of Rights in maintaining the traditional definition of marriage but that legislation would specifically protect religious organizations beyond the constitutional power of the federal government.

What this means is that the federal government determines the definition of marriage but the provinces determine how to marry a couple.

The court did not answer the question of whether the traditional definition of marriage in the common law violates the Charter of Rights. Instead of declaring the traditional definition of marriage unconstitutional, the court has made it clear that it is Parliament that must define the word marriage.

It is Parliament's job to find a consensus that defends rights and, specifically in this debate, offers recognition to homosexual couples and takes into account the views of Canadians.

This is where we are today. We have received direction from the Supreme Court of Canada that if Parliament wants to change the definition of marriage it would be within our purview to do so. We are free to define it as a union between a man and a woman or as between any two persons. Either definition has been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The rights issues has been settled and the equality provisions continue to be settled. Simply put, the law already sees heterosexual relationships and same sex relationships as equally significant and equally able to access spousal rights and privileges. The Conservative Party supports this view. Same sex marriage, in a nutshell, is a recognition issue.

As stated earlier, the rights component of this debate has largely been resolved and few Canadians are of the mind to reverse those decisions. Their opinion reflects their belief of equality for all Canadians under the law. They merely want the definition of marriage to remain as the union between a man and a woman.

Because of the difficulty of this issue, I am proud to be a member of a party that has allowed a free vote on this issue. It is an issue of accountability to my constituents and it is important that members are granted the ability to vote in as free a manner as possible, without the threat of recrimination by party leaders. Nobody in the Conservative Party finds themselves in an uncomfortable position due to this legislation. Members are accountable, not to their party, but to their own consciences and their constituents. It is the position that I wish all members of this House could share.

Importantly, the majority of people who oppose this legislation favour the insurance and the protection of equal rights for homosexual couples. At some point we have to ask ourselves, why is the government not following the lead of most Canadians and searching for a middle ground that would recognize marriage as the union between a man and a woman while recognizing homosexual unions? The Liberal government, after all, likes to talk about Canada's ability to broker resolutions and likes to talk about Canadians as being the sort of people who search for balance and fairness.

In December the Leader of the Opposition announced three proposals for effectively considering the marriage question. These are as follows: the first proposal would retain the traditional definition of marriage; the second proposal would ensure that same sex couples are afforded equal spousal benefits; and the third proposal would include substantive provisions in the legislation to protect not only religious organizations but also to protect public officials who have objections due to reasons of religion or conscience.

With regard to the first proposal, I am proud to be voting the wishes of my constituents, one of which is to support and maintain the traditional definition of marriage.

My constituents reflect the majority of Canadians who believe we do not need to change the definition of marriage and a balanced approach can assure equal benefits and status to same sex couples in a recognized union.

With regard to the third proposal, by protecting the rights of religious institutions, Parliament could support the rights of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to recognize, perform and solemnize marriages on their own terms.

Parliament must ensure that churches have the right to privately and publicly preach their beliefs related to marriage.

Parliament must ensure that justices of the peace and civil marriage commissioners are not forced to solemnize marriages against their own consciences.

Parliament must also preserve the charitable and economic benefits that churches enjoy as public institutions and recognize the right of public officials to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

During this debate, the Liberals have attempted to hide their politics by invoking the language of rights and accusing our party of not believing in rights. This could not be further from the truth. The Conservative Party has approached this issue as one where a reasonable compromise can be found. We have spoken honestly with Canadians, and it is my hope that the House follows our lead.

I am proud to work with my constituents on such an important issue. I am proud that I can vote freely on their behalf against Bill C-38.