An Act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act in order to protect the legal definition of "marriage" by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Jim Pankiw  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Sept. 23, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the comments of the member from the Liberal Party who said that the House of Commons does not have the guidance of the highest court in the land, that any reference that has been made to the courts in respect to the legal definition of marriage would not matter if my private member's Bill C-450 was passed. She said it would shortcut the process and render the Supreme Court reference redundant.

That is the whole point of the bill. I am suggesting that this is such an obvious thing and that the will of the public is so clear and obvious. Certainly, that is the direction I am getting from my constituents. They do not want to see a reference to the Supreme Court because they do not care what will be said by the Supreme Court. They want Parliament to exercise its authority, its responsibility, and make a decision on this matter.

I would suggest that regardless of the arguments in opposition to the very clear and concise nature of my private member's bill, which would resolve this issue, by invoking the notwithstanding clause, the debate would end. Marriage would remain the union of a man and a woman. The Liberals are subverting democracy. There is no legitimate reason for them not to allow a vote.

In fact, I would suggest that not only are they making their intentions clear, clearly they do not intend to protect the legal definition of marriage or they would not be playing the charade that they are. By making the Supreme Court reference and by denying the right of every other member of Parliament in the House of Commons to have a private member's bill voted upon, they are interfering with my duty, my obligation, and my responsibility to my constituents to represent them by bringing forth issues that they want to see debated and voted on in the House of Commons. Constituents do not want to see their elected officials shirk their responsibility by shuffling these issues off to a court.

I think that the government's refusal to allow this to go to a vote in Parliament is shameful. It is a subversion of democracy and is making a mockery of the proceedings of the House of Commons.

Canada Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
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Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-450. The NDP supports the decision of the federal government to recognize the equal rights of same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies. The NDP does not believe that the notwithstanding clause of the charter should be used to prevent the recognition of this happening.

I would like to go over some of the recent history of the greater debate around this issue. On June 17, 2003 the Prime Minister and the federal cabinet affirmed their commitment to recognize the equal rights of same sex couples to marry. This announcement came in response to both the judiciary and elected representatives urging the government to respect the charter of rights and ensure equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In a recent unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the current definition of marriage as the union of one man to one woman was deemed to be a breach of the charter as it is discriminatory against gay and lesbian couples. This decision followed the decisions of both the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Quebec Superior Court which also ruled that the current definition of marriage is discriminatory.

The federal government's move to allow same sex marriage also comes in response to a motion passed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights which called upon the government to support the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

It is important to note that the changes that will be made to the definition of marriage in the federal legislation will not affect religious traditions or the ability of faith organizations to sanctify marriage as they define it. The justices, writing in the unanimous Ontario Court of Appeal decision, stated, “We do not view this case as, in any way, dealing or interfering with the religious institution of marriage”.

I would like to add that I fully support the right of churches, such as the Catholic church, to oppose an inclusive definition of marriage, just as it has the right to refuse to marry a divorced person. That is also respected. While there are a number of religious faiths that accept same sex marriage, others do not and their beliefs must be respected. A change in the law would only apply to civil ceremonies. I support the government's reference to the Supreme Court which would ensure that it is made very clear in the law that no religious institution should be forced to marry same sex couples.

I will close my comments by quoting Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert, who said, “I neither believe that the civil law should dictate one's faith position, nor should a single faith position dictate the civil law” of this country.

Canada Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2004 / 5:35 p.m.
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London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the private member's bill before us today, Bill C-450, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, addresses a subject matter with which the House is becoming very familiar. It seeks to re-enact the former common law requirement that marriage is “a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife”.

What makes this subject so familiar? The definition of marriage was voted on by the House last fall in an opposition day motion, and then in another private member's bill, Bill C-447, six weeks later. The response then was the same response that we have now. This bill is premature.

The government has set in place a full and responsible approach to this important question of marriage, one which both addresses its complexities and allows for a fully informed discussion. Marriage is an important cornerstone of our society and the expansion to include same sex couples has important consequences both for marriage and for the protection of minorities. It is deserving of this comprehensive and thoughtful approach.

Bill C-450, on the other hand, is simply another attempt to short-circuit that approach and bring the issue forward in a rushed manner that does a disservice to parliamentarians. Members of the House will have an opportunity for a full and informed debate on this very issue, but the time for that debate is not now, because at this time the debate cannot be a fully informed one as we do not yet have the guidance of the highest court in the land.

Let me briefly review the process the government is following to ensure that the debate is a fully informed one and, in so doing, to respect both the role of Parliament and the role of the courts.

Under our Constitution, courts have the mandate to examine laws to determine if they meet the requirements of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was itself, I would remind all members of the House, passed by Parliament in a democratic process. As members will recall, courts in three provinces, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, have now ruled that, based on the equality guarantees of the charter, the law restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples only is discriminatory to gay and lesbian Canadians who wish to demonstrate the same degree of commitment.

Based on these new interpretations of the charter equality guarantees, the government was faced with a choice. Either we could continue appealing to the courts or we could review the earlier approach of restricting the definition of marriage to opposite sex couples.

Rather than leaving this important social policy issue to the courts alone to decide by appealing the unanimous opinions of two appellate courts, the government decided to take a responsible leadership role and proposed legislation that would respect the ruling of both courts.

It did this by drafting a bill with two provisions. The first defines marriage to be “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The second states, “Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs”.

Unlike the bill before us today, the government's draft bill fully respects two fundamental principles: equality based on personal characteristics, in this case the sexual orientation, and freedom of religion. The government believes that it is essential to ensure full respect for both and to ensure that all religious groups continue to have the right to refuse to perform marriages for any couple that does not meet the requirements of their respective faiths.

This is not new. Religious officials have always had the authority to add qualifications, such as attending marriage courses, or refusing to marry couples where it would be against their religious beliefs, such as some religions refusing to marry divorced people or refusing interfaith couples. Because of the importance of religious freedom, the government wanted to ensure that this authority to refuse would also apply in cases of marriages for same sex couples, as we believe that it would.

Because of this, the government decided to refer the draft bill to the Supreme Court of Canada prior to its introduction in Parliament. This was not done to in any way preclude the parliamentary process. Rather, it is to clarify for members of Parliament their choices within the framework of the charter and, in particular, the freedom of religion.

Initially, last July the government asked the court to provide information on three key questions. First, is the draft bill within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?

Second, if the answer to question number one is yes, is the proposal in the draft bill to extend capacity to marry to persons of the same sex consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Finally, does the freedom of religion guaranteed in the charter protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex, a marriage that is contrary to their religious beliefs?

Then, at the beginning of this year, the new administration, the new government, reviewed these questions and made a decision to add a fourth question that would specifically ask about the constitutionality of the opposite sex requirement for marriage. In so doing, the government wanted to respond to concern of many Canadians and members of this House that the views of the highest court in the land on this central question are important to the eventual debate that will take place in this chamber.

It was also consistent with the response of the government to broader concerns over democratic process and with the goal of providing this House with as much information as possible to support parliamentarians, who took part in that debate and in that eventual vote, in their decisions on a very complex issue.

The Supreme Court of Canada will now hear arguments on all four questions this fall, over three days from October 6 to October 8. The court has granted intervener status to 18 non-governmental groups and individuals. Three provincial Attorneys General will also participate in the hearing. In this way, the court will have the advantage of a full range of opinions and submissions before it, and a decision would likely be rendered sometime next spring, although that is not in Parliament's domain but the court's.

It is at this point that the government will table its draft legislation and a full and informed debate will ensue in this House. Members will have before them the analysis of the legal issues by the Supreme Court of Canada and will be aware of the impact of the constitutional and legal framework on the choices available to them. They will also then be in a position to know the court's views on the ability of religions to set their own terms in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Responsible leadership calls for the approach we have chosen: a proposed legislative approach that the government believes meets both of the important charter guarantees of equality and religious freedom; the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada of that proposed legislative approach for its considered legal opinion so that questions and concerns of Canadians can be resolved before the legislation is considered in Parliament; and then a full debate in Parliament culminating in a free vote, at least on this side.

Bill C-450 threatens to cut short this process. Consequently, it is not in the best interests of this House.

Canadians have indicated that the issue of extending marriage to same sex couples is both important to them and extremely divisive. Because of this, it is especially crucial to proceed in this comprehensive and balanced way which ensures that both the Supreme Court of Canada and the members of this House can fully benefit from the full range of opinion on the important aspects of this issue.

Once we have the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada on the legal questions, we can all be in a position to responsibly discharge our duty to our electorate and vote with what we believe is the right approach. At that time, it could be that some of the members of this House will agree that the approach in Bill C-450 is the only choice, although I hope that will not be the case.

Whatever one's position is on the issue, the process that we have outlined will serve us well, better than moving ahead today as a knee-jerk reaction that would render the entire Supreme Court of Canada reference process redundant and would short-circuit the carefully balanced and responsible approach of the government to this complex question. As I said in my opening remarks, this bill is a disservice to this House.

Canada Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2004 / 5:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

seconded by the member for Elk Island, moved that Bill C-450, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act in order to protect the legal definition of "marriage" by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,I would like to thank my colleague from Elk Island for seconding the bill. Despite any political differences he or the leader of his party may have, he certainly is very respectful of democracy in seconding my bill and allowing it to come forward for second reading debate in the House.

The definition of marriage in the dictionary is “the legal union of a man and a woman”. To propose changing that definition we are actually trying to change the English language and what marriage actually is. I have always defended the legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which is why I tabled Bill C-450 in Parliament: to protect the legal definition of marriage from being changed by taxpayer funded court challenges and special interest groups.

The method by which the bill would seek to do that is to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution, in other words, allowing Parliament to exercise its supreme authority over activists, courts and judges and taxpayer funded lobby groups which we do not see enough of.

I would also like to note for the record that I have voted in Parliament to preserve the current legal definition of marriage on two occasions. I am opposed to efforts that would force religious organizations to perform same sex marriage ceremonies if that is against their wishes.

I would like to highlight what the political parties' positions are on changing the legal definition of marriage and what their leaders have had to say. I will quote directly from a policy document of the New Democratic Party at page 31. This was moved by the NDP's lesbian, gay and bi-sexual committee and ratified by NDP convention delegates and MPs. It states:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NDP fully supports same-sex marriage--

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that an NDP federal government would, within its first mandate, introduce legislation, without a free vote, to make same-sex marriage legal; and--

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that should the issue come before the House, members of the NDP caucus shall vote in favour of same-sex marriage--

Just before I move on to the other leaders, I would like to note that the portion of the NDP policy document that states “without a free vote” is italicized and underlined. That is a highly contradictory policy because how can it be a democratic party if its policy is to not allow free votes?

With respect to the Conservative Party, their leader said that he could support codifying civil unions in law for same sex couples. He was quoted as saying on August 13, 2003 “I think that would be a reasonable compromise”. On March 23, 2004, he said that he would accept the concept of same sex civil unions under provincial laws.

With respect to the Liberal Party, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on August 13, 2003, said “We want to legalize the union of homosexuals”.

The current Prime Minister on March 13, 2004, said “In all likelihood I will probably support same sex marriage”. On January 29 of this year the current Prime Minister promised that he would follow through on his predecessor's bill to legalize gay marriage.

Despite what misleading media reports want us to believe, recent polls show that a clear majority of Canadians, 67%, want the legal definition of marriage preserved. Unfortunately, none of the political parties are prepared to stand up and defend traditional family values or prevent the courts from taking the next step and ordering religious organizations to perform same sex ceremonies.

It is therefore up to Canadians to send Ottawa a message. In the upcoming election, I urge the constituents of Saskatoon—Humboldt to analyze this very closely and carefully in terms of my strong defence of the legal definition of marriage to make sure their voices are heard.

More than a year ago, as members are well aware, the rules of the House of Commons changed and since that time all private member's bills before the House are automatically deemed votable.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 27th, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
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The Speaker

Members will recall that provisional Standing Order 92(4) allows the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt to appeal the decision of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs within five sitting days of the presentation of the report we have just received.

Since Bill C-450 will come up for debate in the House prior to the end of that appeal period, I am directing the table officers to drop this item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. The member for Saskatoon--Humboldt has been so advised.

On Monday, March 8, 2004, private members' hour will thus be cancelled and consideration of government orders will start at 11 a.m.

MarriageOral Question Period

February 26th, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government's action plan for democratic reform is hollow and devoid of integrity.

Since March 2003, all private members' bills have been voted on in Parliament. However, the right of MPs to vote on my Bill C-450, which uses the Constitution to protect the legal definition of marriage, has been revoked.

Why is the Liberal government so afraid of democracy that it is resorting to undemocratic tactics to prevent MPs from voting on this important issue?

Canada Marriage ActRoutine Proceedings

September 23rd, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-450, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act in order to protect the legal definition of “marriage” by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce this bill, which would protect the legal definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman by invoking the constitutional notwithstanding clause.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River for seconding the bill and note for the record that I offered the Canadian Alliance the opportunity to second the bill and it declined based on an order from its leader. Not only did he once again act as a dictator, he is a duplicitous hypocrite.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)