Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-447 which I support. This should come as no surprise to most members.
The previous speaker spoke about 2,000 year old history. I also want to speak a little bit about history but not that kind of history. I want to speak about the history of a more closer contemporary time.
I was dismayed with the parliamentary secretary's speech. The parliamentary secretary's speech runs counter to the position of every single minister of justice that the Government of Canada has had since Canada was formed, with the exception of the last and current minister of justice.
The arguments that were put forward by the parliamentary secretary were the very arguments that for years and years were refuted by the Government of Canada. They were refuted in court case after court case as the Government of Canada, including this government, supported in the courts the traditional definition of marriage until June of this year. That is a little bit of recent factual history.
I want to read what the then parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, said on June 8, 1999, on this very issue. She said:
The institution of marriage is historically, culturally and by definition a heterosexual institution. In Quebec, a fundamental condition of a valid marriage has always been that the two people involved are of the opposite sex. That condition is inherent in the very institution of marriage.
She then went on to talk about the vast amount of consultation that the Government of Canada and the Department of Justice had with jurists across Canada: the Canadian Bar Association, the Chambre des notaires, the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Bar, and the Quebec justice department. She went on to say:
We can therefore see that all necessary precautions have been taken by government legal experts to ensure that the rule of law, which is well established in our country with respect to what constitutes a spouse, is not inadvertently changed.
She concluded by saying:
There is no issue here. The Minister of Justice--
That is the previous minister of justice:
--was clear this morning that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage. It has never said that it would and she put that on the record this morning.
That is historical fact from this government in 1999.
I introduced Bill C-225 on October 1, 1997, entitled an act to amend the marriage (prohibited degrees) act and the interpretation act. For all intents and purposes it said what the hon. member's bill currently says.
I warned everyone back in 1997 that this issue was coming. Of course, I was not believed. Of course, it was not coming. I was told that the definition of marriage was crystal clear, it was in the common law, it would never be changed, and that I should not worry about it.
The private members' committee refused to make the bill votable because it was so clear that the definition of marriage would never be changed because the common law was clear. The Department of Justice was supporting the common law definition and would argue it tooth and nail right to the Supreme Court of Canada. We debated the bill; however, it was not votable.
The hon. members for Burnaby—Douglas and Hochelaga—Maisonneuve both took the position that they did not agree with the bill. That was fine; they had a position. They have been historically consistent in the position that they have taken, as have I.
While we disagree, I can certainly respect that they have taken a position which they have not wavered on. I, too, have taken a position which I have not wavered on.
On March 25, 1998, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas introduced his own private member's bill which was basically an opposite of my private member's bill. I was flattered that he noticed it.
On March 28, 2000, the hon. member for Mississauga West introduced Bill C-463 which was virtually identical to my Bill C-225, with almost no changes except one or two minor variances. Was I angry? No, after all, imitation is the sincerest form of praise.
I was very pleased that he brought that forward. I was not pleased as to how the hon. member voted in the most recent vote with respect to this issue when he apparently voted contrary to the very bill he put forward in March 2000.
People are talking about this issue as a matter of human rights. It is not a matter of human rights and I am not alone in saying it is not a matter of human rights. The supreme court of New Zealand has found that this issue is not a matter of human rights. If the Supreme Court of Canada declares that this chair is a dog, it does not make this chair a dog. I do not have to believe that this chair is a dog because the Supreme Court of Canada says it is.
There is no court that I am aware of anywhere, outside of Canada, that has held that this issue is an issue of human rights. The two countries that have allowed same sex marriage have taken the issue squarely on what it is. They have stated that it is a question for society to decide whether or not it wishes to allow this as a matter of societal rules. Those two countries, Belgium and Netherlands, have decided that they are going to take this social position as a democratic country and permit same sex couples to marry. They have not hidden behind the nonsensical argument that this is a matter of human rights, and the supreme court of New Zealand has recognized that it is not.
What makes the Supreme Court of Canada right and the supreme court of New Zealand wrong, or vice versa for that matter? The point is that both are from the British legal system, and both have well known and well respected jurists. Members can decide one way or another; however, we cannot find any jurisdiction anywhere in the world other than Canada that has held this issue to be an issue of human rights, and it is not. It is for this House, not the courts, to decide this issue.
We must remember where we stood on this issue. We must remember our history. We must remember that this very government argued in the courts in favour of the current definition of the institution of marriage, and then virtually overnight flip-flopped. It is a fact. Why? It is this institution, not the executive branch, that must make this decision.
Referring matters to the Supreme Court of Canada with rigged questions are smokescreens. They do not ask the very obvious question, is it constitutional to limit marriage to heterosexual couples? That question was not asked of the Supreme Court. Why? Because those who are driving this agenda are afraid that the Supreme Court might say yes indeed, it is constitutional. The Supreme Court may not like it, but it may have to say it.
We also have section 91 of the Constitution, where we can say that for the peace, order and good government of this country we are enacting certain laws. The Supreme Court can also use section 91.
We were talking about history. I wanted to bring some history to this place. I also want to remind my own government that, up until this last Minister of Justice, every Liberal minister of justice since we were elected in 1993 has supported publicly, in the House and in the courts, the traditional definition of marriage. I say shame on them for changing their minds.