Definition of Marriage Act

An Act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Rob Moore  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 5, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the day

April 11th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks in the debate today regarding Standing Orders by congratulating the Leader of the Opposition, who at the beginning of this Parliament negotiated a number of rule changes with which the House is now experimenting.

The first rule change altered the appointment and selection process of the Deputy Speaker and the other two chair occupants, and obviously that was of interest to you, Mr. Speaker, because you are one of them. Instead of the Prime Minister appointing the Deputy Speaker and the other two chair occupants, the Speaker now selects candidates and presents them to the House for ratification.

To improve debate, it was proposed that all speeches be followed by a period of questions and comments. Often members did not have an opportunity to question the most important speakers leading off debate on legislation. We also made all opposition motions votable.

Since the 1950s, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was chaired by an opposition member. We now have opposition chairs for the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We opened up vice-chair positions to other parties other than the official opposition and government.

We changed the way concurrence motions would be considered. We had this peculiar situation that caused a motion to concur in a committee report to become a government order. Committees could hardly be considered independent if the government controlled whether there would be a vote on a concurrence motion. We just heard a bit of debate about this change.

One of the frustrations when the House is not in session and when an issue arises where a government response is required, is that there is no parliamentary forum available to debate the issues and government accountability is left exclusively to press conferences and media scrums.

Standing Order 106 was amended to provide that within five days of the receipt by the clerk of a standing committee of a request signed by any four members of that said committee, the chair of the said committee shall convene such a meeting. That way, during a recess a committee could be convened and the minister could be invited to brief members and be held accountable.

The opposition, and in particular the member for Yorkton--Melville, were instrumental in reforming private members' business. We now have all private members' items votable, and that all members be given a chance to have at least one item considered by Parliament between elections has been essentially realized.

The one flaw is the ability of the majority on the procedure and House affairs committee to deem an item non-votable. These members were supposed to be guided by certain criteria that were designed to help them make a non-partisan decision. However, when Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights, was deemed non-votable, it demonstrated that we could not expect this committee to make an impartial decision when faced with a difficult issue.

The committee majority decided, on the grounds that the bill was unconstitutional, that it ought not to be deemed votable. The real reason, I contend, was that the government wanted to avoid the embarrassment of voting on something controversial. Bill C-268 has been the only bill thus far in this Parliament to have been designated non-votable. I would recommend taking away the decision of the procedural appropriateness of private members' items from this committee and give it to the Speaker or to the House itself.

Secret ballot elections at committee were brought about by a motion from the former opposition House leader, the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country.

I have outlined the record of the Conservative Party on parliamentary reform in this Parliament in particular. I would like to now turn to the Prime Minister's record on parliamentary reform.

The 1993 red book, written by the Prime Minister, contains commitments to parliamentary reform and more openness to members of Parliament. After nearly a dozen years of Liberal government, we know what those promises are worth. I would suggest to the members of the procedure and House affairs committee, who will no doubt be taking note of the debate today, to consider the Prime Minister's record on parliamentary reform. I would recommend that they draft amendments to the rules that take the opposite position. In other words, if the Prime Minister is against something, then it must be a good idea.

For example, as finance minister, the Prime Minister set up many of the foundations that are outside the purview of Parliament's oversight and control. Therefore, I contend we should establish measures that bring them into the purview of Parliament's oversight and control.

On June 13, 2000, the Prime Minister voted against Bill C-214, an act to provide for the participation of the House of Commons when treaties were concluded. Therefore, the participation of the House of Commons when treaties are concluded must be a good idea.

On making crown corporations subject to the Access to Information Act, the Prime Minister voted against Bill C-216, an act to amend the Access to Information Act for crown corporations. Therefore, Bill C-216 must be necessary and should be implemented.

I think the House gets the idea.

I would argue that the concentration of power in the Office of the Prime Minister, which is at the root of much of our democratic deficit, has grown not lessened under this Prime Minister's watch.

The multitudes of government powers that ultimately rest with the Prime Minister are staggering. The exclusive monopoly over the central powers of government have even led the current Prime Minister himself, in his address to law students at Osgoode Hall in the fall of 2002, to state that the essence of power in Ottawa was “who you know in the PMO”.

This leads me to the recent appointment of the Prime Minister's friend Glen Murray to chair the round table on the environment and economy. Despite a rejection from the environment committee and the House, Glen Murray continues in office. The opinion of the House is of no consequence. It is “who you know in the PMO”.

His recent choices to fill the vacancies in the Senate were a slap in the face to the people of Alberta who elected their senators. The opinion of the people of Alberta is obviously not important to the Liberal Party. Again, it was “who you know in the PMO”.

“Who you know in the PMO” has to go.

At our convention in March of this year we adopted a number of policy items regarding parliamentary reform.

In the area of fiscal management, a Conservative government would strengthen the internal audit and comptrollership functions of government, ensuring that programs delivery would match the intent of the program, spending would be measured against objectives and cost overruns would be brought immediately to the attention of Parliament. Would that not have been a good idea with the sponsorship program?

We would create the independent office of the Comptroller General who would report to Parliament with a mandate to ensure that the highest possible standards and practices of expenditure management would be enforced in all federal departments, crown corporations, agencies and foundations.

A Conservative government would restore the audit role of the Treasury Board. We would allow the Auditor General to table reports with the Clerk of the House of Commons when Parliament was not sitting and have them made public through the Speaker.

A Conservative government would ensure transparency and accuracy of and confidence in the government's finances by providing the Auditor General with full access to all documents from all federal organizations.

A Conservative government would ensure that senior officers such as the Auditor General, Chief Electoral Officer, Comptroller General, Ethics Commissioner, Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner would be appointed by Parliament and report to it.

We would restore democratic accountability in the House of Commons by allowing free votes. All votes would be free except for the budget and main estimates.

We would ensure that nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada would be ratified by a free vote in Parliament, after receiving the approval of the justice committee.

A Conservative government would support the election of senators. The Conservative Party believes in an equal Senate to address the uneven distribution of Canada's population and provide a balance to safeguard regional interests.

Where the people of a province or territory by democratic election chose persons qualified to be appointed to the Senate, a Conservative government would fill any vacancy in the Senate for that province or territory from among those elected persons.

We would consider changes to the electoral system.

We would establish a judicial review committee of Parliament to prepare an appropriate response to those court decisions, which Parliament believed should be addressed through legislation.

A Conservative government would seek the agreement of the provinces to amend the Constitution to include property rights as well as guarantee that no person should be deprived of their just right without the due process of law and full just and timely compensation.

We are committed to the federal principle and to the notion of strong provinces within a strong Canada.

A Conservative government would ensure that the use of the federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions would be limited, authorizing the provinces to use the opting out formula with full compensation if they wanted to opt out of a new or modified federal program in areas of shared or exclusive jurisdiction.

I am proud of the accomplishments of the Conservative Party of Canada in the area of parliamentary reform. We believe that the people of Canada and their Parliament matter when it comes to policy decisions. It is time we turned the page and recover from the embarrassment of this corrupt Liberal government.

However, to end on a positive note, with all the Liberal sham, Liberal corruption and Liberal broken promises, it is still a beautiful Parliament and an honour to represent the people Prince George--Peace River in it.

Definition of Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2005 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this afternoon to add some words to the debate on Bill C-268. Specifically, I wish to address the process that led my colleague from Fundy Royal to find that he was the only member of Parliament in this Parliament thus far to have his private member's legislation deemed non-votable. I want to deal with that at the outset.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas from the NDP ended his 10 minutes by talking about what was or was not democratic. I would suggest, Madam Speaker, through you to the hon. member and to the others who spoke from the Liberals and the Bloc, that a great travesty was done back in December, I believe it was, to the member for Fundy Royal. His democratic rights as a backbench member of Parliament, an individual member of Parliament representing his constituents, were trampled on by the committee and by the other other three parties which profess to believe in democracy.

My colleague is the only member of Parliament thus far in this Parliament who has been discriminated against by having his bill ruled ineligible for a vote. I say shame on all those parties, and shame on the Prime Minister who has professed to be somewhat concerned about the so-called democratic deficit.

We see the truth come out in how his party, the Liberal party, the government, and the other two parties have dealt with my colleague and his intended legislation. My colleague from Fundy Royal so clearly laid this out, not only today in the chamber, but when he appeared before the procedure and House affairs committee, of which I am a member, on Thursday, November 25, to defend his bill. He should never have had to do that, but he did an admirable job defending it. He put to rest the bogus arguments that we heard from the government members and other members who said that somehow this was unconstitutional. He said that the very court that determined the constitutionality of law in the country, the Supreme Court of Canada. had not ruled on this.

In fact at the time when he appeared before that committee to make his case to make Bill C-268 votable, we had not even received the long awaited reference back from the Supreme Court on this very issue. It was nothing short of censorship. We are talking about the censorship of an individual member of Parliament and the legislation that he brought forward on behalf of his constituents.

Ten minutes is such a short period of time, but I want to briefly refer, as I did that day, to the process.

I have been a member of Parliament for 11 years. Some days I do not take a lot of pride in saying that. On November 25, when the other members of the other three parties voted down the appeal of my colleague to make his bill votable, was one of those days.

What we had in previous Parliaments, of which I was a part, was a flawed system for dealing with private members' legislation. Everybody who drafted private members' legislation, be it a bill or a motion, put it forward, introduced it to the House and their names went in a draw barrel. It was a lottery. It was a crap shoot. If members were lucky to clear the first hurdle and had their names drawn, they had to go almost on bended knee before a subcommittee, in camera, behind closed doors, and make their case for why their bill or motions should be votable.

Very few were made votable, because partisan politics began to play once we got behind those closed doors. There were trade-offs. This was not really on the merits of the bill.

Definition of Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2005 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, the opposition has chosen to use some of the important time set aside in the House for a private member's bill to discuss yet another bill respecting the definition of marriage.

Does the proposal contained in Bill C-268 provide the House with any additional insight that could move the debate forward to constructive options? I regret to say that it does not. The bill has been ruled non-votable as unconstitutional in its approach. It is just another iteration of earlier bills which sought to reinstate the opposite sex requirements for civil marriage.

In his comments the hon. member referred to the opposition day vote in 1999. I was one of the 55 members who voted against that opposition day motion which would have had the effect of restricting marriage to people of the opposite sex. I did so for the very reason that one could foresee that the courts would apply section 15 of the charter and would hold that requirement discriminatory. Much has been made about it but it was foreseeable from a reading of the charter and a clear understanding of it.

Under our Constitution, the courts are mandated to review legislation to determine whether it meets charter requirements. The courts in seven provinces, namely British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and one territory, Yukon, have now determined that the requirement that a spouse be of the opposite sex no longer satisfies the equality guarantees under section 15 of the charter. It is discriminatory towards Canadian gays and lesbians who want to get involved to the same extent as any other Canadian. It is discriminatory to deny them access to the civil institution of marriage.

The courts also clarified that their decision applies exclusively to civil marriage. They clarified that the charter also guarantees freedom of religion and that any religious group is free to continue to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

As members of the House are well aware, the government does not believe that this important matter should be decided by the courts in a patchwork of decisions across the country. The government believes that the courts are correct in their legal conclusions, but at the same time the government also fervently believes that only Parliament has the ability to look at the complete picture in designing a Canada-wide approach.

Courts and Parliament each have their distinct and complementary roles under our Constitution. That is why the government set in place last year an approach to this important question that involved a full and formal debate in Parliament.

Members will recall that in June 2003 following the Court of Appeal decisions in Ontario and British Columbia, the government announced that it would be drafting a bill and referring the matter to the Supreme Court.

The government did draft a bill that contained two important provisions. The first defined marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The second stated, “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”.

The bill currently before the House, Bill C-38, is based on the bill that was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada. The bill ensures full respect for both of the important fundamental principles identified by the courts: equality based on personal characteristics like race, language, sexual orientation; and freedom of religion.

To further ensure that the government was correct in law that the bill would not infringe on freedom of religion, one of the specific questions asked of the Supreme Court was: Does the freedom of religion guarantee in paragraph 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs? The court answered in the affirmative.

Last year, during the third week of October, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the arguments concerning the reference. The governments and 27 out of the 28 intervening parties, including the provincial governments of Quebec and Alberta, presented their positions over the course of two days. These parties presented a wide variety of opinions on many topics.

The government's purpose in referring the draft bill to the Supreme Court was to clarify the options available to the members of this House under the legislative framework of the charter. This ensures a constructive and informative debate during the parliamentary process. The purpose of the reference was not to bypass the parliamentary process.

The members of this House now have before them an analysis of legal topics by the Supreme Court. They also have an understanding of the constitutional impacts and the legislative framework in connection with the government's preferred approach with this bill now before them. In addition, the hon. members have the affirmation by the court that religious groups will be free to apply their own meaning to marriage, in accordance with their beliefs. This affirms the government's legal position.

The bill before us today does not do that. For starters, we already know that its first provision, which seeks to once more restrict the definition of marriage to a man and a woman, is unconstitutional under the law. Indeed, the bill was drafted in such a way as to completely ignore the events and debates of the last few years on this point.

It is as if the hon. member for Fundy Royal actually believes that legislation can be legitimately used to turn back the clock, ignoring the same definition included in clause 2 has been declared unconstitutional, not once but separately in binding court decisions in eight jurisdictions of the 13 jurisdiction in Canada. This is an effective means for this Parliament to find a workable solution to a real complex and important question.

The only way that the capacity to marry can now be restricted once more to opposite sex couples is for Parliament to deliberately decide to invoke for the very first time in history the notwithstanding clause in section 33 of the charter. That clause enables governments to expressly declare that a statute shall operate notwithstanding that it violates one of more of the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the Charter.

In other words, in order to do so Parliament would first have to publicly acknowledge that it is aware of the discriminatory nature of the law but are insisting that in any event the law be proclaimed despite the fact that it deliberately discriminates against minority rights.

I do not believe in discriminating against any minority, let alone using the notwithstanding clause for the first time by the Parliament of Canada, not to protect our national security, not to ensure our collective safety but to deny to gay and lesbian couples who wish to express the same degree of commitment in a way that is available to any other couple; the ability to enter into and formalize one of the most meaningful relationships in life. Deliberately discriminating against one minority cannot be done without potentially placing minorities at risk and is inconsistent with the Canadian Constitution.

I am a Franco-Ontarian and, as such, a member of a language minority. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects such minorities, and I am grateful that it does. If gays and lesbians were to be removed from the protection of the charter, under the pretext that this is not a legal issue but a moral one, this would mean that, in the future, a similar application could be made to remove language minorities from the protection of the charter, under the pretext that it is too expensive. Consequently, it becomes an economic issue.

Therefore, we have a choice before us. Either go forward with Bill C-38, the actual bill which is before the House, make the law uniform for all of Canada or go back to the past using the notwithstanding clause.

The proposed solution in the bill before us today does not exist, and that is why it was declared non-votable by the House procedural committee.

Debate on Bill C-38 is the right way to proceed. Whatever one's position may be on this issue, it is better than moving ahead today with a debate on an approach that is a hollow sham and is no longer possible in the Canadian constitutional and legal framework.

Definition of Marriage ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

moved that Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker,I rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage.

I was first elected to this House in June 2004. As a new member of Parliament, I was pleased when I was drawn fourth overall in the lottery on private members' business. Under the rules for private members' business this meant that I would be able to introduce a bill and have it considered, debated and voted on by members of Parliament.

I must say, however, that my work on this bill has been a reality check and illustrates to me that the democratic deficit our current Prime Minister had promised to slay is indeed alive and well.

My bill is unique in that it is relevant to the debate we are having in this House today on the Liberals' plan to change the definition of marriage. It is also unique because it is the only private member's bill in this session that has been deemed non-votable.

This private member's bill, like the government's Bill C-38, provides a legislated definition of marriage. However, unlike Bill C-38, my bill defines marriage as it always has been known: as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

However, my bill will not be voted on, as the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs ruled that my bill would be non-votable. The Liberals prevented my bill from bill being voted on so that this issue would only come forward to this House in their timing.

This constitutes, in my opinion, a gross interference by the Liberal government in private members' business. Private members' business is limited to only a few hours per week and there is already too little opportunity for members of Parliament to represent their constituents in this House.

To say the least, I also found the rationale for the committee's rejection of votable status for my bill to be without merit. I find that the process that led them to the decision was certainly flawed.

First, the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business met in private and in camera, without any representation from me, and acted as judge, jury and executioner of my bill by declaring it non-votable.

I of course appealed this decision to the full membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where the membership also prevented my bill from being made votable. Their flawed argument was that my bill was clearly unconstitutional.

To suggest that my private members' bill is clearly in violation of the Constitution is to take on the role of justices of the court, not parliamentarians. It is the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage that was the very issue in the reference the Attorney General of Canada put forward to the Supreme Court on January 28 of last year. The reference question states:

Is the opposite-sex requirement for marriage for civil purposes, as established by the common law and set out for Quebec in section 5 of the Federal Law-Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent?

The committee prejudged the outcome of this important reference to the highest court of the land and therefore acted contemptuous to both the Supreme Court of Canada and to the Attorney General of Canada.

I argued at committee that if the constitutionality of even the common law definition of marriage, let alone a legislated definition of marriage, were clear, then there would be no need to ask the Supreme Court of Canada the question.

The Attorney General had put a bona fide question to the court. Why would the Attorney General waste taxpayers' money and the high court's time to answer a question that clearly had already been answered?

Under our judicial system, a decision of a provincial court only has application within the province in which that decision was rendered. The only court decision that applies to every province is that of the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, this is the definition most recently upheld by Parliament as part of the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act.

In this respect, the ruling of the committee was in breach of the law passed by Parliament four years ago.

The definition of marriage contained in the bill is the same one that is the law in four provinces and two territories in this country. Further, British Columbia and Ontario courts of appeals went to great lengths to emphasize that they were changing the common law definition of marriage and that there was no legislated definition of marriage for them to deal with.

Bill C-268 contains a legislated definition of marriage with which the courts have not yet dealt.

Oftentimes a provincial court of appeal decision is overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada in favour of the reasoning of the original court. In both B.C. and Ontario there are lower court decisions that found the traditional definition of marriage was in fact constitutional. Further, the Supreme Court of Canada has never indicated in any ruling that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional. To the contrary, when the Supreme Court ruled in the Egan case, Justice La Forest stated:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing, philosophical and religious traditions.

He went on to say, “In this sense marriage is by nature heterosexual”.

In spite of all this, the committee found that my bill was clearly unconstitutional.

The Standing Orders do not say that a bill is non-votable because it may, could, likely, or possibly violates the Constitution. The threshold is much higher. A bill must clearly violate the Constitution to be deemed non-votable. I submit that in light of the facts that I have already set out, my bill fell far short of that threshold.

In the meantime, since the committee ruled my bill non-votable, the Supreme Court has finally rendered its decision in the reference case. In the case it did not in fact find that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional. As a matter of fact, it did not answer the very question that was put to it by the attorney general and therefore it put the issue back into the hands of Parliament. This is exactly what my bill would have done.

The great irony of my bill and the government's bill is that the Supreme Court ruling did not in any way whatsoever indicate that the traditional definition of marriage contained in my bill was unconstitutional. However, the court did rule that the government's bill, specifically the clause that purports to protect religious freedoms, was in fact ultra vires and unconstitutional.

I think it is important for members to remember, and for Canadians to understand, that allowing my bill to proceed through our democratic process in no way indicates support for the substance of the bill, but failure to do so clearly indicates suppression of democracy. By denying parliamentarians the opportunity to vote on my bill, we are subverting the limited democratic gains that we have made in the House.

We must remember that it is the role of Parliament to legislate, not to determine the validity of legislation. That role in our system is filled by the courts. It is the responsibility of Parliament to deal with matters of important social policy.

At every turn the Liberal government has sought to avoid meaningful public consultation and debate on the very important and foundational issue of marriage. When the House of Commons considered the issue of same sex marriage in 1999, not that long ago, the then justice minister and current Deputy Prime Minister clearly stated to Canadians, “The government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages”.

At that time the government supported a motion which promised to use all necessary means to defend the traditional definition of marriage. In a true free vote the motion passed the House of Commons by a margin of 215 to 55, with the current Prime Minister and most of the then cabinet voting in favour of the traditional definition of marriage.

We fast forward a few years and today the position of the government stands exactly opposite to the position it promised to uphold in 1999. Instead of using all necessary means to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, the government is relying on a whipped vote to force cabinet ministers and some parliamentary secretaries to support legislation that would change the definition of marriage. Simultaneously we know that intense pressure is being applied on the government's own backbenches to ensure a favourable outcome for the government's controversial legislation.

What occurred between 1999 and 2005? How can something that is not considered a fundamental right in 1999 suddenly be so promoted in 2005?

The simple answer is that over the past five years the government has slowly, methodically and deliberately circumvented the democratic process. It has used litigation at lower court levels to try to create a fait accompli on the issue of same sex marriage.

Over the past several years, individual judges in lower courts of several provinces have struck down the traditional definition of marriage. However, the federal government refused to appeal lower court rulings, suddenly adopting the position that same sex marriage constitutes a fundamental right.

The federal government went so far as to stack the justice committee for an important vote on whether to appeal the Halpern Ontario Court of Appeal decision in this matter. It has further argued that Parliament itself has no right to respond to these rulings with legislation to protect the traditional definition of marriage.

In essence, the government attempted to shut down all meaningful debate on a vital question that has far-reaching policy implications. It was especially urgent for the Liberals that this issue not be front and centre in the last election, so they did all in their power to stifle debate and public input.

Last year this hidden Liberal agenda hit its first major snag. The government had referred the issue of same sex marriage to the Supreme Court asking four questions, one of which was whether the traditional definition of marriage was constitutional. Although federal lawyers tried to argue before the court that the traditional definition of marriage was not constitutional, the Supreme Court refused to be drawn into the political debate and declined to answer the question.

As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court, when we read its decision, contemplated answering the question either way. This has returned the matter to Parliament, which is exactly where it should be, for the consequences of what the government is attempting to do are serious.

Same sex marriage could have a profound implication on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in Canada. For example, we have seen already where marriage commissioners in several provinces have already lost their jobs for refusing to agree to same sex marriage because it goes against their conscience. In an interview on CPAC on December 12, 2004, the deputy House leader for the Liberals stated that public servants, such as marriage commissioners, who refused to accept same sex marriage should be sanctioned or fired. That is shameful.

There is now a great concern in Canada that if same sex marriage is legalized, it will have a profound and long-lasting implication for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and it will become increasingly difficult for people who do not agree with same sex marriage to participate in public life.

While the government has claimed that it will protect religious freedoms, the evidence does not support this assertion. After all, past promises to use all necessary means to protect the traditional definition of marriage were violated in less than five years.

Moreover, a clear signal has already been sent by virtue of the fact that even cabinet ministers will not be permitted a free vote on this question. If even the rights of cabinet ministers to express their views on an issue of personal conscience cannot be protected, one can hardly place much confidence in promises to protect the freedom of other Canadians.

Further, the justice committee heard evidence that warned of the social impact on changing the definition of marriage. Experts testified that we were embarking on a policy experiment that would have a profound impact on the way we view relationships and value marriage in our society.

It was for these reasons that I introduced my bill, so that Canadians could be engaged in a debate that the Liberals tried to prevent from taking place. I am pleased that we were able to spark an interest in this issue. I am grateful to the thousands of Canadians who expressed support for our effort to preserve our most basic social institution.

In light of the fact that the committee members did not have the benefit of seeing the Supreme Court's decision before they made their own decision, and in light of the fact that the court has not ruled that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional, I would now ask for unanimous consent that my bill be made votable.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 26th, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Pursuant to provisional Standing Order 92.3, the committee recommends that Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights, be designated non votable.

Definition of Marriage ActRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to introduce this private member's bill, to be known as the definition of marriage act.

As we all know in the House, marriage is a vital and important institution in our society. I am introducing this bill so that the definition of marriage can be determined, as it should be, by allowing duly elected parliamentarians representing their constituents to vote on the matter.

There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue but now is not the time to shirk our responsibilities as parliamentarians. We were elected to make tough choices for the country and Canadians expect that their parliamentarians will face these decisions in a responsible and direct manner.

I look forward to hearing from my fellow members of Parliament and to hearing the genuine views of their constituents on this issue.

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