House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.

Topics

Marriage
Government Orders

9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are the responsibilities in marriages where there are no children, for various reasons. In those marriages there is a responsibility to be true and faithful, to be loving, to care for each other in sickness and in health, and to be there for each other in the bad times and the good. In marriages with families there is a responsibility to the children, to bring them up in love and to give them the things that they need. I think those responsibilities are fully so in same sex marriages. I have seen them as a physician over and over.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed it is an honour for me to rise tonight in the House to support the motion to re-open the traditional definition of marriage. I also rise today for my constituents who have overwhelmingly communicated to me that they support our government's efforts in re-opening this debate. I must say that I also have the pleasure of personally sharing the same view as the majority of my constituents.

I cannot stress enough how passionate the constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex feel about this issue. Of the thousands of letters, calls and emails that I have received from my constituents on this issue, they have voiced their displeasure in the changing of the definition of marriage. I have also received numerous petitions from my constituents calling on our government to revisit this debate and restore the traditional definition of marriage. Every day more of my constituents come forward to express their disapproval of the changes in the definition of marriage, changes that were made without the free will of Parliament.

Marriage has been an honoured institution that has stood the test of time and is one of the key foundations on which our society has been built. For thousands of years marriage has been recognized as the union of one man and one woman. Since Confederation and until recently marriage in Canadian law has been defined as the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I along with the majority of my constituents believe that the traditional Canadian marriage debate needs to be revisited and eventually agreed upon by a free and democratic vote in this House.

I must also mention that I hold the view that same sex couples deserve the same rights as those involved in traditional union. I believe that same sex couples should have the same financial, property and other forms of rights as traditional couples, and that the meaning of the term marriage be preserved as the union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I do not believe in denying certain groups their rights while enhancing the rights of others. I would find it difficult to support any legislation that would impose on the freedoms that Canadians enjoy. I feel that religious institutions have been denied a full say in this debate and in turn have seen their religious freedoms put at risk. I find it worrisome that priests and ministers can be disciplined in refusing to marry same sex couples.

Earlier this year France rejected the marriage of same sex couples because of the effect that same sex marriages have on children. The French published a report that raised many important questions. In the report the commission said that the child represents the future of society. The commission also asked French legislators to ensure that children confronted with alterations in family models be taken into account and not suffer from situations imposed upon them by adults. It added that the interest of the child must take precedence over the lifestyle choices of adults.

This is a stern reminder that children have rights, rights that need to be taken into account. It is a reminder that our personal lifestyle preferences should never take precedence over those of our children.

The last time this issue was before the House our Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, was the only national leader in the House who allowed a free vote. We also saw members of our caucus and then members of our shadow cabinet who voted differently than their leader. I am proud to be a member of a party that believes in the right to uphold one's beliefs.

In this party we support a member's democratic right to vote with his or her conscience. Unfortunately, this right was not supported by the previous leadership of the Liberal Party. Hopefully, the new Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, along with the leaders of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois will right this wrong and allow their caucuses to practise their democratic right and allow a free vote on this issue.

A traditional marriage debate is very important to many Canadians. It is an emotional debate that has critics on both sides of the issue. By having a free vote in the House, it is my hope that Canadians will be provided with a sober judgment, a judgment that this Parliament has failed to deliver.

Canadians have put their trust in this House via their elected representatives with the understanding that their democratic voices would be heard. I feel that we should grant them that opportunity on this very important issue. I am proud to stand in this House tonight to defend tradition and to defend my constituents on the very basis of accountable democracy which sees all members of this House as servants of the people and not the masters. We are the ones who take the word of the people and bring it to this House, the highest democratic chamber in the land.

During the last campaign, our party made it very clear to Canadians that we would bring the traditional marriage debate to the House and encourage other parties to have a free vote. Once again our Prime Minister has shown leadership and integrity in his commitment to Canadians. He has shown leadership and set an example of how democracy can and should work in this country.

On January 23 of this year, Canadians gave our party a mandate, a mandate which I talked about and which our Prime Minister is fulfilling. Democracy has not had such an opportunity to live and to grow in this country for quite some time. The last 11 months have been refreshing for Canadians who have witnessed honesty, integrity and accountability in its government. Giving the Parliament of Canada a free vote on the traditional marriage issue is just one of the many examples of the Prime Minister's commitment to democracy in this country.

I am blessed and fortunate that I can stand in this great chamber tonight, in this great chamber of Parliament, and know that I will have the freedom to vote my conscience and the wishes of my constituents on this very important motion. This decision is fundamental to the basis of what this country was founded upon, that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I ask that all members support this motion.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard over and over from across the way the term “defending tradition”. For thousands of years women were considered to be chattel. In 1927 women were not considered to be persons in this country. How do we defend tradition?

If we had defended tradition, women would still have no vote. Women would still be chattel and they would still not be considered persons. If we defended tradition, slaves would still be working the plantations within the new world and the new colonies. If we defended tradition, we know that some of the traditions that have occurred in this world are not worth defending.

Countries must move forward. We have moved into an era where we talk about human rights, the rights of the individual and the rights of groups within society to live freely and equally. In societies where minorities groups live freely and equally, those are societies that have order. They live in peaceful co-existence and they are able to move forward and continue to build a nation together.

When we talk about tradition, I would like to ask the hon. member these questions. Would he still have women being chattel? Would he still have women, traditionally over the millennia, continue to have no vote?

Marriage
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is such a great country that we live in. We have the opportunity to make choices, the opportunity to stand up and debate as we are doing tonight, and to have freedom of expression on issues that are so important to the future of this country because of the basis of what it was founded upon.

The UN talks about, in a declaration on human rights, that what must take priority over the rights of adults, referring to those more vulnerable and requiring the support of the state, are children and they are entitled to the best possible circumstances to be raised.

That is what this whole debate is about. It is about the fundamentals of what this country was based on. It is about the definition of marriage and it is about the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight there has been a lot of debate about the motion before the House, which is not about whether we should reinstate the traditional definition of marriage, but whether we should call on the government to bring forward legislation to address that matter.

I am a bit curious as to why the government would come to Parliament and ask for permission to table legislation. I hope that the member, should this motion fail, would encourage the Prime Minister to table legislation to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. Does he think that is a good idea? Will he do it?

Marriage
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight is the basis of his request. The whole debate is about a definition of marriage and the motion to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage of that between a man and a woman.

I hope he supports the motion. If he believes that to be the true definition of marriage, I hope he will stand tomorrow when we vote and support that.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Again, Mr. Speaker, if the member and his caucus feel strongly about reinstating the traditional definition of marriage, will he not admit that the motion we will vote on will not be the end of it, that the government has the power to introduce such a bill? Will the government introduce such a bill?

Marriage
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion we will vote on tomorrow is fairly straightforward. It is the motion is in front of us and it is the motion I will support.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be appropriate to note, as we have already today, that today is the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the massacre at École Polytechnique where 14 women were killed by a misogynist, someone who hated women.

It would be most appropriate if the House could come together on this issue.

I will repeat what the member for Vancouver Centre said when she talked about how we fight hatred and exclusion with the weapons of mass inclusion. That is very important, and it is a very significant statement. I hope her statement gets written in the lexicon of Canada and we keep it in mind.

I grew up during the desegregation fight in the United States of America. Politicians in the states made a political career out of fighting against desegregation. They were governors of various southern states and they stayed in office for a long time. I am talking about people like Lester Maddox and George Wallace. Black children were killed trying to desegregate schools.

I bring this up because there was a time when it was okay to discriminate against someone because of their colour or their race. I look to the states in that respect because the most dramatic pictures were presented to me as one growing up in the late fifties and the sixties. We saw dogs going after blacks. We saw police and horses trample blacks. It was okay at that time. There was a long struggle. Civil rights leaders aroused a lot of emotion, Martin Luther King being just one. He paid for his struggles with his life. His speech “I Have a Dream” is very famous.

There was an incredible amount of discrimination in Canada. First nations are an example. It was not until the sixties and seventies that they were allowed to even vote, to have the franchise. We know what happened to Canadians of Chinese and Asian origin. We know about the people from the Ukraine, people who were interned. We know what happened to the Jews and the policy of none was too many. We had a blatant racist immigration policy.

It was all these things put together that resulted in Canada's recognition of the fact that we are a collection of minorities. There is no majority in our country. It was at that time when there was the realization that if one minority's right could be attacked one day, another minority's right could be attacked some other day.

April 17, 1982, was a very historic day, when Canada got its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is an important guiding document for us. It acknowledges and it is an answer to the injustices that happened to many people in the past. It gives us guidance for the future.

Fundamental rights are spelled out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a living, breathing document. One of the sections in the charter is the equality section. For members who are having trouble understanding the charter, it is the job of the courts to interpret it. The reason for that is very simple. When it comes to basic human rights, we do not want to trust that to the whims of the capriciously elected politicians who will at times exploit it for all the wrong reasons.

I am very disconcerted as to why we are having the debate. We have dealt with this issue. Why are we debating it again?

I will provide a bit of my interpretation, and I alert whatever viewers there are to visit a website, which is dawn.thot.net/harperstiestousa/american_right_report.pdf. It talks about a Conservative movement in the United States and how it wants to control the political process.

We all know that George Bush got elected in the last presidential election because he was able to exploit the whole issue of same sex marriage by trying to pass wrong constitutional amendments on that issue. Lo and behold, he happened to win the state of Ohio without which he would not have been President.

There is also a very good book that I would recommend to my colleagues in the House, particularly on the other side, but mostly to the viewers of this debate. In particular, I want to draw attention to a person who was an employee in the Bush White House. His name was David Kuo. He was working with religious based organizations that were very much assisting the Republicans in the United States to get the vote out.

He wrote a book called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. It talks about the way the Bush administration referred to the Christian organizations working within the White House as nuts, goofy and people who are to be exploited for political gain. I recommend that book to all members of the House.

There is no question that the reason we are debating this issue today is not because the Conservative Party thinks it can change history or overturn the legislation. It is not going to happen. It might come as a surprise to the party that most members in the House happen to believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that human rights and civil liberties should not be left to the capriciously elected.

We have a free vote in the Liberal caucus. If members of the House at any time feel strongly that in their conscience they cannot support a vote, even if they are whipped, they have the right to stand in the House to vote against it and vote their conscience. I need no lectures from the members of the Conservative Party on having the right to vote my conscience. On issues I strongly believe in, I do.

I have another piece of news for members of the Conservative Party. I supported this when I was in the minority, but the majority of Canadians support the legislation and, further, are proud of the legislation. If the Conservatives ever talk about following the wishes of their constituents, which they always bring up, they should understand that their position now is a minority one. Just like the leader who walked with dinosaurs, that is where those folks are going.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleague across the way. I certainly hope he is more discriminating than to think that everything he sees on every website is totally believable.

How can the member be so sure that the majority of Canadians have decided on this issue when his party would not even allow the justice committee, which had travelled all across Canada hearing 465 witnesses and receiving 265 briefs, to present its report?

A member earlier tonight said that we did not really need that input because we should just go with what we have. Why do we even have committees? Could the hon. member address that, please?

Marriage
Government Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, if he reads the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, his regional paper, it is right in the editorial. I have been very much a proponent of same sex marriage. I come from the same region as the member and I have more votes than either of the members who opposed it and the majority of votes supported same sex marriage in the election. They had a lucky split that might not repeat the next time. I think that is important for the member to understand and I suggest that he read the report.

He also asked why we would not continue to debate the issue. I can only say that we did not end desegregation and discrimination soon enough. If the member wants to look at hateful comments, all he has to do is go from the 35th Parliament on and look at comments coming from the Reform Party, the Alliance Party, then the Conservative Party as it relates to gays and lesbians. Be it the hate crime legislation or the identifiable group, Bill C-250, Bill C-41 or the one on equal marriage, he should look at the comments.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I found the member's speech hypocritical at best. It is funny that he mentioned so much about the Americans but the Liberals are the ones who have an American keynote speaker. The Ontario Liberals are the ones who have an American keynote speaker.

We listened to Canadians who said that Canada is a nation of minorities. I tend to believe that Canada is a nation of Canadians and I am proud to be one of them. I would further like to ask the member, if he is so certain that the majority of Canadians feel that they have been heard on this, why we are inundated with thousands of letters asking us to revisit this issue and reinstate the traditional definition of marriage.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to respond to that question. Most of the e-mails and communication I receive on this issue are organized by fundamentalist churches. That is very simple to explain.

Let me just say that I would rather listen to Mr. Dean talk about how he defeated the right wing Republicans in the United States than listen to a guru by the name of Karl Rove who is emulated by the Conservative Party. When it was the Alliance Party, the Conservatives had a leader who believed that men walked with dinosaurs. I hate to say this but on this issue there are some dinosaurs in this House.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member, whose has many years of experience here, has had the same experience with regard to the Conservatives who come forward regularly with comments, either overheard or outright comments to me, that the promise by the Prime Minister of having this kind of vote tomorrow is wrong but that they will still vote for it because they feel pressure from that right wing group the member was speaking about.

Marriage
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the matter of rights, I do not care if the numbers are 10 to 1, I will stand by my conscience and I will vote for what I believe is the charter.