House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.

Topics

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.

It just seems to me that we have learned nothing from history at all. The hon. member spoke about what is happening today and what will happen in the future, with regard to prostitution and all these other moral areas. What we are dealing with today is nothing more than pure and simple social engineering, and social engineering at its worst, I might add.

There were excellent social engineers in the past. Stalin was one. We will register your guns, we will raise your kids, and we will do all the things you parents do not need to worry about; we will take care of it. We, the government, we are the almighty. It is not the almighty. God himself is the almighty, and we had best start remembering that.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-38 for the third time now. Regrettably, the bill has continued to progress. Quite frankly, I believe the most democratic thing the government could do in this case would be to withdraw this legislation. It simply has no democratic mandate to proceed on this legislation.

In the last election, one year ago, we will all recall that the Supreme Court had not even rendered its judgment, had not even spoken to these very important questions. The government had no proposed legislation to lay before the electorate of Canada; therefore, the conclusion is obvious: it has no democratic mandate to proceed on this legislation. If the Prime Minister and the government had political courage and were prepared to do the democratic thing and the right thing, they would withdraw this legislation and they would put it before the people of Canada whenever next the government goes to the polls, and then Canadians could factor in this idea, this proposed redefinition of marriage, along with all the other public policy questions, and they could then render a judgment democratically. That is what ought to be done, but I do not expect that to be done.

I am opposed to Bill C-38 on two main points. First of all, I am opposed to the decision itself, and then I want to speak to and explain why I am opposed to the process.

On the decision itself, it simply boggles the mind why this government is charging ahead, determined to make a decision that flies in the face of common sense, that flies in the face of the clear majority opinion of most Canadians not to redefine marriage.

I was proud that on Monday past my wife Evelyn and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 7:20 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you to my colleagues, and to my wife, for sure, for putting up with me for 35 years.

She is just as determined as I am that this is a wrong decision, that this is an illogical decision. Quite frankly, for many Canadians, including myself and my wife, it is more than an illogical decision; it is an immoral decision, and it is not necessary to go down this road. Other countries have found a solution to this problem.

I have polled my constituents repeatedly. What have they told me? Over 90% repeatedly say do not change the definition of marriage. It is a man and a woman, full stop. But we recognize the signs of the times. We understand that people of the same sex are going to live together in intimate relationships. We understand that the courts are driving this agenda and that the courts, whether you or I like it or not, are determined to offer recognition to these people. Fine, recognize their relationship in some way, register it at city hall, call it civil union, like they do in France, call it something else, but do not call it what it is not: marriage.

I am fundamentally opposed to the decision itself, and I want to comment now and explain why I am so opposed to this incredible process that we have been put through. I see the hon. parliamentary secretary opposite. I listened to him from my riding office earlier today, in my riding of London—Fanshawe, before I flew here. I heard him and I heard other members of this House argue, including the government House leader, that there has been a full debate, all kinds of debate, a full opportunity for democratic process. That is sheer nonsense, and those of us who have been here know that is sheer nonsense.

The reality is that I sat on the justice committee from February to June 2003. Yes, we heard some 400-and-some-odd witnesses, but what happened in the end? We did not even report. That committee did not even issue a report. Our work was totally pre-empted by arrogant judges in the Ontario Court of Appeal who issued a ruling saying they instantly redefine marriage. Now what did the government of the day do? What did Minister Martin Cauchon and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien do? They rolled over and played dead on the issue. They refused to appeal that decision. Absolutely incredible. That was their agenda, and that is why the Supreme Court of Canada--and you didn't need to be a lawyer to know what they would do--refused to answer question four. They had not gone through the proper steps if they really wanted to appeal that.

The first committee, whose witnesses everybody likes to cite, did not even issue a report.

I would like to see the evidence that this latest committee referenced and how it worked those submissions into its final amendments and report.

The first committee was rendered a farce by the courts.

Then, of course, we had one of the most duplicitous situations at that time, where we were even denied quorum at the justice committee. Let us talk reality. I was there. A teaming up of the Bloc Québécois and some Liberal MPs on that committee--

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Yes, that is what really happened. I was there.

There was a teaming up of some Bloc and some Liberal MPs. To do what? To deny quorum so we could not even put a second motion to appeal that ruling.

From that day forward, I was much less proud to be a Liberal member of Parliament. I have to say that. It really was quite an incredible display of undemocratic arrogance that we saw.

Now we come to the latest legislative committee. Let us recall one thing. There was no need for this decision to be referred to a legislative committee. It could have been referred to the standing committee. It could have been referred to some other special committee. Why was it referred to a legislative committee? To try to narrow the debate as much as possible. That is what it was all about. And everybody around here who has been here for a while understands what the game was.

I was quite close some weeks ago to leaving the Liberal Party. I went to the right hon. Prime Minister and said, “Look, Prime Minister, I was through one farce of a process. I will not stand still for seeing this farcical process repeated again.” He gave me his personal assurance that there would be full and fair hearings by the legislative committee.

I want to correct the record because I have heard some members on this side today make one error that I want to correct, in fairness to the Prime Minister and myself. I did not seek a travel committee because I knew that the justice committee had travelled extensively and I knew that most committee hearings take place here in Ottawa. I understood that would be fine. And I have no problem with the number of witnesses they heard.

However, as many members on this side have correctly said, I have major problems with witnesses being given less than 24 hours' notice to appear; with them being berated and lectured to by members of both sides of the table, in some cases, when they did show up because they were not speaking to these narrow parameters; and with the imposition of a ridiculous deadline of June 14. I have major problems with those issues.

What happened with the second process where we were supposed to have public consultation? It was rendered a farce, perhaps a bigger farce than the first committee. I have major problems with the process that took place.

I was proud to support a man a few years ago to be leader of my party, the Liberal Party, the right hon. Prime Minister. He spoke about the democratic deficit. I am sorry to have to say it, but the reality is that since this government has come to office, the democratic deficit in this country has increased, it has not decreased, and that is simply not acceptable to me.

When I saw the second committee process being rendered a farce, I made a decision that I could no longer in good conscience remain a member of the Liberal Party and I took a decision to become an independent member of Parliament. That was not taken lightly or with any joy. I felt very badly that the party I had worked in and represented for a number of years was shifting way over to the left, becoming the NDP light.

When we see our friends over in the NDP, I have a word for them. It is the New Democratic Party. Is it not interesting that that is the only party that is not allowing a free vote in the House of Commons? Shame on the New Democratic Party for not allowing that.

I will finish this way. I will support the amendments to the bill. Why? Because I want to see the best possible bill if we are going to have it become law. I will support the amendments because they do improve things like religious freedom, tax status, and so on. But in the end, I will continue to oppose this legislation because it is wrong for Canada, it is immoral, it is illogical, it is unnecessary, and most Canadians reject it out of hand.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite referred to the Ontario Supreme Court judges as being arrogant because they made a decision with which he personally disagreed.

Does the member believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of British Columbia are also arrogant since they reached a similar decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Manitoba are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Quebec are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick are arrogant because they reached the same decision?

Does he believe that the judges of Nova Scotia are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of Prince Edward Island are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of Newfoundland and Labrador are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada are arrogant because they reached the same decision?

Does he believe that the premiers of all those provinces are arrogant because they did not use the notwithstanding clause? In that case, does he believe, since the politicians would not do it, that perhaps our religious institutions should have the right of veto over the decisions of judges because perhaps they would not be arrogant in such decision making?

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the hon. member, the last comment is so silly that I will just let it go for another time.

I am really glad the member gave us all the repetition about the various judges but I would invite him to sharpen his listening skills. What I indicated was that the only court, to my knowledge, in the world that instantaneously ruled that we would have a redefinition of marriage was the Ontario Court of Appeal. It was none of the other courts that he enumerated. That was the atrocity, that was the arrogance and that is what the hon. member did not pay attention to in my comments.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like preface my question for the member by saying that I sat on the defence committee with the hon. member who was the chair of that committee. He ran an unbiased and fair committee and allowed the defence committee, SCONDVA, to do some pretty darn good work. We were able to work without partisanship and we tried to do the best we could as a group for the armed forces, and I congratulate him for that. Subsequent to his leaving, I must say that we have had an incident or two to indicate that might not continue on this committee, which is unfortunate.

The member was one of the people on the government side who chose to leave, and I give him credit for his courage. I wonder what his thoughts were when he saw what happened last Thursday night when members who had stood beside him shoulder to shoulder in opposition to this bill caved in on the one bill, the one opportunity they had to stop this bill, by voting against the bill. I wonder what his thoughts were when he witnessed what happened on Thursday.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his kind words about my work as the chair of SCONDVA. I can tell the House that the hon. member is the vice-chair and he, I and all the members of that committee had a very good professional and, I think, largely non-partisan working relationship. I regret the fact that in leaving the government party and becoming an independent, it was obvious they were not going to keep me on as chairman. That came as no shock to me. I do miss that work but I wish him and the rest of the committee well as they pursue important business for the Canadian Forces.

Last Thursday was an incredible experience. The first thing that struck me, and I am sorry because I have a couple of friends in that particular caucus, was the breathtaking hypocrisy of the New Democratic Party for one. We have a leader of the New Democratic Party up on his hind legs railing about the use of closure. I have heard member after member railing about the use of closure by the government or past governments. I heard the member for Sarnia--Lambton, the longest serving member of the NDP caucus, railing about the use of closure at the time of the free trade debate.

It saddened me to watch that particular party agreeing that closure was okay when it was on something the New Democratic Party wanted. I really was disappointed, surprised and shocked. Quite frankly, we saw the same thing from our friends in the Bloc Québécois.

To answer my colleague's question, I thought it was within the rules, technically, yes, but I thought it was a pretty dirty trick of bending the rules about as far as one could, and I was just shocked by the breathtaking arrogance of a couple of the parties in this House.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the commitment of this government to see Bill C-38 passed quickly has saddened me. I must also say that I am very frustrated at the way this legislation was handled by the government, the NDP and the Bloc, and their willingness to ram it through before summer break.

Bill C-38 promotes values that go against my most fundamental principles, beliefs and convictions, and that is why I am opposing the redefinition of marriage and reiterating my support for the motion moved on June 8, 1999:

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.

We as legislators should consider the matter much more cautiously before changing the definition of marriage, a reality that is the foundation of our society. There are few arrangements more central to human survival than pair bonds and these unions are central to the development of human society.

Marriage varies considerably from culture to culture but the primary object of marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and the raising of children in a traditional family environment. Therefore, if we allow same sex couples to join the institution of marriage, it will violate long held societal views that are rooted in religion, history and anthropology.

I feel extremely privileged to stand today in this noble institution to voice the concerns of the majority of my constituents of Nickel Belt. Although Canadians are against redefining marriage, they also recognize the rights of persons of the same sex who wish to form a couple but it is difficult to imagine that this same concept, the concept of marriage, can apply to two such different realities, namely heterosexual and same sex couples.

I recognize the wish of homosexuals to have their union recognized by the state in one form or another in order to assert their status as a couple and give it a name. I do not believe, however, that breaking down the concept of marriage represents any kind of social progress. Would it not be advisable to continue examining this matter rather than calling into question the definition of a reality that is considered untouchable, if not sacred, and justly so, by the majority of Canadians? Such a universal definition cannot be resolved in just a few months.

Since last fall, I have received thousands of letters, postcards, e-mails, faxes and phone calls from Canadians wishing to voice their strong opposition to the redefinition of the institution of marriage.

For Canadians seeking to redefine an institution that is the foundation of society, it is a lot more than a legal issue. This complex and crucial issue will not be resolved with Bill C-38 and if the House adopts legislation in accordance with the changes proposed in the bill, millions of Canadians will feel disgraced by their religious leaders who have not considered the basic aspect of the nature and meaning of marriage.

We often hear it said that the expression “separate but equal” cannot be applied to marriage. However, that is precisely what section 15 of the charter provides. It states, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination—” In other words, equality makes it possible to treat certain individuals differently but not unfairly. If same sex couples enjoy a legal benefit equal to that of heterosexual couples, the requirements of the charter are met.

We must recognize that the charter came into effect to guarantee individual rights in Canada and not to serve as a tool for social change. It is hard to believe that the definition of marriage could be discriminatory, when the practice is not.

This is a matter of public social ethics and not of the charter of rights. Many believe that the charter is a red herring in the issue of the institution of marriage.

Bill C-38 does not consider the ordinary citizen who has neither the means nor the political power of the strong homosexual lobby. With the attack focussed on the traditional definition of marriage, Canadians feel that they are being handed a hot potato and that the effects of such a choice on our society will be negative and unpredictable.

We obviously cannot fully address an issue as complex as the redefinition of marriage through the strict legal approach taken by the Supreme Court of Canada and reflected in the bill. The desire to improve the social position of homosexuals and the current heated debate in fact call upon us to look for new solutions but such a process cannot change the inescapable fact of human experience.

It is essential we do not forget that marriage between a man and a woman is a natural state of affairs in accordance with human constitution and the purpose of marriage. As I said before, this does not rule out same sex unions but they are not the same thing.

The sexual difference of the human race has always been reflected and recognized in marriage which, by granting a man and woman the status of a couple, provides for the procreation of the species. The findings of ethnologists, cultural anthropologists and historians show that throughout time worldwide, with few exceptions, from the most primitive to the most modern societies, heterosexual couples have received special recognition if not nearly sacred status.

Through various rituals practised by families, religions or the state or a combination of these three, humankind has always affirmed the crucial role that a man and woman in a couple play in building society by granting the couple special status and protection. Common law unions, which reflect a crisis in society and have repercussions on the institution of marriage, are subject to the same laws that the state applies to marriage and the family. In this way the state protects the rights of spouses and children.

It is very clear to me that this debate is not about individual rights but rather the common good of our society and the spiritual and physical well-being of our children and the future of Canadian families.

If homosexual marriage is legalized it becomes a norm. I am afraid it will inevitably lead to the trivialization of the institution of marriage and eventually to the deterioration of our societal fabric. There is no denial that the institution of marriage emphasizes the interest of every child, natural or adopted, to be raised as a first choice by a mother and a father.

This is why it is most surprising to note that the bill does not mention children. Even though Bill C-38 recognizes “Whereas marriage is a fundamental institution in Canadian society...and represents the foundation of family life for many Canadians”, this silence is both suggestive and disturbing.

As children are created by a woman and a man, they need both a mother and a father during the first years of their lives in order to develop normally. Normal development for a child can better originate in a stable family situation where the mother and the father occupy their traditional roles. Studies in sociology and psychology have confirmed this evidence.

We are living in an era where nobody's rights are more infringed upon than those of our children: the right to have two parents, the right to stability and the right to live in harmony with affection. Is it not more important to protect our children's rights and should we not be more preoccupied with those rights than the question of same sex marriage?

The General Assembly of the United Nations reminded the world in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child that “The child...shall grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, in an atmosphere of affection and material security”. In this perspective, we ask ourselves how Bill C-38 would impact and what negative consequences it would have on our children.

It is our prime responsibility to defend the rights of those who do not have the ability to be part of this debate, the ones who will be most affected by these major changes on our society. It is fundamental that we protect our children who will be the first victims of this legislation.

The only positive aspect of this debate is that it forces us as individuals and collectively to reflect on an institution in crisis and on its role in society. Like it or not, heterosexual marriage, which consecrates the union of a man and a woman, is the very foundation of our society and of the family. Society owes its very existence to the family. The rapid pace of change in society today has, in a sense, blinded many people.

We must recognize that we should not play with a concept as important as marriage without more serious thought, in spite of the pressure to name the new social reality of same sex couples. It is essential for our society that the wisdom recorded by ethnologists and historians must not be tampered with lightly.

I find it very challenging to see how expanding the definition of civil marriage will benefit homosexuals. On the contrary, the public reaction to the redefinition of marriage could lead to a rejection much more profound than what this minority has experienced thus far.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, there is not too much of my colleague's speech with which I disagree.

I do not think we are at this point by accident. The legislation was not born yesterday. Surely it was discussed by the Liberal caucus. Surely the member had some input. I understand that close to half of the Liberal caucus share the same opinions on same sex marriage as do people on this side of the House. That must have been discussed at caucus meetings. That must have been discussed among Liberal members themselves.

I am wondering if part of the speech the hon. member gave does not ring somewhat hollow. Why was there not a groundswell among the members who oppose the legislation as fervently as they say they now oppose it? Why was it not brought forward to the Liberal caucus and ultimately to the Prime Minister to dissuade him?

I wonder if the member could give us his thoughts on that.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, as reflected in my speech, I am not in agreement with my party and with my government, but there is one thing I will hold to and that is I will not make this bill a partisan affair.

The hon. member asked me what went on in our caucus. He knows very well that what happens in his own caucus is strictly confidential.

Evidently there are many different views on this issue and people are able to justify their positions. It just so happens that my position is very clear, but I wish that the members opposite and the members on my own team would not make this a partisan issue. It is much too serious for that. There are too many consequences for families and for children.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that there are far too many consequences for Canadians and for families.

I want to ask him a question, because I know his constituents who are as concerned about the legislation as I am will ask him the same question. A hundred years from now, does he think Canadians would be more concerned or society would be more impacted by the changing of a definition that he rightly called a fundamental part of society, or would they be more upset if we had an election, if the hon. member had voted against Bill C-48, cancelled the NDP-Liberal coalition, ceased to be a member of Parliament, but did the right thing?

Maybe he would not have ceased to be a member of Parliament. Maybe his constituents would have rewarded him for standing on principle, for doing something that he believed in. Does he think that 100 years from now, 50 years from now or even 20 years from now there would be more repercussions from changing a fundamental aspect of society than there would have been over a federal election or the cancelling of a deal with the NDP?

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member used the word “maybe” about five times in his question.

Again, I say it is much too serious to make it a partisan issue. That suggests that the member assesses the political repercussions of everything he does in the House. I do not. I made my decision when I was a teenager. When I was a child with my upbringing my position on the bill started then.

I did not stop and take a poll to determine how it will affect my re-election, if I will run again or which party I am in. That is not the way things work.

The people of my riding have asked me every question in the book. I am very open to them. We have a good dialogue. I am more concerned about what will happen in 20 years. My friend talked about 100 years.

Twenty-two years ago Parliament voted in favour of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I maintain that if someone had said then that if we voted for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we would be opening the doors to same sex marriages, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not have passed in the House. Twenty-two years is a long time.