Civil Marriage Act

An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes

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

Sponsor

Irwin Cotler  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment extends the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes to same-sex couples in order to reflect values of tolerance, respect and equality, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts to ensure equal access for same-sex couples to the civil effects of marriage and divorce.

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.

Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions ActGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today on behalf of the NDP to support Bill C-66 and its quick passage into law.

For me, as a member of the LGBTQ2 community, the government's apology last week was a long awaited historic moment that paved the way for a more just and more inclusive Canada for everyone. I feel like I am walking on a path walked by so many brave and tireless activists throughout the last 50 years. I also want to acknowledge the important work of former New Democrat MPs such as Svend Robinson, Libby Davies, Bill Siksay, and Craig Scott, who paved the way for gay and lesbian Canadians in this House.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the work of my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, whose tireless efforts resulted in transgender and gender non-binary Canadians finally receiving the same protections and rights as all other Canadians.

Last week's apology from the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Canada was a very emotional day for many Canadians, as well as for me. Even as we celebrated the moment and looked forward to the righting of past injustices, the day also inevitably revived some darker memories of what Canadians have suffered.

In 1965, Everett Klippert, from Saskatchewan, became the last Canadian to be in jail because he was gay. He was declared a dangerous sexual offender and was sentenced to life in prison in 1966. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld his conviction until he was released in 1971, two years after then justice minister Pierre Trudeau's bill legalized consensual homosexual acts. Journalist John Ibbitson, who profiled Klippert, recently said in an interview:

He didn't see himself as a pioneer in the gay rights movement. He was just a guy who loved driving trucks and, as it turned out, loved men as well.

Everett was merely the last Canadian to have been imprisoned for who he loved.

There are countless Canadians whose lives have been shattered and altered immeasurably because they were persecuted for who they are. While the apology is welcomed and the right thing to do, there are many for whom it has come too late. It came too late for Everett Klippert.

Every change, every advancement in law, every protection of basic human rights enshrined in law and policy for members of the LGBTQ2 community has been achieved by dragging governments and public institutions kicking and screaming into doing the right thing. Let us hope that those days are over and that today is the day we commit, as Parliament, to end all state-sanctioned discrimination and to begin the long overdue restoration of justice for its victims. Let us hope that, indeed, as the headline for former NDP MP Svend Robinson's opinion piece in The Globe and Mail states, “For the countless Canadians humiliated by anti-gay policies, healing can finally begin”.

Thanks to activists and allies here in Canada, we have seen a gradual shift away from persecution and unjust punishment and a slow but unstoppable recognition of rights for LGBTQ2 people. I want to share a brief timeline.

In 1969, homosexuality ceased to be a crime in Canada, but it still took two more years before Everett Klippert was released from jail.

In 1975, Doug Wilson, a graduate student in the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, was refused by the dean of the College of Education to supervise practice teachers in the school system, because he was a gay activist. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission dismissed his case of discrimination.

In December 1977, Quebec included sexual orientation in its human rights code, making it the first province in Canada to pass a gay civil rights law. By 2001, all provinces and territories had taken this step forward.

In 1978, Canada's new immigration act removed homosexuals from the list of inadmissible classes.

In 1979, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended in its annual report that sexual orientation be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The following year, MP Pat Carney tabled Bill C-242, which would have prohibited discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. It did not pass. NDP MP Svend Robinson introduced similar bills in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1991.

In 1991, Robinson tried to get the definition of spouse in the Income Tax Act and the Canada Pension Plan Act to include “or of the same sex”. In 1992, he tried to get the word “opposite sex” definition of spouse removed from Bill C-55, which would have added the definition to survivor benefit provisions in federal pension legislation. All the proposed bills were defeated.

In 1987, Don Cochrane, a professor of education at the University of Saskatchewan, organized the first Breaking the Silence conference to discuss gay and lesbian issues in the education system. The conference celebrated its 30th year this year, but that year, the organizers had to hire security to protect attendees from physical and verbal harassment and abuse from protesters.

In 1988, Svend Robinson became the first member of Parliament to come out. Robinson was first elected to the House of Commons in 1979, and in 2000, the B.C. riding of Burnaby Douglas, as it was called then, elected him for the eighth time.

In 1991, Delwin Vriend, a lab instructor at King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta, was fired from his job because he was gay. The Alberta Human Rights Commission refused to investigate the case, because the Alberta Individual's Rights Protection Act did not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. Seven years later, after he was fired for being gay, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and finally, on April 2, 1998, the high court unanimously ruled that the exclusion of homosexuals from Alberta's Individual's Rights Protection Act was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Also that year, in my community, Gay & Lesbian Health Services of Saskatoon, now called OUTSaskatoon, opened its doors, thanks to the shear determination and tenacity of Gens Hellquist. GLHS was started to serve the underserved health, social, and emotional needs of gays and lesbians in Saskatchewan.

In August 1992, in Haig and Birch v. Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the failure to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act was discriminatory. Federal justice minister Kim Campbell responded to the decision by announcing that the government would take the necessary steps to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In November 1992, a landmark legal challenge was won by Michelle Douglas, who was fired from the military in 1989 for being a lesbian. The Federal Court finally lifted, in 1992, the country's ban on homosexuals in the military, and that year, for the first time, allowed gays and lesbians to serve with pride in the armed forces.

In May 1995, the Supreme Court ruled on the case involving Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit, two gay men who sued Ottawa for the right to claim the spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act. The court ruled against Egan and Nesbit. However, all nine judges agreed that sexual orientation was a protected ground.

In May 1995, an Ontario judge found that the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario infringed section 15 of the charter by not allowing same sex couples to bring joint application for adoption. Ontario became the first province to make it legal for same sex couples to adopt. British Columbia, Alberta, and Nova Scotia followed quickly after.

In 1996, the federal government finally passed Bill C-33 and added sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In May 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that same sex couples should have the same benefits and obligations as opposite sex common-law couples and equal access to benefits from social programs to which they contribute.

In June of that year, although many laws would have to be revised to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in May, Parliament voted 216 to 55 in favour of preserving the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In February 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's Liberals introduced Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, in response to the Supreme Court's main ruling. The act would give same sex couples who lived together for more than a year the same benefits and obligations as all common-law couples. On April 11, 2000, Parliament passed Bill C-23 with a vote of 174 to 72. The legislation gives same sex couples the same social and tax benefits as all couples.

In total, the bill affected over 68 federal statutes related to a wide range of issues: pension benefits, old age security, income tax deductions, bankruptcy protection, and the Criminal Code. Despite this, the definitions of marriage and spouse were left untouched.

On December 10, 2000, Reverend Brent Hawkes, of the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto, read the first bans, an old Christian tradition of publishing or giving public notice of people's intent to marry, for two same-sex couples. Hawkes said that if the bans were read on three Sundays before the wedding, he could legally marry the couples. The two same-sex couples were married on January 14, 2001. The following day, the Ontario government reiterated the government's position, saying that the marriages would not be legally recognized.

The year 2000 was also the year that a Saskatoon Mount Royal high school teacher, Patti Rowley, attended a session at a school board convention by gay and lesbian health services. A year later, she started a gay-straight alliance in a high school in Saskatoon, at Mount Royal Collegiate. She has been facilitating a weekly meeting for students and teachers ever since, 22 years later.

In May 2002, then Ontario Supreme Court Justice Robert MacKinnon ruled that a gay student had the right to take his boyfriend to the prom. In July 2002, for the very first time, a Canadian court ruled in favour of recognizing same-sex marriages under the law. The Ontario superior court ruled that prohibiting gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional and violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In February 2003, MP Svend Robinson unveiled a private member's bill that would allow same-sex marriages. The federal government had already changed several laws to give same-sex couples the same benefits and obligations as heterosexual common-law couples. In June of that year, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling to legally allow same-sex marriages. The judgment said “the existing common law definition of marriage violates the Couples' equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation..”.

In June 2003, the Ontario government announced that the province would finally obey the law and register same-sex marriages. Nearly two dozen couples applied for marriage licences in Ontario on the following day.

In August 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien vowed not to let religious objections alter his stand on same-sex marriage. He said that members of Parliament would be allowed to vote freely on the bill when it was introduced into the House of Commons, after his retirement in 2004.

In December 2003, the Ontario court ruled that Ottawa had discriminated against same-sex couples by denying benefits to their partners who had died before 1998. The court ruled that benefits would be retroactive to April 17, 1985, when equality rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect.

In December 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government could change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. In February 2005, the federal government finally introduced the same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons. The bill would give married same-sex partners the same legal protection as other married couples. In May of that year, a Canadian Forces sergeant and a warrant officer were married in the chapel at CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia, in the military's very first gay wedding.

In June 2005, the controversial bill, Bill C-38, titled “Civil Marriage Act”, passed final reading in the House of Commons, sailing through with a vote of 158 to 133. On July 20, 2005, the bill became law, and Canada became the fourth country in the world, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain, to finally and officially recognize same-sex marriage.

We can see that the road to the apology has been strewn with obstacles, and the struggle and resistance have been real and unrelenting. Each battle has been fought multiple times in multiple jurisdictions.

While governments, parliaments, police services, and other institutions, which were created to protect people, continued to persecute and prosecute LGBTQ Canadians, brave and courageous souls made change, positive change, despite governments. They did that one person, one family, one community at a time, and they saved people's lives. While the apology sadly came too late for some of these brave people, it does represent a much brighter future for those who remain. The apology is the proper first step, and we applaud the government for taking it.

New Democrats have been unwavering in calling for a just apology, and we are pleased that the government has announced that it is including redress measures in the bill. An apology without any redress measures would have been just an apology, not a just apology. There are thousands of people with unjust historic convictions for consensual same-sex sexual activity still on the records, and these convictions continue to be a barrier for people when it comes to travel, volunteering, even to getting a job.

New Democrats have fought to make sure that expungement legislation was tabled at the same time as the apology, and we are committed to working together with all parliamentarians and government to get this legislation passed as soon as possible. By expunging the convictions for historic consensual same-sex activity, the government is ensuring that no unfairly applied discriminatory label or judgment can continue to have negative impacts on people's daily lives.

While Bill C-66 is not perfect, we believe that all of the issues in question are fixable without amending the bill and therefore should not cause delay in the passage of the bill. New Democrats would like to see the immediate implementation of a process for the expungement of criminal records for consensual same-sex sexual activity. Speedy follow-through on a redress measure is necessary to complete and validate the government apology.

Now that Bill C-66 is tabled, we want to also make sure that the government continues to make sure that Canadian Forces service records are revised, that it quickly moves on the tabled legislation to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, and, of course, that it finally ends the blood ban for men who have sex with men.

I would like to thank those who went before us, as well as everyone who continues to work toward a more inclusive and equal Canada. There remains, unfortunately, a lot still to do.

I chose to run to be a member of Parliament for Saskatoon West. My goal was to end homelessness. As we heard the parliamentary secretary mention, LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in homelessness in this country. It is estimated that between 25% and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2. These young people are more vulnerable or at a higher risk of homelessness because of homophobia and transphobia. LGBTQ youth leave home most often because of violence and abuse. Their home is not safe for them. They often choose to live, literally on the street because they face homophobia and transphobia in our shelter systems and in support services. Despite human rights legislation, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and legalizing same-sex marriage, homophobia and transphobia are still very much a part of daily life in Canada, in our language, in our behaviour, and in the policies and practices of many of our helping institutions.

In the timeline I shared today, I highlighted important Canadian firsts that took place in my home province of Saskatchewan. These are important milestones that have improved the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians. I would like to end my remarks with one final first.

This fall, the first long-term LGBTQ2 youth home in Canada, Pride Home, was opened in my riding. The youth home is operated by the amazing organization OUTSaskatoon. In 2016, a survey by OUTSaskatoon found that 40% of the local LGBTQ2 youth had dealt with homelessness at some point in their short lives.

We all hope for the day that all LGBTQ2 youth, all youth, have a warm and supportive loving home, but, until then, thank goodness for organizations like OUTSaskatoon.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 9th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to participate in the debate regarding the Liberal opposition day motion.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.

This opposition day motion is definitely very interesting and most timely, and I thank the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for bringing it forward. That being said, I must first take some time to remind my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party of their track record, both historically and in the not so distant past, concerning the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The present often has a way of dimming the past, but I am surprised at how quickly my colleagues in the Liberal Party forget their own belittling of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I find it passing strange that they have decided to go forward with this motion considering that, this week alone, it became clear that their Ontario provincial counterparts completely ignored this ever-important statute.

The flouting of the charter was made clear in the Ontario ombudsman's G20 report. The ombudsman states that the actions taken by the government of Dalton McGuinty were illegal and unconstitutional. The actions by the Liberal Party of Ontario are an excellent example of a government belittling the importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and removing rights and freedoms from the Canadian public. Worse yet, this was done behind closed doors and without public knowledge. Peaceful G20 protestors who had educated themselves on their fundamental rights had no way of knowing that the Ontario government had secretly removed these rights. It is painfully clear that the Liberals breached the rights of Canadians in Toronto just this past summer.

If we go back only about five years, we can find yet another example of the Liberal Party disregarding and undermining the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am speaking of the debate concerning marriage law in Canada, specifically, Bill C-38 and the rights of same sex couples to marry.

On February 21, 2005, my colleague from Mississauga South said this in House:

With respect, my view is that Bill C-38 should not be passed and that the notwithstanding clause under section 33 of the charter should be invoked to provide Parliament with the time it needs to make a fully informed decision.

I have two fundamental problems with this statement. First is the fact that the member and his party saw fit to entertain the use of the notwithstanding clause. I take serious issue with the notwithstanding clause. To be honest, I worry that this clause, which gives this House the right to remove the fundamental rights and freedoms from Canadians, exists at all. I find it shocking that the Liberal Party was considering its use in this situation. To quote from its former leader, former prime minister Trudeau, “There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”.

While I am on the topic of former prime minister Trudeau, let us discuss the actual creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Trudeau's respect for the rights of Canadians. I would like to draw the attention of the House to Trudeau's breaching of the fundamental rights of Canadians, which he said he so strongly supported. I am speaking of course of his enactment of the War Measures Act during the October crisis of 1970. While historically governments have used this statute during times of crisis, most analysis of Trudeau's use of the War Measures Act says that not only was it unnecessary but it was wrong.

In October 1970, Trudeau specifically targeted communities in Quebec, separatist communities, labour groups and left-leaning communities. He took away their rights of citizenship without any proof that they were involved in the events of October 1970. He presumed guilt without evidence of guilt. Regardless of the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had not yet been signed, this is a complete breach of the fundamental rights of Canadians, the spirit of that charter.

Furthermore in 1981, the Liberal government cancelled a conference on women's equality. The women present were told that the government would take care of things. The response of these women was immediate and overwhelming. Doris Anderson, the head of the advisory council on the status of women, resigned the post, and a handful of influential Canadian women organized their own conference in Ottawa, calling everyone they knew to attend. On Valentine's Day, 1981, more than 1,000 women descended upon Ottawa to ensure that women were protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Through an unprecedented grassroots campaign, these women fundamentally changed Canadian history to ensure stronger equality sections in the newly patriated Canadian Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15 and 28.

While I am indeed happy that sections 15 and 28 were included in the charter, it was disappointing that women had to lobby so hard to be included. It would seem that somehow, perhaps because of the court decision on October 18, 1929, women had the misguided notion that they were not only persons but were recognized as persons by the government.

However, that being said, I would like to turn my focus now to the Conservative government and its record.

The member elect from Vaughan has a highly questionable history when it comes to respecting fundamental freedoms. He has openly stated his opposition to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. During his law enforcement career, he flagrantly abused his power when he ordered illegal wiretaps to target minority communities. He demonstrated a complete lack of transparency as a public officer holder.

In 1992, internal police reports indicate that the member elect from Vaughan ordered a wiretap of a civilian member of the city of Toronto's police service board. This is a body that oversees police actions. These actions, for the new member for Vaughan, are highly questionable in a democratic society.

Later during the same individual's tenure as police chief in London, he authorized the now infamous and disastrous Project Guardian. This was essentially an anti-gay witch hunt. Although the originally stated purpose of the operation was to catch pedophiles and expose a child pornography ring, no child pornography ring was ever found. There were convictions for drug possession and prostitution, but no child pornography ring.

Unfortunately during his tenure as police chief in London, the new member for Vaughan had a history of targeting minority communities. The consequences of this behaviour were that it created great distrust of authorities among the people our police services are pledged to protect.

Likewise, during his tenure as police chief in Toronto, Now magazine reported that the same member showed his disdain for democracy by trying to require that the police approve public rallies. Various news articles indicate that the corruption scandals in the police force were shielded from public scrutiny in an amazingly unaccountable fashion by the newly elected member for Vaughan.

Controversy follows this member no matter what position he holds. It goes on and on. His apparent disdain for democracy, transparency, accountability and now the Charter of Rights and Freedoms leaves a chilling legacy.

As we have heard today from many members, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is vital because it protects minority groups. The Conservative government itself has shown its disdain for the charter in many ways, from disregarding its obligations to Canadian citizens like Omar Khadr to cancelling the court challenges program.

The court challenges program was an essential tool for Canadians to access protection under the charter. As we know, Canadians from minority groups often lack the fiscal resources to access the justice system and therefore are unable to seek protection under the charter.

The Conservative government chose to cancel the court challenges program for ideological reasons. The Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, wrote extensively about the faults of the court challenges program.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women wrote a report in 2008 analyzing the impact of the cancellation of the court challenges program. The committee heard expert testimony that showed how the court challenges program improved women's equality in Canada. It upheld the rights of pregnant women and protected them in rape trials. It was essential in terms of making sure they were not revictimized.

Furthermore when it comes to the most vulnerable in our society, the court challenges program significantly changed the lives of aboriginal women. Women like Sandra Lovelace, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell and Sharon McIvor all used the court challenges program. We sacrifice and demean its authority at our peril.

As parliamentarians, we must respect the rights and freedoms of our citizens. Unfortunately at times the rights and freedoms of marginalized Canadians are forgotten and overlooked. The charter enshrines these rights and ensures that all Canadians are equal under the law. It is for this reason that the charter must be respected. It must be upheld.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved:

That the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, be concurred in.

This motion is really about updating the citizenship guide. As the House knows, there is a new citizenship guide. Tens of thousands of copies have been printed, but there is no reference to gay rights and gay history in it.

Why is it important that newcomers to this country understand the proud history of Canada? We receive immigrants from around the world and there are countries where gays, lesbians and bisexuals face death, torture, and penalties such as prison terms. For example, in Uganda gays face death threats. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in Iran. In Paraguay, in April of this year, a 20-year-old lesbian was abducted and dragged into a car, strangled, suffocated, and subjected to multiple blows which resulted in severe bruising to her body. In Turkey, on April 27, a founding member of the Black Pink Triangle was murdered. She did not survive the gunshot wounds to her back and head. On December 13, 2009, in Honduras, a 27-year-old gay activist, a member of the national resistance front against the discrimination against gays and lesbians, was also murdered.

There is violence and discrimination in many countries. Immigrants come to Canada from many of those countries, so it is very important that the citizenship guide clearly state the rights and responsibilities of new citizens. Under the section regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, under equality rights it should be spelled out clearly that Canadians are protected against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or age. It should be mentioned in the section “Towards a Modern Canada” that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and that more recently, civil marriage for same sex couples was legalized nationwide in 2005.

May 17 of every year is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In 1985, as a new school trustee I heard of a murder in Toronto. Kenneth Zeller, a librarian who was very much loved by the elementary school students where he taught, was gay-bashed and murdered in High Park, a park that a lot of gays and lesbians go to in Toronto. He was killed by four high school students. It was tragic. It was unbelievable, in a way, that these were young people who had graduated from our high schools.

During that period, I went around to different high schools and spoke to a lot of gay and lesbian students. I encouraged them to talk about what was happening in their schools. With the help of a student worker, Tim McCaskell, we were able to invite gay and lesbian students to speak to the school board about their experiences. The Toronto Board of Education was the first school board in all of North America to adopt a curriculum that talks about sexual orientation. We also pledged to train all the teachers and adopt policies to protect students.

Many years later, a recent survey has indicated that three-quarters of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students feel unsafe at school. A quarter of LGBTQ students and almost half of the transgender students have skipped school because they feel unsafe.

Six out of ten gay and lesbian students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation, and one in four LGB students has been physically harassed about his or her sexual orientation. Two in five transgender students and one in five gay and lesbian students have been physically harassed.

This kind of difficulty and violence happens in our schools, which is why recently there was the launch of the Gay-Straight Alliance. MyGSA.ca is a website that encourages teachers and students to come together to counteract homophobia. This is supported by Egale and is an excellent website that helps promote the curriculum and helps promotes students.

It is important to look at the history of pension rights in Canada. George Hislop was a gays rights pioneer who won the right to same-sex survivor's benefits from the Canada pension plan for gays and lesbians across Canada. In the early 1970s, when it was not easy to be out of the closet anywhere, George was on national television with his partner, Ron Shearer. His partner had contributed to the Canada pension plan for many years, but when he passed away and Mr. Hislop applied for a pension, he was turned down because he was the same sex as Mr. Shearer.

Same-sex couples were excluded under the Canada pension plan until August 2000 when the laws were finally amended to include them. Those amendments, however, continued to deny pensions to those whose partners had died prior to January 1, 1998, which was the case for Mr. Hislop's same-sex common law partner. Because of his same-sex class action lawsuit based on the charter right of equality, he was able to leave a lasting legacy of tolerance to our entire country.

A person like George Hislop should be celebrated in our citizenship guide, because he was a leader in the lesbian and gay community in fighting discrimination and demanding equal respect.

Luckily in July 2005, the federal government agreed to start paying pensions pending the appeal. While Mr. Hislop did receive his first cheque in August, he passed away soon after.

I talked earlier about equal marriage, and about the long struggle here on Parliament Hill and in the community. Brent Hawkes at the Metropolitan Community Church has been a leader in Canada in pushing for people to learn to love and support each other and not be judgmental. It is part of the universal fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC published banns for same-sex couples, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Elaine and Anne Vautour, in accordance with the age-old legal tradition.

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto married the couples in a double wedding ceremony on January 14, 2001. It was an extremely joyous occasion. I was fortunate to be there. I want to share what Reverend Brent Hawkes said. He said:

Love is the fundamental basis of all Christian teaching.

Because of their Christian heritage, their current faith and for many, their current loving relationships, access to marriage has always been desired by many in our congregation. In fact, blessing same sex unions was one of the first types of services provided by UFMCC [Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches] when it was founded over 30 years ago.

I believe that most Canadians either support our right to marry...or they believe that the state has no business in telling us that we may not do so....and that the majority of Canadians cherish freedom of religion as a fundamental right in our society. Most Canadians would agree that one group in society should not impose its religious beliefs on another group with a different view.

He continues that love and marriage is something that should be celebrated and not prohibited. I witnessed the marriage of Michael and Michael. They are from Halifax. They have been together for 20 years. In Michael Leshner's affidavit, he said:

It should not be necessary for me to justify my application for a marriage licence and requiring me to do so would be discriminatory, humiliating and upsetting. Being denied a marriage licence suggests that Mike and I do not love each other, and that our hopes, our dreams, our life together do not exist. Mike and I, while supposedly equal citizens of this great country, are deemed non-persons, because we are gay.

Subsequently, in 2005-06, there was a series of votes in the House of Commons, and gay marriage was finally approved. I want to repeat a short part of a speech by the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. When the House debated the Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-38, he said:

Mr. Speaker, there are junctures in a country's path when it is an honour to be a member of Parliament because one is able to help make a fundamental choice, a choice that celebrates more of our rich diversity and extends that fundamental Canadian value of equality. Originally, the goal of extending marriage—civil marriage—rights came directly from the grassroots, part of the long struggle of gays and lesbians for a society in which their right to a just, equitable relationship was recognized, meaning the celebration of their union, but also, let us hope, our celebration of their union.

It is important that all of this history and the rights of the gay and lesbian community be recognized, celebrated, and documented in our citizenship guide. For us not to do so, especially for our new immigrants, is unfair and unjust. There is no excuse. The citizenship guide, as it is, is fairly substantial. It is hefty. There is all sorts of good information in the citizenship guide. There is absolutely no reason not to include this section.

Many people have done a great deal of work on equality. Not only should we include all of this in the citizenship guide, but I believe that the federal government has a role to play in helping to educate our young people and new immigrants to make sure that they understand that homophobia is not tolerated, that there is a hate crime in this country, and that gay bashing will be punished.

All those elements we celebrate should be included. We must make sure, whether people are young or old, new to Canada, or live in urban centres or rural Canada, that all citizens of Canada understand this priority.

I want to take the time to read something that passed through the House of Commons three times in three years in three Parliaments under three prime ministers. The House of Commons voted to affirm the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to affirm the inclusion of same-sex couples in civil marriage.

The first vote was in September 2003, following the historic Court of Appeal for Ontario ruling. The second vote was in 2005 on Bill C-38, which is the equal marriage bill. The final vote was 158 to 133.

The third vote was on December 7, 2006, and that vote was divisive, because even though Bill C-38 had passed, the Conservatives at that time wanted to bring forward that issue again. Thankfully, the vote passed again for the third time in three years.

Immediately after its passage on December 7, 2006, Canadians for Equal Marriage had this to say:

We are heartened that Canadian values of inclusion, equality and respect for difference have shown themselves to be stronger than ever.

A clear pattern has been established in the three votes that have been held in Parliament since the courts first ruled that excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage violates the charter. This is a pattern of growing acceptance of equal marriage, a pattern that reflects Canada's growing consensus on this issue.

Most MPs, like most Canadians, have come to understand that equal marriage doesn't harm anyone; it only makes life better for some. They have come to understand that a generous and inclusive definition of marriage actually strengthens the institution. They have come to understand that the only reason to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage is discomfort, resistance to change and moral judgment. And they have learned that voting in favour of equality and inclusion feels really, really good.

We also want to salute all the Canadians who may have been uncomfortable with including same-sex couples in marriage, but who have come to accept and perhaps even embrace equal marriage. It's you who have truly demonstrated the wonder of Canada—that people with such diverse backgrounds and beliefs get along and live together in peace and harmony. That ability makes Canada the envy of the world.

That is why many of them want to come to Canada.

To continue with this statement from the Campaign for Equal Families:

Our common challenge now is to look at each other with eyes of understanding and compassion. To put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. We all want to build a better Canada and a better world. And now that we have put this issue behind us, we can get on with that task.

In the not-too-distant future, we will look back and wonder how it was that this was even an issue. We will be proud that Canada chose to continue its long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity, and refused to turn back the clock on equality. And hopefully, one day, the idea that someone would hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity will make no sense at all.

We look forward to that day.

We look forward to the day when all new immigrants understand that they do not have to hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity. That day, when every new immigrant becomes a citizen, he or she will be proud of Canada's long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on equality, which is why we must include gay rights and gay history in our citizenship guide.

Industry CanadaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 19th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition today from constituents in my area, mainly in the Churchbridge and Langenburg area. The petitioners would like to draw the attention of the House of Commons to the fact that Industry Canada has provided funding for the production of a booklet called “The Little Black Book” that contains pornographically explicit material and that this booklet indoctrinates and solicits children to same sex relationships and may contain incomplete and inaccurate information. The booklet is being used in a provincial education system as a handout to students.

The petitioners therefore call on Parliament to rescind all funding to this project and such related or similar projects and remove all reference to endorsement of such materials by Industry Canada or other departments, review the impact of the Bill C-38 marriage law and its complicit tie to such promotion of same sex material, and take all necessary steps to ensure accountability of tax dollar expenditures on this project in every department.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 11:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member appreciate the fact that this is a free vote in our party? Would she call on all parties to recognize that this is a free vote?

We all know that Bill C-38 was not a free vote. It was a whipped vote. We brought this motion forward because we wanted to give all members, including the opposition members, an opportunity to vote their conscience.

Does the member appreciate that this motion is a free vote and does she believe that if this motion is passed it will restore the traditional definition of marriage?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 11:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is problematic when we go through so much debate and then somehow there is still confusion about what we are talking about and what we are voting on. The motion is clear. The motion is not to reinstate the definition of marriage. The motion is for Parliament to call upon the government to introduce legislation that would reintroduce the definition of marriage. The vote tomorrow is not the same as the vote on Bill C-38, which was to change the definition of marriage. It is a procedural motion.

I am afraid that when we have this kind of intervention, people who are watching tonight or who will read this will be asking whether the vote going on in Parliament today is the same as the vote that was held on Bill C-38 which was a bill that actually did something. The answer is no, that this is a procedural motion and it is not necessary. In fact, the Conservative members have said consistently that there is no constitutional problem with the Supreme Court and we should just bring in the bill.

Maybe the member would like to suggest that the government bring in a bill.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 11 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to quote a section of Bill C-38. Clause 3.1, which is an amendment that was added to the legislation over the course of the hearings of the legislative committee, states:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

Does the member for Yukon have any reason to believe that section is not effective, that these guarantees have not been met and that there has been any problem whatsoever since the bill was passed with guaranteeing the freedoms as outlined in this clause in Bill C-38?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:50 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member took a personal, strong stand in the debate on Bill C-38 and resigned from his position in the cabinet because of his feelings about that legislation. Does he have any sense that due diligence was not given to the legislation in the 38th Parliament?

We have heard a criticism today that somehow the bill was rammed through, that it was not given the proper attention. Does he have any sense about the diligence with which Parliament dealt with that legislation?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, needless to say, I have the greatest of respect for you and your position, although I got you confused the other day, for which I apologize.

I have been here since around 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. I have listened as best I could to all the folks who made interventions tonight, well thought out presentations. I was very impressed with the sincerity of all the presentations. I compliment every member of the House who made a presentation here tonight because of their interest, their input and particularly the sincerity with which they talked. I think they all deserve a great round of thanks.

The constituents of Thunder Bay—Superior North, as well as myself, support the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Bill C-38 became an act respecting certain aspects of the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. It was passed in June 2005. I happened to not be in favour of that legislation and I voted against it. However, the fact of the matter is the majority of the people in the House voted for that legislation and it became the law of the land.

There are many times and many occasions that we sit in the House and wish it would go some place else, but it will not. The final determination and the role of all members of Parliament is we have to accept those occasions where our wishes are not looked at with the degree of sincerity that we think they should be, but we live with the majority ruling of the House. Today we are faced with the law of the land.

First, the motion in front of us, and I have asked this question several times, asks the permission of the House to bring in a particular piece of legislation. It is the first time, in all the years I have sat here, I have seen a government ask for permission to bring in legislation, although I stand corrected on this.

I always thought the government, if it were truly intent on getting something properly passed, would bring in the legislation, it would be debated, it would go to committee, it would come to second reading, it would go back, it would come back for third reading, like all legislation should. I say this and I stand perhaps corrected, but I have never seen this happen before, and I wonder as to the wisdom of this type of motion.

Second, as we debated the motion, I found out that it did not allow for any amendments. I cannot understand why, when people in the House come together and debate as we have tonight, we do not have the opportunity to make some amendments to get a reconciliation of our thoughts so we can come down to good legislation.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:40 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke frequently about people of faith, but I want to ask him a question about people of faith who do support the change that was made to the definition of marriage with Bill C-38. There are religious institutions in Canada that do support marrying gay and lesbian couples, whose definition of marriage includes gay and lesbian couples.

Would he take away their freedom of religion to express that inclusion of gay and lesbian couples in marriage? They have through strong religiously held principles made that decision to marry gay and lesbian couples, to allow them, to allow us to enter into marriage.

Would he undo their ability to do that? Would he strip away their freedom of religion in order to re-establish a so-called traditional definition of marriage that does not include gay and lesbian couples?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much value this opportunity to speak on this very important subject. Tomorrow the House will vote on whether to reconsider the issue of same sex marriage. The motion before the House affirms the traditional definition of marriage while at the same time defending the charter rights of those wishing to live in same sex relationships.

The tragedy is that had the former Liberal government properly consulted with Canadians on this issue, we would not have to have this debate tonight. The Liberal performance on this highly contentious issue has been appalling. Rather than listening carefully to Canadians and then allowing a completely free vote by members of this House, the Liberals instead rammed Bill C-38 through in order to avoid any further scrutiny.

What is even more appalling is that the prime minister of the day, the member for LaSalle—Émard, forced his cabinet and parliamentary secretaries to vote against their consciences and against the wishes of their constituents. Shame. Sadly, it appears that nothing has changed. There is a new Liberal leadership, but still the same bullying tactics.

In fact, the new leader from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville voted in favour of the traditional definition of marriage just seven years ago. In 2005, he voted against the definition of marriage. Yesterday, he implied that all Liberals would have to vote against the traditional definition of marriage. Today, he says they will not.

This is embarrassing, not only to the Liberal leader and his party but also to Canadians as a whole. Canadians demand transparency. They demand clarity. They demand freedom of conscience and they demand a democratic process, things they were not getting from the previous government.

Today, under a new Conservative government, we are delivering on a promise which we made to Canadians during the last federal election. We promised a truly free vote on the definition of marriage and today we are delivering on that promise. It is indeed sad that a number of the opposition parties have refused to allow the same thing for their members of Parliament.

To any Canadian who respects the democratic process, this vote is absolutely necessary and perhaps the crux of this is respect. That is why we are having this debate tonight. The previous government lacked respect for the strongly held convictions of millions of Canadians. There was a lack of respect for beliefs held by people of faith all across Canada. There was no need to change the definition of marriage in order for gays and lesbians to establish meaningful, long term relationships that are recognized in law.

However, the previous government decided to move ahead anyway without consulting Canadians in a meaningful way. In the process it has divided the country when it was totally unnecessary to do so. By redefining the term “marriage” we tell people of faith from all religions that their opinions, their freedom of conscience and speech, and their strong convictions are not important in the public debate.

This debate tonight is about respect. We are not asking to re-open this debate because it polarizes Canadians. We are asking to re-open this debate because the issue was not settled by Canadians, it was dictated to Canadians.

This is not an issue of protecting charter rights. This motion is very clear. It recognizes the traditional definition of marriage while at the same time respecting the rights of all Canadians to enter into legally protected same sex relationships if they so choose.

Unlike the previous vote on June 29, 2005, our government has proclaimed that this vote on marriage will be a free vote to all government members, including cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries, but the freedom that prevails in the Conservative Party has not unfortunately been afforded to everyone in this House. That is the tragedy of tonight's debate. Something as important as defining one of the cornerstones of our society, namely the definition of marriage, will not receive the consideration that it is entitled to.

Bill C-38, which originally changed the definition of marriage to include same sex relationships, was conceived in haste, promoted by stealth, and passed undemocratically by the previous government under a whipped vote.

I was not present in this House when this issue was last debated. I have read some of the speeches and statements made on both sides of the issue. I believe that all of the reasons against changing the definition of marriage were well articulated by many of our members while Bill C-38 was debated and I do not think I need to recapitulate all of those reasons here tonight, but I do want to say a little about my own community of Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Abbotsford is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith community, incredibly diverse and incredibly tolerant. This is a community that has temples and churches. It has communities of all faiths. I carried out a survey in my community. In the survey that I conducted, an overwhelming majority of my constituents believed that this was a very important issue, and they let me know in no uncertain terms that they believed we should return to the traditional definition of marriage.

During the last election, I made my position and my support for the traditional definition of marriage very clear to the people of Abbotsford. That is why I am completely at peace when voting in support of this motion which is to reconsider the issue of redefining marriage, to return that definition to the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Of course, the previous government did not want to listen to people who did not share its thoughts on marriage. It showed a lack of respect and a lack of respect for people of faith. That is why we are debating this matter tonight because, for most Canadians, especially those who embrace religious convictions, this issue is not closed.

Same sex couples may enter into whatever manner of relationship, arrangement or situation that they may desire, but they should not call it marriage because that is a concept that has been clearly understood for millennia. Same sex couples, whether as a couple or as individuals, possess the same democratic and economic rights as any other Canadians in our society. In fact, given the high level of tolerance and acceptance in our society, gays and lesbians can hardly be considered disadvantaged or lacking any of the rights and freedoms that all Canadians take for granted.

I took the liberty of reviewing the same sex reference case, which was a Supreme Court of Canada decision on this very issue. My friend across the way suggested that it is now established law that we must redefine marriage as including same sex relationships. I studied that decision very carefully and the member across the floor will know that the Supreme Court was asked four questions. It answered three of those, one of them being whether it would be against the charter to actually redefine marriage as including same sex relationships. However, the third question the Supreme Court of Canada deliberately chose not to answer, and that was, if we retain the traditional definition of marriage, is that a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The Supreme Court could have ruled on that. It had the opportunity. In fact, it chose not to, clearly referring the matter back to this House of Commons, the duly elected representatives of this country.

It is on that basis that I can fully support this motion. I believe in the traditional definition of marriage, that we can retain that without violating the charter, provided that we have legislation in place which also protects the rights of same sex couples to enter into civil unions.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what the member had to say. I would argue that his words in 2005 were exactly correct. There was no need to rush Bill C-38. We did need to look further into it. That is what this motion seeks to do.

If the member believes those words from 2005, why will he not support this motion and help those of us who wish to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage to do so?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 10:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, until June 2003 there were a number of cases before the Supreme Court and other courts and provincial courts which sought to get equality for same sex couples to be married. Each and every decision was that there was discrimination in terms of the equality provision of the charter, but that section 1 was an override. That section 1 override said that it was demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

It was not until July 2002 and the case of Halpern v. Canada. The Ontario Supreme Court heard this case on the existing definition of marriage. Only a year earlier a same sex case had come before a B.C. court, which was before this Ontario court case. One said it was demonstrably justified and that the discrimination was justified.

I remember being at Canadian Forces Greenwood in Nova Scotia on a parliamentary exchange and I was in my bed reading the decision in the Halpern case and it was very difficult to read. Effectively, the case discredited heterosexual marriage by citing divorce rates and growth in common law relationships. It also dismissed the importance of the ability to procreate, citing the availability of reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption, just to name a few.

By the flavour of the court, the case and the arguments being made, all of a sudden we were challenging what happened in the B.C. court decision by looking at marriage and the distinctive characteristics of marriage and trying to discredit them to the point where it might tip the balance in terms of the section 1 analysis in the charter, in other words the section 1 analysis which allows one to discriminate.

On June 10, 2003 the court concluded that the existing legal framework was discriminatory since it failed to provide fair public recognition of gay and lesbian unions. The decision also stated that the infringement could not be demonstrably justified under section 1 of the charter, citing that the exclusion of same sex couples from the right to marry served no identifiable, pressing or legitimate government objective.

In my view this view summarily dismisses the relevance of marriage to any aspect of social well-being of Canadians, which in fact is one of the reasons that we are here. It is to protect the health and well-being of all Canadians, especially our children, so I would absolutely disagree with the decision in Halpern which was the tipping point. Members will know that subsequent to that Ontario Court of Appeal decision, eight other provinces went along with copycat decisions basically making it discriminatory.

We know how we got here. As a consequence of that, Bill C-38 came to the House, but it was not an action of a government; it was a reaction of a government to judicial proceedings and to judicial decisions. There is no question that we were faced with a situation that the definition of marriage was deemed to be discriminatory and the section 1 analysis did not save it in that particular case.

The motion before the House is:

That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decision that denied marriage to same sex persons was in violation of the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision was also reached in another eight provinces. In the reference to the Supreme Court, the important aspect here is that the court concurred with the conclusions of the lower courts. It absolutely concurred. In fact, the Supreme Court decided and it made a decision in the reasons for judgment that it would not overturn the decision in those courts.

All of a sudden it was the law in Canada that the government could not discriminate by excluding same sex persons from being married. It is the law today.

To introduce a new bill, which this motion proposes, to reinstate the traditional definition would not in fact be charter-proof. It would not be charter-proof and it would be challenged by the courts not only federally, but in the nine provinces where it is law today. This is the opinion of over 150 eminent constitutional authorities.

It is estimated that these cases would take seven to 10 years to work their way through the courts. This thing would be with us forever and this is just not acceptable.

Not only would such a bill be unconstitutional, but the motion deals with civil unions which are a provincial jurisdiction. In addition, it would create two classes of same sex couples, those who could marry and those who could not. Their children could not marry but the children's parents or their guardians would have been married. It is a very awkward situation.

As a legislator, not as an individual who wants to just take care of my own values and my own issues, but as a parliamentarian, I have to vote against the motion. The reason I have to vote against it is clear. The motion is improper. It is asking Parliament to undertake a legislative process which is unconstitutional. It also asks us to deal with something that is beyond federal jurisdiction. Technically it is wrong.

We say a prayer when we start here in the morning that we are here to make good laws and wise decisions. We cannot. As a matter of fact, if the motion were simply as was promised during the election campaign by the Conservative Party to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage, I could vote for it. But this motion was a little clever by a half and it spoiled it for a lot of people. The motion now before us really is disingenuous and it really is only to satisfy an election promise and would surely fail in its present form. The government knew that. That is my view.

Today during the debate on the motion, I asked the government House leader if he would just simply forget this motion and table a piece of legislation to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. The question was not answered and yet the Conservative Party form the government. It does not need the approval of this place to table a piece of legislation. I say table it if it can.

Constitutional experts have said that a piece of legislation cannot be tabled that would summarily change the definition back because it would be constitutionally invalid. It is not charter-proof. The only way, and I said this when I gave my speech on February 21, 2005, is to invoke the notwithstanding clause. In my speech on February 21, 2005 on Bill C-38 I concluded, and I want to read it into the record:

Finally, I believe that the redefinition constitutes a radical societal change. It may not have immediate societal consequences, but over time it would have enormous implications. This is not just about the infringement of rights of gays and lesbians. It is also about the diminishing the relevance of the most important social institution in our society, and that is marriage.

In my opinion, the potential for material and adverse consequences is so great that we should take the time to more fully assess the broader implications of this fundamental change to families, children and religious freedoms.

With respect, my view is that Bill C-38 should not be passed and that the notwithstanding clause under section 33 of the charter should be invoked to provide Parliament with the time it needs to make a fully informed decision.

Let me assure the House that my opinion is still the same today.

Unfortunately, the motion before this place is not whether or not I support the traditional definition of marriage; it is whether or not I think the government can table a piece of legislation to summarily change it. Constitutional lawyers have said it cannot. The only way it can be is to invoke the notwithstanding clause and the Prime Minister has said he is not prepared to do that. We are now at an impasse.

I will write to the Prime Minister and I will ask him to either invoke the notwithstanding clause or introduce another bill in this place to get the Government of Canada out of the business of marriage and leave it to the churches.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 8:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, like all members in the House, I listened very intently to the hon. member. In fact, all of us have to recognize the sincere concerns that we have as members of Parliament representing people across this country and, more important, representing everyone and not just particular interest groups.

I voted against Bill C-38 and I spoke in this House on trying to retain the historic and Christian definition of marriage that so many of my constituents have. Even at that time, we were recognizing that marriage in Canada had a very complex definition. Not only is our federal government involved with marriage according to our Constitution but, very significantly, each province issues marriage licences that enable people to become married. In fact, when we dealt with that issue and voted on it, we found that many provinces, Ontario being the lead, were offering marriage licences and people of the same sex were being united in matrimony.

How would the member answer a question in terms of what federal rights we have as federal politicians to deny the province of Ontario the right to issue marriage licences?

Second, it is deeply troubling to me that a government which has a leader whose responsibility is to lead Parliament, to bring bills to this House and define legislation that he wants debated in this House, has not had the leadership ability to lay a bill before the House and instead went to his House leader--

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 8:35 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues for the opportunity to speak on a matter that is very important to me and Canadians.

Our government is proceeding with a free vote on the definition of marriage, which is exactly what did not occur during the last debate on this matter. I wish I could be making this speech under better circumstances, but since that is not possible, I am going to present before the House, my constituents and this nation the unfortunate truth of the matter. The truth is the following.

This Parliament is being compromised in its democratic principles. The House of Commons of the 39th Parliament in truth would vote in favour of restoring the definition of marriage to its traditional form if an actual free vote was held. Among those who believe in restoring marriage are members from all parties. I know this because I have spent much time over the last nine months speaking with members from all parties.

I have done my research in an exhaustive manner and the unfortunate tragedy is that the true score may not be the final tally when the votes are counted tomorrow. This is because in our day, at a time of supposed intellectual freedom and open minds on a foundational issue of such importance and consequence, members of Parliament are at this very moment being pressured, either by outright and open oppression by their leaders or through hidden but powerful political pressure by these very same people, to vote against their conscience and against the will of their constituents.

I believe there are enough members in the House, composed of both men and women, who are personally and intellectually convicted that marriage should be restored to its traditional form. I believe these members represent the will of Canadians across our country, but many in this majority that I believe exists have been suppressed into silence.

If this vote fails, it will be for this reason and the traditional family will be further damaged in a time when it has been constantly under assault. So, it is with disappointment that I say that unless leaders relent or members are inspired to stand against this intellectual suppression tomorrow, the voted will of the Canadian people may in fact be thwarted again and democracy will suffer another blow as seems to have often happened on pro-family issues.

At the eleventh hour, I would like to take the opportunity to make a two-fold plea. First, I plead with opposition party leaders. Each of them hold democratic ideals. They believe in freedom of thought, honesty and integrity, which are essential ingredients for a healthy Parliament. These things they have championed in Quebec and Canada during every election campaign. Yet, at this crucial moment in Canadian history, they are either openly or discreetly attempting to seal closed the intellects and tape shut the mouths of those who oppose them.

They are seeking to impose their own will upon Canada in a manner that betrays the very founding principles of our democracy and society. They are also violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first and most fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian charter states that each person has the freedom of conscience and religion and, second, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communications. How can it be that in our Parliament, the heart of our nation, members are being forced to express and vote the very opposite of that which they believe and think?

This is not a partisan speech. I do not believe that this should be a partisan issue. I do not care at all for winning political points on this matter. How can any of us play politics with the family? On my part, I refuse. I have worked with members from all parties in the House and encouraged them on this important matter. I have found friends and allies in all parties who have fought with me in defence of traditional marriage and the family.

Of these many allies, I am fortunate that I am allowed the freedom to speak my mind on this issue and to vote as my intellect bids. I feel that we must all be allowed to do the same and so it is with trust, hope and goodness that I now make my plea. I would ask leaders of the opposition to please encourage their members to vote in accord with the way they really think.

I make another plea. I plea to every member in the House. I know that throughout the year politics and partisanship unfortunately take up much time in the House and issues sometimes suffer because of it. Today we should put that aside.

I can speak for no one but myself, though I am sure many others share my thoughts. I would like to suggest that when members cast their votes tomorrow, they should cast it as free persons, for the good of Canada, and based on their own intellect and how their conscience instructs them.

At this point, I would also like members to consider freedom of culture. As an aboriginal Canadian, I would like to point out that most within my community are in fact the most traditional, family-oriented people in the country. It is a requirement within my culture to consult one's elders on important matters such as this. My elders have clearly told me that small, isolated aboriginal communities must continue to teach their children that marriage is between a man and a woman. One elder told me, “What message would we be giving our communities if we did not teach our children the importance of traditional marriage?”

Another gave me a powerful example. She said, “Consider the colour orange. You could define it as being a combination of both red and yellow. If someone decided that orange should now also be defined as a combination of red and red or a combination of yellow and yellow, what would orange mean to you? The word would be without meaning and you would have to create an illusion in your mind to reconcile this deception”.

I can tell members that people from all backgrounds are starting to realize the brave new world that Bill C-38 brought us into. It is an undefined path with unknown consequences. One thing that has been demonstrated by Bill C-38 is that Parliament, through its elected members, has the ability to change the legal definition of marriage. It has already done so just last year.

In the future, Parliament may also choose to alter this definition, based on the will of the people or the courts. Who can predict what future rulings the courts might impose on marriage?

The Canadian Parliament has a majority of MPs who may in fact vote in favour of restoring the definition of marriage, though some will not be allowed to vote the way they want to. Tomorrow, I will be able to vote freely, with honesty and integrity. I hope that my colleagues in this House will be allowed to join me. If it is permitted and if democracy works tomorrow, then this House will move that marriage be restored in its traditional form and Canadians will prevail.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 8:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is part of the dilemma that all of us faced when we looked at this resolution. The first part of the resolution states, “That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage”. If the government had stopped at that point, that might have been palatable to all members, but it goes on to state, “without affecting civil unions”. I read the right hon. Prime Minister's platform and he specifically did not make reference to civil unions. The motion goes on to state “respecting existing same-sex marriages”. This would create three classes of citizens: those prior to the legislation; those governed by Bill C-38; and should the motion pass, those who would be part of a third group of Canadians. All of it would be unconstitutional because different classes of Canadians would be created.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 8:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government's motion to restore the traditional definition of marriage. I have some very serious concerns about the wording of this motion which I find very vague and misleading.

I would like to turn the attention of the House back to a vote we held in the last Parliament on Bill C-38, An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes While this bill contained some proposals that I agreed with, it also sought to do something that I fundamentally disagree with, namely to change the traditional definition of marriage. When that bill came before the House, I voted against it. I voted against it for a fundamental reason, namely, I believe in the traditional definition of marriage, marriage as defined between a man and a woman. For me, this is a matter of my own personal faith and conscience.

However, as both a parliamentarian and a lawyer, I believe in the equality of citizenship of all Canadians. This includes providing same gender relationships with the same legal protection and the same benefits under the law as all other Canadians enjoy.

I believe in the separation of church and state. My difficulty with C-38 was that it sought to change the definition of marriage. I fundamentally believe that churches and other religious institutions alone should define marriage. Government, on the other hand, should simply register these relationships or unions. These were some of the reasons that I voted against the legislation in 2004.

Today the Conservative motion we are debating is one which I find to be seriously flawed. As parliamentarians we have to make responsible decisions for our constituents and with our constituents. We have to know what we are voting for and with this motion we do not know. This motion does not define what the government classifies as a civil union for example. It fails to define what rights and protections would be guaranteed in these relationships. If on the one hand the House is voting on a motion to produce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage, how can the proposed law at the same time respect existing same sex marriages?

This is a clear and irresponsible contradiction which I cannot and I will not support. We are all equal before the law. The proposed legislation that the motion calls for would create three classes of citizens in Canada and this is simply unacceptable.

If the government were serious about this issue and not simply playing politics, it would have prepared legislation so that we could study the implications of voting on this motion. It has not done so. This too is unacceptable.

Sadly we have come to expect this type of underhanded approach from the government. It is a government that is dividing the country, pitting one region of the country against another, pitting one group of Canadians against the other. It is a government that is far more interested in crafting policy based on right-wing ideology than on what is best for Canadians.

I find it sad that the government is playing politics with an issue that has been so divisive for Canadians. I believe that the role of the federal government is to unite Canadians from all over the country, not to pit one group of Canadians against the other.

The motion that the government has presented to the House of Commons is divisive. It is vague. It is misleading. Frankly, it is unconstitutional and legally unenforceable.

Let me be clear in conclusion. I support the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, but I will not be a pawn in the hands of the government as it tries to drive a wedge between Canadians. I will not vote for something I have already voted against.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 7:50 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in the debate tonight.

I think it is fair to say that pretty well everyone here is suffering from debate fatigue. I have been in Parliament since 1997 and this issue has been bubbling up in one form or another since then. It appeared in resolutions. It appeared on pension rights. I was part of the justice committee that travelled across the country and got our report usurped by the decision made by the Court of Appeal. Then, of course, it culminated in Bill C-38.

This issue does keep coming up over and over again. The votes have been, to varying degrees, whipped votes. That in some respects has skewed the results, leaving those who see marriage as I do, as being between a man and a woman, somewhat dissatisfied. Had the votes not been whipped, I would suggest that possibly the results might have been different.

The other reason that this debate comes up over and over again is a resentment on the part of a lot of citizens, including my constituents, in that they do not like the courts taking unilateral decisions and in effect usurping parliamentary authority on a rights-based analysis in what is ultimately a very complex societal issue.

I respectfully submit that this is not the way in which to get societal consensus. Since over the last 10 years we have been trying to get societal consensus on this--and possibly there is some movement--I respectfully suggest that whipping votes and having courts inappropriately usurp parliamentary authority is not the way to get societal consensus.

I note that other countries, those that have adopted same sex marriage, in fact have moved legislatively. They have not had to respond to particular court decisions, so it has been the initiative of the legislatures rather than the courts. I suggest that a fear of what the people might say or think is always a bad thing in a democracy.

I want to turn to the motion itself. I would describe this motion as a bit of a false hope motion. The Prime Minister made an election promise, or more accurately a half-promise, during the last election and got himself into a bit of a jam. He was repeatedly asked whether he would use the notwithstanding clause. An honest response would have been, of course, to say that he would, because in order to effect any real change, to effect an override on Bill C-38, we are going to have to use the notwithstanding clause. If there is anyone who has a legal opinion to the contrary, I would be interested in hearing it.

Unless there is in the motion itself a commitment on the part of the Prime Minister to use the notwithstanding clause, I would respectfully suggest that this is a debate that really is largely a rhetorical debate, with much sound and fury signifying not too much at all.

Simultaneously we have heard from a lot of people who are wrapping themselves in the charter. Generally they are the people who oppose the motion. My only comment to those who oppose the motion while wrapping themselves in the charter is that part of the charter is the notwithstanding clause. The framers of the Constitution, the framers of the charter, felt that there was a necessary override at times. That is the only way and the only basis on which those framers would allow a charter to come forward.

Essentially we have a debate between those who conveniently ignore the notwithstanding clause and a Prime Minister who will not say whether he will use it.

I would like to frame my views somewhat differently, though. As we know, a lot of politicians get criticized for being less than forthright, for constantly bobbing and weaving and taking somewhat different positions, and I can see why that is, because to take a clear and unequivocal position on an issue such as this is simply to be held up to public ridicule, in part, and no one likes to be ridiculed publicly.

So at the risk of painting a target on my head, here is what I believe. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, period. I do not think I can make it any shorter or clearer than that. I may have to be taken out to re-education camp, but nevertheless I still believe that.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and it is the central institution in society by which society perpetuates itself. That is the core reason for marriage. It is the central bridging institution. It bridges between the genders and it bridges back into previous generations and it bridges into future generations. I take those as self-evident truths. That is the core reason for marriage.

And that is why society effectively builds up a legal, a cultural and even a religious net around the couple: because it has to. The laws and norms that are around the institution of marriage between a man and a woman exist to protect particularly the women and the children, who are products of that marriage or who enter into marriage, during their vulnerabilities and their dependency.

Effectively, the laws and the cultural norms, and even the religious norms, mean that a man cannot walk away from a marriage relationship without having the law and the culture impose this web of obligations and responsibilities on him. Similarly, we could say the same thing for a woman walking away from a marriage.

The core purpose of marriage is societal perpetuation, and if marriage did not exist, we would have to invent it. Every society that survives in fact creates a strong web of laws and obligations, and societies survive only if they do so. If marriage is just about a couple, then we simply would not need this net of cultural and legal obligations and norms.

I want to turn now to the exceptions, because I know that of course some marriages do not have children. They are childless. That still does not detract from the core purpose of marriage. It is simply an exception to the norm.

And of course common law relationships produce children, but I respectfully submit that common law relationships are statistically not as stable as marriage, for all its flaws, and they are more difficult particularly for women and produce inferior outcomes for children. There are notable exceptions, and I do not want my email to be busted overnight with people who say, “But my kid is perfectly fine and we had a great relationship in a common law relationship”. As a statistical truth, this is true.

As well, single people produce children, but as we know, parenting is a tough slog when two people are raising a child. When it is one person raising a child, it is tougher again by some exponential factor. Society reacts by stepping into the breach, albeit, how shall we say it, inadequately, and in some manner replacing either the missing mother or father.

So I go back to my central point that marriage, for all its faults and all its failures, is the best institution for crossing the gender barrier and for the continuity of society.

The proponents of same sex marriage have been successful, however, in limiting the debate to simply a rights analysis only. Their argument starts with a conclusion. The conclusion is that marriage is simply a relationship between two people.

Therefore, it follows, as we back up through the argument, that if it is merely that--and I do not believe that, as I hope I have demonstrated--if it is merely a relationship between two people, then it matters not what gender the people are. And therefore, we arrive at the conclusion that it is discriminatory to have a situation in which marriage is only between men and women and that it can be between any gender if we follow the logic of that analysis. I respectfully suggest that this is in fact dubious logic and it guts the core reason for marriage.

There will be consequences. We cannot renovate the institution with nothing happening or expecting that nothing will happen. I expect the first consequence will be that heterosexuals will accelerate their detachment from marriage. There is a trend that is already there. We see more and more couples living together. We see more and more couples living together and then getting married. In both cases, there is less stability in those relationships.

The second, and more troubling, consequence is that we will need to redefine parenthood and limit children's rights. We already see the same sex couples, who are inherently sterile, asking courts to declare that their child, conceived by whatever means, is in fact their child, regardless of the biological rights. As Margaret Somerville has said, “society to become complicit in intentionally depriving children of their rights with respect to their biological family”.

I will be supporting this deeply flawed motion in spite of its political implications. I wish the Prime Minister had been more honest with Canadians and spelled out the legal and constitutional implications. This is a mischievous, duplicitous and dishonest motion, but regretfully I will have to support because it is in fact a proxy for the marriage debate.

I hope I made myself clear as to what I believe and why I believe it.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 7:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite already knows, I have been very clear in stating my position on this particular motion. I will not be supporting the motion. I think Bill C-38 as it stands will stand before the charter. I think it is constitutional. It has been approved and I think it will be reaffirmed by the Parliament of Canada.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 7:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, having listened to much of the debate that has occurred so far this evening, I must say that there are a couple of points that I fail to understand. I fail to understand the point of view of individuals who feel that recognizing same gender civil marriage somehow threatens the traditional definition of religious marriage. I do not mix those two up and I do not understand the comparison.

At the same time, there has been much said from the official opposition that somehow we should not have this debate, that somehow, simply because there is a piece of legislation passed, Parliament has no right nor obligation nor responsibility ever to look at that issue again.

I would be of the mind frame that would rather we did not open this issue. I am not ashamed to say that. I quite believe in what I say. At the same time, for my colleagues who share my point of view, I would urge them to debate this issue on the merits of the issue, not on trying to characterize one party as being ideologically to one side or the other, or one party being right and one party being wrong but to actually debate the merits of the issue.

Can we debate the issue? Of course we can. We have the responsibility as parliamentarians to have a free, open and respectful debate in this House. I believe, quite frankly, we could do that if we strive to do that.

For me, the issue of same sex civil marriage is settled. It has been settled by the courts and it has been settled by the Parliament of Canada. It was publicly debated for two and a half years and in 2003 our justice committee from the Parliament of Canada held nationwide hearings. We debated this issue to the limit of tolerance in the House of Commons.

Previous to this debate, our provincial courts, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, the Supreme Court of Ontario, the Supreme Court of Quebec and Yukon Territory had already recognized same gender civil marriage. Eight provinces and one territory in this country recognized same gender civil marriage before Bill C-38 was passed by the Parliament of Canada.

The Parliament of Canada had a responsibility either to recognize same gender civil marriage or challenge the lower court hearings at the Supreme Court. It chose not to challenge. The provinces did not challenge it. There was no reason to challenge it.

I think, with respect, that Canadians have already made their minds up on this debate. I believe Canadians are a generous and open society. I believe that at the beginning of this debate there was a lot of division. There was a lot of ignorance. There was a lot of intolerance. The good thing about this debate is that it has absolutely shelved a lot of that. It has allowed people of common spirit and good will to find a cooperative approach to this issue, to recognize the value in one another's points of view, and quite frankly, to move on in a positive way.

If only Conservative voters had been polled, I think we would have found a discrepancy. Perhaps the majority of Conservative voters were actually opposed to same gender civil marriage. However, if those same voters were polled today, as has been done, in Atlantic Canada in particular but in the country as a whole, it is now fifty-fifty. There are 47% of voters for and 47% of voters against same gender civil marriage. I would conclude that has changed. Through this bill, the debate and discussion around same gender civil marriage has become more open, more inclusive and more tolerant.

If we look in particular at Atlantic Canadians, 69% of them are opposed to re-opening this debate. That is from an Environics poll. That is not a poll that someone made up. That is a legitimate, open and important poll that has to be put on the record in this debate.

Allow me to be clear on a couple of issues. I keep hearing about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms say? Subparagraph 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives extremely clear and unambiguous protection for religious freedom. People who say differently, I would concur are using scare tactics. Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples in Canada will decide their own futures on religious marriage, as they should and as they have up to this point.

It is extremely important to mention that we have already had same gender religious marriage prior to passing Bill C-38 in Canada. There has been same gender religious marriage for years in the United Church of Canada and in some of the Anglican Churches in Canada. Parliament had an obligation to extend the same right that was protected by the right of religion to civil unions or civil marriages, and it did that as it had that responsibility.

The previous bill was timely and warranted. Not only that but it was a responsibility that Parliament had. I was surprised at the time. I have seen a lot of Liberal legislation come through the House and for the first time we had a bill that had real clarity of language, lacked ambiguity, and opened the door to an extension of tolerance enjoyed by all Canadians to a certain group in society when we recognized same gender marriage. Most importantly, at the same time there was clear protection for religious marriage because of the protection of the charter. We have moved forward in an important way.

Before closing I would like to say that I cannot agree that this motion would restore the traditional definition of marriage because, quite frankly, the so-called traditional definition of marriage is not, has not, and will not be threatened.

I believe that if this motion were to pass, it would immediately lead to a court challenge that would put this issue on the table for years. What are we going to do with the 12,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already married in this country? How can we take a right away from them or provide a right to others that we cannot extend to gay and lesbian couples? It is very problematic.

I know firsthand the entrenched views of many people who would deny the right of civil marriage to same gender couples. Yet, I know there is a lot of tolerance in this country. Often I hear there is less tolerance in rural Canada and I frankly disagree with that.

I think rural Canada is even more tolerant than the rest of the country. We have a long and proud history of being tolerant of our neighbours and of other points of view. I will say in this place that we should extend that tolerance to all people in Canada.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the perspective the member for Davenport has on this. I know he was here for the speech of the Conservative member who spoke immediately before him, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. A theme of that member's speech was “the blind dash toward setting this legislation in the last Parliament”. He talked about the undue haste that he thought the 38th Parliament had undertaken in its work on Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act.

As an openly gay man, I can say that the blind dash toward equality for gay and lesbian people in Canada does not seem like a very fast march to me. The 32 years that gay and lesbian people in Canada have worked to secure equal marriage rights does not seem like a very fast pace for those of us who have been fighting to see the full equality of our citizenship recognized and to see that we have equal access to key institutions of Canadian society like marriage.

I wonder if the member might comment on this supposed blind dash toward getting this legislation through the last Parliament. I hasten to remind him that 98 Conservative members spoke in the debate in the last Parliament. I think the Conservative Party had just over 100 members in the last Parliament.

We had weeks of hearings before the special legislative committee that was working on this. We often sat well into the night on that committee hearing from witnesses, a majority of whom raised concerns about the legislation.

Could the member comment on this supposed blind dash toward this legislation?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 7:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address this motion. I believe the issue of traditional marriage is of crucial importance to all Canadians.

Since my election to office in January, there has been no other topic that has generated such a constant flow of mail, email, telephone calls and face to face dialogue as the issue of marriage.

I am relieved to say that finally the voices of Kitchener—Conestoga will be heard. The people in my riding have spoken clearly. I am proud to finally be the voice of Kitchener—Conestoga. In the spirit of being that voice, let me take some time to speak from my heart. Let me share some of my deeply personal beliefs and convictions about the merits of reopening the debate on traditional marriage.

Some people would want us to believe that traditional marriage is something about which Canadians have forgotten. That is simply not true. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Canadians care deeply about this issue. It may be an issue that members of Parliament would like to put behind them. It may be an issue about which special lobby groups would like to see us forget. However, let me clear, it is an issue Canadians are not going to abandon.

I have been serving as an MP for less than a year. In that time over 1,000 constituents have taken the time to write me a letter, or pick up the phone, or stop me on the street, and they say quite clearly, “I care about traditional marriage”.

I have been asked about this issue by young married couples who are raising children. These families are deeply concerned about their children and future grandchildren if the traditional family is abandoned.

I have personally met with young people. These are teenagers and young adults. They are contemplating marriage and have taken the time to come to me and tell me that they are concerned about the future of our country. They come to my office and thank me for not turning my back on them. They thank me for giving them a voice. These young people want to see the definition of marriage protected as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Young people of Canada know this: strong communities are built on strong families and a strong Canada is built on strong families.

It was not very long ago that a resolution came to the House on the issue of marriage. And it was in this very House less than eight years ago in June of 1999 that we agreed that marriage would be defined as “one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. The vast majority of members in this House voted in favour of that resolution. In fact, I can look across the floor into the eyes of my colleagues who stood up and said that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

However, as members will know, in June 2005 there was a hasty adoption of Bill C-38. It is my deeply held personal belief that many members decided to turn their back on that previous commitment. They turned their back on their constituents and they turned their back on the Canadian people. Bill C-38 was rushed into law, but the bill did not have the benefit of complete debate.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had conducted hearings across Canada, meeting with hundreds of Canadians from coast to coast. The committee spent untold hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, 465 witnesses appeared, 250 briefs were presented and thousands of letters were received.

Unfortunately, all that work and effort was ignored. All that input was never compiled into a report and presented to Parliament. In other words, the committee hearings were nothing more than a sham and they deceived Canadians by allowing them to think that they were part of an important national debate. If democracy is to be well served on a matter of such fundamental importance as marriage, then we need to know the views of Canadian citizens.

The issue before us today and the vote tomorrow is not a vote on traditional marriage, but it is a vote to allow debate on traditional marriage. While I personally continue to favour a traditional definition of marriage, I think it is a travesty that we could turn our back on having an open debate on this subject. Democracy deserves no less.

My request, and the request of millions of Canadians, is for Parliament to reopen this debate so the report can be tabled and Canadians can all have real input on this important matter. Thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent conducting these hearings. Therefore, in the interest of wise stewardship alone, we owe it to all Canadians to have this work completed. However, there is much more at stake than simply getting good value for money in having this report tabled.

Another key factor to consider is the fact that many members were not given their free vote on this important issue. If my current information is accurate, it appears that the so-called New Democratic Party will not allow democracy within their own ranks.

Over and over, Canadians have been given a hollow promise that their individual rights will not be trampled and that no one will be forced to act against their own conscience or religious beliefs.

Does it not seem ironic that in the very place where those hollow assurances originate, in the House of Commons of Canada, that this core individual right is denied to individual members of Parliament? How can we reassure Canadians that their values, their individual rights and their religious convictions will not similarly be trampled?

It is true that Bill C-38 was enacted into law, but does it follow that this law is never open to further scrutiny? I know every member of the House understands that the practice of periodic review of legislation is simply good government practice. I believe any governing body has an obligation to review and revise its policies from time to time. Do we not owe it to our constituents to ensure that the law of the land is achieving its intended goal? Do we not have an obligation to allow parliamentarians to vote in a way that truly reflects the spirit of leadership we bring to this position? If Bill C-38 introduced worthy legislation, why would we not allow a full and open debate? Let the law be examined on its merits, good or bad.

There are simply too many factors that were overlooked and ignored in the previous government's haste to rush this legislation. There are too many questions that still face the House. Yes, we can choose to ignore those questions again, but just because we choose to turn our back on them does not make them go away.

There are questions that remain unanswered. Have other jurisdictions experienced any negative consequences from implementing similar legislation? If we turn our back on this debate, we will never know. Did we consider the potential consequences for all segments of society in our haste to change thousands of years of traditional marriage? Did we overlook the needs of the most vulnerable among us, young children? Unless we have a full debate, we will never know. We have an obligation to examine the facts before we make decisions.

The issue of human rights has been raised as the reason that we cannot deny same sex couples the right to marry. If we are to speak of rights in the House, we need to include the rights of children.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights specifically states that the rights of children must take priority over the rights of adults because they are more vulnerable and require the support of the state.

Multiple studies have taken a good hard look at the impact of traditional marriage on childhood development. Yet, unless we vote to reopen debate on this issue, the House will never have an opportunity to consider what those studies say.

The debate over traditional marriage should be a debate about rights, I agree. However, in the blind dash to put a patchwork of rights together, have we ignored the rights of children? Again, let me make a direct appeal to my fellow parliamentarians. For the sake of future generations, for the sake of our country, let us remember the children.

I do not want to stand in the House and have young people come to me in 10 or 15 years and say, “You turned your back on us”. I cannot allow that to happen.

The responsibility of any elected official is to represent the views of their constituents. The people of Kitchener—Conestoga have spoken very clearly. They have spoken repeatedly. They want to open the debate on traditional marriage.

As I walk through the streets of Breslau, New Hamburg, Wellesley or St. Jacobs, constituents come to me and thank me for finally giving them a voice. As I sit in my constituency office in Kitchener, people will call me or drop in just to express their support of traditional marriage. As their elected representative I am asking: let us have an open and honest debate.

Canadians expect an open and honest debate, followed by a truly democratic vote, not a whipped vote by an autocratic party leader determined to satisfy special interests. The House of Commons, the highest pinnacle of democracy, deserves nothing less.

We need a debate to review the impact, not just on people who wish to marry but one that also reviews the impact of that decision on the most vulnerable among us, our children.

Again, my request is simple and clear. For the sake of democracy, for the sake of our children, for the sake of future generations and for the sake of the future of our country, let us have a full, open and honest debate.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member that the motions they are putting forward in this House will not promote openness or unity, either in the country or in the House. This motion is very divisive.

The motion that is put before the House today reads:

That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

What is this? The government does not agree with Bill C-38 which became the Civil Marriage Act. The Conservative Party did not agree with it when it was put before the House. There were a few very courageous people on the Conservative side who voted with the Liberal government at that time to pass the bill. The Conservatives did not agree with it. They know, as I do, that it is very difficult to change. Rather than have the courage to do what the government should do and propose a bill, the Conservatives have proposed a motion.

I will make the government and the Prime Minister very happy because I will vote against this motion, which is exactly how the Conservatives want us to vote. They do not want this motion to go through. The Conservatives know that if this motion went through, they would have to go to the next step. They would have to put a bill before the House and they have already said that they will not.

The primary responsibility of a government is to put before the House a bill that is constitutionally valid. The Conservatives know that they could never get the Department of Justice to recommend that a bill which reinstates the traditional definition of marriage without using the notwithstanding clause is constitutionally valid. They would have to fire everyone and hire again. They are not above that, but I do not think they will. They will not do that.

I do not believe that reopening the debate would change the outcome. The process would be harmful to many. The House has spoken. This issue has been debated at length and Canadians have made up their minds on this matter.

The Conservative motion is disrespectful of the democratic process and undermines the charter, the very principles upon which our political system operates.

Legislation to amend civil marriage has been before Parliament since 2003. It has been considered by parliamentarians since 2002. Draft legislation was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada, I believe in 2003. The matter was debated at length in the House of Commons and was sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where we heard countless hours of testimony from expert witnesses on all sides of the issue.

Parliamentarians had the opportunity to speak at length on this issue. We have had a full, open and honest debate.

In June 2005 I voted in favour of the current law at third reading. My decision to support Bill C-38 was not made lightly. This has been a very difficult issue for many Canadians, involving deeply held personal and religious beliefs and convictions.

I made my decision after hearing from many of my constituents on both sides of this issue and participating in hours of debate here in the House of Commons.

One of my earliest concerns, echoed by many of my constituents, was that the same sex marriage bill would compel religious officials to perform marriage ceremonies that are contrary to their beliefs. Our current legislation affirms the charter guarantee of religious freedom and has been guided by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court has declared unanimously that the guarantee of religious freedom in section 2(a) of the charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

Religious leaders who preside over civil and religious marriage ceremonies must and will be guided by their own beliefs. If they do not wish to perform marriages for same sex couples, it is their right to refuse to do so, plain and simple.

The charter is one of rights, but it is also one of freedoms. Ours is a secular society and the separation of church and state is the strongest protection of our freedom of religion. The government does not dictate the terms of our beliefs, nor does it attempt to control religion.

The current same sex legislation is about civil rights, not religious marriage. The same sex civil marriage law is accepted as law in eight jurisdictions across Canada.

My job as a parliamentarian and legislator is to protect the rights of each and every Canadian and defend the charter in its entirety. The charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities, regardless of their numbers, were never subjected to the will of the majority. We must not shirk that responsibility.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has demonstrated that equality rights are not a top priority for his government. When the Conservatives eliminated the court challenges program, they stripped minority groups of the ability to challenge legislation that infringed on their rights.

The court challenges program provided financial assistance to individuals and groups who were pursuing legal action to advance language and equality rights under the Constitution. The right to same sex marriage is one of the issues that have been brought before the Supreme Court thanks to this valuable program. People objecting or seeking their rights under religious beliefs had the same access to that program when it was funded.

The Conservatives have sent a message that financial resources are a factor in determining the extension of charter rights. This is unacceptable.

In December 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples have the same right to civil marriage as do opposite sex couples. The current government wishes to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage, but it would serve no purpose to legislate a definition of marriage that is not consistent with the charter, because it would be overturned by the courts.

The Prime Minister has stated that he would not use the notwithstanding clause to bar gay marriage, but constitutional experts tell us that new law can only be passed if the clause is invoked.

As I see it, this is a disingenuous motion aimed at keeping an election promise to Conservative supporters. I have said to my constituents, and I will repeat it here, that the only time I would support in such a matter the use of the notwithstanding clause would be to defend the rights of the independence of the church, should they ever be attacked. The Prime Minister is again pandering to his base. We saw it this fall with the $2 billion cuts to our valued social programs. Even worse, he is using a deeply sensitive and divisive issue to do so.

The bottom line is that the definition of marriage has already been changed. It is now a matter of overriding a right that is guaranteed by the charter, a right that is already in place. The issue is not whether rights are to be granted; it is whether they should be taken away. Our rights cannot be subject to political whim.

More than 12,000 gay couples have wed in Canada since same sex marriage was legalized last year. Furthermore, Bill C-38 made universal across Canada a law that is already accepted as law in eight jurisdictions, including my home province of Nova Scotia. In September 2004 the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled that same sex civil marriage was legal in our province.

The charter is a living document and must evolve and reflect the changing nature of society. As we are well aware, it was not until 1929 that women were finally declared persons under the law in Canada. This historic decision established a principle of understanding that justice requires judges to consider an evolving social context when interpreting the law. Lord Sankey of the Privy Council said it best:

The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours, but it must be remembered that the necessity of the times often forced on man customs which in later years were not necessary.

Canada is a progressive and inclusive country that values the rights of individuals. Our laws must reflect equality as we understand it today and not as we understood it decades or centuries ago. Canadians have spoken on this issue and democracy has prevailed. The Conservative government must stop playing politics with our rights and move forward, not backward, on an issue that has been thoroughly examined, debated and passed through this House and the Senate.

In summary, what we are debating here today is not changing the current definition. That is done by a bill, an act of Parliament, that is presented either by the government or by a member of Parliament as a private member's bill. It is debated in this House of Commons. It goes to committee. Experts can come and testify. Individuals with concerns can come and testify. It gets more debate at third reading. It gets three readings in the Senate. We have gone through that process.

This is a motion intended to divide Canadians, to divide members of the House and not change the status of laws in Canada.

MarriageGovernment Orders

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

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, the minister is mistaken. A number of votes have been free on this side of the House, on the opposition side. Tomorrow evening's vote will also be free. The vote on Bill C-38 was a free vote. Members could vote as they saw fit. The ministers should vote in solidarity and such has been the case for all the bills proposed by the government during this session, including the highly important motion recognizing Quebeckers as a nation within Canada. Some said this had important ramifications, but did not say what they were. But they did say that it was very important.

Was this a free vote? No. A minister even had to step down over this issue. It is completely in line with parliamentary tradition for the former government to have called for cabinet solidarity when it introduced Bill C-38. That is what this government has been doing since the beginning of the parliamentary session.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 6:45 p.m.
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Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, like a number of my colleagues in this House, I would like to take part in the debate on the following motion:

—That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

Many Canadians must be wondering why it is important to consult this House again on this issue. After all, less than two years ago, this issue was debated and voted on in this House, in the form of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. At that time, Parliament passed a law defining marriage as follows:

Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.

This definition of marriage includes same-sex unions. As I had not yet been elected at that point, I can express my opinion on this issue today.

First, I would like to say a few words about the motion itself. It is important to point out that the motion will not change the definition of marriage. It seeks simply to ask members whether they want to reopen the debate in order to develop a bill to restore the traditional definition of marriage.

The members of this House have two choices when they vote this week on this motion. For those who support the traditional definition of marriage—the union between a man and a woman, which excludes all same-sex couples—the choice is to vote for the motion. For those who believe that the definition of marriage goes beyond the traditional definition and includes same-sex couples, the choice is to respect the existing law on civil marriage and vote against this motion.

I want to respect the current law, which is in line with my personal values and protects the fundamental rights of Canadians.

I am convinced that we do not have to amend this law, because it still respects the traditional definition of marriage.

I, myself, have been married for more than 25 years. I am the mother of three children and I believe that this act in no way undermines the importance of my union and the solidity of my family. I sincerely believe that the Civil Marriage Act continues to enable all heterosexual couples to marry, as they have done for a long time. The current legislation enables same sex couples to benefit from the same right.

The real question that needs to be asked is this: does the government have the moral authority to decide whether two people, a man and a woman, or same sex partners, can be legally united? In my opinion, the answer is clear and simple: two people who want to live together within a civil marriage, regardless of their sexual orientation, must be able to do so without the interference of the State.

I am one of those who firmly believe in the separation of church and state. In my view, one person’s religion must not become another person’s law.

While the debate deals with a motion that was tabled by the government, I want to emphasize that the government has taken no position on this question. Unlike the previous government, all members on this side of the House, including ministers, are free to vote according to their conscience. In that regard, I must severely criticize the Liberal government for having presented that legislation to the House without allowing a truly free vote on such a sensitive issue.

I am proud to belong to a government that believes that matters of personal conviction should be decided by a truly free vote. As a minister in this government, I feel privileged to be able to express my views on this issue and to vote freely on the motion tabled by this same government.

In closing, I congratulate the government for allowing members of this House to express their points of view of in a spirit of mutual respect.

I take this opportunity to inform the House that I do not wish to reopen the debate, that I intend to respect the current legislation on civil marriage and, consequently, I will be voting against this motion.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Burnaby—Douglas both for his comments and for all the work that he has done for so many years on this issue in standing up and speaking of equality rights for gays and lesbians. The speech he made was very moving, as were the beautiful vows that he talked about between such loving couples that he has the pleasure to know.

I myself have had the pleasure of knowing many gay and lesbian couples over the years. I have seen at first hand their love for one another and their pride in being able to share that love in a way that is equal in society, in being able to take part in marriage vows and to feel like they belong in society as equals with the rest of us.

I want to ask my hon. colleague one question. It has been over a year now since the passing of Bill C-38. Has he has seen anything that would give him any indication, as some people have said, that the state of marriage in Canada is in jeopardy, that there is a crisis in marriage? I want to ask him if he has seen anything to give him pause there.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, religious belief is a wonderful thing. It is the conviction that there is life after death. I think that in the Catholic faith, in the Christian faith, there is an ideal of charity that is certainly hidden behind a more official stance.

When we held hearings in 2002, and more recently on Bill C-38, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops came out against same-sex marriage. It did so very respectfully, explaining that, because Catholicism is a revealed religion that has holy scriptures, it had to interpret those scriptures fairly literally, and it did not recognize same-sex marriage. I repeat, that is not our concern. As parliamentarians, we respect freedom of religion.

But Canada has no state religion. The world view offered by the Catholic faith or any other form of religion can certainly influence individuals' personal convictions, but it can never serve as a basis for public policy.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hochelaga is always very articulate, strong and clear in his expressions in the House, particularly on this issue. He has been a leader in the House, in Quebec and in Canada on the issues of gay and lesbian rights. I like to think of him as one of the heroes of the transformation in the situation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in Canada both in this place and in the community.

I know he has been part of the debates. He went through the long history in a very careful way. I think he made a very strong case for the actions of the current government in the past being very much in opposition to the full participation of gay and lesbian people in our society. The record is pathetic, to put it mildly. I know he was part of many of those discussions.

One of the arguments being made now is that somehow in the last Parliament the effort spent on dealing with Bill C-38 was somehow deficient, that we did not give it due diligence. I know in his remarks he touched on the time and effort that went into Bill C-38. He was a part of cross-country hearings that heard from 467 witnesses. However, could he expand on the criticism that due diligence was not done when this issue was before the last Parliament?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the fact that someone is opposed to the right to marry of gays and lesbians is not a sign of homophobia. However, when a government or an official opposition votes nine times against the rights of a sexual minority, then I think there are grounds for speaking of homophobia.

I have made a list of the nine times when the Conservatives, and before them the Alliance members, voted against the rights of gays and lesbians. If at some point the Bloc Québécois decided to vote nine times against the rights of native peoples, I believe that it would be said that the Bloc Québécois is against native peoples. If at some point we were to vote nine times against women's rights, I think it would be said that the Bloc Québécois was against women's rights.

Having said that, I repeat that the Supreme Court was clear on the fact that churches and religious denominations are not required to officiate or to celebrate marriages if this runs counter to their dogma or the teachings of their church. That was included in Bill C-38. The freedom of religion provision in the Charter does not require it.

The Supreme Court was clear. Bill C-38 is clear. In any event, what we are discussing today and what we discussed in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 is civil marriage celebrated in courthouses before notaries, prothonotaries or laypersons hired by the government. That is what we are talking about.

Yes, I respect the right of a person committed to a specific religion not to celebrate religious marriages.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

And I do not say that it is a matter of homophobia not to support that kind of marriage. However, the system has been tested nine times.

I am curious to see whether the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works will have the courage that he had when he was on the other side of the House. I think that he will because he is a courageous man, but I am curious to see which way he will vote tonight.

Allow me to recall all the votes that the Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance have recorded; all the votes that they cast to collectively deny rights in matters of labour relations, hate crimes, collective agreements or on the subject of surrogate mothers in connection with new reproductive technologies or again in terms of the Criminal Code. In a systematic manner, the Conservatives have told our fellow Canadians that they do not recognize persons of homosexual orientation as citizens. It is unbelievable. It is unbelievable that a political party could act in such a way in a democracy such as Canada.

In 1995, I tabled a motion calling on the government to take the necessary measures to legally recognize same sex spouses. All the Conservatives—who at that time were members of the Progressive Conservative party—voted against that motion.

On June 8, 1999, an hon. member, Eric Lowther, tabled a motion proposing:

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.

That was a second denial of the rights of gays and lesbians: 53 Reform members voted against the motion, as did 13 Conservative party members. At that time, they were two separate parties.

Third, in 2003, a motion by the current Prime Minister reiterated the debate in the same terms. It was the third denial of the right of gays and lesbians to civil institutions. That is clear.

Fourth, in 1995, Allan Rock tabled Bill C-41 to reform sentencing, specifically, section 718, which recognizes certain aggravating circumstances when crimes are committed. The gay community mobilized in favour of anti-hate, anti-racist legislation. The government wanted to include beating someone up because of their sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance in the Criminal Code. They voted against it. Can you imagine that? We were in a situation where people were being beaten up. In Ottawa, some people had been thrown off a bridge. Nevertheless the Conservatives voted against the addition to the Criminal Code of provisions respecting hate crimes, and they voted unanimously.

In 1996, further to a court decision, moreover, Bill C-33, amending the Canadian Human Rights Act, proposed the addition of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The Conservatives did not want sexual orientation to be recognized as a prohibited ground of discrimination. We were a long way from the question of marriage.

I repeat, every time they have had the opportunity, the Conservatives, almost unanimously, have behaved like institutional homophobes. This alone makes them quite unfit and unworthy of forming a respectable government respected by our fellow citizens.

The conservatives voted against the addition in collective agreements of rights for gays and lesbians. In 68 laws, they voted against the recognition of common-law spouses and therefore homosexual common-law spouses. They voted against the bill by our former colleague for Burnaby—Douglas, a riding now brilliantly represented by his NDP successor. They voted against the provisions concerning hate propaganda. Of course they voted against Bill C-38 almost unanimously.

So what message is it sending? What message does it send when a government says that, whatever the circumstances, whether we are talking about education, the Criminal Code, labour relations, emotional relations or hate propaganda, it will never respect the rights of one category of citizens? What they said is that the simple fact of feeling sexual desire that is different from that of the majority makes us less entitled. That is what the Conservatives have said throughout their history. That is what is quite incredible.

Imagine what that means for someone who is 14, 15 or 16 years old and discovers that he or she is homosexual. No later than last year, we were reminded that 30% of young people who are homosexual still put an end to their lives. They commit suicide. Is it not our responsibility as parliamentarians to do something about that? This is not about promoting conversion therapies. This is not about telling heterosexuals that they should undertake to become homosexuals. That is not what we are talking about. We are speaking to our homosexual citizens.

We can argue about whether it is hereditary or whether it is acquired behaviour. There is literature on this. Opinions may vary. One thing is sure, though, and that is that I will never have any respect for people who rise in the House and say that just because a man is gay or a woman is a lesbian, they do not have the same rights. That is the essence of the debate. When we are seated in Parliament, the only value that should motivate us is the right to equality.

There is no state religion in Canada, regardless of what people might say or think. It is not because people belong to a certain religion that they can deny the rights of other citizens. That was the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court.

The previous government made use of its prerogative under section 53 of the Supreme Court Act to ask the court to provide answers to certain questions.

The first question was whether marriage and particularly civil marriage as defined in clause 1 of Bill C-38 was a federal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court said yes. I respectfully admit to my hon. colleagues, of course, that a person does not need a doctorate in law to know that.

The next question was whether freedom of religion could give various religious denominations a right not to perform a religious marriage. The Supreme Court explained, with the supporting jurisprudence, that neither Bill C-38 nor the existing Charter of Rights and Freedoms obliged anyone, any member of the clergy, to perform a religious marriage, regardless of their religious denomination.

I would not want to live in a society where, because of my religious convictions, I was obliged to do things that are contrary to the tenets of my own faith. It is entirely reasonable, desirable and fortunate that the Supreme Court answered that the Charter or Bill C-38 would never oblige members of the clergy to perform marriages against their will. The Supreme Court said this, and obviously that had been confirmed by a number of expert witnesses.

We must remember that in 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice held hearings across Canada. We heard 467 witnesses. Obviously there were witnesses who had some expertise. It was explained to us, over and over again, that despite what was being said by the official opposition of that time and also by certain ministers, freedom of religion would never require that there be an obligation to perform marriages.

The Progressive Conservative Party has a record of bad faith. There is a desire to deny rights, and to sow the seeds of dissension and division. That is the purpose of the motion. Let us look at the dishonesty of the motion.

That this House call on the government to introduce legislation—

They have not yet introduced their legislation. They are asking for permission to introduce it.

—to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions—

Let us talk about civil unions. Eight provinces, including Quebec, have enacted various legislation that has recognized various types of unions between persons of the same sex. This may take the form of civil unions or registered partnerships, but all of the existing legislation has two characteristics. It is never a religious marriage. It is therefore not marriage. People sometimes told us that civil union is marriage. Civil union is close to marriage, in terms of the rights protected. Most of the provinces have granted the same rights in respect of inheritance, access to health care and pension rights. Granted, the provinces that have legislated in relation to this have given the same rights to common law spouses, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

But can we understand why people want to get married? This is where what the Conservatives are saying is totally incoherent. If the institution of marriage is an institution that should be celebrated for heterosexuals, surely it should be celebrated for homosexuals. It is not true that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation. Otherwise, just like that, we would be saying that all of our fellow citizens who do not have children will be excluded and disqualified. There are people who want to get married, people who have been married for years and other people who will get married in the future, who will not have children. That is entirely their right. It takes nothing away from the legitimacy of their union.

I would say that parenting skills have nothing to do with sexual desire. That has been documented for a number of years. How can we think that the way that an individual decides to express himself or herself sexually could qualify him or her to be a good or bad parent? If that is the case, there would never be any homosexuals in our society. In my case, my parents were heterosexuals. I was reared in a heterosexual family and I have a very heterosexual twin brother, not polygamous, but very heterosexual.

Surely you will understand that homosexuality is not something that is transmitted within a family. One thing is certain, however, and I will say this again, I firmly believe that when we are sitting in Parliament, we may not get up and tell people that they have fewer rights because they are different sexually. That is what the Conservatives want to do. The reference in the motion to civil unions is not appropriate, because the federal government has no responsibility for that. It is under the jurisdiction of the provincial governments and there are eight provinces that have legislated in that regard.

Let us look at what it says a little further on in the motion. In order to get the support of other parties, it says that not only should the government introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions, which do not have anything to do with marriage and do not concern the federal government, it adds: “while respecting existing … marriages”. Forgive me for saying it, but it would be pretty unbelievable if anyone thought we had the power as legislators to say that.

Do you know how many people got married in Canada? In November, there were precisely 12,438 people who got married. Obviously we cannot tell them to end their union. The first principle is that a law is never retroactive. We cannot say that to the 12,438 people who got married. There are some in all the provinces, even in very conservative Alberta where 409 people got married. I do not think that there were many Conservatives invited to the weddings of those 409 people. So there are some in every province, and it is pretty dishonest and pretty misleading to include in a motion that someone even thinks that they are not going to undo the unions of people who are married.

I repeat, I think that it is not to the government’s credit to reopen the file on same sex marriage. In my opinion, once and for all, we must say that as parliamentarians we believe in the most complete equality among people.

Every time there is talk of making some social advances, I am sure that our elders will recall how some people behaved when the question of legalizing divorce came up. It used to be that getting divorced involved private legislative initiatives and was more a matter of Senate responsibility.

I am convinced that people will remember how the most conservative minds reacted when the subject of establishing a lottery system arose. I am convinced that people will remember how the most conservative elements in our society behaved when there was talk of the equality of women. Seventy-five years ago, women were not even recognized as legal persons. Women had no standing in court and could not run for office.

Yet, all these changes were made in the name of the ideals of tolerance, equality and generosity and we are all the better for them. In my opinion, the best thing that can happen in life is to fall in love because it is when we love that we desire to do things for our community. To deny individuals the right to be in love is quite shameful and I hope our citizens will remember that.

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister if he could tell me what is the crisis in marriage that the government is responding to? Have we seen any reason to reopen this debate at this point? Is there a decline in marriages? Are people abandoning the institution of marriage because of Bill C-38? Is there any documentation to show that there is any kind of a crisis in marriage?

Have any religious institutions, priests, rabbis or ministers been forced to marry a gay or lesbian couple when that was against their religious belief, their theology or their religious practice? What is the absolute crisis that necessitates us spending this debate time today and dealing with the possibility of reopening a long debate, when we have just completed that in the last Parliament with great diligence and great care?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 3:40 p.m.
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Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

moved:

That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to begin the debate on today's motion. As the sponsor of the motion, I will like to take a few moments to explain to the House why the government is moving forward with today's motion and the government's position with respect to it.

Some members may ask why the House needs to be consulted on this issue, After all, less than two years ago, this issue was debated and voted on in this House, in the form of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act.

At that time, a majority of the members decided to approve a law to define marriage for civil purposes as the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. That decision by the House had the effect of replacing the traditional definition of marriage as being the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. In short, Parliament decided that the definition of marriage should include same sex couples.

The debate surrounding Bill C-38 generated a significant amount of controversy. It was a divisive debate both in the House and among Canadians as a whole. That debate continues on this issue within Canadian society.

Since marriage is an essential foundation of our society, it is important that a fully democratic decision be taken by the House of Commons whether the institution of marriage should be changed. Given the importance of marriage in our society and its importance to Canadians, we made a commitment in the last election to ask parliamentarians whether they wished to revisit this issue. Our commitment stated:

A Conservative government will hold a truly free vote on the definition of marriage in the next session of Parliament. If the resolution is passed, the government will introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

By presenting today's motion for a debate and a vote in the House, the government is fulfilling the commitment we made to Canadians in the last election.

Let me turn to the meaning of today's motion and its implications.

The motion itself will not change the definition of marriage. Rather, the motion asks members whether they want to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage. If the House decides to adopt this motion, the government will introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage for civil purposes. In other words, the government will present to the House a bill defining marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It would then be up to the House to debate such a bill and to vote on whether the bill should be enacted in July.

Therefore, those who argue that the traditional definition of marriage is an essential social institution that ought to be restored and protected should vote in favour of this motion. Similarly, members who believe that there are other ways to recognize same sex unions without altering the principle tenets of one's beliefs should vote for the motion as well.

Speaking personally, I support the institution of marriage as it has been comprised for centuries in our society. It is one of the basic institutions of our society and is the foundation upon which we have built our culture. This is the position I took in the previous Parliament during the debate on Bill C-38 and it is the position I continue to hold.

While I support protecting the rights of minorities that does not mean we should alter the institution of marriage which has worked well and has been an essential part of our society for so many years. I will therefore be voting in favour of the motion as a means to restore the traditional definition of marriage.

Although we are debating a government motion, I point out that the government has indicated that members can vote according to their conscience. Given the deeply held views that members have on both sides of the debate, the government believes it should be up to the House to decide in a truly free vote on whether we should initiate legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage.

The vote on today's motion will be a truly free vote for all members of the government's caucus, including ministers of the Crown. Unlike the previous government, our cabinet will not be whipped into voting one way or the other.

Speaking as the Minister for Democratic Reform, I am proud to be a member of a government that believes issues which touch on deeply felt personal beliefs should be decided by a truly free vote.

Given that members on both sides of the debate hold deeply felt personal views on this subject, we are asking members to reflect on their views and those of their constituents before deciding how to vote. This is ultimately a decision of the members of the House to decide on their own.

To conclude, the government looks forward to hearing the views of members on this issue and we hope that this will be a respectful debate. Although there are strongly held views on both sides of the debate, each member's point of view is valid and ought to be heard.

I therefore encourage all members to participate in the debate in this spirit. The government looks forward to receiving the House's decision on this matter.

November 2nd, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

I will add a clarification to what Mr. Cullen has said. The motion says that we'd have one additional meeting per week until the Christmas break; at that point we will be done with Bill C-288, so we could then go back to the CEPA review at full speed. It keeps momentum. It keeps us updated on the issues.

There have been accusations that some do not support CEPA or even a CEPA review. I don't believe that. I believe there is a true desire to support CEPA. It's a good piece of legislation. What we've seen, basically, is Bill C-288 take over from CEPA. CEPA has been put aside. I want to give the committee an opportunity to show in good faith that it is still a priority; it is to us, and hopefully it is to everybody on this committee.

Yes, these are busy times. At the last Parliament I sat on three different committees. I sat on a Bill C-38 special legislative committee; we were meeting for many hours almost every day because it was a priority. Is CEPA a priority? Absolutely.

Basically we have an opportunity to show whether or not it is indeed a priority. I will be supporting this because it is a priority. I'm willing to work as hard and as long as necessary, and to go to as many meetings as necessary, to do the CEPA review.

I will respect the wishes of the majority to deal with Bill C-288, but, Mr. Chair, we have to continue on with the CEPA review. Morally, it's the right thing to do. Whatever is required, I'm willing to go to as many meetings as necessary for as long as necessary to do it. That's the spirit of this motion, and hopefully the majority of the committee members will agree that CEPA is indeed a priority to this committee.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 26th, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from constituents dealing with same sex marriage.

The petition say that marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, excluding all others, is an institution and not merely a bundle of rights and benefits subject to the equality provisions of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; that the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one women, excluding all others, is the foundation of families and of human society and pre-dates all states, governments and Parliaments; and that the proclamation of Marriage for Civil Purposes Act, tabled as Bill C-38 in the 38th Parliament of Canada, giving recognition in Canadian law that marriage for civil purposes is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others, section 2, including persons of the same sex, is undermining the institutions of marriage and family and the well-being of Canadian society.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2006 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a couple of petitions in which the petitioners are calling on Parliament to re-open the issue of the definition of marriage and to repeal or to amend Bill C-38 and recommit itself to the real definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. These petitioners are from British Columbia. I have a similarly worded petition from the Halifax West riding in the province of Nova Scotia.

Air Canada Public Participation ActGovernment Orders

November 3rd, 2005 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak on behalf of the official opposition in support of Bill C-47, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

Basically Bill C-47 is an administrative response to the restructuring of Air Canada that took place last year. In that restructuring, Air Canada, a former crown corporation, became a subsidiary of ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.

Bill C-47 requires that the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act in respect of the Official Languages Act and the location of Air Canada's head office in Montreal be applied also to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.

Air Canada has never given any indication that it intends to abandon Montreal and a few months ago, the company signed a long-term lease in that city.

Air Canada, furthermore, views its language proficiency as a competitive advantage. Like Air Transat, Air Canada is a private sector airline with its head office in Montreal, its hub in Toronto and employees who strive to speak both of our official languages correctly.

Air Canada is committed to using both of Canada's official languages. It is also committed to remaining in Montreal.

The Conservative Party caucus is in favour of this bill because its spirit flows directly from subsection 91(i) of the Conservative Party of Canada Policy Declaration, which reads as follows:

A Conservative Government will support the Official Languages Act ensuring that English and French have equality of status and equal rights and privileges—

If English and French truly have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, these obligations must apply to the leading national air carrier, especially since it is the only one to offer service to many international destinations.

Finally, Bill C-47 is largely a housekeeping bill, its spirit flows from the Conservative Party of Canada Policy Declaration, and Air Canada is not opposed to it.

We will accordingly support Bill C-47.

This having been said, I wonder whether Air Canada's government relations department continues its enthusiastic support of the Liberal government.

Senator David Angus, a former Air Canada board member, has informed me that legislation such as the present bill would subject Air Canada to a much higher level of official languages compliance than what is required of Air Transat. He informed me that the difference between Air Transat's version of bilingualism and Air Canada's compliance with the Official Languages Act costs Air Canada some $11 million a year. Clearly, this issue falls within the expertise of the official languages committee, not the transport committee. It would be my recommendation that Bill C-47 be referred to that committee instead of the transport committee.

At the same time, given that virtually every current and former member of Air Canada's government relations team--let me repeat that every current and former member of Air Canada's government relations team--virtually every single one of them has worked either for a Liberal MP or for the Liberal Party during the last election. I can only assume that Robert Milton and Montie Brewer and Air Canada's senior management support Bill C-47.

As transport critic for the official opposition and a very frequent Air Canada passenger, I have official and unofficial contact with Air Canada at many different levels and I can say that its support of the Liberal government is truly bizarre.

Even as recently as October 31, Liberal Senator Percy Downe called on the Senate to examine current government imposed operating requirements on Air Canada. In particular, he is concerned that Air Canada serves Charlottetown from Montreal instead of Toronto. He told the press:

My inquiry will examine the current, government-imposed operating requirements on Air Canada and the responsibility and opportunity for the Government of Canada to impose additional conditions on Air Canada so all Canadians can enjoy reasonably comparable levels of air service at reasonably comparable levels of cost, no matter where they live.

His statement ignores the fact that Air Canada's Charlottetown service now flies from Montreal in accordance with the transport minister's advice that airlines concerned about high rent at Pearson airport move flights to Montreal. He also ignores the fact that WestJet now offers Toronto-Charlottetown non-stop service with much bigger planes than Air Canada offers.

Nonetheless, the Liberal senator argues, “It is entirely within the power of the federal government to impose service and operating conditions on Air Canada”. In fact, such is the Liberal Party's fascination with regulating Air Canada that in the past three years the airline has been mentioned by name in four separate government initiated bills, Bill C-38, Bill C-26, Bill C-44 and Bill C-47. The company has been mentioned by name in the House some 360 times since the 2000 election.

Based on statements made in the House by Liberal and NDP MPs, they want to tell Air Canada what planes to buy, where to maintain them, where to fly them, what ticket prices to charge, how to advertise and how to manage their businesses. Perhaps MPs with these concerns should go ahead and buy Air Canada stock. Personally, given that Air Canada is a private company, I believe that these decisions are best made by Air Canada management. As a result, I believe that Air Canada probably wants as little government attention as possible.

For example, in June 2003 after Air Canada's first Montreal-Beirut flight had taken off, the government cancelled Air Canada's permission to fly the route. Air Canada had promoted the route for several months and informed the government that the national airlines of France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the U.K. were all serving Beirut. Nonetheless, at the last minute the Liberal government cancelled the route, citing security concerns.

A similar situation happened this past July. The federal government had given Air Canada permission to operate Toronto-Calgary-Shanghai freighter service. At the time Air Canada did not have a suitable aircraft so it leased one from California based World Airways. Here it was following the lead of Canada's military, which leases Russian cargo planes to fly our troops and supplies overseas.

A couple of days before the first flight was to depart, Ajay K. Virmani, whose company Starjet flew the Prime Minister during the last election, complained. He said that Air Canada would compete unfairly against him on the Toronto-Calgary portion of that flight. The Minister of Transport ignored the fact that Air Canada is allowed to fly any size plane it wants on any route within Canada and agreed instead with the Prime Minister's friend. Air Canada was forced to cancel the Calgary stop on its flight to Shanghai as a result.

The cancellation of the Calgary stop on the Toronto-Shanghai service had negative financial consequences for Air Canada in the same way that the company was hurt by the previous decision to cancel the Montreal-Beirut service at the last minute.

However, when the Liberals do not directly target Air Canada, their ill-conceived policies can cost the airline significant amounts of money. For example, Air Canada's major hub is Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Air Canada and its affiliate Jazz operate up to 660 daily flights and departures at Pearson airport, serving more than 100 destinations, representing approximately 35% of Air Canada's total operations.

From Pearson, Air Canada flies non-stop to three other continents, Asia, Europe and South America. In this respect, Air Canada's operations at Pearson compete directly against United's hub at Chicago O'Hare, Delta's hub at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and those of Northwest Airlines at the Detroit Metro Airport.

When it comes to Air Canada's Toronto operations, the current Minister of Transport is Air Canada's arch-enemy. He is well aware that federal airport rents and charges together with federal agencies that use free space at Pearson have helped to make Pearson airport the most expensive airport in the world. However, he does not care. He thinks that airlines that are concerned about high rents and taxes at Pearson should fly instead to Montreal.

The transport minister wants us to believe that he has Air Canada's best interests at heart. However, on May 9 when he introduced a package to cut airport rents nationwide, he offered average savings of 52% to Canada's larger airports while only offering 6% to Pearson. This unfairness was underlined by the fact that while other airports faced an immediate rent reduction, Toronto's rent actually increased this year due to a requirement to repay the deferred costs of the SARS crisis of 2003.

Compounding the problem is the fact that when Delta sells a Peruvian customer a Lima-Frankfurt ticket, the routing goes via Delta's hub in Atlanta, which has one of the lowest landing fees of any major U.S. airport. If Air Canada sells the same passenger a Lima-Frankfurt ticket, the routing passes through the world's most expensive airport, Toronto Pearson.

Both Toronto Pearson and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson are large well-run airports. However, this year Pearson will pay a staggering $144 million to Ottawa as a result of the transport minister's airport rent, airport taxes policy. On the other hand, Atlanta receives airport support of up to $47 million a year in grants from the U.S. government. The difference has a huge impact on landing fees, taxes and passenger traffic.

As Air Canada and Delta compete for the business of the Lima-Frankfurt traveller, both airlines have similar aircraft and similar costs. However, because of the difference in airport taxes, Air Canada either has to charge more to cover Toronto's high landing fees or make less profit in order to match Delta's price.

By continuing to ignore this situation, the Minister of Transport is delivering a slap in the face to Air Canada's 12,000 Toronto based employees and telling them, “You have to work harder for less so that Air Canada can pay my taxes and compete with foreign carriers”. Unfortunately, although the minister has been made aware of this problem several times, he has chosen to turn a deaf ear.

At transport committee on October 27, one week ago today, in response to yet another call for rent relief at Pearson airport, the minister said, “I have never met a normal person who has talked to me about airport rent unless they have a vested interest”.

I can tell this House that my office is aware of the following vested interests who have called for urgent rent relief in order to let Air Canada compete on a level playing field with its international competitors. They include: the Air Transport Association of Canada; the International Air Transport Association; the Association of Airline Representatives in Canada; the Canadian Airports Council; the Canadian Courier & Messenger Association; the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies; the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association; the Greater Toronto Hotel Association; and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

However, seven significant non-vested interests have joined the call for rent relief as well. They include: the City of Toronto, including council and Liberal Mayor David Miller; the City of Toronto Economic Development Committee; the City of Brampton, Mayor Fennell; the Province of Ontario, including Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty; the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; the Toronto Board of Trade; the Brampton Board of Trade.

It appears there is no way at all to wake up the transport minister or to convince him to move forward to cut Toronto's rent. I want Canadians to understand that no one should be able to claim to be our national transportation minister while undermining the ability of a major Canadian international airline to compete against foreign carriers.

Let me be clear to this House and to all Canadians, a Conservative government would quickly deal with the tremendous unfairness and the oppressive rents that the federal Liberals are charging Air Canada's Toronto hub.

If Bill C-47 is the transport minister's idea of legislation to assist Air Canada, let me paint a very different picture.

A Conservative government would negotiate an open skies agreement with the United States with a view to promoting increased economic opportunities for Canadian air carriers. One way to do this would be for Canada and the U.S. to grant modified sixth freedom rights to each other's countries.

Modified sixth freedom is a way of describing the situation where a Vancouver passenger buys a Vancouver-Minneapolis round trip ticket on Northwest and a round trip Minneapolis-Montreal ticket also on Northwest and combines both tickets to fly Vancouver-Minneapolis-Montreal round trip.

The granting of sixth freedom rights is attractive because they do not require airlines to offer a single new flight, but offers them increasing flexibility to sell seats on any flights that they offer. For Air Canada, modified sixth freedoms would offer increased revenue opportunities in particular at its Toronto hub.

Like many major Canadian airports, Pearson has Canadian customs facilities as well as U.S. preclearance facilities. Typically, U.S. bound Canadians preclear U.S. customs before departure in Canada, but clear Canadian customs after they return to Canada. Often Canadian and American customs and immigration facilities are actually located side by side in the same airport. This operating reality means it would be theoretically possible for an airline passenger arriving in Toronto from Los Angeles to stay in the U.S. precleared in transit zone and board a connecting flight to New York on Air Canada without ever having to step foot on Canadian soil legally.

Given that Air Canada offers non-stop daily flights to 41 U.S. cities from Toronto, as compared to the 60 U.S. cities served by US Airways from Pittsburgh, granting Air Canada modified sixth freedom rights would allow it to make Toronto a mid-size U.S. hub almost immediately and with virtually no additional cost.

Given that the revenue calculations of Air Canada's 41 Toronto U.S. routes are based on transborder and U.S. international traffic, the income from exploiting its potential modified sixth freedom rights would go straight to the bottom line.

Further, given Toronto's geographic location and the impressive number of U.S. destinations that Air Canada serves from it, the potential economic benefit to Air Canada of modified sixth freedoms is quite significant.

Research was done last May by Professor Richard Janda and students Shy Kurtz and David Dubrovsky of McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law. They argue that for the top 15 U.S. domestic pairs, a routing via Toronto would be competitive with a routing via most U.S. domestic hubs. In other words, as a U.S. hub, Toronto would be competitive with Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.

All that is required for this to happen and to move forward is a forward thinking negotiation and a dramatic reduction in airport rents that the Liberal government currently charges at Pearson airport. The Liberals prefer to see Pearson airport instead as a major cash cow to be exploited, while they take Toronto voters for granted. The Conservatives see Pearson as an engine for economic growth to be nurtured and built upon.

Bill C-47 would require Air Canada to offer bilingual service on all of its flights around the world. Air Canada management willingly embraces this initiative and sees its ability to serve customers in various languages as a competitive advantage, yet another way to lure international travellers to fly Air Canada. This is a positive thing. We have no problem with this as Conservatives. We embrace official bilingualism.

The global airline industry is intensely competitive. The impact of government policy on the major airports that airlines use as hubs cannot be understated. The fact that Amsterdam is served by flights from countries in South America that are not also served from Toronto is symbolic of the problem. Dutch government backed Schiphol airport in Amsterdam has some of the lowest fees in the world, while Toronto has the world's most expensive. This reality and aggressive marketing allowed KLM to profitably serve from Amsterdam destinations which are not flyable from Toronto due to government costs.

Through visionary thinking the Dutch government has positioned Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as a truly global gateway and a major engine for economic growth for its country. For example, the greater Toronto area has three times the population of greater Amsterdam, yet Amsterdam's Schiphol airport is significantly bigger than Pearson and handles nearly 50% more passengers. Amsterdam's airport has flights to 251 destinations, over 100 of which are outside of Europe. Pearson on the other hand has flights to 110 destinations, only 42 of which are outside of Canada and the United States.

I understand that the size of an airport and the number of flights it receives are dependent on a number of factors, such as geography, history and the economic development of the area. Nonetheless, forward thinking Dutch aviation policy has allowed Amsterdam to grow into the world's ninth busiest airport. This is particularly impressive when we realize how close it is to London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Frankfurt, all of which are among the world's top eight busiest airports.

I would like to suggest that part of the reason Amsterdam's airport is so successful is that the Dutch government has been at the forefront of negotiating open skies agreements with other countries. In addition, the Dutch government sees Amsterdam airport as a major driver of that country's economy and that is reflected in various government policies which support the development of the airport.

This House will soon pass Bill C-47, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act. The Minister of Transport will be happy to see Air Canada providing bilingual service wherever in the world he flies.

In the meantime, this same minister must do everything he can to further the economic opportunities for Air Canada and the other Canadian airlines by enacting the measures proposed in this House. From Air Canada's perspective, the minister may well want to address this issue, but his progress to date has been less than impressive.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House today, both as an MP for North Vancouver and as the chair of the B.C. caucus for the Liberal members in British Columbia, to speak to Bill C-38 and offer our support and my support.

This important legislation may have found its inspiration in western Canada but there is little doubt that strengthening Canada's position in the competitive world of international commerce will benefit our entire country. Today I want to outline some of those benefits.

However, before we start with economic benefits, it is important to note that the Pacific gateway strategy is about positioning Canada in the rapidly evolving world of international commerce, but it is more than that. It is also about more than doing business.

The Pacific gateway strategy recognizes that not only products will be passing through this Canadian gateway. The gateway will also welcome the multitudes who travel to Canada each year. To put it in context, last year Canada welcomed more than 87,000 Chinese tourists, generating some $150 million in revenue for our tourism sector. Many begin their visit in western Canada and then travel onwards throughout this great country. With new liberalized air agreements in place, it is expected that this number could triple to over 260,000 visitors in the future from China alone. Other Asian countries are also sending many visitors our way.

Canada shows the world its commitment to diversity not only in how we embrace all cultures but in how we engage and trade with all markets, ones that are both established and emerging, such as those in China, India and other Asian countries. Trade and prosperities hinge on the rapid, seamless and secure movement of people and goods. Canada is uniquely placed and our people are exceptionally skilled to provide a gateway to serve those needs in the Pacific markets.

Many have already begun to see the advantages. For example, China is currently Canada's fourth largest export market. Our exports to China have grown more than 90% between 1995 and 2004, and during the same period, Canada's imports from China grew more than 400%, making it Canada's second largest supplier. China's recent dramatic growth is expected to continue. While it is currently the world's sixth largest economy, forecasters say that it will be the second largest by 2020 and the largest by 2041.

As a result of this growth, the B.C. government predicts that by 2020, container cargo coming through British Columbia ports will increase by up to 300%, from 1.8 million containers to between five million and seven million containers. The value of this trade is projected to reach $75 billion by 2020, up from the $35 billion currently. This would contribute $10.5 billion annually to the Canadian economy, including $3.5 billion beyond B.C. The trade increases are also projected to result in 178% growth in direct jobs by 2020, from 18,000 to 50,000.

If we continue to invest together in trade, we all win. We are talking about more trade, more business and more jobs for Canadians. We are talking about prosperity for all. This strategy clearly moves us in that direction.

In terms of jobs, we know that a skilled labour force and efficient labour market are ever important ingredients in Canada's winning formula for prosperity. Through ongoing investments, and now particularly the Pacific gateway strategy, markets in the Asia-Pacific can count on our country's highly educated, skilled and innovative workforce to move goods and services quickly, efficiently and in a secure manner.

In terms of trade and the economy, through the Pacific gateway strategy, our country has a unique competitive advantage to be host to trade and investment that is already flowing to these vibrant and emerging markets. Through the Pacific gateway strategy, our capacity for trade will continue to grow.

However, as I said at the beginning, this initiative will not only benefit the west, by investing in Pacific trade, Canada's economy grows and Canadians everywhere, from west to east, from north to south, stand to benefit.

An important part of the Pacific gateway strategy is that it builds upon Canada's strong record of infrastructure funding to further enhance the Canadian transportation network from west to east. Improving the transportation infrastructure by linking Canada's central and Atlantic provinces to the Asia-Pacific regions helps to reduce costs for firms involved in international trade. The reasons we should do this are clear. The central and Atlantic provinces exported close to $9 billion of goods and services to Asia in 2004, 82% of which depended upon marine transportation and port infrastructure.

Specifically, over $3 billion of Ontario's exports and close to $2 billion of Quebec's exports flowed through British Columbia to other countries, with another $50 million from the Atlantic flowing through that province as well. These provinces also imported roughly $17 billion worth of goods from Asia.

Improving logistics and security at borders while reducing transportation time are also key to attracting foreign direct investments in and facilitating exports from all parts of Canada.

With Canada's Pacific gateway strategy, the government is not just looking at transportation infrastructure. The strategy and the legislation have been designed to allow decision makers to better address a full range of interconnected issues that impact the effectiveness of the gateway and how well we take advantage of it. Deepening our links with Asia-Pacific is a central part of this: to permit Canada to support the better positioning of Canadian businesses, products and services in China and other emerging markets.

One of the specific measures that was announced October 21, 2005, as part of Canada's Pacific gateway strategy is an initiative to improve connections between Canada and emerging markets through the increased harmonization of standards. International standards and technical regulations directly affect more than 80% of the goods traded world-wide each year, with a total estimated value of more than $4 trillion U.S. The funding in this initiative will support Canadian participation in bilateral and multilateral standards harmonization activities and foster a greater understanding among implicated stakeholders of standards harmonization activities and developments and their impact on trade.

Mutually acceptable international standards, certification procedures and accreditation guidelines promote increased reciprocal market access for Asian and Canadian firms. Standards result in technology diffusion, common certification approaches and testing procedures. They also increase product interoperability, encourage innovation and reduce trade barriers. In addition, harmonizing standards increases product safety and encourages environmentally sustainable activities. This initiative will promote better access to Asian and other markets for businesses right across the country.

Of course, the Pacific gateway is not the only Canadian trade gateway. There are a limited number of other potential locations where an integrated gateway approach may be warranted by trade volumes of national significance and by transportation policy considerations.

In that vein, Transport Canada is developing a national strategy gateways and trade corridors policy framework that will guide future measures to tailor the gateway approach to other regions. While this framework will be based on the principles of the Pacific gateway strategy, future measures will not be identical to it. Instead they will be tailored to the circumstances and the opportunities in the regions concerned.

Canada's Pacific gateway strategy is an important part of the federal government's efforts to enhance Canada's long term prosperity. It will strengthen Canada's trade relationship as a leader in technology, manufacturing and service industries and support Canada's record as a safe and desirable country for tourists. It also represents a new policy direction for the government and builds upon other major initiatives to promote sustainable development, such as Canada's new deal for cities and communities, and will establish directions in transportation policy.

As my colleague pointed out, this strategy may be international in outlook but it is domestic at its core. Canada's Pacific gateway strategy has important advantages and benefits not only for western Canadians but also for Canadians right across the nation.

I look forward to helping implement this strategy which will bring further prosperity to all regions of Canada. I am sure everyone understands how important port activity is to my riding and to the people of greater and Lower Mainland British Columbia, not only for the movement of goods but also for the movement of people and tourists through western Canada to all of Canada.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Oxford who recognize that Bill C-38 is passed, but they ask Parliament to enact legislation defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.

Spirit Drinks Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today in support of Bill C-38. The bill respects the implementation of an international trade commitment by Canada regarding wines and spirit drinks.

The bilateral agreement between Canada and the European Union affords the Canadian industry recognition and protection to signature products. This is important because the value of this industry is tied to the inherent value in Canadian brands.

The Conservative Party supports the intent of the bill as an export strategy for the Canadian wine and spirits industry. Conservatives are very supportive of rules based trading systems, especially ones that help secure international markets for Canadian products and that help ensure that Canadian consumers have access to high quality products produced in other countries.

As such, we support the general thrust of the bill and the agreement that it helps implement.

Formal recognition by the European Union of rye whiskey exclusively as Canadian will provide Canadian industry participants the opportunity to invest and grow knowing that their investments will not be undermined.

The bill is good for many reasons; for the wine industry and for the distilleries. It also is good for rural Canada. Why rural Canada specifically? Many of Canada's distilleries, wineries and breweries are based in rural Canada, so they provide jobs which are good. Also it is agriculture which takes place in rural Canada that provides all the ingredients for these beverages. After all I have not seen many corn fields or grape fields in the middle of downtown Toronto. Therefore, this is good for rural Canada.

As our brand names become known on the international stage and through this bill, which would protect the integrity of those products, in other words people from other countries would be unable produce copycat products, the integrity of our products will be preserved. That will encourage our Canadian distillers and wineries to continue using Canadian product that comes from rural Canada.

Rural Canada does not just feed the cities, it also provides power. Rural Canada also provides the key ingredients for all our world famous wines and spirits.

Many people are confused by the bill. I have spoken with different people about it. They are afraid we will be unable to buy Merlot wine again. That is not the case in fact. The bill would is protect Canadian wines on a regional basis and Canadian spirits such as rye whiskey. No matter where we go in the world, if we order rye whiskey, we would be certain that it came from Canada and was made here with Canadian product.

This is a good thing for Canada on the world stage. We have a high quality reputation on the world stage. Our rye whiskey has been available around the world. There has been a demand for it for many years. Our grapes are quality, whether they are from the Annapolis Valley, or southern Ontario including my own riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, particularly the Niagara Peninsula, or the grapevines across the Prairies or the Okanagan Valley. The wines we make in Canada from these grapes are winning first prize awards around the world. It is wonderful for Canadians to be represented that way on the world stage.

I said that there was some confusion. Merlot is a grape, but for many years some thought that was a region. Italy and France have had regional protection of their wines for many years. If we go into a restaurant and order a glass of Bordeaux, we know that it comes from the Bordeaux region in France. Its quality is very carefully controlled. It is the same thing for Burgundy as well as the many great Italian wines. They have regional designations that protect and promote the integrity of the quality that wine.

The proposed bill will open the doors for our wines to have that same promotion and that same protection. This is a good thing. We will be unable to refer to a Bordeaux or a Burgundy because those come from France. We will be able to promote the Niagara Peninsula and the doors will be opened for our great Pelee Island wines as well. There are many other award winning wines produced in Canada, but I do not have the time to go through them all today. I congratulate them for being such ambassadors for us on the world stage

Another benefit of protection and bringing us in compliance is a number of years ago legislation was originally written to protect a product very similar to our rye whiskey, and that is Scotch whisky. Scotch whisky is very special. It is called the water of life. As we know, it comes from Scotland. However, that has not always been a controlled situation.

Many years ago one of the eastern nations decided that it wanted to meet the taste buds of its population by providing a Scotch-like product. The rules at the time on the international stage said that it could only be Scotch whisky if it were made in Scotland. It was a bit loose on the definition. One very ambitious distillery decided to make Scotch-type whisky in a town that it renamed Scotland so all bottles then could say “made in Scotland”. Fortunately the powers that be on the international stage got together and recognized the type of deception that was attempted there. That is why they tightened up the rules. That is why I am so glad that as we proceed with Bill S-38 we are tightening up the rules even more so to protect Canadian product.

Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said during his speech, we have a few concerns with the bill. When we spoke with Canadian distillers, they indicated that they still had some concerns. While they are generally in support of this bill, there are a few things that they would like to see fixed.

First, they believe that there is a need for the government to eliminate certain provisions currently found within the food and drug regulations that would duplicate provisions in Bill S-38 if passed. Second, they are also requesting, though, that no provisions be deleted from these regulations without a comprehensive and full consultation with the industry.

Quite frankly, that request on the part of the distillers causes me some concern. We have seen all too often in the 12 months that I have been in the House that while the Liberal government has claimed consultations with industry, in fact it has met with maybe one stakeholder, if it is being generous on that given day. However, in terms of doing a cross-spectrum consultation to get the impact of its decisions on others, we have not seen that at all.

We are dealing with this very issue on Bill C-27 these days, where industry has not been considered. The impact of the government's intentions and actions has not been duly considered, and we are looking at a real mess coming up there.

I am not sure that this is the time or place to address it, but my Conservative colleagues and I will be opposing Bill C-27 as hard and as loudly as we possibly can. Someone has to stand up for the producers and processors in our country. Sadly, the Liberal government has not done it. Fortunately, and thankfully, my Conservative colleagues and I are happy to step up and take on that role.

Apart from the elimination of the heavy-handed approach, we would also ask that the government respect the request of the Canadian distillers and this time work in close consultation with them as the changes move forward.

For purposes of due diligence and legislative housekeeping, we are prepared to consider recommendations with regard to improving the legislation, particularly with respect to explicitly defining what constitutes a spirit drink. This is something that is omitted in the bill. Normally in legislation one tends to define what the key subject is and what the parameters are. Nor is there any reference to its definition under things like the Excise Act or whether it is that definition that applies here. We would very much like to see an explicit and unambiguous definition of spirit drink to guide the interpretation of this act for its future and for possible expansion.

Some of the members on the other side of the House are chuckling to themselves as I say that as if to say, “How could anyone not know what a spirit is?”

Let me assure members that definitions change over time. A number of years ago I worked in the wine and spirits industry, and new products came out that caused a lot of concern. Perhaps members will remember the invention and introduction of the cooler. It started out as a wine cooler. Then it moved to become spirit coolers. The industry and the regulating bodies over those industries had real problems. No one could class them as wines, or spirits or beer. They did not fit any of the previous definitions.

There was a great deal of consternation at the time about the tax levels that would apply to them and how they should be priced. The provincial boards that sell their own wines and spirits have different pricing formulas depending on whether the product is classed as a wine or a spirit. No one knew what to apply because these products defied the current definitions. The world moves on. We want to ensure that whatever is in this act is very clearly defined so there can be no ambiguity.

We also will seek clarity on the necessity to reduce legislative and regulatory duplication in the food and drug regulations under the Food and Drugs Act.

We also want to seek assurances from the government about its assumption that there are currently no instances of products in Canada which are non-compliant with the bill, so we can ensure that vendors are not unfairly penalized once the act comes into existence.

The government does not appear to have anticipated what will be done if in fact there are pre-existing inventories of non-compliant spirit drink products once this legislation comes into force. The parliamentary secretary has indicated that he does not believe that there are any known non-conforming products. As we have seen so often, particularly during question period in the last week, just because the government is not aware of something happening does not mean it has not happened and does not exist. We have seen examples all this week where the government claimed not to know anything, and in fact millions of dollars of taxpayer money was being spent. The fact that the government did not know about it does not mean it did not happen.

We want to ensure with this bill that there is a thorough due diligence done to ensure that any pre-existing inventories are dealt with in a proper manner.

Overall, this is a decent bill. It will help promote and protect Canadian wines and spirits. It also will be a boon for rural Canada, both at home and abroad. For that reason, I will be happy to support it. However, we want to ensure that it is done right. For these reasons, we look forward to working on the bill as it is debated in the House.

In closing I would like to add a light note, being that it is the end of the day. I am told this is a true story, and I worked in this industry for a number of years.

The country I mentioned before, which tried to produce a product labelled “made in Scotland”, also did some market research. It decided it wanted to introduce a scotch-type whisky, but it wanted to ensure that it would sell. Therefore, it did a lot of research into popular brand names of the day. They discovered a few. One was Queen Anne. I am sure many members in the House are familiar with that. Another was King George. It thought it would get the best of both worlds so it came out with a product, which it put on the market, called King Anne.

We are trying to ensure that our quality and standards are much higher than that . I believe Bill S-38 will help us achieve that and achieve even more prominence for the quality of our wines and spirits in the world market.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 28th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I submit a petition signed by a number of Canadians primarily from my riding of Mississauga South. I note that it was certified on September 20, which means it was dealt with after we discharged Bill C-38.

These Canadians continue to be concerned about the issue of the definition of marriage. They simply want to remind the House that in their view the best foundation for families and the raising of children is the traditional form of marriage and that marriage is still the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament.

I guess the way that it is now put is that it be recognized in federal law that marriage be still considered to be the union of one man and one woman, which it is. However, I think they still wanted to voice their concern on this matter. That is the essence of their petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 27th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South, pursuant to Standing Order 36 and certified to be in the correct form and content. The subject matter is marriage.

As we heard prior to our break for some time, even notwithstanding Bill C-38, Canadians continue to believe that marriage is the best foundation for families and the raising of children and that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman continues to be challenged.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 26th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have received a petition that I am pleased to present to the House. It is from a number of constituents in my riding of Mississauga South and it is on the subject matter of marriage, notwithstanding that we have already disposed of Bill C-38. The petitioners want to draw to the attention of the House the fact that they do not believe marriage is an institution that does not implicate human rights, that it is the best social unit for the purpose of creating and nurturing the next generation of children, and that they are concerned Bill C-38 will weaken the institution of marriage and will have unforeseen, profound and negative ramifications for children.

The point of their petition is to encourage the government to ensure that the impact on our children as a consequence of changing the definition of marriage is monitored and to ensure that there are no adverse circumstances as a result of that change.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 8:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that question is somewhat academic or moot right now because we know in just a few moments we will not have any opportunity to answer that question.

Once again, I leave you with these words, Mr. Speaker. Members opposite had a choice. They could have taken the choice which would have defeated Bill C-38. They chose not to. Bill C-38 belongs to every Liberal member across the floor. Regardless of what they say in the House, the choice was there. This legislation will be passed because of the Liberal members opposite.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 8:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, let us be quite clear about one thing. We would not even be having this debate had Bill C-38 been defeated. The member and others had a chance to defeat the bill. It is not a pall on members on this side of the House that the bill will be passed in a few moments. Members opposite had a choice and they made that choice.

I only know my constituents. I am not sure what the constituents of the hon. member might be thinking about this. However, I would be willing to place a small wager that if his constituents came up to the member and asked him to to do everything within his power to stop the passage of this bill and if the member said that he choose not to because by doing so he would have to threaten to stop Bill C-48, I would suggest his constituents would want another member of Parliament who would stand up for their wishes, desires and our hopes.

The member had a choice. He chose not to make the choice.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 8 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that I will probably be the final speaker in the debate this evening, I am not sure if there is any symbolism to that or not and I am not sure if that holds any special responsibility for the Conservative Party of Canada to try to encapsulate some of the feelings that we have about this legislation.

I will take a bit of a different tack tonight and talk about choices, choices that members opposite made which brought us to this point in history tonight.

Before I do, I want to put on the record that I will be opposing this legislation. I have stated that many times before and I will continue to state my opposition to this legislation in the future. I will not go into all the reasons why. Many of my colleagues have expressed the views I hold far more eloquently than I could ever do, but I do want to point out a couple of things.

I firmly believe that by passing this legislation, we start on a very slippery slope which could affect societal change in a very adverse way. I see things which have been expressed before that could come down the pike, things like polygamy and others, while hiding behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am fearful that societal change could happen.

I also am a firm believer in the fundamental definition of marriage as we have known it all our lives. Marriage is and should continue to be between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. I was brought up in that environment and I will continue to believe that until the day I die. This is not to disrespect members who hold opposite views. I understand this is a highly volatile and emotional issue. I respect the views of my colleagues who have to taken opposite views. All I want to express is that I believe the traditional definition, as we have known it for centuries, is the one we continue to observe for the next 100, 200 years, ad infinitum.

Finally, my views are widely known within my riding. It is without question that the vast majority of my riding constituents agree with the position that I take. If nothing else, I will continue to represent the views of my constituents before anything else I do in this place.

Let us talk about those choices. What are the choices the government and the members opposite made that brought us to this place and time? First and foremost, in my opinion the government abdicated its right totally when it turned to the Supreme Court to have it make a decision on its behalf as to the definition of marriage. I am not a lawyer and I freely admit that, but I believe one thing. The Supreme Court of Canada and any court in this land should be there for two purposes. One is to administer the law. The second is to interpret the law. It is not to make the law. The government tried to turn the whole question of same sex marriage over to the courts. It hoped that the courts would give a decision that it could hide behind, and that is what the Liberals were prepared to do.

Much to their surprise, and probably much to their chagrin, the Supreme Court came back and said that it was not up to it to define marriage. It was up to Parliament. Yet those parliamentarians and the government, primarily led by the members opposite, continue to use the Supreme Court and its ruling, as indecisive as it was, to say that we have no choice but to allow same sex marriage. It complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is a matter of human rights. Other international institutions, such as the United Nations, say it is anything but a human right. That was their first choice.

Second, the Liberals had a choice in which they could have allowed every member of this House an opportunity to express their views freely on this issue. Did they do that? Absolutely not. Parliamentary secretaries and ministers were compelled to vote with the government's position, and that is in favour of same sex marriage.

However I have ultimate respect for a few of the members opposite. The courage of their convictions on this issue forced them to resign from the government and sit as independents.They did not decide to sit as a Conservative member or for any political reasons but to sit because in their conscience they could not support the government's view on this fundamental issue.

I give great credit to the member for London—Fanshawe and the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont who both left the government to sit as independents. They chose to tell all Canadians, not just members of their ridings, their explicit views on this fundamental issue that was so near and dear to their hearts. That was their choice but there was another choice that was made by many other members opposite.

Over 30 members on the government side stood in this place from time to time and spoke, sometimes with passion and sometimes at length, on their opposition to the bill. However they had a choice: to either bring the government down and not allow this legislation to see the light of day, or to acquiesce to the government and allow the legislation to pass. It was their choice that allowed the legislation to pass and it will pass in the House in a few moments.

I have the greatest of respect for those members opposite who stood down because in their conscience and in their moral view they could not support the government. They did the only thing that was humanly possible within their realm of possibilities. They stood down because they did not want to be associated with a House, a Parliament and a party that would allow this legislation to pass.

I have heard members opposite say that even though they opposed Bill C-38 they could not vote against Bill C-48 because they had to vote on each piece of legislation on its own merits and that if they had voted against Bill C-48 it would have destroyed a budget that is good for all Canadians and therefore they had no choice, they had to vote for Bill C-48 but against Bill C-38. That is absolutely disingenuous.

If Bill C-48 was such good deal for Canadians why was it not contained in the budget that the government originally brought to the House two weeks before they made a deal with the NDP? This was a choice that members opposite made. However the point I want to emphasize is that even if they did not wish to speak against Bill C-48, they had a choice.

We have seen the Prime Minister back down from every threat posed to him. We have seen individuals challenge the Prime Minister with bringing his government down. Danny Williams threatened the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister backed down. Premier McGuinty threatened the Prime Minister and all of a sudden there was an extra $5 billion-plus for the province of Ontario. The NDP threatened the government by saying that if it did not acquiesce to its demands it would bring the government down. What happened? The Prime Minister and the government backed down. They blink first and they do so every time.

I say to the members opposite, such as the member for Mississauga South, who have stood in this House and tried to convince Canadians that they were doing everything in their power to bring down Bill C-38, They did not do everything in their power.

Had they gone to the Prime Minister and said that they would not support Bill C-48, the Prime Minister would have blinked and this legislation would not be passed tonight. This legislation, at the very worst, would have been deferred until the fall. The members opposite are the reason that Bill C-38 will pass tonight.

Let there be no mistake and let every Canadian understand these words very clearly. There was a choice to be made on whether Bill C-38 would be passed and brought into law or not and it was the members opposite, each and every one of them, who made their choice to allow the legislation to pass through the House tonight. Let that be on their heads, not anyone else's head. It is the members opposite who made that choice and shame on them.

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June 28th, 2005 / 7:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to those members' debates and I appreciated them. This is an opportunity to put on the record how we feel. I am prepared to stand and vote my conscience. I am prepared to stand and vote the wishes of my constituents and I do not have to apologize for that. I do not think I need to be heckled or abused in standing up for what I believe. I think it is critically important. Someone called me a neanderthal because I would not support same sex legislation. It was not anyone from my caucus.

I point out that it was not too long ago that we passed Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act. That legislation actually provided rights and benefits to same sex couples, common law couples of opposite sex. It brought into line the rights, obligations and benefits, married and common law, either same sex or opposite sex. I believe that benefits have been extended and extended appropriately. I do not see the need to go on to Bill C-38, because I think everyone who is living in a loving, compassionate, caring relationship has been afforded the rights and benefits and the obligations. That is important; there are obligations as well. I do not see the need to move to the next step, because while I support equality in terms of rights and benefits, I do not support it at the expense of changing the definition of marriage. I have always believed that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

I guess what upsets me is that after all of this debate, after everything we have been through, we are really ending where we began in a situation where this will continue to be a very, very divisive issue. We have all been elected to stand and to cast our vote. I can tell the House, and I can tell the constituents that I represent, that I am proud and honoured to stand in my place and to vote in opposition to Bill C-38 and to support, with all of my fibre and being, the traditional definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

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June 28th, 2005 / 7:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned that many individuals in the House have crossed some hard roads to settle on their position. He went on to say that this is an issue that maybe is not as important as some people think. He further went on to mention the number of people who sat diligently in the gallery, week after week, listening to this discussion because it is very important to them. It is certainly very important to this country.

Canadians are looking for that rational compromise, the position that the Leader of the Opposition holds, that the Conservative Party of Canada holds: the protection of traditional marriage, yet civil unions for committed same sex couples with equal rights and benefits. That is a very reasonable position. It is where the vast majority of Canadians fall in this issue. Yes, this question will be decided here in the very near future tonight.

Many members opposite have not explained their inconsistency on the question of marriage. The reason is that most of them are now prepared to backtrack on their previous commitment to preserve traditional marriage. It is this type of inconsistency that makes Canadians wonder what the government is up to with regard to Bill C-38. The Liberals have broken their promises to the Canadian people in the past on the issue of maintaining traditional marriage. Why should Canadians believe that they will not do so again on the issue of religious freedom?

These are important questions, and it is certainly something that we will be watching very carefully.

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June 28th, 2005 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a privilege to rise tonight in the House of Commons to represent the people of Palliser and to contribute to the important discussion on Bill C-38.

As always, I would like to thank the people of Palliser for the trust they have placed in me. I would also like to thank the thousands of people who have contacted my office and responded to the questionnaire on the definition of marriage that was included in the householder I sent out to constituents this spring.

Over the past year I have received a great deal of input on the issue of marriage from the people of Palliser. It is their views as well as my own thoughts that I will discuss in the House tonight.

The feedback I have received has made two things clear to me. First, the majority of Palliser residents support the traditional definition of marriage as that of a union between a man and a woman. That is the same position held by the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party of Canada, and it is also the position that I personally support. Because of that, I will oppose Bill C-38 when it comes to a vote tonight.

A second thing also became clear in the feedback I received from my constituents, and that is that they wanted to find a middle ground on this issue. They want a government that will say yes to traditional marriage and protect traditional marriage, but one that will also find a way to allow committed same sex couples to recognize their relationships and find fair treatment under the law.

I am proud to stand here today before the House as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada for the same reason that I would imagine a lot of members on the opposite side wish they were not members of the Liberal Party, because it is the Conservative Party that has consistently articulated a middle ground solution to the marriage question. This is a position that stands firmly behind traditional marriage and support for religious institutions but that also supports civil unions for same sex couples, which means fair treatment under the law.

Most Palliser residents believe that marriage is a fundamental social institution, not only recognized by law but sanctified by religious faith. They also believe that committed same sex couples have rights to equality within society that should be recognized and protected.

The challenge, then, is finding a balance. To do that, we need to find a compromise position, a position that rejects the heavy-handed manner in which the Liberal Party has approached this issue and the dogmatic, anti-democratic manner of the leader of the NDP, who will not even allow his own members to vote their conscience or to vote according to the will of their constituents on this issue.

The people of Palliser and the Conservative Party seek balance and fairness on this issue of marriage. I would like to know why the members opposite are opposed to that effort.

Despite the usual sort of inflated rhetoric we have heard from this Liberal government on Bill C-38, the same kinds of half truths and politics of fear that the Liberals trot out during every election campaign to smear their opponents, the reality is that senior members of this Liberal government, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and several cabinet ministers, once articulated views in this House that were consistent with the positions being put forward by the Conservative Party today.

Why have these Liberal members suddenly changed their minds, and why should Canadians trust them now? If same sex marriage is really about human rights or upholding charter rights, as many Liberals suggest, why did the current Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the government House leader, and the Minister of Immigration vote in favour of the traditional definition of marriage in 1999?

That motion passed 215 to 55, with the support of the current Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. In fact, when she spoke to the motion in the House in 1999, the current Deputy Prime Minister and then Minister of Justice said:

Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages.

I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

It would seem highly hypocritical of the Deputy Prime Minister to criticize the position held by the Conservative Party of Canada when she herself recently supported a similar position. In point of fact, she proposed not only to support the traditional definition of marriage, but that Parliament would, to quote again from the 1999 motion,

...take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of marriage within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada.

I ask the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister why they are now turning their backs on the people they stood behind in 1999. Why are they forcing same sex marriage upon the Canadian public when they themselves supported the traditional definition of marriage only a short time ago? It is that type of flip-flop, that type of inconsistency, that makes people across the country ask whether they can trust the government to keep its word and do the right thing.

The fact that the government would force closure on the bill is another demonstration that Liberals lack not only principle but they lack respect for the democratic process itself. I remind members opposite that the purpose of debate is to allow members to make an informed decision on an issue by hearing all sides of an argument. That can only happen if debate is allowed to continue, if it is not suddenly halted because it becomes politically inconvenient for the government to listen to all positions on an issue.

We on this side of the House have faith in democracy and believe in the democratic dialogue that needs to take place on this issue and on every issue. In fact, if many of the members opposite take the opportunity to listen to debate and to contemplate the position that they themselves supported in the House six years ago, many members of the Liberal government, perhaps even the Prime Minister, may realize the benefit of the position put forward by the Conservative Party and vote against Bill C-38. At the very least, I would hope that we will not see a further erosion of democracy in this Parliament through the heavy-handed tactics of the Liberal government.

The Conservative Party stance on this issue speaks to the majority of Canadians who are in the middle on this issue. Our position is that the law should continue to recognize the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. At the same time, we propose other forms of union, whether they be called common law status, civil unions, or registered domestic partnerships, that would be entitled to the same legal rights, privileges, and benefits as marriage. This is a position that expresses the will of Canadians. It is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Conservative Party's position also balances the needs of same sex couples with the rights of religious organizations who hold a traditional view of marriage. Our position would ensure that same sex couples have the same rights and benefits as married couples when it comes to matters such as pensions, tax obligations, or immigration matters. Our position would also ensure that there is no federal law that treats same sex couples any differently from married couples. Our position would satisfy the vast majority of Canadians who are seeking common ground on this issue. This compromise is the Canadian way, and it is the option that only the Conservative Party is prepared to offer.

In closing, I would urge the members here today to listen to the will of their constituents--that is why we are here, obviously--and vote accordingly. Not only are Canadians looking for clear thinking and a middle ground on this contentious issue, they are looking for leadership and they want their voices to be heard.

I am proud to say that I have listened to the people in my riding of Palliser and have represented their wishes on this important issue. I am very proud to be part of a political party that is willing to allow its members to vote freely on this issue so that the voices of their constituents can be heard. I urge all members of the House to listen to their constituents when it comes time to cast their vote tonight.

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June 28th, 2005 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, marriage is of course understood as a heterosexual and procreative institution existing independently from the state. It always has been an indispensable bastion of freedom in our civil society, going back 140 years.

I believe, of course, that marriage is fundamental to our society. People of the opposite sex marry, bear children, and nurture those children in the best way they can. That is the way this world has been. It cannot continue to exist without that process taking place, that union of a man and a woman.

I believe that Bill C-38 really has nothing to do with the rights of minorities. At this point same sex couples are pretty much granted every legal right we can imagine. They are recognized for taxation purposes, for pensions and for everything else that heterosexual married couples are.

I believe that this is the beginning of a slippery slope. Notwithstanding what the supporters of the bill claim, which is that everything is going to be okay, I believe that if Bill C-38 passes it is going to have a direct impact on our society. It is in direct conflict with the traditional way civilization has grown. It is in direct conflict with the traditional foundation of society: man, woman, children, jobs, mortgage, bills, the way our society was built and built to a strength. It seems to me that Liberal prime ministers of the past and present have for some unknown reason done everything they could to break down the strong foundation that built our society.

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June 28th, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, from all across my riding, and across Canada for that matter, I have been receiving letters, emails and phone calls that have been asking me these questions. With all the other problems, concerns and disparities that we have in Canada, what on earth possesses the Liberal government to be so obsessed in its drive to put through Bill C-38? Is this more important than our health care system which is practically in a critical condition itself? Is this more important than the poverty that we have in our country, and the families who are living on less than poverty levels of income trying to raise their families?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was just here and she spoke. I must ask her, is it more important to talk about Bill C-38 than the fact that despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been put into aboriginal programs over the last 30 years, the quality of life among aboriginals in our country, particularly on the reserves and in the cities, is at a worse level than it was 30 years ago? Is it more important than that?

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Palliser.

I think the people who have been sending me these questions have a right to ask them and the government has not answered. Why is this so important to the Liberals? What is their hidden agenda?

I want to talk about three issues. I want to talk about intolerance, religious freedom, and how the government has abrogated its responsibility to uphold decisions that are made by Parliament.

I watched the debate today and was appalled at the way that the word intolerance fell from the lips of government members who are supporting the bill. They were calling anyone in opposition to the bill intolerant because of us in the House, who dared, by reason of our own personal conviction, by reason of our own faith based belief, or by reason of the input we have had from our constituents, stand in the House and defend the traditional definition of marriage. Or, in the case of our citizens, who dared to send emails to the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP members who are supporting the bill, they too were branded as intolerant.

The hypocrisy of it is appalling after seeing the greatest display of intolerance, perhaps if I can use that word, by the Prime Minister himself when he showed that he was and is intolerant of any of his cabinet members who would want to have a free vote, threatening that they would be dismissed from cabinet if they dared to vote against the bill.

The proof came today. The intolerance of the Prime Minister was shown today when one of his cabinet ministers, because he was so convicted that he had to speak and vote against the bill, took the personal step to resign from cabinet in order to do so. Otherwise, he was not permitted. Those members over there who want to talk about intolerance just have to look around their own caucus and in particular at the Prime Minister's Office. There is the intolerance.

There is, being perpetuated by those who support this bill, what some have referred to as the big lie when it comes to religious freedom, the big lie that is being used to convince people that there is some protection for religious freedoms in this bill.

The government is using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to say that of course religious freedoms will be protected because they are protected in the charter. I would suggest that one has only to look at the case of Chris Kempling from Quesnel, who is a constituent of mine and who, because of his deeply held religious beliefs, decided that he wanted to speak out against the same sex marriage issue.

He dared, because of his personal beliefs, to write an article in the local paper saying that same sex marriage, in his opinion, was wrong and that this country should uphold the traditional definition of marriage. He was, for his efforts, given a three month suspension by the B.C. Teachers' Federation, which he appealed in a courtroom.

He said that he was protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it says in there that it guarantees him freedom of religion and freedom of speech. His appeal was lost because, the judge said, notwithstanding that the charter guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, he felt that society was able to place--and by society he meant the court--a reasonable restriction on my constituent's fundamental rights of freedom of religion and speech.

The Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP are telling us not to worry about it, that we do not have to specifically put it into Bill C-38 because, after all, the charter is going to protect us. Let us ask Chris Kempling from Quesnel, B.C. whether the charter protected him. It did not, in the same way that the charter will not protect one's freedom of religion or, in this instance, freedom of speech, no matter how the big lie is perpetuated by the supporters of this bill. It will not.

Let us just ask Bishop Henry of Calgary about it. Because he dared to speak out against the same sex marriage bill, Bill C-38, because he dared, he got a visit, not from any of the Liberal members as they are too sly for that, but from the Revenue Canada people, saying in essence that he might want to calm down his talk about his opposition to same sex marriage because he represents a charitable tax organization, after all, and quite frankly there might be some members of the Liberal Party and some in government who might think that he is using his tax status in an inappropriate political way. Freedom of speech is not there in the charter.

I said that the government had abrogated its responsibility in defending parliamentary decisions. It did. The lawyers over there will know about the 1919 Nickle case, which was successfully used by the Chrétien lawyers to block Conrad Black's quest to become a knight. The Nickle resolution says that no Canadian citizen can be made a knight of the British Empire.

Lawyers argued that it was a duty to defend the decisions of the Parliament of Canada in any court where an issue conflicted with parliamentary decisions.

The decision stood, by a vote in 1999 and one in 2003, that this Parliament recognize marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. When the lower provincial courts made their decisions, the government did not challenge them. It was the government's responsibility to challenge those lower court decisions at the Supreme Court. It did not. The Liberals walked away from it. They abrogated their responsibility to the people of this country and to this Parliament. Shame on them.

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June 28th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
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London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Madam Speaker,on this historic last day of debate in this House on Bill C-38, I am pleased to have the honour of speaking in favour of the civil marriage act.

The debate has been a long one. A full range of arguments both for and against the extension of civil marriage to same sex couples has been articulated and discussed in many forms, and not just in this House. It has also been in the legislative committee of the House, which recently re-examined the bill, and in the standing committee that discussed this question in 2003. The issue has also been discussed in the courts, in different jurisdictions, in the media, and of course in the public sphere.

I would like to use my time today to quickly review the legal framework of the bill for tonight's vote.

As the Minister of Justice pointed out this morning, the bill is organized around two very fundamental rights and freedoms in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first is the charter protection of equality and minority rights, in other words, the extension of access to civil marriage to gays and lesbian couples. The second is the charter protection of religious freedom, in other words, the assurance that religious groups would remain free to follow their beliefs and make their own decisions about what marriage is within those beliefs, and that no religious official can be forced to perform marriages that are contrary to his or her beliefs. Both of these charter principles are fully respected and affirmed by this bill, which is rights protecting legislation.

Courts in eight provinces and one territory have already changed the law to extend equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples. Thousands of same sex couples are now legally married in this country. As a result, the decision now for the Parliament of Canada is not only whether to extend these rights, but whether to take away charter rights from a minority group.

Some Canadians have expressed concerns that the courts have made this decision rather than the elected Parliament. Although it is the court decisions that have changed the law, it remains up to Parliament to make the final decisions.

Under the Constitution, Parliament and the courts both have important and complementary roles. It is an important part of the courts' mandate, given to them by Parliament when the charter was passed democratically, to examine current laws to determine if they meet the requirements of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document that Parliament itself approved through a democratic process.

At the same time, Parliament is best situated to look at the complete picture in designing a Canada-wide approach that meets both the equality and freedom of religion guarantees of the charter.

I am a member of Parliament from Ontario where this has been the law for nearly two years now, and nothing is going to change in my province. Whether we vote one way or another, the law has already been changed in my province and in many other jurisdictions in Canada. It is critical that this Parliament take responsibility to act to provide a uniformity of law across our country, rather than leaving this to the courts alone any longer.

Many members have again indicated during the last days of debate that they would prefer that the legal recognition given to same sex unions be some term other than marriage, such as civil union. The Minister of Justice reminded us this morning that civil unions are not a workable option in a Canadian legal and constitutional framework. Although theoretically possible, creating a separate institution in addition to civil marriage must be done under provincial and territorial laws, not federal laws, and so cannot respect the right of same sex couples to equality without discrimination, meaning that it would still be in breach of the charter.

As the opposition has stated, Parliament has legislative jurisdiction over civil marriage, but it does not have any jurisdiction to establish an institution other than marriage for couples of the same sex. As only the provinces and territories have jurisdiction to create civil unions, the inevitable legal patchwork caused by some 13 different forms of civil unions could well result in legal confusion, but it will not result in equality.

The Supreme Court declined to answer the fourth question in the reference and returned it to us to decide, but it did not do so in a vacuum. That is important to understand. It clearly indicated, as the member just reiterated, that Parliament must exercise its jurisdiction over civil marriage in a way that complies with the Constitution and the charter.

The Supreme Court also clearly told us that it refused to answer the question not because it disagreed, but because courts in eight provinces and one territory had already made binding decisions and thousands of couples had married in reliance on those decisions. The government is not only bound by decisions of the Supreme Court but by decisions of all courts. That is how the law changed in Ontario a couple of years ago. It was not a Supreme Court decision. It was another decision of another court of compelling authority in my province.

Unless we are willing in this Parliament to use the notwithstanding clause to overrule those findings, this is not going to change. As the Minister of Justice reminded us again, the courts' decisions did not only address the common law but two statutes of the House, the harmonization act for Quebec and the modernization act, both of which set out a legislative definition of the opposite sex requirement for marriage and which were also declared unconstitutional.

The government's commitment to uphold the right to equality without discrimination precludes the use of the notwithstanding clause which would deliberately deny the right of couples of the same sex to equal access to civil marriage. If one minority can have its rights taken away by deliberate government action, then all other rights are potentially at risk.

As Canada is a nation of minorities with a history of tolerance and acceptance of differences, this is incompatible with responsible government. I believe it will be shown tonight by a vote in the House that is the accepted will democratically elected members will make.

For those Canadians who are concerned about the impact of the bill on freedom of conscience and religion, the government will uphold freedom of religion. I would not vote for this bill if I did not think this bill would not have that effect. It is an equal charter right.

I belong to a Christian faith that supports this bill. One of the things that has been difficult to take during this lengthy debate is someone telling other people they are unchristian or they have no faith just because they disagree on a rights issue. That is not the case for many members in this chamber and I think we should be respectful of each other in the way we express our views.

The Supreme Court was categorical. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms already protects freedom of religion. This protection is clearly echoed in the bill to extend civil marriage to same sex couples now in five separate places, asserting the government's commitment to religious freedom by stating that everyone has the freedom of religion under the charter and that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. The bill only applies to marriage for civil purposes and will not have any effect on religious marriage in any way.

To extend this protection, further specific guarantees could also be made under provincial and territorial human rights acts and marriage acts. The Minister of Justice has already asked his provincial and territorial colleagues for their cooperation in any necessary amendments that those provinces or territories choose to do. I know that legislation passed in Ontario.

As the Minister of Justice has said, the charter is the expression and the entrenchment of our rights and freedoms, the codification of the best of Canadian values and aspirations. We are all its beneficiaries, and that includes the minority groups who live in my riding and who I have been elected to also represent. It is not a question of percentages or numbers. Even if there are very few as a percentage of population whom this bill protects, it is also my job to protect them. I take that responsibility seriously.

When people come to me and tell me their stories, whether it is orally in my office or through their letters, I know that many people have been suffering because they did not feel the dignity of equality. They do not want to take anything away from someone who disagrees with them. They are not asking to take away any benefit from another person. They are just asking for the legal extension of the same benefits.

The charter defines who we are as a people and what we aspire to be. It is in that spirit that the legislation has been tabled and in which the democratic debate and exercise in democracy will be carried out. It is also in that spirit, and I would suggest my hope, for equality the rights of minorities and the protection of religious freedoms that I trust the legislation will be enacted.

This is not about social experimentation. This is about charter rights for all, including what to some are unpopular minority groups in this country.

In my home constituency, it was the same charter and protection of minority rights that I went to when I was looking at anti-terrorism provisions that we were debating. I talked to minority groups that felt threatened. I used those provisions to bring areas into the legislation and to change legislation in the House with the help of others. We brought in sunset clauses to the legislation that I had found a little close to draconian at the time.

It is that same charter that gives those individuals and those communities the protection. We do not know when we will need our charter rights. There are many countries around the world that do not have those protections. Many of us have young folks who are travelling abroad. If they get into trouble in another country, those charter protections and justice system are just not there in some parts of the world. We are very fortunate in this country. I celebrate having a charter.

The right to equality, in my view, is an extremely important fundamental right guaranteed by the charter. I know that some people at different times have made comical comments, or at least they thought they were, or they did not understand how the charter could protect them and their families. I think the majority of Canadians do celebrate this piece of legislation.

Rights are rights. It does not matter if we do not like the phrase, it is still true. None of us can, nor should we, pick and choose whose rights we will defend and whose rights we will ignore. The government must represent the rights of all Canadians equally. This bill is the only way possible to fully protect both the important charter rights involved here, religious freedom and equality. One right does not trump another right. They have to coexist.

The House has a duty not only to those opposed, but to those in favour, not only to those religious groups who do not wish to perform same sex marriages, but also to those who do.

In the discussions surrounding the 1968 Divorce Act, religious groups took sides, some urging the government not to pass the civil divorce law for Canada, fearing the impact on religious practice, and others urging the government to go further and include a ground for divorce based solely on marital breakdown.

Bill C-38 already represents the Canadian compromise, the change to the civil law, while at the same time respecting the right of religious groups to determine religious law in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. I would just as forcefully argue for that protection as I would for the equality and protection of a minority, and so should every member of this chamber.

Now, as then, it falls to the civil authority to legislate in a way that allows all religious groups to continue with their respective beliefs. The way to do that is the bill before us today. I fully understand, and I do not think any member could have worked in this House for a number of years without understanding, that this issue of extending equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples is one that evokes strong feelings. That is a given. A number of my constituents as well as my own circle of family, friends and colleagues have struggled with this issue.

I want to remind those on all sides of the debate that there is a human face on this issue at all times. It is not just about rhetoric or about words. It is not just about invoking the Charter of Rights. It is about the people inside of those rights. What we decide here will impact on the lives of real people.

I have talked to many who have felt that some of the debate over the time that we have debated this have used words and thoughts in the debate that have hurt them. Some gay and lesbian couples felt that some of the debate had crossed the line. I think that was unfortunate and I hope that none of it was intended. I would like to think none of it was intended. I think sometimes some people get carried away.

Some, I know, contend that the small number of gay and lesbian people just proves that this group is so small that they do not warrant the attention and consideration being given to them by the courts and the legislatures throughout the country.

As the Vanier Institute of the Family pointed out in its presentation to our House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when it studied this issue in early 2003, this argument is dangerously misguided.

A democratic and a just society must measure itself, not only by reference to the majority but equally by reference to how it respects each and every individual citizen, regardless of their differences, their heritage, their religion, their abilities or disabilities, their gender, their race or their sexual orientation. Surely history has taught us something, that we cannot distribute justice or fairness on the basis of numbers.

Others are concerned that gay and lesbian couples do not remain in long term relationships. While we may have little scientific data on this to date, it is interesting to note that all the court cases against the government seem to be couples who have been together for 30 years or more. Sure, not all same sex couples may stay together for 30 or 40 years, but as long as some do how can they be treated any differently on that basis?

Are children part of these couples' lives? The 2001 Canadian census indicates that 15% of households headed by lesbian couples had children, versus 3% among male same sex households. That means that at least 3,000 same sex couples are raising children in Canada today.

The children become members of these families in a variety of ways. The Vanier Institute of the Family reviewed the research available and noted that the majority of these children were born into a mother-father unit that ultimately ended in divorce or separation and the parent with care of the child then re-partners in a same sex relationship. That is not the only scenario but it is one that does occur.

How are the children faring in these households with same sex parents? This is a question of great concern to many Canadians, and it should be. They can accept that adults should be free to choose partners of their choice but they are rightly concerned about the children being raised in these relationships.

While no large-scale, definitive study exists, all the research to date suggests that the quality of parenting is a more important factor in the success of children than the sexual orientation of the parent. Indeed, as we all know, most children do not want to know about their parents' sex lives or even that they have a sex life. Maybe if one is in Parliament, one does not, I do not know.

However what makes a good family good for a child is not just the make up of that family, the married couple, the common-law, the single parent, the extended family, the only child, but that the family loves, cares and supports these children and, by extension, the community has to love, care and support these children.

We all know instances where a married heterosexual couple may be the best place for children to be raised but we all know instances where it is not. Whoever their parents are, all children need love and supervision. They all need to be sheltered, fed, taken to school and so on.

Children need and deserve the full support of government, not only for themselves but for their real families, not some make-believe family but their real families existing today on every street in Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I only have a short period of time. My colleague from Burnaby worked very hard in the committee to get Bill C-38 to the House. I think it is fair that we are all accused from time to time of using too much passion in this debate, but it is a passionate issue.

We have a history when we have dealt with issues as controversial as this. I hope over the next decade and generation that we will come to realize that this did not imperil marriage in our country, it reinforced it. I hope all people approach it that way.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I was here for the member's speech about an hour ago, before we went to private members' business. During private members' hour he accused the Conservatives of speaking with passion on this issue. He himself had a rather impassioned speech in his support of same sex marriage.

However, the member is a lawyer. Does he not share the concern that many of my constituents do? Are people in his own riding not expressing the concerns about protection of religious freedom, which is very much under attack through this bill?

For example, is the member aware of the case of Chris Kempling, a school counsellor in Quesnel, B.C? A judgment was passed on June 13 by the appeal court of British Columbia. Mr. Kempling wrote a letter to the editor objecting to Bill C-38 based on his religious convictions. He was suspended without pay for three months. He is not expounding this in the classroom. He is simply entering a public debate about the social policy change that those folks are abrogating, the members opposite in the coalition, to change the definition of marriage. What about his section 2 charter rights, which our charter calls fundamental rights?

The party the member represents and the members opposite purport to be defenders of the charter. Are those members not concerned that the courts are not protecting rights, which are clearly defined charter rights, of others who object to this bill?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today fully conscious of the historical significance of the vote that will take place later today. I do it with a great deal of pride because of the role that my party historically has played in advancing the rights of gays and lesbians in our country, but perhaps even more so, with a great deal of humility, recognizing that the work that has been done by other members of this House in the past probably far exceeds what we are doing today.

For me there are three buzzwords as to why we should support Bill C-38 and why we should pass it later today. One is the law, one is love and one is duty.

As a lawyer, I went through this process of watching the charter come into being and having it being applied, Back in the early eighties our country made a concrete, solid decision that henceforth we would have in place a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that would guarantee fundamental rights and that we would have a court system that would act as the arbitrator. It would apply the decisions in a just fashion and determine the rights when there was a conflict between the state, as there is here and has been, and a minority group in our country.

The Canadian public has accepted that method and we have now lived under it for more than 20 years. When the Supreme Court of Canada along with all the other lower courts made the decisions we have seen over the last few years, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was applied, and I believe applied appropriately, and they came to the right conclusion. For that reason, for the law of this land, all of us should be supporting Bill C-38.

The second buzzword is love. I am a Roman Catholic. I have been married to my wife for 36 years and we have three grown children. My Catholic community in the city of Windsor is a major support for me and has been for all my life. For the last number of years, my wife and I have taught the marriage preparation courses at our church. Having been elected in 2000, there were a number of things I had to set aside but that was one that I could not. It is a great benefit to our marriage, but it is also a great joy to see young couples entering into marriage. If we can do anything to help them do that, it is something that I am very proud to do.

One of my visions is that some day my church will allow those couples to not only be heterosexual but also to be homosexual. My vision says to me that some day this will happen. The Roman Catholic Church in this country and across the globe will follow the precedents that the United Church, the Quakers, the Metropolitan Church and any other number of Christian denominations have taken. This is about love; we will guarantee within our religious services that all couples will be treated equally.

My marriage is probably the most important thing to me, in terms of the relationship with my wife and my children. By allowing for gays and lesbians to marry, it will in no way detract from or minimize my marriage, just the opposite. When I do the marriage preparation courses with young couples, I want to share the relationship that we have been able to develop as a couple, as a family and as a community. Our marriage is very much supported by our community, and I want gay and lesbian couples to be able to share in those relationships.

Finally, the third buzzword is duty. I, like my leader, have known gay and lesbian couples who have suffered. If this legislation moves the celebration of their relationship just a little bit, it is worth passing. I had a friend involved in a mature gay relationship who took his life several years ago. I know what pain and suffering he went through. I know what rejection he suffered from some members of his family and I know the abuse he took in the workplace because he was openly gay.

Until we strike down all the barriers to full equality for our gay and lesbian community, until we do that, we are going to continue to have individuals such as my friend who are going to be pushed to the wall to the point that they take their lives. Bill C-38 is part of that work. I spent Saturday morning with the gay and lesbian community in Windsor. They were talking about the ongoing difficulties that the gay and lesbian youth of our country have in coming out and about the need for us to have services available to them. That is what the meeting was about.

If we put this bill into place, it is not going to be the be-all and end-all of the discrimination that this community has suffered, but it will advance the cause.

Therefore, my duty as an individual member of Parliament, as I pledged it when I spoke at my friend's funeral, is to support Bill C-38, to get it into play and then move on, again so that at some point in the future, like those young couples my wife and I helped prepare for marriage, we will be able to celebrate all marriages, whether they be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise to speak to this important bill, the civil marriage act, and I do so for the first time in Parliament.

As a member of the legislative committee to deal with Bill C-38, along with my colleagues I have listened to the many presentations intended originally to provide technical assistance to the committee. But many clearly did enter into the debate on the merits of the bill.

I have also listened to the many comments from my constituents and indeed from Canadians across the country. I understand that this is a difficult issue for many and I respect their views. Many in my riding support this bill and many indeed are opposed.

My role as a member of Parliament is to consider and balance competing interests in the national context and accordingly cast my vote. I understand that some may oppose my view and that it may cost me support. This is a democracy and I accept that.

I want to indicate today on the record my support for this legislation and the reasons for my support. I support Bill C-38 because it is consistent with my support for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is consistent with my faith and it is consistent with my views of what family is about.

The three aspects of the issue I want to speak to are those of principle, reason and practicality.

The principle most clearly involved here is one of equality as provided under the charter. The existing definition of marriage, as determined by the courts in eight provinces and one territory now, discriminates unreasonably and unnecessarily with regard to same sex couples. That there are objections to this view is not surprising.

Yet as has been cited, over the course of human history every advance in equality has been resisted by powerful elements of the community. Whether it was the abolition of slavery in the first half of the 19th century, the extension of the franchise to men who were not property owners in the latter part of the 19th century, the enfranchising of women in the early 20th century, or the coming of the welfare state in the mid-20th century, the objection has always been similar.

Ending slavery, it was argued, would destroy the natural social order, create economic havoc and create an artificial equality between superiors and inferiors. Enfranchising men without property would imperil the existing political order, while enfranchising women would destroy the family and cause women to lose their femininity. Creating a broad system of social supports was simply dismissed or denounced as socialism or, worse, as pure communism.

In short, one is hard pressed to think of any major advancement of human freedom or equality which has not in its time been denounced by someone, and often by those most privileged in society.

The second is a matter of reason as opposed to fear. It has been argued that this bill will somehow directly or indirectly pose threats to those religious bodies that do not as a matter of faith or doctrine approve of same sex marriage. If this were a reasonable fear it would be compelling, but is it reasonable?

As things now stand, no religious authority is compelled to marry persons who fail to meet the requirements of that particular religion. Some, as we know and as we have heard here, will not sanction the remarriage of divorced persons. Yet even though the state sanctions the remarriage of divorcees, the state has never remotely suggested that ecclesiastical authorities are under some obligation to do so and would or could or might face retribution if they failed to do so.

Similarly, the state has long sanctioned divorce itself, yet when has the state ever said, suggested or implied that religious bodies that do not sanction divorce must do so because the state does so? In a country with long and deepening traditions of religious toleration, the suggestion that some religious bodies would face retribution over this issue is, I believe, fearmongering of the worst sort.

Third, it is a matter of practicality. The fact is that same sex marriage, as I have already noted, is now legal and occurring daily and routinely in nine jurisdictions in this country.

That is the case and will remain the case, yet Canadian society seems to be carrying on in the usual way. People go to work. They read newspapers and watch TV. They have and go to parties. They worship God in their own way. There is no rioting in the streets and no unravelling of the social order. In short, people generally and married couples in particular, same sex or opposite sex, are getting on with their normal lives with neither fear nor rancour, nor, let it be noted, often with much concern about what goes on in this House.

Those opposite might wish to address how, if their wishes were to prevail, they would deal with the thousands of same sex couples who are now legally and legitimately married under the laws of their own provinces. An authoritarian government, be it of the right or the left, might not hesitate to impose retroactive legislation to turn back the clock. Is that what those opposite would do if they had power? As with all change, there are those who will fear the worst. I count myself with those who believe in the innate decency and goodwill of our compatriots.

We have heard much about the sanctity of the family and the imperative to preserve the underpinnings of the traditional family as it is defined by some. If I may be personal, I too want to speak of the importance of the family, of a family embracing and supporting all within it, of a family where all members have equal rights and equal opportunities. Like many in this House, some of my best learning has been from my own children.

I have held or sought elected office for almost 20 years. I have been involved in decision making on a number of matters relating to same sex couples, whether it be the extension of benefits or rights, or privileges and opportunities in the workplace.

In 1995, while seeking a seat in the Manitoba legislature, I was being urged by others to stay away from the issue of the day involving the extension of rights to gay and lesbian people because it might affect a byelectoral outcome, at which point my youngest daughter said to me, “Does that mean if I have a child who is gay, you would love it less?”. Needless to say, I stepped up to the plate at that time and it is in part why I support the legislation today. I do it for our children and our children's children, to ensure that all of our children have the full benefits and rights of citizenry in this great country of ours.

I recall the words of one of the parents from PFLAG, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who said, “The rights and responsibilities and freedoms of my straight son should be the same as that of my gay son”. He went on to say, “I find it unfair that there has always been a possibility for my adult straight son to be married, but not my gay son”.

I am proud to be part of the debate here today. I am proud to be a Canadian, and indeed a Canadian parliamentarian, supportive of this legislation, as we table and vote on this landmark legislation for our country this evening.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to bring a different perspective to this debate for the hon. member opposite.

I am adopted. I do not know my biological heritage, nor do my biological mother and father. Mine is an example of an exception to the norm of traditional marriage, that is, that male-female marriage is marriage precisely because it has procreative capacity and that marriage is the child-centred and not adult-centred institution that satisfies the lifelong need of Canada's children to know and be known by and raised by their mother and father.

The Liberal government wants to overthrow this norm and establish a new norm of marriage by calling homosexual relationships equal that have no procreative capacity at all. Does the member opposite believe that Bill C-38, with its legislative change from natural parent to legal parent, will satisfy the need of Canada's children to know and be known by and raised by their biological mother and father?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted with the news you have just given us about the passing of Bill C-43 with customary speed by the Senate. That is great news for the province of Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, more than fulfilling the Prime Minister's commitment of last year.

I am honoured to speak to Bill C-38, an act to extend the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians. I will be splitting my time with one of my favourite parliamentarians, the member for Winnipeg South Centre.

The vote that we will take tonight in just a few hours will provide equality under the law for all Canadians, those men and women, our brothers and sisters, our friends and those whom we love. This vote represents one of the most clear opportunities we are likely to have to declare our faith in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to support our values of inclusion, justice and dignity.

None of us here have taken this responsibility lightly. Each of us have our own reasons to vote as we see fit. I can only affirm for my part the belief that one's human dignity is non-negotiable. Our responsibility here today is to acknowledge that reality, so that through our actions as legislators we might recognize that which we all know to be true, that gays and lesbians are fully equal and that Parliament will do the right thing, in my view, this evening.

On March 21 I spoke to the issue of civil marriage and outlined my views. Today I would like to speak about the process that we have undertaken since then, having been a member of the legislative committee dealing with civil marriage, as well as the ongoing discussions and interactions I have had the opportunity to have with my constituents.

Many people have opposed the bill and many have provided reasons as to why we should not vote on the bill tonight in a positive way. I would like to address a few of those issues.

First, some have suggested that we are rushing the bill through. I think the record will show that this is not the case at all. Indeed, some members opposite have, on the one hand, suggested that we are wasting our time on this issue because there are more important issues to deal with, as if equality is not an issue of national importance. Yet on the other hand there are members who have said that this is so important that they would like even more debate.

I believe there has been more than a healthy debate in this country, going back for years. Certainly, we have had ample witnesses appear before the legislative committee and they have expressed their views. How many more bills have had this much attention? I do not think very many. The suggestion that somehow we are rushing this through rings hollow in light of that debate.

Second, an issue that has been of particular concern to me is that it has been suggested that we should not allow this law to pass because people of faith oppose the bill. In fact, we just heard the previous speaker. He is a man whom I respect and whom we know has faced certainly challenges, but has come here to cast his vote. I respect that. But to suggest that the Prime Minister does not live his faith is outrageous. It is outrageous and outdated.

As a member of the legislative committee on civil marriage, we have heard representatives from many religions. We have heard from Catholics, Evangelicals, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and members of the United Church. There is no unanimity on this issue. Some are against the legislation and some support it.

In fact, in our committee work we heard very positively on this bill from the Unitarian Church, some Sikhs, Rabbis and from the United Church. My own faith is rooted in Catholicism. I was raised by parents who taught me that the gospel message was about love and peace through a living faith.

I support the right of those who, because of their faith, oppose this legislation, but not all people of faith have that same view. In the end we would do well not to assume any one of us have an exclusive domain on what constitutes good morals or family values.

I agree personally with the moderator of the United Church when he suggested that supporting same sex marriage is not an abandonment of faith, but an embracing of faith. This view, expressed in simple terms, captures my own approach. I have not compromised my faith in supporting this legislation. I have embraced it.

Another question raised to exclude gays and lesbians from civil marriage was that only two other countries have adopted such legislation. Why would we want to be among the first countries to do so? My answer is, where do we want to be when it comes to embracing equality and recognizing the rights of individuals? Should we strive to be in the middle of the pack or to be the last nation dragged in?

Canada takes great pride in being the first nation to have officially adopted multiculturalism as a policy. There were many opposed to that, but we look back on that with pride and as a turning point for Canada, and that is a good thing.

We are a leader in many other areas: eliminating third world debt and patenting drugs for HIV-AIDS. The fact that we are among the first is not something we should hide. It is something we should celebrate.

Another reason we have heard not to support this legislation is that gays and lesbians do not even want this. So if they do not want it, why are we putting it forward. We have had people in committee tell us that gays and lesbians do not want to be married, but there are many heterosexuals who do not want to be married either. I do not think anyone would suggest that they should not have the right.

A number of gays and lesbians have fought very hard for that right, to have their marriages recognized as equal to those of other Canadians. I salute them. I salute their fight. I salute their courage including people like the former member for Burnaby—Douglas. Today when we vote on this issue, I will be thinking of them including my sister Jane, her partner Vicki, my godchild Rosie and her sister.

Some people feel that religion will be compromised, that religion trumps equality is what we hear. In a truly civilized society religion and equality do not compete. They co-exist easily and they complement each other. No church has been forced by the Government of Canada to marry or not marry people. That has not happened. The Catholic Church, for example, can decide who can enter into the sacrament of marriage. It alone determines who is married in the Catholic Church. That is how it should be. That is how it is. That is how it will continue.

We have even heard some people suggest that our health care will be compromised if we extend the right to marry to gays and lesbians. We have heard if we allow gays and lesbians to marry there will be an increase in all kinds of diseases and HIV-AIDS. The people who suggest that have no idea what the bill is about. The bill is not about sex at all. It is about love and commitment. Anyone who suggests that allowing gays and lesbians to marry, that it will lead to a dramatic increase in levels of sexual activity, should check with their heterosexual colleagues who may be married. They may be disabused of that theory.

We have gone well beyond the issue of whether it is right or wrong for homosexuals to have sex. A great Canadian once said, “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”. We have moved beyond the morality of that issue. This is not about sex. This issue is about love and commitment, and the recognition that gays and lesbians are equally qualified and equally capable of making a commitment to each other. The moral aspect is an issue we decided in this country a long time ago.

The next argument is that we should have a national plebiscite. If we had a national plebiscite on whether women should have voted, imagine the result considering that those who would have been deciding that would have been men. Or if they had a plebiscite in states like Alabama or Mississippi on whether blacks should have the vote, they still would not.

When it comes to an issue like this, the majority cannot determine the rights of the minority. Alongside the plebiscite argument are people who say we should listen to the voice of the people in our ridings and vote the way they want us to vote. I decided on this issue some time ago.

In fact, it is an issue I have supported and ran on in the last campaign when this was an issue. Rights and justice cannot be subject to a poll. Equality does not find its legitimacy in meaning through a referendum. That is not the Canadian way. I have met and spoken with hundreds of my constituents, both for and against. I have never refused a meeting with anyone because they had a different point of view and I have valued every opinion I have heard.

Today we will vote on the issue of civil marriage, Bill C-38. Today we will decide if gays and lesbians will have equal access to civil marriage as do other Canadians. This week, as we celebrate Canada Day, is a very appropriate week to vote on this issue. On Canada Day we celebrate the best of Canada, the diversity of Canada, a nation of equality, a nation of strength, a nation of compassion, a nation that believes we are stronger together than we are apart, and a nation where we celebrate equality.

Being equal does not mean that we are all the same, far from it. From those who were born here from our founding peoples, to people who came here hundreds of years ago, to people who have just recently chosen to come to this nation, we celebrate our differences. We do not all look the same. We do not all go to the same church. We do not all speak the same language. We do not all eat the same food. We are different. We celebrate those differences because those differences make us stronger. We not only encourage but celebrate those differences.

Today in this chamber we will celebrate the diversity of Canada once again. We will send a statement to the world that in Canada gays and lesbians will not be considered second class citizens. They will not be offered marriage lite; they will be offered full marriage.

When members of this House from all sides look back on this day in years to come, I believe they will see this as one step of the many steps that Canada has made to be a world leader in recognizing that one of the great privileges of freedom is equality. I am proud to support this bill.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to thank my colleague, who was the former member of Parliament for my area of Fort McMurray--Athabasca, for the great effort he has taken to be here today.

Since he has not had an opportunity to be here and since I was a member of the Bill C-38 committee, would he comment on some of the procedures that were taken by the committee? In its meetings of less than two months, it heard only 55 witnesses on this crucial issue to Canadians. Many of the witnesses complained that they received less than 24 hours notice to come to the meetings and many received less than seven days. In fact, seven witnesses could not appear because of conflicts and other issues.

We only received three or four of the briefs of the experts before the committee meetings. Many of those still have not been translated. I have not received many of them. We will be voting on this very issue tonight and we cannot even hear from the experts and cross-examine their testimony.

Could he comment on that?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, in her speech the member mentioned that she had received a letter from a minister in Outlook, Saskatchewan, who had concerns about his religious freedom as a minister of religion to perform marriages as he saw fit or as his denomination saw fit. I wonder if the member reassured that minister that this legislation goes out of its way to ensure the protection of religious freedom for religious officials.

A number of the preamble clauses, which help interpret the legislation, are very explicit in standing by the religious freedoms guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They also go out of their way to say that the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedoms of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs are protected.

Clause 3, the interpretive clause, was improved during committee hearings to be very explicit about protecting the religious freedom of religious officials to perform marriages based on their understanding, their theology, and their beliefs and doctrine.

I wonder if the member reassured that minister that Bill C-38 goes out of its way to ensure that the religious freedoms of religious officials are protected here in Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this sad occasion, a day on which the debate on an important issue will come to an end and the legislation will be pushed through by a divided House of Parliament.

It is ironic that the demise of the traditional definition of marriage should happen in the House of Commons, a House that has been built on traditions and customs. While customs are only symbolic, traditions are pleasing rituals whose observance or absence has no substantial impact on the operation of constitutional rules and principles. This House is replete with traditions.

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with one of the other members of Parliament.

While I was thinking about what I would say today, I went to my filing cabinet and brought out the files containing all the different letters and e-mails that had been written to me. I thought how sad is was that all these people had not been heard.

I came across the words of a parish priest, Father Francis Geremia, in a recent news article. Although I found his words strong, I understood the frustration and desperation when a parish priest would go so far as to say that not only was he a former Liberal, but that he was praying that the Prime Minister would lose his riding in the next election because he could not have two faces: either he serves God or he serves the devil.

The words reminded me of this past year and at every opportunity that my own parish priest spoke about protecting the traditional definition of marriage. At Christmastime this year he took the opportunity to talk about the family and how important the traditional family was.

I am also a practising Catholic. When I heard the concerns of the Catholic church I raised them as a legislator and as a member of Parliament, not as a Catholic.

I began to come across letters that I received from many people who the members across the way purport to represent. I thought the only thing I could do today would be to read into Hansard some of the letters and opinions that have not been presented in this House.

These letters were written to me by various religions, cultural and business groups, from individuals or on behalf of thousands of Canadians. The first letter dates back to 2003 and it is from the Hindu Society of Ontario. The letter reads:

We are forwarding an appeal on behalf of the Hindus of Canada. We understand that most of the Hindus as well as a majority of Canadians are greatly worried about this legislation, which is going to have an adverse effect in the society.

On behalf of the large numbers of Hindus in Canada, we have prepared this submission with the help of a member of the Hindu clergy family and forwarding it to the attention of the Hon. Prime Minister, Members of the Cabinet, and Members of the Parliament.

Therefore we appeal to all the parliamentarians not to pass this legislation and demoralize the Canadian society. We appeal to them to listen to the majority opinion and act wisely to preserve the integrity of the Canadian nation and ensure a safe and healthy social environment in this country. It would be highly appreciated if you could acknowledge to the above address....

Another letter reads:

All the five hundred thousand Hindu families came to Canada hoping to bring up their children in a safe and decent environment. But they are all greatly upset by this proposed legislation to recognize gays and lesbians as married couples, as it contradicts their religion and culture. Not only Hinduism, but also every other religion in the world, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism and Shamanism, disapprove of homosexual marriages. As members of the clergy family, I have had the opportunity to read about all the religions of the world. I am certain that there are no religious tradition accept this.

The members of the Hindu community as well as their clergy do not like to get involved in controversial political issues for fear of any backlash. When elections come round, they are not going to give their votes to any M.P. who say “Yes” to this legislation whatever party they may belong to. We are certain that most of the Canadians irrespective of party affiliations or religious denominations are opposed to this legislation.

It states:

The Islamic Society of North America-Canada wishes to express its opposition to Bill C-38, which would change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

ISNA-Canada is the oldest and largest grassroots Muslim organisation in North America, and on this issue, can speak confidently for the majority of Muslims in North America, who are opposed to changing the traditional definition of marriage.

The Act notes that marriage is a “fundamental institution in Canadian society,” but fails to take into account what that really means. Marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of others, is an ancient practice that has been stable across history and across cultures. While some cultures have allowed men to marry more than one wife, or women to marry more than one man, marriage cross-culturally, has never been between couples of the same sex.

Marriage is thus an institution that predates the State of Canada, which therefore, has no right to change its meaning in its constitution.

The debate in the press over this issue shows that our Government, as well as many Canadians, are confused about what is at stake.

The argument in favour of same-sex marriage invoked in the Act, centres on the concept of rights, tolerance, and discrimination.

The Islamic Society actually says and does not deny that,

...homosexual couples do form lasting bonds of commitment to each other. Let this be an institution other than marriage. The State has recognized common-law relationships in legal aspects, but has denied common-law spouses the use of the term “marriage”. Let this be similar for same-sex couples.

It is not discrimination, nor is it a curtailment of a person's rights, to say that marriage is the proper institution for the raising of children by their biological parents.

...The ramifications of changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples will be profound.

Not enough time has been allowed for the Canadian public to explore and discuss the long term consequences.

An individual from the finance sector made this suggestion. He said:

Mr. Prime Minister, with the concurrence of Members of Parliament and the Senate, you exercise the prerogative to make laws designed to promote national harmony, to ensure that the interests of each individual or segment of society continues to be equal before the law, that one group does not usurp nor impugn the traditional dignity of another, that emerging entities be invested with an identifying title or name that is free from ambivalence, and is consonant with the provisions of any Act of Parliament related to such entity.

He advocates:

...that the homosexual citizens of our country be given their own unique appellation, and I submit for your consideration and acceptance that the Bill now before Parliament be called “Contractual Alliance of Two Same-Sex Parties” with entrenched rights, privileges, and concomitant responsibilities analogous to those enjoyed by a man and a woman who have their peculiar definition of--“Married”.

A constituent wrote to one of my local papers. He said:

Marriage, as currently defined, predates governments, states, courts and charters of rights. The Christian church's definition--“a union of a man and a woman and a communion of the whole life”--comes from the legal Digest of Roman Emperor Justinian.... Marriage existed in pre-Christian civilizations and has always been a union between a man and a woman. The Catholic Church declared marriage a sacrament in the Council of Trent (1545-63).

The Roman Catholic view of marriage is based on the Aristotelian principle of natural law. Although Aristotle originated the concept, Thomas Aquinas, the giant of Christian philosophical thought, gave it theological shape. He defined natural law as participation in the eternal law of the universe by rational creatures with an in-built commitment to doing good.

...Marriage is too visceral a principle and too sacred to many to be left to the courts to toy with. Anything less than maintaining the current definition will betray the trust Canadians have in politicians.

Another individual in southern Saskatchewan puts the woman-man issue in the proper light, “Are we trying to neuter, water down our language too much?” He states:

In the late 1920's the Supreme Court of the day clarified that a woman was not a person. Can you imagine such nonsense? Well the fight was on and things were set straight. Now, Mr. Prime Minister, you want our courts to redefine marriage as a union between two persons. This is just as ridiculous as a woman is not a person.

This essay was sent to me by John McKellar, the president of HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism, in 2003. He said:

We neither need nor want the state in our bedrooms. We neither need nor want to be shackled by rules, regulations or paperwork. We've already won the same-sex benefits battle, so there's no longer concern over matters of pensions or estates. Let the straights keep marriage. We need to be liberated from the mainstream, homogeneous, egalitarian mindset that is destroying what is left of gay culture.

So he formed Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism in 1997,

...to expose the...myths, distortions and propaganda of modern gay activism...deconstruct the oppression and victimology politics...give a credible voice to happy, successful and independent gays and lesbians who don't wake up every day finding “hate, bigotry, and discrimination” under the bed and who don't go running to the courts, the governments or the human rights commissions for a lifetime of therapeutic preferences.

He went on to say:

Marriage is not an arbitrary convention and is not meant to change with the times. We're not talking about music, fashion or art. We're talking about an institution whose 4 prohibitions - you can only marry one person at a time, only someone of the opposite sex, never someone beneath a certain age, and not a close blood relative....

I would like to read on.

Unfortunately, most people's sense of history begins the day they were born, which means all that precedes is outmoded and irrelevant and all that follows is enlightened and progressive.

Pastor Daryl Olson of Outlook, Saskatchewan, said:

I am also fearful of what this legislation means for me as a member of the clergy. In Saskatchewan all marriages are performed by ministers of religion and justices of the peace. As a member of the clergy, will I be required to perform same-sex marriages against my conscience?

The Trans-Canada Alliance of German-Canadians also said:

You were democratically elected to the Canadian parliament with a majority of the votes, which includes also German-Canadian. The lesser number did not vote for you.

As the elected Member of Parliament you act for all on whatever is in their and Canada's best interest.

In a certain time you will face again your constituency. If you would like to be re-elected to the Canadian parliament -- you will work hard to receive the majority of votes again.

I have received many letters, and unfortunately I cannot read them all into the record. However, I would like to table the concerns of the marriage commissioners, the documents they have received this year in Saskatchewan, so that in history people can see how the language has been neutered in our institution of marriage, how they have had to take out of the marriage licences and the marriage documents the words “bride” and “bridegroom”. It is worth the documents being tabled to show how we have lost the language of the words “bride” and “bridegroom”.

Thank you.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Burlington actually gave me a great segue. This always has been and always will be about equality under the law.

Before I came to this place in 1993, I was asked to run as a member of Parliament for the Liberal Party of Canada. I made one condition on my running, which was that we amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination. I asked for that condition in writing.

I was here in this House in 1996 when that bill was first passed. Thus began the trip and the move toward equality for a minority group in our country that has been discriminated against from the beginning of time. Finally, in this last debate today, those in that group will see themselves fully and completely equal under the law, as in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I feel so passionately about this issue because as a physician, I saw day after day in my practice gays, lesbians, transgendered and bisexual people who were subjected to discrimination under the law. When I met gay and lesbian couples who had been living together for 20 years and who could not even share their medical and dental plans or their pensions, and opposite sex couples who had been living together for a year in conjugal relationships were able to do that, I knew that this group was discriminated against under the law. I saw the effect of that discrimination in terms of mental and physical health on gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. I saw them live in fear. I saw professionals, teachers who were ashamed and afraid that people would know what their sexual orientation was because it meant that they could be fired from their jobs.

This for me is something that I have believed in since I was a practising physician, when I saw what that inequality could do to the health and well-being of Canadians. Today I stand here remembering that in 1996 with the passage of the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to add sexual orientation, it paved the way for benefits for same sex couples in terms of their medical and dental plans. In 2000 when the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act passed, 85 pieces of legislation in this country were amended in order to enshrine that equality in law. This is now the final barrier that is going to fall.

There is a lot of emotion about this issue and I can understand that. What we are talking about is tradition and very strongly held beliefs that have gone on over time. In fact we all know that it was in 2 BC that the Romans first developed the legal contract of marriage. It was a civil contract. It was only between the very wealthy landowning families in Rome who were allowed to make a contractual arrangement to transfer property and to ensure that the children of those contracts would be the rightful heirs to whatever property was handed down. We saw 100 years later, in the same Roman civil law, that in fact this contract was extended to same sex couples. This is not something that is new; this idea was there in 1 BC.

When we talk about the progression of marriage, we hear people talk a lot about the religious component of marriage. We are not talking here about the religious component of marriage. Under section 2 of the charter, religions are free to marry or to behave in a manner befitting their own dogma or whatever their religious beliefs. Those are minority rights given to people who belong to different religions in this country. We are extending minority rights under section 15 of the charter to a group that has been discriminated against under the law.

The fact is for a long time we felt that children were the result of a heterosexual relationship. Today we know that many heterosexual relationships that are infertile can also have children. Those children have come out of reproductive technologies that have been applied to infertile heterosexual couples to allow them to have children. We have never discriminated against those children. We have never discriminated against those infertile couples. They have still been allowed to marry.

Today we know that by using those same technologies, gay and lesbian couples can have children biologically. I know lesbian women who have gone full term and delivered a child just like any other woman.

The parents of those children need to be allowed to marry so the children can have legally married parents. Bill C-38 would ensure those children are equal, not second class citizens. The bill would ensure that a minority group will have equality under the law.

In a country like Canada, which is made up of diverse races, ethnicities, religions, languages, and colour, it is extremely important to ensure minorities are not crushed under majority rule. Minorities need to have a sense that they belong, that they are respected and that they are equal in every way under the law. The state should have no ability to discriminate in terms of its legal apparatus unless allowing people equality would harm society as a whole.

We know that heterosexual marriages will not suddenly end because same sex couples marry. We are just extending the legal ability for same sex couples to do the kinds of things that we all want to do when we love and are committed to each other. We want to ensure that in the eyes of society same sex couples are deemed to be equal and are living in a conjugal relationship that is secure and strong. We want to ensure that their friends and their community can celebrate with them.

The religious component of marriage only came about, if anyone had bothered to do the research, in the council of Trent in 1563 when marriage was solemnized as a religious institution. It has only been since then that we have had religious marriage.

Clause 2 and the amendments that were made by committee would ensure that religious organizations do not have to marry people if they do not wish to do so because of a couple's sexual orientation.

I was on the justice committee and we travelled across the country and discussed this issue. Many religions want to do this and many do not. Which religion is the state to agree with? Do we support one religion over all others or do we continue to allow religious organizations to be free to behave in a manner that they think is important when anyone tries to interfere in that religion's dogma or institution?

We are finally allowing same sex couples to be equal under the law to other people who live in a committed relationship. We are allowing them to sign a civil contract indicating that they can share property and have all the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples. The children of that relationship would have true equality under the law. Parents would be able to hand down property, as they did in the days of ancient Rome, to their legal and rightful heirs. People will have custody of those children and share that custody if the marriage should break down. This issue is all about the law.

In this country of diversity, it is important that we look to the rule of law. Today we know that almost 90% of Canadians who wish to be married can be married as same sex couples. We are denying that right to 10% just because of the province in which they happen to live. The federal government cannot allow that to happen. We are responsible for the definition of marriage. We cannot define it so that 10% of Canadians cannot participate by an accident of geography.

I support Bill C-38 which is about equality. Finally, gays and lesbians will be able to hold their heads up high and be full citizens within Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Paddy Torsney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Centre.

Bill C-38 has placed before Canadians an issue that is complex for some and for others it is incredibly simple. It is the ability of two people to commit to each other in marriage that is recognized by the state. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to speak with many people across Canada and in my constituency of Burlington about the issues that Bill C-38 raises. I have read their letters and their emails. I have listened to the comments that they have made to me.

In the last election this issue was before us at every single one of the debates and there were nine. Without a doubt, some people do not like this legislation and yet others think of it as a logical extension of rights to a group of citizens who have for too long been denied equality. In many ways this debate reflects others that have taken place in this chamber, debates that extended the right of women to vote and to take their place in this chamber.

Today in eight provinces and one territory the law on civil marriage is that two people of the same gender or of opposite genders can marry. In each of these jurisdictions the courts have ruled that it is against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to deny same sex couples access to marriage in order to create a civil union and the Government of Canada agrees with that.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is one of the defining elements of Canadian society. Section 15 of the charter came into force 20 years ago. The inclusion of equality rights in the supreme law of our country was a significant milestone, one that put Canada at the forefront of nations committed to safeguarding human rights and protecting all our citizens' essential dignity.

Section 2 of the charter ensures the freedom for officials of religious institutions to perform marriages only in accordance with their religious beliefs. In supporting Bill C-38 I am fulfilling my legal and constitutional obligations to defend the rights of all Canadians. As I mentioned, section 2 protects religious freedoms as does this bill and that was important to me and to many Canadians. I will continue to defend the right of religious organizations to marry only those who pass their religion standard to qualify for marriage.

Over the past months I have been particularly impressed by the many constituents who have taken the time to ensure that their views were heard. It is always easier for people to call when they disagree with a policy and I have certainly heard from those people, especially when hate filled literature appeared at the doorstep. While I have heard from many constituents who disagree with the bill, I have been overwhelmed with messages of support for the bill from parents, grandparents, younger people, straight people and those who were not. I have been approached by people of faith, by Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Jews and members of the United Church.

Their message was that the government must do what is right for our community and our country. They believe their God would not want discrimination. They believe in equality and the people making their choice should be respected and accepted as equal before the law. They believe that Bill C-38 is a logical expression of our commitment as Canadians to equal treatment of all individuals as enshrined by the charter.

I would like to read from some of the messages that particularly touched me. This one is from the mother of two children. She said:

My family is strong. My Canada is accepting and does not permit or encourage hate-mongering. My Canada is one of tolerance, that welcomes everyone, that supports peace and harmony both at home and abroad.

I heard from other people who told me that they believe that the extension of marriage to same sex couples is good for Canadian society and children to the extent that stable, committed, loving couples and families are the foundation of strong communities and the ideal environment for raising children. We all benefit by including same sex couples among those who can choose the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

I heard from a minister of a church who said to me that marriage, as opposed to being a union of one man and one women, is instead an honouring of those who are engaged in lifelong, faithful, committed, faith filled relationships regardless of a couple's sexuality. He went on to thank me for showing strong leadership in the riding and across the country as we struggle with this issue.

I heard from constituents who told me that they are proud to live in a country that allows everyone to marry, that ensures that all forms of ignorance, prejudice and hate must be fought and fought hard. I heard from someone who said to me that they are sure that this bill must be supported because they believe that anything that promotes supportive and committed relationships between partners is a good thing.

I heard from people who got pamphlets on their doorstep telling them to call me and say they disagreed. They called me to say they agree. “I am very proud and thankful”, one woman wrote, “to have an MP who takes a stand for what they believe in and, most importantly, what I believe in”.

I heard from constituents who pointed out that they had been married for 35 years, have lived in my constituency for 10 years, are 57 and 58 years old. They wanted to write to thank me for supporting the same sex bill.

I heard from somebody who pointed out, “We elect our MPs. We entrust our MPs to protect minority rights, not simply to bow to the majority's sometimes uninformed and intolerant views. A society has never thrived by denying specific groups the rights that are granted to others. A healthy Canada will continue to move forward, instead of clinging to outdated and meaningless definitions”.

I heard from somebody who goes to the same church that I do, who wrote, “What would Jesus say if He was standing before two gay people? He would say 'I created you and I bless you, so live your lives with peace and love'. And thank you for being on this issue”.

I heard from others who were encouraged again by Catholic bishops to write and say that they disagreed. They wrote to say, “I believe in the separation of church and state. I agree with same sex legislation and that supporting it is the right choice. I civilly agree with the legislation and back it 100% in my belief that the rights of all concerned are being taken care of”.

These letters really did affect me as I read them. They reminded me of why we have the honour of being members of Parliament. We can come to a place like this, we can debate these issues passionately, but we can be respected and we can be treated as equals, as men and women, as people who care about issues deeply.

Bill C-38 represents all that we believe in as Canadians, that we believe in equality for everyone. It is a strong symbol of the core values that many Canadians, and I hope all members of this House, hold dear: equality, dignity, tolerance and respect for others.

Passing Bill C-38 will ensure that all Canadians can take their place in the rich tapestry that makes our country so great, that allows each of us to be the people who we are. It will allow people who wish to marry someone of the opposite sex to continue to do that. It will allow people who wish to have a same sex marriage respected by the government and in some cases by their church.

Bill C-38 is an important piece of legislation. I am proud to be able to stand in this House and support this bill on behalf of all my constituents.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, to completely honest, I must admit that it is not a pleasure to take part in today's debate on Bill C-38 on civil marriage.

I get the feeling that, right from the very start, this has been a fruitless debate where everyone has stuck by their positions and refused to budge. Both sides have said some scandalous things. Not only has the debate been polarized, it has been controversial. Some people were subject to harsh remarks and an obvious lack of respect.

Today, I want to make my humble contribution, given my great surprise that the government is incapable of addressing the right to equality and, at the same time, respecting our identities as individuals. When I said that I supported maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, I also said, in the same breath, that I supported the union of same sex partners and their right to equality.

The challenge facing this House and its members, as legislators, was that, in maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, it was also our duty to find a way to pass legislation ensuring equality for same sex couples, so they could have access to a union recognizing their choices and rights. The quest for equality does not mean we have to standardize intrinsically different realities by creating just one type of union between individuals and using the same word to describe it.

Homosexuality exists. It is a reality and no one can explain it or even attempt to. First, it is complex; second, it would be politically incorrect to do so.

Love also exists between same sex partners, and their right to happiness, as far as I am concerned, is a given. We must understand that, according to the government, Bill C-38 seeks essentially to protect two equally fundamental values: the right to equality and freedom of religion.

In order to do this, the government took the easy way out by simply changing the traditional definition of marriage—which is the union of one man and one woman—to include all unions between two individuals. Was it the easy way or incompetency? Both, in all honesty. I believe that this government took the easy way out because it is incompetent and incapable of being bold and innovative.

The second fundamental value is protection of the right of religious organizations to refuse to marry partners of the same sex, which, according to the government, comes under freedom of religion.

As the government failed to assume its responsibilities, it appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. And the result? Essentially, the court concluded that the government had the right to authorize marriage between partners of the same sex, but that the court would not force it to do so, that it would not find that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was a bad thing in itself.

The court recognized that no one could guarantee that religious freedom would be protected against the rights of minorities and that Parliament could not do anything to guarantee religious freedom over the longer term either.

In conclusion, it was left to Parliament to decide. Today, we are experiencing its desire to present Bill C-38, which runs counter to the right of respect for the distinct identity of each kind of union between two people.

Obviously, in this debate, reference is made to the unions of persons of the opposite sex and of the same sex. We are talking, essentially, about sexual orientation, and therefore sex. Perhaps we should talk about it a little.

I would like to quote from Yvon Dallaire, an expert in the psychology of sex. I quote:

Although reasonable, human beings are still animals and, as such, subject to the laws of nature, whether aware of it or not. Thus, whether we want it or not, sexuality remains a strategy of nature to ensure the survival of the species. What we call love is another of these strategies to provide the best opportunity to raise our young. Love is a biological point of view serving sexuality—

And continuing the quote:

Love becomes so important in our species probably because we spend decades raising our children, while the young of most animal species become independent a few days, weeks or months after their birth. So, it is important for humanity that the male and female not only form a stable couple but share in the task of child rearing.

It is in this concept of the focus of life reaching out to life that society over the years has defined and confirmed the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

First I tried to use a Cartesian approach in addressing this issue and to be as rational as possible. It is fair to say that men and women are fundamentally different, but happily complementary. Thus, a union between a man and woman is fundamentally different from a union between two members of the same sex. I admit, it is disarmingly simplistic.

Allow me to quote Krishna Deva, “The sexual union between a man and a woman expresses the cosmic dimension of creation...Therefore, sexual pleasure is a symbolic reflection of the infinite joy of the divinity of creation.”

It is important to mention that this statement does not make either union a second class union with respect to the other.

Based on this philosophy, it seems that each of the two unions has its own identity. To paraphrase Michel Gourges, a professor in Ottawa, I would say that the first problem is that in the name of equality rights, it seems necessary for the union between two persons of the same sex to be recognized in the same way as a union between a man and a woman.

Second, for the union between two persons of the same sex to be recognized in the same way as a union between a man and a woman, it seems that both identities need to be described the same way. If we continue in that same vein, then recognizing equality between men and women should necessarily require both to be identical.

Allow me again to quote a passage from a text by Richard Alexander, biologist at the University of Michigan, “Men and women are different on a variety of levels and much more so than we can imagine. To diminish and deny these differences is to diminish our nature and a vital aspect of our human heritage.”

As I said earlier, men and women are fundamentally different, but happily complementary.

The government's approach to this issue sacrifices the very identity of each of the unions.

The government could have achieved equality of the unions of individuals while maintaining respect for the very identity of each of the two unions: the union between a man and a woman, and the union between two persons of the same sex.

In conclusion, I want to say I too received countless positive and negative comments, and I want to share one of them that particularly caught my attention, “The time has come for you—he is talking to me—to realize that, as an MP, you must lead by example, and that voting against this bill is completely unacceptable for someone who wants Quebec to be independent and open to the world”.

It is no secret that I want Quebec to be sovereign. I want Quebec to have the right to equality with other countries, and I want the identity of Quebeckers to be respected. If I took the same approach to these two fundamental values that the government is using to resolve the issue of same sex unions, I would end up with the following absurdity: I would obtain equality rights but I would forfeit—for the benefit of the Canadian identity—my identity as a Quebecker, something I would consider unacceptable.

So, we must respect the right to equality and the right to our own identity.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Hochelaga on his speech, which was a very important addition to the debate on this bill.

With his usual modesty, he undersold his importance in the various aspects of the improvement in the human rights situation for gay and lesbian people over his many years of service in the House. He mentioned that he had been present in the House while many changes had been made. He very much underplayed his own part in making those changes happen. He has played an important part in ensuring that gay and lesbian people assume full citizenship here in Canada and in Quebec. I want to recognize the contribution he has made over his many years here and tell him how important it has been to all of us in the gay and lesbian community.

I also want to thank him for mentioning the contributions of my predecessor, Svend Robinson, to those debates and to his other colleagues from Quebec in the whole move toward full equality and full citizenship for gay and lesbian people.

It has been a cooperative effort by many people, but I do not want the member for Hochelaga to underestimate the importance he has brought to this debate in the House.

The member will remember from the committee hearings that we heard from the Canadian Psychological Association. One of the things the association said was that the stigma and isolation that gay and lesbian families may experience as a result of public and systemic prejudice and discrimination may cause distress and that was a far more important factor in the stability and the adjustment of children in those families than was the fact that their parents were gay and lesbian, which seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the children.

I wonder if he could comment on the importance of Bill C-38 in light of that assertion by the Canadian Psychological Association.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hochelaga for his very impassioned speech, as always. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his work on the legislative committee on Bill C-38. The committee did not have an easy task, but I think it has been accomplished with serenity, thanks in large part to the member for Hochelaga, who was able to inject nice touches of humour throughout the deliberations.

That said, I would like to ask him two questions. Does he believe that the bill we will be called to vote on provides adequate protection to all religions, given all that we have heard during committee hearings and the concerns that have been voiced, with good reason, I would say. Some of these concerns were more subjective than objective, as the Supreme Court of Canada indicated. So, is the member satisfied with the amendments that were made?

I would also like him to comment on the remarks made yesterday by the leader of the Conservative Party about tonight's vote lacking legitimacy because of the support by Bloc Québécois members.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to speak once again on this subject, Bill C-38, which proposes that the traditional definition of marriage, that which traditionally exists between a man and a woman, be changed to classify marriage as the legal equivalent to a civil marriage, which may be between two men or two women.

The fact is the bill tries to accomplish in one fell swoop what most Canadians would have preferred to have seen their Parliament do in two separate acts, instead of combining marriage and civil union in Bill C-38 and calling it civil marriage. Canadians would have supported the creation of the architecture of civil union, accessible to all Canadians, and separately protect the sanctity and sacrament of marriage as blessed and protected by the faith communities. The government, however, for reasons previously presented, decided not to assert its statutory responsibility to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage, appeal the decisions of the provincial courts, and then set out to construct a true civil union regime.

For these reasons, Parliament missed the opportunity to interpret and wisely apply the words of the Canadian Supreme Court in describing the Canadian Constitution as a living tree, and root that tree in those same traditional and fundamental values that would serve both religious freedom and modern civil society.

Because we failed to do that, that is, to bring together all of our collective wisdom and parliamentary capacity and construct a bill reflective of the will and the needs of all Canadians, we are now, through Bill C-38, setting the stage for pervasive and divisive change, which up to this point in the discussion has not been given nearly enough consideration.

Time allows me to focus only on two areas as illustrations of practice and institutions that will be profoundly affected by Bill C-38, these being adoption and the public education system.

In some provinces, children's protective services, after decades of advocacy, were judicially granted to faith communities. In Ontario, for example, there exists a public children's aid society, but also both Jewish and Catholic children's aid societies. In this jurisdiction, and I use this as an illustration, when the relevant society is approached through an application for adoption by a couple of the same sex who are married but are at odds with religious and traditional teaching, it will be the courts who will pronounce upon what once again will be a matter of human rights, a confrontation between that same, but we believe erroneously applied, concept of human rights, which is the basis for Bill C-38. This will conflict with traditional spiritual and religious practice and teaching.

The second area is usually referred to as preach and teach, which is more than just protecting the hard-won rights of certain faith communities to develop curriculum in church-affiliated schools consistent with religious and spiritual values. While this is absolutely essential and itself will probably come under judicial assault, we must also be aware that the public school system, presently supported by many faiths, will be faced with contradictory attitudes toward marriage and sex education, compared with values taught in the churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and homes of this nation. What long-term impact will this have on the institution of public education, which has been a force of cohesiveness across our land?

In both examples, adoption and education, I believe members can see that at a time when more social cohesiveness is needed, Bill C-38 will be taking us in exactly the wrong direction, by weakening these traditional practices and institutions.

To conclude, at a time when the world sees in Canada an example of a caring, tolerant, and compassionate society, and when one reflects on the legacy of institutional strength that generations of Canadians have fought and laboured to build and preserve, on balance, Bill C-38 is just not good enough, either in substance or in the process we have followed in developing it.

The most appropriate course of action, then, would be to defeat this bill and to begin the task of designing and constructing a true civil union that would respect the dignity, tradition, and lifestyle choices of all Canadians, but none at the expense of the others. This has been and should be the Canadian way.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, because Bill C-38 is before the House and not the latest decision from the Supreme Court. I want to reiterate a couple of points.

On the issue of human rights, I know when this started. I suppose if I were to reflect back, the genesis of some of these things came when the Divorce Act was amended to provide no-fault divorce. All of a sudden we started to see the first pieces of the disrespect for the institution of marriage, the “I can get out of it”, and also the growth of common law relationships.

I remember watching a panel program on this. People were asked why they did not get married and why they were living common law. Ninety-nine per cent of the people said that it was easier to get out of, that there was no commitment.

At the time I wrote a monograph on strong families making a strong country. I tried to come up with a definition of true love or real love. It was something to the effect that true love was when we put the interests of others ahead of our own. Therefore marriage represents that commitment. It represents a true love. There is a weaker commitment in a common law relationship and between any two parties, I doubt that there is any commitment, which has nothing to add in terms of making Canada a stronger country.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for York South—Weston.

Bill C-38, the civil marriage act, seeks to change the definition of marriage from a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, to any two persons to the exclusion of all others. The difference is defining characteristics. The traditional definition of marriage has defining characteristics. The proposed definition of marriage appears not to have any defining characteristics whatsoever, which seems to be very odd.

Even this morning the justice minister in his speech continued to debate whether this was a matter of human rights and a matter of equality. There is still a debate. I think it is very clear to all members and to all the public now that if this were really a matter of human rights, then it would not be subject to a free vote. That is the issue. Human rights are not subject to a free vote.

With regard to the equality provisions of the charter, there are two substantive exceptions to that provision.

First, as we all know that section 33 of the charter, the notwithstanding clause, permits Parliament to continue to operate for up to five years.

The second broad exception is found in section 1 of the charter. It reads:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

What that really means is any of the rights and freedoms provided in the charter can be suspended or can be overridden if under a section 1 analysis, they determine that it is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

In fact, this case, with regard to whether the definition of marriage is constitutional, has come before the courts many times. This is much like the Quebec referendum question. We are going to keep asking the question, keep going back to the people and eventually it is going to pass and become law. There may not be a final answer. This is driven by the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly laid out that it views the charter as a living tree. It changes. We change and, therefore, our interpretation of that changes.

We have to be very careful. Now the Supreme Court is telling us that, even though Parliament is supposed to make the laws and the court is supposed to interpret and apply those laws, the charter is a living tree and if the government does not act, it will act and change the law and the government will have to deal with it.

This is the challenge for us. The Supreme Court of Canada has given us a clear signal.

As I mentioned, for many years the question about whether the constitutionality of the definition of marriage has been challenged in the courts. In the last case, before the Halpern case which triggered all of this, the Attorney General of Canada argued that the objective of limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was sufficiently important to warrant infringing on the rights of same sex couples. The next point was that the purpose of marriage was to provide a societal structure for the procreation of children in order to perpetuate Canadian society. It was very clear. This was the Government of Canada. This was the position before the courts.

What happens when we have the Halpern case where, all of a sudden, the same details come out? In July 2002, Halpern v. Canada, the Ontario Supreme Court heard a case dealing with the constitutionality of the definition of marriage. This is what gives me the most problem. It is probably the reason why I am totally opposed to Bill C-38. It effectively discredited heterosexual marriage by citing the number of divorces and the existence of common law marriage.

This is something that had not changed overnight, not since the last Supreme Court decision. It just happened to be a different panel of the court, three persons on a panel. That was their view. It was not the decision of the Supreme Court.

The court went on. It also dismissed the importance of the ability to procreate, citing the availability of reproductive technologies, such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption just to name a few.

By the failure of the court case, the arguments being made all of a sudden were challenging what happened in the B.C. court decision a year earlier. By looking at marriage and the distinctive characteristics of marriage, it tried to discredit them to the point that it might tip the balance in terms of a section 1 analysis. That is where it always has been a matter of a violation or an infringement on equality rights.

Under section 1 it was not so great because of the consequences. If we change the definition of marriage, look what it would do to the definition of family, look what it would do to the parent-child relationship, look at all the other risks that would come about, which I will deal with shortly.

In my view, the court case that has triggered all of this summarily dismisses the relevance of marriage to any aspect of social well-being of Canadians, which is one of the reasons why we are here. It is to protect the health and well-being of all Canadians, especially our children.

Let me paraphrase Justice Robert Blair on assessing that court decision. He warned that the legal redefinition of marriage would not be an incremental change, but a profound one, with extremely complex consequences. These include touching the core of many people's beliefs and value systems, resulting in social, political, cultural, emotional, and legal ramifications. This is very ominous, and I think it is a caution and maybe more strongly a severe warning to legislators.

Daniel Cere of McGill University also talked about the impact on children. He raises a point that members have not talked about very much. Under the bill, the biological concept of parent will be replaced by a legal parent. This is very important because all of a sudden the role of biological parents is coming under question. I totally disagree.

I want to conclude by talking about marriage. This is all about that. Marriage promotes the bonding of men and women and the creation of stable and durable partnerships for life and property. It recognizes the interdependence of men and women. It embodies the spiritual, social, economic and contractual dimensions. It reflects a commitment to fidelity and monogamy.

Marriage serves as an optimal societal structure for the birthing and rearing of children, at least to the extent necessary for the perpetuation of society. It provides for mutual support between men and women. It supports the birthright of children. Marriage promotes bonding between men, women and children. It guides the transformation of children into young men and women who are readying themselves for marriage and to begin a new cycle. Marriage grows the family tree and develops broad supports and securities for all members.

These are the distinctive characteristics of the definition of marriage being one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

The potential change to the parent-child bond will have a profound effect on society. I believe that but I do not know because we will not know until it happens. There are also clear possible effects on religious rights as we know. Paragraph 60 of the Supreme Court reference decision says:

Returning to the question before us, the Court is of the opinion that, absent unique circumstances with respect to which we will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials...

This involves the living tree issue. Today we do not know of any, but based on what has happened so far, there will be a challenge to religious rights and freedoms.

I believe the redefinition constitutes a radical societal change. It may not have immediate societal consequences, but over time it may have, and I stress may have enormous implications. This is not just about the infringement on the rights of gays and lesbians. It is also about diminishing the relevance of the most important societal institution, and that is marriage. In my opinion, the potential for material and adverse consequences is so great that we should take the time to more fully assess the broader implications of this fundamental change to families, children and religious freedoms.

With all due respect to the House, my view is that Bill C-38 should not proceed and that the notwithstanding clause under section 33 of the charter should be invoked to provide Parliament with the time it needs to make a fully informed decision.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing today is the heavy-handedness of a Liberal government that is afraid of honest debate on this issue. The government is afraid to hear speeches like the one made by my hon. colleague because the government knows that the vast majority of Canadians are opposed to its radical position on marriage.

Because of the Liberals' fear of healthy debate on this issue, they have invoked closure, one of the most undemocratic things that has ever happened in this Parliament. The government extended the sittings of the House, tinkered with the Standing Orders and the legislative calendar, and then immediately afterward invoked closure to cut off debate on Bill C-38.

Does the hon. member think these are the actions of a Prime Minister who is going to slay the democratic deficit?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for his very interesting speech. Since I know he is a great democrat, from my time with him on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I would like to know if he agrees with his leader that, thanks to the Bloc's support, this evening's vote on Bill C-38 will lack legitimacy. I want him to comment on this.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Let me start by indicating that I will be voting against the bill at third reading. I will be doing so because I consulted with my constituents, using a householder that contained a mail in ballot, in which constituents were asked the following question, “Should your member of parliament vote for the civil marriage act?”

We received back a total of 9,176 responses, with 7,321 advising me to vote against the bill, 1,814 advising me to vote for the bill and a further 41 ballots which were either spoiled or invalid. Therefore, my mandate is clear. My constituents want me to vote against this bill and I will respect their wish. However, speaking frankly, I am relieved that I was not asked to vote for this bill since I have grave concerns as to the implications of the civil marriage act for religious freedom in Canada.

Defence of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience has been one of the hallmarks of my own political career. My very first speech in the House of Commons in 2001 was in defence of the freedom of conscience of Falun Gong practitioners who had been persecuted in China.

In 2002 I offered a resolution, which was adopted unanimously by the House, in favour of freeing 13 Falun Gong practitioners who had ties to Canada and who had been imprisoned in China for expressing freedom of conscience. Some of those individuals are in our country today as free individuals because Parliament took a stand at that time in favour of freedom of religion and conscience.

My loyalty to this foundational principle goes beyond the defence of any one group. I have spoken out in protest against the oppression of Tibetan Buddhists and of both Buddhists and Christians in Vietnam.

One of the reasons I broke with my party to vote against the Anti-terrorism Act in 2001 was because that law effectively criminalized certain kinds of religious beliefs in certain kinds of situations, a feature that at least in theory could lead to the oppression of religious groups, most notably and obviously a danger that existed with Canadian Muslims.

When I say that I am very worried by the absence in Bill C-38 of protections for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, I hope hon. members will understand how serious this matter is to me.

I am not unique of course in having such concerns. I will read from an article that Father Raymond de Souza, the well-known columnist, published in the journal First Things last year. He wrote, regarding the draft same sex marriage law then before the Supreme Court:

[It is likely to erode] religious liberty on questions related to marriage. First it will be churches forced to rent out their halls and basements for a same-sex couple’s wedding reception. Then it will be religious charities forced to recognize employees in same-sex relationships as legally married. Then it will be religious schools not being allowed to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage. Then it will be a hierarchical or synodal church not being allowed to discipline an errant priest or minister who performs a civilly legal but canonically illicit same-sex marriage. All of this can happen short of the worst-case scenario specifically exempted in the federal government’s proposed law.

If Father de Souza's concerns seem a bit over the top to some hon. members, let me demonstrate that these concerns are, if anything, understated.

I will demonstrate this by giving a real life example of just how far Canada's courts have already gone to restrict or roll back the protection given to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and the protection given to those rights under section 2 of the charter when this protection has come into conflict with the currently fashionable but constitutionally unjustifiable, highly aggressive reading of the charter's equality of rights section, section 15.

I refer to the Scott Brockie case, although there are other cases before this nation's courts that I could cite as equally effective illustrations.

In April 1996, Scott Brockie and his family's Toronto printing business, Imaging Excellence, were approached with an order for letterhead, envelopes and business cards for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Mr. Brockie, who is a Christian, refused to accept the order as it contravened his religious conscience to assist an organization's activities that directly promoted homosexuality, which he believed to be a sin.

Two months later, a representative from the Archives filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, asserting that Mr. Brockie had denied the individual commercial services based on the man's sexual orientation.

In September 1999, Mr. Brockie and Imaging Excellence were found guilty of what was called discriminatory conduct. He was forced to pay a penalty to the Archives of $5,000 and to provide the printing services he had originally refused; in other words, to perform an act that he regarded as being unethical or immoral.

All of this occurred despite the fact that Mr. Brockie was able to demonstrate in court that he had provided printing services to homosexuals in the past and that his objection was to the policy objectives of the organization seeking the use of his services rather than to the sexual orientation of the representative who approached him.

Later, the Ontario Supreme Court rejected Mr. Brockie's request to overturn the decision. The Superior Court had initially awarded Mr. Brockie $25,000 in costs, a decision that the Human Rights Commission and the archives successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals. As a result, Mr. Brockie must now foot a legal bill of $40,000.

In upholding the initial decision of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Superior Court engaged a logic that, if fully applied, would mean that freedom of conscience has no meaning under Canadian law, except that with which it is endowed by judges who more often than not will not share the religious or ethical beliefs of those upon whose right to act according to conscience they are ruling.

The court started in paragraph 51 of its ruling by citing with approval an earlier case in which the Supreme Court of Canada had “expressed some of the elements of freedom of religion and necessary limits on it”, that is, freedom of religion. It went on to state:

The further [a given] activity is from the core elements of the freedom, the more likely the activity is to impact on others and the less deserving the activity is of protection. Service of the public in a commercial activity must be considered at the periphery of activities protected by freedom of religion.

The court went on to say, “Mr. Brockie's exercise of his right of freedom of religion in the commercial marketplace is, at best, at the fringes of that right”. It then made an argument in paragraph 56 of its decision that deserves to be quoted at length:

If any particular printing project ordered [of] Mr. Brockie...contained material that conveyed a message proselytizing and promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle or ridiculing his religious beliefs, such material might reasonably be held to be in direct conflict with the core elements of Mr. Brockie's religious beliefs. On the other hand, if the particular printing object contained a directory of goods and services that might be of interest to the gay and lesbian community, that material might reasonably be held not to be in direct conflict with the core elements of Mr. Brockie's religious beliefs.

Let me start by making the obvious observation of the astounding arrogance of this claim. How can the court know what Mr. Brockie's core religious beliefs are? How can it determine what is core and fundamental to his conscience? When he says certain things are core to his beliefs, how can the court say that no, they are not, that he misunderstands what his own beliefs are and the court will dictate them to him?

There are so many examples from history of this. Let me cite just one example where something that appeared peripheral was actually core to people's beliefs.

I studied Russian history. In the 1600s, in an attempt to modernize the Orthodox church, the czar of Russia instructed that certain changes would occur. For example, the manner in which the sign of the cross was made would be done using three fingers instead of two and certain other apparently limited rationalizations took place. The so-called old believers, and there were hundreds of thousands of them, maybe millions in Russia, were so distressed by these changes they fought them. Sometimes it cost them their lives. Whole congregations allowed themselves, for example, to be burned alive rather than to change to the new rationalizations.

These may seem like peripheral beliefs and practices, but they were not peripheral in the minds of the old believers. I would argue that it is arrogant to assume that any court has the capacity to reach into the minds of other people to determine what is core to their belief systems.

This is as outlandish as the court determining that a Buddhist has no right not to print menus for a restaurant that serves meat. It is as ridiculous as instructing a Muslim that he has no right not to allow the Gideon Bible to be placed on bedside tables in a motel he runs. It is as inappropriate as saying that it is not against the core belief of a Mennonite to refuse to print a pamphlet promoting a war. This is simply inappropriate and arrogant action on the part of the courts. Unfortunately, it is something that could get worse and indeed is likely to get worse under the direction that the government is going.

Kevin Bourassa who runs the website equalmarriage.ca has publicly stated the following warning to religious officials who disagree with his viewpoint. Mr. Bourassa, of course, is in favour of same sex marriage. He stated:

If you are at the public trough, if you are collecting taxpayers' money, you should be following taxpayers' laws. And that means adhering to the Charter....We have no problem with the Catholic Church or any other faith group promoting bigotry.

By that he means opposition to same sex marriage.

We have a problem with the Canadian government funding that bigotry.

In other words, we have a problem with the Catholic church being able to have charitable status but not with the Unitarian church.

I myself am a Unitarian and was raised as a Unitarian, as part of a church that supports same sex marriage. I do not think it is my right to dictate that the Catholic church or any other institution which says that same sex marriage is not moral should be deprived of its equality and its right to speak freely and proselytize its views, any more than I happen to think that the Catholic church should be restricted from saying that divorced persons, like myself, cannot get married in a Catholic ceremony. It is not my right; it is not the right of any person to dictate what some other person's core beliefs are and to say that that person does not have the right to express those beliefs I dictate as being non-core.

This is protection that is completely absent not merely from Bill C-38, but from the entire legislative agenda of the government. It could be central to its agenda, but it is not. I regret that very much. I urge every member of this House to vote against this bill and in favour of protection of freedom of religion and conscience in Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to put words in my friend's mouth, but in his discussion he suggested that perhaps the fault here lay with the courts. Stanley Hartt, in a presentation before the parliamentary committee studying the legislation, stated that Bill C-38 had provoked divisiveness because it was based on:

--an unsustainable claim that the government is acting out of a constitutional imperative to alter the traditional definition of marriage... because this is the only way to accommodate their equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Hartt stated, “ I see this claim as unsustainable, because I don't believe it's true”. He noted that when the charter equality challenges were heard in the lower court, the court only had the option of either rejecting the claim or offering them marriage. However, when the Supreme Court was expressly asked in question four in the same sex marriage reference, “Is the opposite sex requirement for marriage for civil purposes consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, Mr. Hart noted that the Supreme Court declined to answer the question.

Is it then not so much the fault of the courts, but the fault of the government for failing to adequately pursue this issue and to adequately defend the traditional definition of marriage?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

There you go, Mr. Speaker. We are the crooks, according to the Conservative Party.

In any event, I will start with the big picture. Canadians are quite divided on this issue, as is Parliament and every caucus representing a party in the House. I suppose it ought to be that way because that is the way it is with Canadians.

From the very beginning the Prime Minister accorded our members a free vote on this issue. I know the opposition has said that it is not a free vote, that cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries do not have a free vote, but that simply is not true. Cabinet ministers do not have a free vote. They will vote as a government. However all the parliamentary secretaries do have a free vote, save one, and that is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

I am very comfortable with my Liberal Party being where it is on this issue with the two line whip structure. I think it is serving the House and Canadians well.

The first major item I want to deal with today has to do with the amendment that was made at committee, which is described as clause 3.1. The amendment has not had a lot of discussion in the House because it was actually crafted and inserted into the bill at committee stage but I think it is a rather significant amendment. I will read it to the House:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

Those are a lot of words but what the clause actually does is it codifies in the statute the widest possible berth we could have constructed on a general basis for those who, for religious or freedom of expression reasons, are not supportive of, nor advocates of, same sex marriage.

What we have here, structurally, is a clash between charter based equality rights and, on the other hand, religious freedoms and freedom of expression. On the issue of civil marriage, those two sets of values clashed and we as a Parliament needed to assist in drawing the boundary lines.

Many people have said that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides freedom of religion and freedom of expression, that it is good for everybody and that it is there if it is needed to defend oneself. While that is true, it just so happens that the ordinary citizen does not walk around with a copy of the charter in his or her back pocket. Those rights and freedoms in the Constitution are usually pretty general based.

I am one of those who believe that if we are going to legislate in an area that manifests the clash of those spheres of interest, equality versus religious freedom, then we have to provide to the citizen something on the shelf that he or she can refer to in a statute, and we have done it.

However there are those who say that we should not be putting that in a statute because it tends to entrench on other provincial jurisdictions. I am one of those who say that if we can legislate on the subject, if we can refer to the charter, which is a federal instrument in the Constitution that is there for all Canadians, then surely when we enact legislation to protect the spheres of interests we can place a provision on the shelf as part of the hardware and software to which the citizen has access. I mentioned them earlier, the charter based equality provisions versus religious freedoms.

We have to note that the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran are just two of many religious writings, and other religious writings have done the same thing, which comment on or even prescribe same sex relationships.

In our modern world those relationships do exist but, at the same time, many Canadians say that the religious writings on which they manage and govern their lives have provisions in which they believe and to which they subscribe, which prevent them from looking in any other way at same sex unions. Recognizing that, we have constructed in clause 3.1 a reasonable berth for those views.

I will be voting against the bill even though I have tried to make the legislation better and played a small role in developing clause 3.1. What if Bill C-38 does not pass during the final vote this evening? If it does not pass, we would be left with an existing status quo, where eight out of ten provinces through their courts have recognized the legality of same sex marriages and those marriages are taking place now. We also would be faced with the scenario where we have to regularize what is out there unless we are simply going to let the courts carry on legislating for us for ever and ever.

We would then have to either deconstruct what has been put in place by the courts, which we could do in part, or we would have to find some other way to reconstruct and re-legislate.

I wish we could have gone back and completed the work of the justice committee, made a proposal to the House and attempted some legislation. Who knows where it would have ended up, in a way, without the pre-emptive strike of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which I regard as a very unfortunate day for parliamentary procedures and functions. I know there are those in the House who believe it was a great day for human rights, for equality rights, but we would have to go back and reconstruct. I am not saying that we could not do it but it would be very difficult to do given that we have had a year or more of same sex marriages taking place and those people are legally married.

It was unfortunate the way in which the courts did this. I am not saying that they are always wrong in the law. I am just saying that the way the courts have done it has pre-empted the legislative work of Parliament and placed us in a very difficult position.

There is no sense in me getting out my guns on the courts. I can do it freely here. I have the freedom under the Constitution to say whatever I want and I can bad mouth the courts and say that they ought not to have done it, that it really was a matter for Parliament and legislatures and not for the courts, but they saw the opportunity and they stole it. They swiped it right off the legislative desk of this Parliament. They knew the justice committee was working on this matter. They knew the House had referred it to the justice committee and yet they felt the need to strike down a provision and read in new law.

I think the rationale was that the courts made the law in the first place in 1868, in the case of Hyde v. Hyde, and if they could make the law 130 years ago, then they can make the law now. They are wrong. The world has changed and we do not have a system of elites making decisions for people now. We do it in parliaments and legislatures. There are a whole lot of reasons I could give as to why the courts should not do it.

Maybe this is an area we have to work on as a country and as a Parliament. I am not saying we have to discipline the courts, but we need to have some kind of an understanding about what the courts do and what Parliament does.

I will not try to rewrite history now, but that is one of the reasons I cannot support this because I do not think we should be here now, and I fault the courts for that. I do understand everyone's position, but I will be vote against the bill for all of the usual reasons related to the views of my constituents.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I generally do not compliment members of the government but I will say that the member's speech was actually thoughtful and fairly representative of his constituents. He seems to honestly believe in the position he has come to.

I want to make a couple of general points. First, I want to make this point again to see what the hon. member thinks of it. Not all members of the House who wish to speak to Bill C-38 at third reading will be allowed to speak to it because of the closure. With such an important piece of legislation that affects so many Canadians and is crossing party lines in many different directions, I wonder why the hon. member feels each member should not have been treated in many ways as an independent to be allowed to speak out. I would like his comments on that.

I have a second point that I would be interested in hearing his comments on. When the Minister of Justice gave his speech this morning he seemed extremely adamant that the notwithstanding clause portion of the Charter of Rights should never be used. During questions and comments I noted to him that the Prime Minister had said that there were situations in which he would use the notwithstanding clause. I asked about previous incidents in the province of Quebec where the Quebec government used it for language rights and so forth.

I also noted that when the Constitution was ratified the premier of my province was a New Democrat, Mr. Allan Blakeney. He was an emphatic backer of the notwithstanding clause for things such as his future. He seems to have been fairly wise in seeing into the future and being concerned about the health care ruling that came down from the Supreme Court that medicare may be against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Does the hon. member see any circumstance where the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be used? Does he agree with the Prime Minister that perhaps it may be the only way to reverse that? Does he see the notwithstanding clause as ever being potentially useful?

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June 28th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

It is an honour to be here on this historic day when Parliament will affirm the equality rights and religious freedoms that were first conveyed to us when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became part of the Canadian Constitution.

Everyone in Parliament and across Canada understands the very deeply held and passionate views on this issue among Canadians. No member of Parliament would ever suggest that their constituents were not split or that people did not feel very passionate on both sides of this issue.

It is incumbent upon all of us to respect the rights of each member of Parliament and of each Canadian to have different views on this very sensitive and heartfelt issue.

I will try to give a balanced reflection of some of the comments from my constituents. I will read some excerpts from some of the emails and letters I received from my constituents with views on both sides of the issue, so they know they have been treated fairly, they have been heard, and they have passed their feelings on to Parliament.

Jennifer Williams and Paul Gort wrote:

As constituents we are writing to let you know of our support for the government's proposed same sex marriage act and to urge you and your colleagues to take action to ensure this important bill is passed before the House adjourns for the summer. The right to marry is a fundamental human right and as such is deeply connected with our Canadian identity and sense of justice. How can we as Canadians deem to judge other nations if we fail to uphold the most basic of human rights at home?

Lana Wickstrom wrote:

Courts across Canada consistently and repeatedly found excluding gays and lesbians from civil marriage to violate the charter because the exclusion is discriminatory and without reasonable justification. Some argue marriage has always excluded same sex couples. However, just because a discriminatory practice has been in place for a long time does not make it acceptable. Women were denied the right to vote for centuries. Discrimination was not fair then and it is not fair now.

Given that same sex marriages have been allowed in eight provinces and in Yukon Territory, Claude Chabot wrote:

I can't say I've noticed Yukon society falling apart after our experience with same sex marriage over the past few months.

Kevin Greenshields wrote:

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has upheld traditional marriage on an international case from New Zealand in 2002. Even countries like the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and Sweden have upheld the traditional definition of marriage.

Don Green said, “--marriage is part of what defines a Christian”. Ruth Dueck said, “--social experiment that would intentionally deprive children of a mother or father”. Carol Horne wrote:

Furthermore, it would appear that the government is abdicating the responsibilities of Parliament, allowing an unelected and unaccountable judiciary to set the agenda and to carry out drastic social re-engineering of an essential human institution.

The Right Reverend Terrance Buckle, the Anglican Bishop of Yukon, wrote:

This proposed legislative action by the Government of Canada stands in opposition to the faith teachings of many in Canada and not only Christians, as I am certain you are aware.

Stan Marinoske wrote:

One of the major social systems which has been the cornerstone of our society is that of the family. The traditional family unit has been under attack from all sides. This will be another huge nail in the coffin which will eventually bury the family as we know it.

Harry McKenzie wrote a very deep felt letter ending with, “You have a chance here to protect our community and its members rather than push for their potential abuse and victimization”.

I received a number of form letters. A card from Don Duriez stated that marriage assures the survival of society by creating the next generation. Dianne Tate said, “Marriage is a vital social institution and is the foundation on which a strong, dynamic society is built”. Finally, Kim Runions said, “Will you also vote one day in support of marrying one man and one beast or maybe a father and his daughter?”

I want to assure my constituents that I read all their emails and letters, and I have reflected a number of them, on both sides of the issue, fairly in the House of Commons today.

I want to comment on that last one because it has come up a number of times in the House and in debate that it might lead to polygamy, incest or marrying animals. I want to assure the House that this is obviously not true. The difference is quite clear. We in Parliament are saying to all Canadians that they cannot marry beasts, have incest or polygamy. We are treating all Canadians equally by saying they cannot do that

The reason that same sex marriages are allowed now in Canada is that it is an equality right. It is treating all Canadians equally and allowing all Canadians to do that, just as we are not allowing all Canadians to participate in those other activities.

I would like to outline more of the facts related to this situation for those Canadians who may not quite clearly understand the situation related to this law, so there are no misunderstandings.

I wish to make it clear that this is just civil marriages. If anyone is worrying about their traditional religious marriages, the law will carry on exactly as it has always been. We are only speaking of civil marriage.

The case in Canada today is that the highest law in the land created by Parliament, the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has been interpreted to say that same sex marriages are legal. Whether or not the law passes, same sex marriages are now legal and they will continue to be legal in Canada.

Unfortunately, this has left us in a situation where there are two provinces and two territories where it has not been through the courts yet. Obviously, it will eventually get there, but in a sense we have two classes of citizens. That is why it is important to deal with this law. In fact, we will be finishing it this evening, so that we do not have different classes of citizens in Canada. I am sure all parliamentarians would agree with that.

Another fact that people should be made aware of is that this has nothing to do with benefits like pensions or other employee benefits for same sex couples. They already have these benefits through other laws which have been dealt with. It also has nothing to do with the right to adopt children. Same sex couples already have these rights as well through other laws.

The only thing that we are dealing with here is that same sex couples have equal rights to use the word “marriage” to define their civil unions.

Given that we have this situation, that same sex marriages are now legal in Canada, it is very important to note that all parties in the House of Commons have said that they will not change the Constitution to deny this equality right or to deny same sex civil unions. They will not use the notwithstanding clause. Then why do we need this bill? It is over and above, as I said earlier, to ensure that persons in the other two provinces and two territories are treated equally.

The other major objective of the bill is to reaffirm the protection of religious freedoms in the Constitution. Churches that do not want to perform same sex marriages should not have to. One of the important elements of the bill is to protect religious freedoms and two more elements have been added to the bill to enhance the religious freedoms aspect. I congratulate the committee and the House for doing that.

In summary, that is what the bill is all about. It reaffirms two rights that are in the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely the equality rights and the right to religious freedom.

Canada is a nation of minorities. We are all part of some minority. If we do not protect all minorities, we cannot protect any minority. If we do not protect all minorities, we cannot protect people of colour, Anglicans, Catholics, Muslims, people of different genders, and people of different races or nationalities. We could not protect any Canadians because each and every one of us is part of some minority.

Parliamentarians in a previous Parliament have issued a great challenge for us by creating a charter with some overlapping rights, equality rights and the right of religious freedom. Balancing these is what Bill C-38 would put into law with a very good framework. Our challenge as parliamentarians is to do our level best to find that balance in these two rights for the fairness of all.

I have never had one Canadian suggest to me that all Canadians should not be treated equally. I stand by them, and the freedoms and rights of all Canadians.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged and delighted to have an opportunity to speak briefly to this very important bill, Bill C-38, on this very historic occasion, because what we are about to do is pass a piece of legislation that has been many decades in the making here in Canada.

Many have spoken very eloquently about the evolution of human rights in our society. There is no question that over the years, the decades and the centuries we have evolved toward a more civilized, more compassionate and more just concept of the rights of people in our society, and really, justice is what is at the root of what we are talking about. Not only do the rights of people in our society have to be acknowledged and recognized, but they also have to be reflected in the laws of the nation and they have to be upheld. In other words, rights are of no consequence if there is not a way to protect people and ensure the enforcement of those rights.

Let me say this for those who would ask why we need legislation to protect equal marriage, who would say that we have managed without it forever and ask why we need it now, and who would ask if it is not some kind of trendy notion. Let me simply say that even though it is in recent years only that we have moved to assert full equality for gays and lesbians in our society as it relates to the right to full and equal marriage, we must recognize that the lack of this right, the lack of this respect and the lack of this sanctioning have haunted and bedevilled people whose right to that social recognition has been denied throughout the centuries.

Let us today celebrate the fact that we have recognized that there has been harm, hurt and frustration and that there has been a denial of this full exercising of the right to marriage to gays and lesbians in our society. Some people say they have gay friends or lesbian friends who do not want to get married and they ask what the big deal is. We all have friends who are gay and lesbian or who are straight who opt not to get married, and that will continue to be the case, but what is absolutely unacceptable in our society is the fact that no Canadian should be denied the right to equal marriage on the basis of sexual orientation. We are about to change that and it is something to celebrate,

I have heard some members in the House, not exclusively in the neanderthal corner of the Conservative Party but also alarmingly frequently in the backbenches of the governing party as well, ask why we have to call it marriage. Why? Because that is the recognized sanctioning in the law of a relationship that exists between two people and has meaning. It has emotional meaning and it also has legal meaning.

As for those who argue that they are for it up to a point but to call it marriage just does some kind of terrible damage to the institution of marriage, I have to say in all honesty that I have struggled to understand why this is a problem for people. I do not understand what it is that causes someone to say,“I feel my marriage is somehow going to be diminished if the marriage between two other people is allowed to take place on an equal basis between two people of the same sex”.

When I hear those arguments, I have to say that I am really genuinely puzzled that there could actually be people, thinking people, people with a sense of fairness and justice in our society, who would want to take the position that any other person, regardless of sexual orientation, should be denied access to the very marriage that these people say is so very important to them.

If marriage is such an important element of our society, why would they not be in favour of greater inclusion and more marriages? What we are talking about is a commitment undertaken between two adults to say that they want their obligations and their rights to be codified, institutionalized and fully recognized. Does that not broaden the circle of marriage? Does that not broaden the institution to the point where, if one really believes that this is a foundation in our society, more of it should be a good thing?

I do not want to spend my remaining moments arguing with members who take the opposite point of view. Sometimes I feel almost literally physically sick at my own welling up of intolerance. I do not like that feeling, because this is supposed to be about tolerance, inclusion and acceptance.

However, I will admit that I feel a certain welling up of intolerance when I hear the insensitivity that is displayed by those who say they have no problem denying equal access to marriage to people on the basis of their sexual orientation. These same people very often say they are in favour of protecting gays and lesbians from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Let me say, however, that for some people it is the ultimate form of discrimination to say that they cannot enjoy the full benefits and full access to being married to the persons they love, as other people in this society enjoy.

I want to take a moment or two to pay tribute. I do have not time to pay tribute to a vast number of people, but we did not reach this point in this debate, in piloting this legislation through here today at this historic moment, without a great many people having contributed to and engaged in the struggle to bring us to this point.

It would really be an omission on this occasion not to recognize the very early and courageous work done by the former member for Burnaby--Douglas. I want to share a brief and actually quite humorous anecdote. Some 20 years ago, the former member for Burnaby--Douglas, and some of my colleagues may know the exact date, held a press conference on Parliament Hill to openly declare, as a parliamentarian, that he was gay. A dear friend of mine from British Columbia, a mutual friend of his, was visiting in Nova Scotia. Her name is Rosemary Brown. Many will know that she is a hero to many of us. She said, “I don't know why Svend Robinson needs to hold a press conference to declare he's gay. That's like me holding a press conference to declare I'm black. It seems quite obvious. Everybody knows it”.

Underlying that slightly humorous discussion was the recognition that some of the worst forms of discrimination and some of the worst kind of hate-mongering take place when it cannot be fully recognized that it is happening. That is why we have laws to say that we cannot discriminate against people just because we do not like whatever their characteristics or attributes may be.

I have had an avalanche of letters and emails from people in my own riding and across the country. I wish I had time to write a book and someday share them with people. I know that we all have had those kinds of letters.

I have also benefited from information that has been shared. I want to mention this briefly in wrapping up. Regarding the place of churches in the same sex marriage debate, there are a few things members may not have heard. There is an outstanding paper by the head of the Department of Religious Studies at Queen's University, Pamela Dickey Young, and I commend it to people.

Finally, I want to quote from the very fine speech from the current member for Burnaby--Douglas, who stated in this debate that:

When it comes down to it, there is no difference in the love experienced by gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples. Love is love is love.

The bill is a cause for celebration. Soon, when it finally passes, we will be able to celebrate the love and commitment of all Canadian couples. The circle of love, of responsibility, of commitment, of marriage will be wider.

We will all be the richer for it.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I lost count of how many times the member erred in his statements. No one is trying to create different categories. That is rhetoric and it is misleading. It is a shame that the member continued to use punchy words to mislead the Canadian public. There is no different categorization.

I believe everybody in the House recognizes the truly loving relationships of homosexual couples. I do not think that is the issue. My concern is that the love I have for my wife has not been improved or decreased because of a word or a piece of paper. That leads to my first question. How does the member feel this word, going on the previous member's question, is going to alter anything, and how does not having Bill C-38 decrease the love of these relationships?

The second question is very brief. Given the truth that the Bloc party only has an interest in Quebec and has absolutely no interest in the furtherance of Canada, and given the second truth that the Liberals have made a deal with the Bloc to push this bill through, in terms of truthful debate, how is that democracy?

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June 28th, 2005 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-38. It is an honour for me to be splitting my time with the member for Halifax.

Today is a historic moment in Canadian history. We will be breaking new ground in a country that has individual civil liberties and rights at its forefront, and which are contained in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Constitution. We will be reaffirming our commitment to those rights today.

The member for Halifax is an interesting case study of a changing society and rights and freedoms. The member for Halifax was a trailblazer for women's issues. Back in 1980 she was elected to her provincial legislature as the first female leader in this country. This country has benefited in the last 25 years since her election because women have become more involved in municipal, provincial and federal politics. Women have not yet reached their full representation in our society in terms of business, industry, or politics. However, the steps that have been taken have benefited Canadians. My colleague from Halifax needs to be commended on this historic day for Canadians.

I want to talk a bit about Bill C-38 in terms of what it means aside from the issue of whether or not we should support it. I and my party will be supporting this legislation for a couple of reasons.

The first and foremost reason is the fact that it involves an issue relating to freedoms and rights. We in the NDP believe it is very important to protect these freedoms and rights for all members of society. The courts have done through the back door what we in Parliament should have done through the front door. The courts have acknowledged that gay and lesbian couples deserve the right to be unified in marriage by those religious institutions that choose to do so.

It is important to note that any religious organizations that feel it is not within their practice or faith to perform civil marriages do have the right to have their traditions reaffirmed, defined and protected. They need to be masters of their own domain. Their own congregations need to decide for themselves what is in the best interests of their members. It should not be left up to the government to decide.

At the same time, there are those religious institutions that want to perform same sex marriages and have expressed this right to their members. They have had this debate and their congregations want gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their love in a similar fashion as heterosexual couples.

What happens in the nine provinces and the one territory that has passed this legislation if we do not pass Bill C-38 in this place? Nothing will change. We will then be denying rights to these jurisdictions in Canada.

Since the Ontario court ruling in 2002 we have witnessed thousands of couples getting married across this country. They have expressed their feelings in a way that is open and inclusive, and one that they feel is healthy for themselves. How do we undo that?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people in my community who came forward to discuss this issue, whether they were opposed to it or in favour of it. One of the most interesting conversations that I will always remember was with a young man who had been adopted by two women who were married. He did not have a family before this relationship. His family wants to keep their relationship and show the rest of the community that they are in a strong relationship. Their church endorses their relationship. What gives me the right to take away that relationship?

He asked me how we would benefit people if we treat them differently? How could that court judgment be used to treat people differently and not equally?

It reminds me of the kind of division we have in that some people believe that people can be treated differently. They put it in the guise of being equal but different. I remember when those arguments were used in the civil rights movements. Quite frankly there was a discussion earlier here about people of different races marrying and the stigma attached to that. I am married to Terry Chow, who was originally born in Hong Kong. We have two beautiful children. At times I still get hate mail in my office because I married someone outside my specific race. Those people perceive that my children and my marriage are not equal and they write to me. I will not even mention some of the language they use. That is the reality. There are some people who still do not accept that and it is unfortunate.

That is one of the reasons we have to pass Bill C-38, because when we protect minority rights we protect all Canadians. We have to make sure that people are going to have fair access.

I have had other interesting discussions with people regarding why they want us to move on this issue. I have had discussions with soldiers, firefighters and police officers who tell me that they put their lives on the line every single day for Canadians. They get up in the morning, go to work, not knowing whether or not they will return home. There could be an accident at work, in service to the community or the country. What right do I have as a politician to deny them the equality that other citizens enjoy? Important policy to keep in mind is that the government has a responsibility, as do we parliamentarians, to act on something when we know at the end of the day the conclusion will be through the court system.

That brings me to a very important aspect about this whole debate. If we do not pass this bill, we will simply be sending everything back to the courts. It is an interesting strategy for those who are criticizing the decision of the courts that the very best we could do is to send it back to the courts, to the other four jurisdictions, but where would we go from there? Would it be the notwithstanding clause at that point? Do we go in a circle in the parliamentary cycle in the fall and discuss this issue over and over again?

We need to move forward. The amendments that have been made to the bill, the criticisms that have been related to it such as religious freedoms and sensitivity about it have actually been healthy in some respects. They have helped define the fact that Canadians are still very much interested in having their own religious autonomy. That is going to be protected by the charter. Also, there has been a strengthening of the bill which was unanimously agreed to. I want to read a specific clause in the bill about that which is important to note. It is clause 3.1, freedom of conscience and religion and expression of beliefs:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religious guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

That is important. It does not just say that the court is going to define this. It says that Parliament in its own will wants to reinforce the fact that we want those organizations to make their own decisions and judgments. There was another amendment related to charitable status so that churches, synagogues and mosques, for example, may decide that they do not want to perform these services and they will not be undermined because they might make different practising decisions.

At the end of the day it comes down to why we should do this. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do.

Parliament has been watching the courts make decisions. At a certain point in time our country has to act. We know that gays and lesbians in our communities are not being treated equally across the country. It is time to finally pass Bill C-38 and make sure that the voice of Parliament is heard in this debate and that we move forward as a country with equality for all.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's speech very much. I also enjoyed sitting on the civil marriage committee along with him and many others. I have to add my voice of commendation for the way that you, Mr. Speaker, chaired that committee and particularly the way you managed the relationship between the member for Provencher and the member for Hochelaga, which I thought showed great sensitivity.

I am proud to be standing here today in the House, proud that tonight we will indeed provide equality to gay and lesbian Canadians, something that they deserve and something whose time has come.

One of the issues that we heard a lot from witnesses in committee was about the changing roles of marriage and how marriage has changed. We have heard here today some concern from opposition members that marriage has not changed, that this is too dramatic a change. We all recall that not that many years ago blacks and whites did not marry, and Anglicans and Catholics did not marry. Marriage is an evolving process.

One of the concerns that people brought forward to the committee and other places was that Bill C-38 might lead to things such as polygamy. I wonder if the hon. member might be able to reassure Canadians that they do not have to worry about polygamy in the near future.

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June 28th, 2005 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly prefer to speak before a larger crowd. I am very happy, therefore, to see that everyone here is listening carefully to what I have to say.

My questions were simple and I think that my friend from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, with whom I sat on the legislative committee considering Bill C-38, could hear them. They were about question 4 in the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada and the lead-up to the report on Bill C-38. I would like to know whether the hon. member thinks that the whole process is going too quickly.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for his excellent speech. I had the pleasure of sitting on the legislative committee on Bill C-38, and I share his opinion that you did an excellent job as committee chair, knowing the passion this subject arouses. Above all, I admired the calm and truly democratic way in which everything proceeded.

Obviously, when I was elected a year ago, I had no way of knowing how turbulent this Parliament would be. However, like my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, I will be able to say that I took part in what I consider a historic moment, in the sense that this vote will reaffirm the leadership role that Canada can play in terms of the right to equality.

I want to take advantage of my colleague's background in law, since we are not often able to call upon counsel for free in the House. So, I want to know what he thinks about an argument often made by our Conservative friends in committee and during the debates at the different stages of Bill C-38.

I am talking about the fourth question included in the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada on the traditional definition of marriage. Since the Supreme Court did not answer this question, our Conservative colleagues frequently use this as an excuse to claim that Parliament could simply reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage. So, I want his opinion on this.

If I may, I also want to ask his opinion about the frequent complaint that this legislation is being rushed through with no regard for the democratic process. In this context, I want—

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June 28th, 2005 / 11:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, what a great day it is today for rights and freedoms in Quebec and Canada. This great day should be celebrated, not only by the minority that in the next few days will finally obtain the right to marry, anywhere in Canada, but also by all the heterosexuals who have supported the cause of equality, the cause of rights and freedoms, whether from the very beginning or only more recently. They know very well that confirming the rights and freedoms of a minority does not take anything away from the majority that previously enjoyed these rights and freedoms.

It has often been said in this debate, which has been going on now for many a long year, that marriage is an important institution in our society. That is very true. It is an institution through which society or the state recognizes the commitment that two people make to one another.Through the institution of marriage, society, the state, recognizes the importance of conjugal love.

The fact that homosexuals have fought hard and have spent time, money and energy for access to marriage—this basic institution in our society—demonstrates the enormous respect they have for it and their desire to gain access to it. Their entry into the institution of marriage will strengthen it because they are people who believe in it and have spent years fighting for access to it.

I would like to make two comments on the side. People who followed the debates in committee will know what I want to say. Marriage is not a static institution, contrary to what some people claim. I said so yesterday and it is important to repeat it. Just a few decades ago, when a woman married in Quebec she lost her adult status and became the responsibility of her husband, just as she had previously been the responsibility of her parents. But society changed, and as it changed, the various institutions and elements that make it up changed as well. Fifty years ago, women were not considered equal to men; now, they are.

Today, it is high time to give couples consisting of same sex partners access to the institution of marriage.

There is something else as well that we have heard many times in this debate, namely that marriage is supposedly—to use the expression of my friend in the Conservative Party who spoke before me—a child-centred institution. I challenge every member in this House who has gone before the altar to get married, whether once or more than once, to say whether having children was ever part, even one time, of the vows they exchanged. The answer is no.

When a couple gets married they promise fidelity, mutual support and friendship; they do not promise to have children. The purpose can vary according to what the couple wants or can do. What marriage celebrates is the recognition of conjugal love between two people.

The bill before us was improved by two amendments on the freedom of religion.

Although the bill deals specifically with civil marriage, some religious groups met with us many times to express their fears and apprehension concerning freedom of religion. It was with the utmost respect for these religious groups that my colleague from Hochelaga and I addressed the problem. We were very open to the representations made by the representatives of churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.

Mr. Speaker, you chaired this legislative committee admirably. I told you that privately today and now I am telling you that in public. Although I do not share the same views as these religious groups that oppose opening civil marriage to gays and lesbians, the other members of the committee and I listened to what they had to say. After several meetings with these religious groups and individuals, we presented an amendment, the only one to be adopted yesterday at report stage. It is an amendment that states in black and white that no religious group will lose its status as a charitable organization for refusing to celebrate marriages between same sex couples. One of these Christian groups made a suggestion for an amendment, which we presented and which was passed yesterday.

I want to say one final word on freedom of religion: it is as important and as fundamental to the Bloc as the right to equality, which, in our case law, now includes the right for same sex partners to marry. This freedom of religion is fundamental in a free and democratic society such as those in Quebec and Canada. This freedom of religion must not mean that the religion of some should become the law for others. We do not live in a Catholic, Evangelical or Protestant state or in a Jewish, Islamic or Buddhist state. We live in a secular state, where the separation between church and state is one of our civilization's finest achievements. It is an example of the fundamental principles from the age of enlightenment that have enabled us to expand the definition of marriage to include same sex partners for civil purposes.

We observe society's evolution with respect to civil marriage. However, we are in no way changing the Catholic vision of marriage as a sacrament, according to this church, which does not accept or allow divorce. This in no way changes Jewish marriage, for example, where, in order to marry, both partners must belong to the Jewish faith. This in no way changes any other religious wishes or religious definitions of marriage.

In any state with a justifiable and constitutional charter of rights and freedoms, the courts play an important role. For about the past 10 years discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been illegal, under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Furthermore, the highest courts in eight jurisdictions in Canada, including the appeal courts of Quebec, Ontario and B.C., which are the three most densely populated provinces in Canada, have ruled that the so-called traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional. The Ontario and B.C. appeal courts struck down the common law definition of marriage, which dated back to 1866. The Quebec appeal court struck down the legislated definition of marriage that was passed by this Parliament in 2001.

That very clearly contradicts those, in the Conservative Party, especially, who said that Parliament had simply to reaffirm its belief in or its support for the so-called traditional definition of marriage, and the courts would follow.

First off, allow me to say that, each time someone says “all we need to do is such and such”, all too often the solution proposed is overly simplistic. The “all-we-needs”, as we might define them, are simplistic solutions for complex problems.

I have to agree as well with the 134 law professors who took the fairly unusual and exceptional step of signing a joint letter to the leader of the Conservative Party. In the letter, these eminent professors said, rightly, that the only way to make marriage between partners of the same sex illegal in Canada would be to use the notwithstanding clause.

That was my opinion before the letter. My legal analysis led me to say at the time—and these 134 professors concur—that the only way, today, for us parliamentarians to prevent partners of the same sex from marrying is to say that, notwithstanding what the courts have said, we are suspending the rights and freedoms recognized by the courts for a period of five years, five years being the maximum period the notwithstanding clause may be applied.

Never would I vote, nor would I ask my colleagues to vote, to suspend the recognized rights and freedoms afforded a minority that has been persecuted too long, not only in Quebec and Canada, but throughout the world.

The choice facing us is to support Bill C-38, which would expand the right of same sex partners to marry in the eight jurisdictions where the right already exists and in the other jurisdictions where it does not, or to state very clearly that we are prepared to use the notwithstanding clause.

I have participated in this debate for many years. I have been an MP for eight years, during which time few matters I have been involved in as a parliamentarian have made me as proud. I am proud to take part in the process that will broaden the right to equality of thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians who want to marry. Be they two men or two women, they want to be able to say publicly to society, the government and the world that they are committed to a solid relationship, they are in a relationship of equals, and they are publicly declaring their love for each other.

Having taken part in this debate, having heard the vast majority of the 472 witnesses who appeared before the committee the first time around and the 60 or so who testified before the legislative committee, having travelled across Canada, from Vancouver to the Maritimes, via Iqaluit, Montreal Toronto, and many other places, and having received wedding pictures over the past two summers of couples who told me, “Look, we got married. Thank you, thank you for your part in it”, I say that is wonderful, The pleasure is all mine.

To conclude, when I rock myself in my rocking chair, a few decades from now I hope, with my dentures in a glass on the side table, I will tell my children about what I did when I was a member of Parliament. When they ask me, “Where were you, Dad, when this debate took place? What did you do to provide these men and women with the same right as everyone else?”, I will be able to say that I was there and that, on this June 28, 2005, I voted in favour of these men and women finally having access to marriage, as opposite sex spouses have had for decades, centuries, millennia.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House again today to speak to Bill C-38. As I have previously stated, I am fully aware of both the privilege and responsibility that I have been given as a representative of the diverse communities and residents that compose the riding of Niagara West--Glanbrook. All my hon. colleagues in the House also have the duty to reflect the values and concerns of their constituents.

Each time I have risen to speak on the bill, I have clearly said that I will be voting against the legislation that will change the definition of marriage. In my vote I have faithfully taken the direction that has been so clearly expressed by the people of Niagara West--Glanbrook.

More than any other item on the government's agenda, which has been incredibly lacking when it comes to effectively responding to real concerns of Canadians, the issue of same sex marriage has evoked an outpouring of commentary.

The same sex marriage bill has inspired tremendous debate and considerations throughout all segments of my community. To date I have received feedback for up to close to 10,000 individuals from my constituency and thousands more from coast to coast on the definition of marriage.

Overwhelmingly the residents of the communities of Niagara West--Glanbrook have indicated support for maintaining the current definition of marriage. I agree with the majority of public views I have received, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

During the election campaign I promised my constituents that I would vote in support of this definition and that promise I have kept with them.

I have solicited the opinion of my constituents by asking them through news letters, emails and other correspondence and I would like to share the response. Almost 90% of my constituents are against changing the meaning of marriage, 9% support changing it and the remainder has no opinion.

Contrary to the claims of the Prime Minister with regard to anyone who does not support the legislation, the residents of my riding are Canadian and so are the millions of Canadians from coast to coast who oppose the legislation. Are their voices any less important than other Canadians? In my eyes, definitely not.

However, I am not so confident that all members of the House can look their constituents in the eye and claim that they wholeheartedly represent them. How long can the Liberal government claim that its is fixing the democratic deficit when it refuses to hear the voices that oppose it?

Just last week the government tabled the report on democratic reform which it stated was at the top of its priority list. It has stated that its action plan on democratic reform is based on three pillars of democracy: ethics and integrity, restoring the representative and deliberate role of MPs and accountability.

The Liberal government has failed miserably on all three counts. In the action plan the government has stated:

Democratic Reform will re-connect Parliamentarians with Canadians by giving MPs greater freedom to voice the views and concerns of their constituents, by providing parliamentary committees with more resources to influence and shape legislation, and by requiring that Ministers are actively engaged with MPs and Committees on priorities and legislative initiatives.

What this means for individual Canadians is that the people they elect will be able to better reflect their views in the process of government. It also means increased responsibilities for individual Members of Parliament to ensure that these reforms result in real change.

That is a quote from the report. From my time I have been here in the last year, that could not be further from the truth. Many committees have made many recommendations to the House that have been totally ignored or just shelved for a later point in time.

I would like to repeat one more time that I hope all members from all parties take this to heart. The government talks about the fact that democratic reform will reconnect parliamentarians with Canadians by giving MPs greater freedom to voice the views and concerns of the constituents. What this means for individual Canadians is that people they elect will be better able to reflect the views of the process of government. It also means increased responsibilities for individual members of Parliament to ensure that these reforms result in real change. I am not exactly sure at what point in time Parliament strayed away from this democracy by honouring the wishes of Canadians, but now is the time that we need to restore democracy.

The government can produce reports, action plans and even create a minister of democratic reform, but these measures are meaningless if members of the House are to ignore the voices of Canadians on an issue that will alter one of the most fundamental institutions in our society.

The government can produce reports, action plans and even create a Minister of Democratic Reform, but these measures are meaningless if members of the House are to ignore the voices of Canadians on an issue that will alter one of the most fundamental institutions in our society. The fact is the Liberal government and, indeed, the Prime Minister, are not interested in restoring faith in democracy. They will even alienate their own beliefs along with their constituents' beliefs to ensure that they maintain whatever little power they may have left.

I am baffled that many members of the Liberal government who not so long ago spoke so fearlessly in preserving the traditional definition of marriage. Now they immediately will do as they are told and vote for the bill.

It has been quoted before, but I would like to quote the speech of the hon. Deputy Prime Minister delivered in the House on September 2003 when she was the justice minister. She stated:

Marriage has fundamental value and importance to Canadians and we do not believe on this side of the House that importance and value is in any way threatened or undermined by others seeking to have their long term relationships recognized. I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

In free votes in 1999 and again in 2003, the hon. Deputy Prime Minister voted for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage, as did many others in government. Yet she along with her cohorts will stand in the House again today, as she did last night, and force the will of the Liberal government on the Canadian people and vote for a bill that will reverse exactly what she fought so hard to preserve on two previous occasions. Maybe “fought” is too strong a word.

My intention is not to single out the Deputy Prime Minister. She is just one of the many in cabinet who publicly opposed changing the traditional definition of marriage in the past. In fact there are currently 20 Liberal members who in 1999 freely voted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, who now vote to destroy marriage. There were 34 Liberals who have voted against the government. This also includes the current Prime Minister.

There could be many more Liberal members whose constituents oppose the legislation, but without a free vote, the voices of Canadians will be ignored and our democracy trampled on once again.

I applaud the hon. members who have put their political careers aside to truly represent what they and their constituents believe is right. They have sacrificed their aspirations for what is best for the country. Why will the Prime Minister not do the same thing?

It is rather unfortunate that the Prime Minister has given his cabinet an ultimate: Vote in favour of the government or lose your ministerial perks.

The NDP, a party which also claims it is the true voice of democracy, has also whipped its members into submission. The only member of that party who dared voice an opinion has been muted and has been told to sit on her hands during a vote on one of our society's fundamental institutions. This is just another example of the Liberal-NDP coalition forcing members to toe the party line. I will mention, though, the member did vote last night and I was encouraged to see that.

Coercion is not a tool of democracy, it is a tool of tyranny. All hon. members should resist the threats of having their political careers ended prematurely by voting against the bill. As elected representatives, we were sent to Ottawa for a specific reason: to be the voice of our constituents, to embody the wishes of the great people of this country and to protect their democracy and freedom.

The justice minister has presented the bill as a charter issue. He has said that it will give all people equality. He has stated that religious freedoms will not be affected by the passage of the bill. I would challenge him on this.

There are numerous instances that have already occurred which have put religious freedoms at risk. Scott Brockie owns a printing company called Imaging Excellence. In 1996 Mr. Brockie refused to provide printing services to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives on the basis that the cause of homosexuality was offensive to his religious belief. The CLG Archives filed a human rights complaint under the Ontario Human Rights Code, alleging that Mr. Brockie discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation. A board of inquiry, appointed under the Ontario Human Rights Code, found that Mr. Brockie did discriminate and fined him.

Then there is the case of Mr. Kempling. Chris Kempling is a teacher and a school counsellor in Quesnel, B.C., who was disciplined by a professional body, the B.C. College of Teachers, for writing letters to the editor of a local newspaper denouncing the school's teaching on homosexuality.

The B.C. Supreme Court upheld the discipline and said that Mr. Kempling was not entitled to protection. Mr. Kempling was not even working at the time.

I could mention Bishop Fred Henry as another individual, the Knights of Columbus and the list goes on and on. Bishop Henry said:

The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to same-sex couples is not discrimination. It is not something opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires such an opposition.

It is the right and the responsibility of all citizens who are troubled by the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage, to enter into the debate and, with clarity and charity, to make their voices heard by their fellow citizens and our political leaders.

It is through their elected representatives that we must let the citizens of our great country be heard. The majority of Canadians have clearly stated that they want marriage to continue to be defined as the union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. When the vote is called, I would encourage all my colleagues to courageously stand and vote against Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let us talk about democracy. In 2003 the justice committee was shut down without the opportunity to report to Parliament. Liberal members were hiding in the hall and not allowing quorum.

I sat on the legislative committee that dealt with Bill C-38. Witnesses were bunched four and five at a time. I sit on another committee and that is not the way we do things. Witnesses were given 24 hours or less notice to appear. They were given no opportunity to have their presentations translated. In my view that was not a proper process. I know members from the other side will talk about the lengthy process with 400 witnesses but the justice committee was not dealing with this legislation.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's comments and there were really three parts to his speech. I will address two of those parts and ask him a question.

The first part has to do with the issue of democracy. If he had listened to the Minister of Justice he would have heard that the committee had 500 witnesses, visited 12 cities and received 300 submissions. Bill C-38 went through committee clause by clause. All of what he has asked for has already happened exhaustively.

My second point is with respect to the issue of religious beliefs. As the minister said very clearly, the right to religious beliefs and the protection of religious institutions to act out their beliefs is the first among all rights within this country.

The member mentioned the issue of children. Does he not think that Bill C-38 actually strengthens the rights of children because gay and lesbian couples actually have children? Bill C-38 would enable lesbian and gay couples to have a civil marriage, not a religious marriage because it is up to religious institutions to marry whomever they wish. Does he not think that Bill C-38 strengthens the rights of those children whose parents happen to be gay or lesbian?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the whole issue revolves around the rights of children. If we make marriage an adult-centred institution then we do so to the detriment of it being a children-centred institution. That is one of the many concerns I have about this legislation.

I talked about the process and I would like to go back to that for a second because it is another thing that I am greatly concerned about. In 2003, when the government had the opportunity to appeal the decision of the Ontario Supreme Court, it failed to do so. Despicable things went on in the committee. Liberal members of the committee hid in the hall, refusing to allow a quorum to address that question. It is a really sad state of affairs that our country is now in this state.

If Bill C-38 is such a great bill and such a great concept, why would we not allow proper debate, discussion and opportunity? If it were so good there would have been no need for the games and no need for this underhanded process to sneak the bill through Parliament.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I also oppose Bill C-38. I believe that marriage is the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

One of the important debates that took place on Bill C-38 had to do with the issue of whether this was a human rights issue on an equality basis. I wonder if the member would agree with the proposition that this is a matter of rights, but it is a matter of the rights of children and of families which have been ignored in this legislation by de-linking children from their parents.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to stand in this House today and state my unequivocal opposition to Bill C-38.

I am in agreement with many of my colleagues on this issue, in that I support the traditional definition of marriage which is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I believe that all rights can be granted to same sex couples without the need to change this common law definition that stretches back to before Confederation and has helped define this great country for almost 138 years.

The definition of marriage which has been consistently applied in Canada comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is the union of one woman and one man to the exclusion of all others. I believe what the Conservative Party of Canada offers on this issue is a reasonable compromise.

My arguments will not concentrate on these issues. I merely wish to put it into perspective, so that we can compare it to the situation in which we currently find ourselves in this debate.

My discussions will centre on the process by which the government has been attempting to ram this legislation down the throats of Canadians by cloaking its arguments in the mantra of human rights. I want to speak today about the flaws in the process and the lack of accountability to the Canadian people and the method by which we stand here today when we should have been in our ridings having dialogue with our constituents.

There has not been a proper debate on this issue involving the people of Canada and there has not been a proper process followed to allow full debate by parliamentarians.

The government introduced this bill after insufficient public debate and rushed it through the House, and sent it to a committee that I happened to have sat on that in my view did not allow proper examination of witnesses. It was not the proper process. This was a committee that the government knew would discuss the bill quickly. It was designed to get this issue out of the way with little opportunity for debate, permitting no changes. We now find ourselves in extended sittings as we fully expected we would, and we fully expected the government to invoke closure, as it has. The government is shutting down debate. We are going to pass this piece of legislation that flies in the face of the history of our country.

Late in his mandate, the former Prime Minister sent a proposed piece of legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling on human rights issues. The current Prime Minister added a clause to that proposed piece of legislation in an effort to hog-tie the court and Parliament. Of course, and thankfully, the court saw through that feeble attempt and made no ruling.

I have several problems with the actions of these two prime ministers. First, this is not a debate about human rights. It is a debate about politics and social policy. Therefore, it should be treated in a much different way from how it has been handled by the current and previous governments.

I and my colleagues, and indeed every person in this place, have been elected by Canadians to debate and decide issues of concern to this country and its people. Whether it is the civil marriage bill, budget bills, assistance for foreign countries, missile defence, assistance for our farmers or any number of other issues, we the elected members of Parliament have been chosen by the people of Canada to debate and ultimately decide the direction of this country.

If the party opposite believed that, it would have followed the accepted process for such issues as Bill C-38. That process would have involved some sort of public dialogue and arguments for and against. The government would have brought the issue before the House and it would never have gone to the Supreme Court of Canada first.

A proper process would have taken into consideration the decisions and wishes of a previous Parliament, a Parliament that included some of our current members, which determined that the only definition of marriage that is acceptable to Canadians is the traditional definition of marriage.

A proper process would have included statements by members of Parliament that they would do everything in their power to defend the traditional definition of marriage. It would have included statements by judges on the Supreme Court that defined and defended the traditional definition of marriage.

Let me offer some examples. In 1995 Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest, speaking on behalf of four judges in the majority in the Egan decision, wrote:

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. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

This statement remains the only commentary on the basic meaning of marriage in any Supreme Court decision and would have been included in any proper debate.

I will offer another example. This House, which at the time included the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage in 1999 and the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000, with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the then justice minister, leading the cause of the defence of marriage.

The following is what the Deputy Prime Minister said in 1999 in her eloquent defence of the traditional definition of marriage. She said:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.... The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics and by the courts. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of that definition.

We have also heard comments from our Minister of Immigration that are consistent with that.

If the bill had followed proper process, these parliamentary statements and the court decisions would have had to be factored into the formulation of any bill that upholds the rights of same sex couples.

There may have been, and rightly so, a referendum. After this type of proper debate, the government would then have presented a bill for first reading, second reading and a proper committee hearing. The proper committee for the bill would have been the justice committee, but instead of carrying out the correct process, the Liberals formed a special committee and then loaded it in their favour. They charged through committee hearings at a blistering pace that did not allow ordinary parliamentarians the time for proper research and questioning of witnesses.

The Liberal chair of the committee ruled suggested modifications by the Conservatives to be out of order and the committee swiftly sent this piece of legislation back to the House for debate and third reading.

As we witnessed last week, the government will stop at nothing and use any trick in the book to avoid proper debate and reach its own predetermined end.

As I prepared this speech I wondered if I would in fact be granted the time to present it here in this place. I wondered that because of what we witnessed last week. I and most Canadians expected the coalition government to barricade proper debate on the bill once again, as it has, and close the doors on this sad chapter in the history of this place.

We all know that if a free vote were allowed by all parties, where MPs could represent the wishes of their ridings, the legislation would fail. It is this lack of proper process and the lack of real democracy more than anything, that I am truly concerned with today. I also have a great deal of concern about the lack of protection of religious freedom and the strengthening of that protection against discrimination for religious beliefs.

At this time I would like to move an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefore:

Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the legislative committee for the purpose of reconsidering all of its clauses with the view to strengthen protection against discrimination for religious beliefs and that the legislative committee on Bill C-38 be reconstituted for the purpose of this reconsideration.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the hon. member's observations have to do with Bill C-38, which is the subject before the House. In fact, I did not hear any direct reference to Bill C-38.

The hon. member made references to matters relating to health care, child care and the environment, and then to the fact that these were invasions of provincial jurisdiction. The last time I looked these were the subject of federal-provincial-territorial agreements brought about with the understanding, concurrence, support and indeed at times even the initiative of the provinces.

We are talking about an exercise in cooperative federalism, which is a central pillar of a whole approach to constitutional law and policy. We are talking about cooperative federalism in the service of the public good regardless of partisan party or politics in that regard. We respected the Constitution for our social justice agenda for the public good and we are respecting the Constitution with respect to Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I indicated, here we stand on the final day of debate in this House, with the opposition suggesting alternatives to the present approach to Bill C-38 that are simply not founded as a matter of law and simply do not exist.

I would like to use some of my short time available to explain in as brief a way as possible what choices are and are not open to us, as well as the costs and implication of those choices, in particular for our values and for our future.

The opposition members have continued during their speeches in the House and in hearings of the legislative committee to suggest that there is a compromise available to us, which would mean legislating the traditional opposite sex definition of marriage once again, this repeated yesterday by Mr. Harper, and it would offer the same rights and privileges of marriage to same sex couples, but through civil union, not marriage.

This alleged compromise is based on two assumptions which involve occurrences that are so unlikely they cannot really be put forward as realistic options and which do not have any real legal grounding in law.

First, the alleged compromise, while technically possible, can be implemented only if Parliament is willing to use the notwithstanding clause, only if it is willing to use the clause to override the charter, court decisions, rule of law and the like.

Second, even if that were to be done, it is unlikely that the law the opposition proposes could survive a court challenge, as Parliament simply does not have the authority to bring about this compromise.

Let me begin with why the notwithstanding clause would have to be used to re-enact an opposite sex definition of civil marriage.

The opposition assertion that somehow it is still open to Parliament to re-enact the traditional definition of marriage, to override the equality rights provisions of the charter, to override the decisions of courts in nine jurisdictions, and to override the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, without using the notwithstanding clause, is based on a leap of logic in law: that because the Supreme Court of Canada did not answer the fourth question put to them by the government in the marriage reference, Parliament is now free to decide the issue any way it wants.

I should add parenthetically that the fourth question that was put, and I added that question to the reference, as to whether the traditional definition of marriage is compatible with the charter, was included not because we intended to argue in support of that position, but to allow those who wished to argue in support of that position to be able to do so before the court. Indeed, the court admitted 28 interveners to provide as full and as fair and as comprehensive hearing as possible on this issue before the Supreme Court of Canada.

As to the question we put and supported as to whether extending access to civil marriage to gays and lesbians was compatible with the charter, the court answered, as I mentioned, and it is important to bear this in mind, that it was not only consistent with the charter but flowed from the principles and values of the charter.

As well, it is incorrect to say that the Supreme Court of Canada did not answer the question asked in the reference without stating that when the court came to question four, the answer, as the court itself acknowledged, was moot. For the court to have answered it at that point, as the court itself said, would have been unprecedented. This is particularly in light of the reason the Supreme Court gave us for not answering that question.

Simply put, the court said it was not necessary to answer question four because courts in six provinces and territories at that time had already come to this conclusion; that several thousand couples had already relied on these court decisions to get married and had acquired, as the court put it, protected rights; that the government had already indicated it would legislate to provide equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples in the reference itself; and, most important, something that is being ignored, that the Supreme Court of Canada had already effectively answered the question when it answered the earlier question on whether same sex marriage was constitutional and unanimously held it to be so.

Accordingly, what the opposition leaves out in its argument for alternatives is that the court, as I indicated, did not answer the question because it deemed the question to be moot, because, in effect, the court had already answered the question before. This does not mean that the court said that whatever decision Parliament makes would be constitutional or that we have a blank slate here. Rather, nothing in the Supreme Court decision overruled the binding decisions in the now nine provinces and territories finding that the opposite sex definition of marriage is inconsistent with the fundamental guarantee of equality in the charter.

As well, the opposition referred to the nine decisions striking down the traditional definition of marriage as being “only lower court decisions”. Somehow it is being suggested that only a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on this subject needs to be followed and so the House would only be required to exercise its power of the notwithstanding clause in the face of a Supreme Court of Canada decision.

This appreciation of the issue is not only wrong in fact, it is contrary to the rule of law. What needs to be appreciated is that where a law has been found to be unconstitutional, the only options open to Parliament are to either remedy the unconstitutionality, which is what we are doing with Bill C-38, or overrule that court decision by invoking the notwithstanding clause. Invoking the notwithstanding clause means that Parliament is publicly stating that it will pass the law despite the fact that it is knowingly unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court of Canada is not the only court in the country that governments are bound to respect under the rule of law. Courts in nine jurisdictions have declared that restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples is unconstitutional. Their decisions stand as binding on us. They are constitutional law in this country. They are a law for making laws.

The opposition may wish to speculate on what the Supreme Court might have done under other circumstances. However, it cannot continue to state that the House can ignore those court decisions and re-enact the same law that has already been declared unconstitutional.

There is a Constitution in this country. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a centrepiece of that Constitution. This country is a constitutional democracy. W need to conduct ourselves with the full respect for this country as a constitutional democracy under the rule of law.

The opposition would also have us believe that changes to the definition of civil marriage can somehow come about because of an alleged lack of action on the part of Parliament. The problem with this theory is that Parliament had already legislated the opposite sex definition of civil marriage. It was this federal legislation that was considered by the courts in Quebec, not the common law definition of marriage, yet the statute, and I underline statute, was also found unconstitutional by those courts.

Yes, the government could have continued to appeal all of those decisions to the Supreme Court, but did that really make sense? Should more taxpayers' money be spent on appeals in the face of what were unanimous decisions in all jurisdictions and regions of this country? The government made a decision that it was the role of Parliament to craft a uniform Canada-wide solution based on the decisions of the courts and as invited to do by the Supreme Court.

The second mistaken assertion of the opposition is that it could create equality for same sex couples by legislating a form of civil union that would give them the same rights and privileges of marriage. The opposition describes this as a responsible compromise.

However, both the British Columbia and Ontario courts of appeal have already looked at the possibility of a civil union alternative and said that it would be less than equal and therefore unconstitutional and would stand as a pronouncement on the rule of constitutional law in this country.

Even if Parliament adopted this approach, civil unions are within provincial and territorial jurisdiction, as the opposition acknowledges, and leaving it to the provinces and territories to try to solve this question would inevitably result in a patchwork of 13 different civil union schemes that would not guarantee equality.

The compromise offered by the opposition may appear to have a superficial attraction to it but it is simply not possible in Canada's legal and constitutional framework.

Let me turn now to the important question of religious freedom. The government takes this question most seriously, so seriously, as I mentioned, that we took the additional time to refer the proposed legislation to the highest court in the land to make sure that religious freedom would not be threatened. This principle of religious freedom is now included in five separate places in the bill for greater certainty.

The opposition would have us believe that Bill C-38 imperils the exercise of freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is portrayed as the weaker sister to equality, and it is asserted that whenever courts and tribunals are faced with a clash between equality rights and religious rights, equality rights will always trump religious freedom.

Such an assertion ignores both the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the reference and any number of other charter decisions. The Supreme Court has consistently indicated that freedom of religion must be fully respected. Indeed, as the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Brian Dickson, asserted, freedom of religion is the “firstness of our freedom”, to which I referred in many articles that I was writing long before I ever became the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

If additional specific protections are desired in terms of civic marriage officials, commercial provision of services or rentals of church halls, they admittedly would have to be added to provincial and territorial laws. I have raised this with my provincial and territorial colleagues.

Ontario has already responded, passing a new bill extending further protections for religious freedom. Quebec already has specific protection in the civil code for religious officials who refuse to marry a couple. Other provinces are now considering additional legislative protection. I brought it up in our meeting of the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice.

Bill C-38 fully respects the religious freedom guarantees of the charter, and this government has made a commitment to the importance of those religious freedom guarantees. Religious freedom is not threatened here, no more than it was in earlier changes to allow civil divorce, which enabled first cousins to marry and so on, none of which affected religious practice. This is a bill with respect to civil marriage. It does not affect religious marriage, religious institutions or religious beliefs and in fact expressly protects them.

As I have outlined, the compromise offered by the opposition is not possible within Canada's legal and constitutional framework. There are before us today only two alternatives, not a blank slate. The Conservative compromise is not a responsible contribution to this debate in this regard.

Bill C-38 emerges as the only responsible and appropriate constitutional compromise, one that will preserve the important and central institution of civil marriage in our society for both opposite sex and same sex couples seeking that degree of commitment. It will also ensure at the same time that religious groups continue to have the freedom to make their own decisions about marriage, both those who wish to maintain the traditional definition of marriage and those who might wish to recognize marriage for same sex couples.

The charter is the expression and entrenchment of our rights and freedoms, the codification of the best of Canadian values and aspirations, and we are all its beneficiaries. It defines us as to who we are as a people and what we aspire to be. It is in that spirit that this legislation has been tabled and in which this democratic debate and exercise in democracy has been carried out. It is also in that spirit and in that hope for equality, for the rights of minorities and for the protection of religious freedom, that I trust this legislation will be enacted.

Rights are rights. None of us can, nor should we, pick and choose whose rights we will defend and whose rights we will ignore. The government must represent the rights of all Canadians equally.

We understand and we respect the fact there are strong feelings on all sides of this debate. We are talking about a central, longstanding institution of society. We trust and hope that this bill will lead not only to a more respectful solution, but a solution governed by mutual tolerance and understanding, a solution anchored in charter principles of equality rights, minority rights, respect for religious freedom and respect for diversity, and, as I said, which represents the best of our hopes and aspirations for an egalitarian and just society.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

I will get to the fourth question if I am not interrupted and the member allows me the democratic right to share my remarks with the people of Canada.

I fully acknowledge that the legal and constitutional principles involved here are complex. I understand there are strong feelings on all sides of the debate and that many Canadians are still struggling with the idea of change to one of Canadian society's central institutions.

I have seen for myself the diversity of answers.

There is a diversity of feelings, respect and expressions, all of which deserve respect, yet here we stand on the final day of debate in this House and the opposition continues to suggest that somehow there are alternatives to the present approach of Bill C-38, which are simply not available. I would like to use--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
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Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-38, An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38, the civil marriage act, has now arrived at third reading stage. This journey has been a long one and, from my perspective, I would say that it started in 1982 when Parliament passed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What is important to appreciate is that it was a parliamentary initiative to enact the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to make it part of our Constitution. It was Parliament that then vested the courts with the role of protecting these fundamental rights and freedoms, including equality rights and religious freedoms on behalf of all Canadians.

It was the people of Canada, including minorities, gays and lesbians among them, who invoked the charter and sought remedy and redress from these courts.

It was the courts of Canada, including those in eight provinces and one territory, that held that the opposite sex requirement for marriage was an unconstitutional breach of the equality rights section in the charter.

It was the Supreme Court of Canada that unanimously held that the purpose of the government's legislation, “Far from violating the Charter, flows from it”. The court also held that no religious official can be compelled to perform a same sex marriage if it is contrary to his or her religion or beliefs.

Accordingly, the issue now returns to the place from where it all began, here in Parliament where the people of Canada are now speaking to their elected representatives.

On February 1, the government tabled Bill C-38 in order to fulfil Parliament's responsibilities to respect equality rights by extending access to marriage to same sex couples and to render uniform the definition of marriage across the country, as invited to do so in the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The essence of the legislation, anchored as it is in the two foundational principles under the charter, equality rights and religious freedom, involve the extension of equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples while, at the same time, respecting religious freedom.

This has been known to us for over two years. Indeed, it was in July 2002 that the government referred its draft bill to the Supreme Court of Canada. During this period, and it is important and bears recall, all aspects of the bill had been discussed in depth in the House during second reading earlier and in the predecessor standing committee that travelled across Canada, went to 12 cities, heard from over 500 witnesses and received over 300 written submissions, all of which has been incorporated by reference in the testimony and report of the present special legislative committee.

It has been before the courts in nine provinces and territories, before the Supreme Court of Canada in the reference hearing and, most recently, as I mentioned, before the special legislative committee established to examine Bill C-38. That committee met for 21 sessions over the last month and comprehensively examined each clause of the bill, hearing from over 70 witnesses and receiving submissions from many more.

During its comprehensive review, the committee considered 19 recommendations for amendment and, consistent with the principles with respect to amendments and to be consistent with the principles of the bill and within federal jurisdiction, accepted two of those amendments.

I have yet to mention the media, another public forum that has given this issue one of the longest and continuous high profiles in recent history. I am pleased that there has been so much involvement by so many on this important issue and would say that this has been an exemplary democratic discussion and debate.

I have had the opportunity myself to visit every region in this country to engage in that debate with the faith communities, with the cultural communities, with non-governmental organizations and with the whole expression of civil society in that regard.

However, with all this discussion, debate and detailed clause by clause examination, the opposition's main arguments against the bill rests on three assertions that are simply unfounded as a matter of law and unfounded as a matter of policy.

The first argument is that it is somehow open to the House to re-enact the opposite sex definition of civil marriage without using the notwithstanding clause.

That is what Mr. Harper reiterated yesterday.

The second argument is that Parliament can ensure that the equality guarantee is respected through some form of civil union.

The third argument is that the bill threatens religious freedoms.

I fully acknowledge that the legal and constitutional principles--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 11:15 p.m.
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Independent

David Kilgour Independent Edmonton—Beaumont, AB

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-38, in Clause 3.1, be amended by replacing line 9 on page 3 with the following:

“by reason of their exercise, in respect of”

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June 27th, 2005 / 11:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

moved:

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-38, in Clause 3.1, be amended by replacing line 5 on page 3 with the following:

“3.1 No person or”

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June 27th, 2005 / 11:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me in these final moments of this stage of the debate on Bill C-38. I was watching the debate from the comfort of my office and noticed by the tone and the content of some of the comments being made by the members opposite that they might benefit from one simple point of view. I rushed over here to share that with them.

The message to them is simply this. If they do not support same sex marriage, they should not marry somebody of the same sex. They should marry somebody of the opposite sex. Then everyone would be happy and they would have less to be so cantankerous about. That is my simple advice. If they do not support same sex marriage, they should not marry somebody of the same sex. It really is quite simple.

There is another point that I wanted to share. It just came over the wire recently while I was in my office. It is a press release from the United Church of Canada. It was released today. The heading states, “United Church of Canada urges Parliament to vote in favour of same-sex marriage”. It reads:

In a statement released today, The United Church has called on the Canadian government to move in a timely way to end the debate on Bill C-38 and to vote in favour of same-sex marriage legislation.

“Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this legislation”...

That was said by the chair of the justice, global and ecumenical relations unit of the United Church of Canada.

I ask my colleagues, whose points have been raised in at least a quasi-religious context, to please take note of this message from the United Church of Canada today.

The church goes on to say that:

further rancorous debate over this issue will only serve to polarize positions rather than contribute to building a strong civil society based on the values of inclusion, diversity, mutual respect and fairness.

These are strong sentiments coming from the leaders of the United Church of Canada, who have been watching, I can imagine, with the same sort of dismay that we all share when we see some of the points made today.

I think there is benefit in reading for members this viewpoint from the United Church. The chair of the justice, global and ecumenical relations unit said:

“Religious marriage is not and cannot be affected by this proposed legislation”...He says all religious communities in Canada, whatever their views on same-sex marriage, have the absolute right to determine for themselves who will be eligible for religious marriage within their communities.

Perhaps that gives some comfort to my colleagues, who are clearly upset about the advent of Bill C-38. The United Church also believes that:

the protection for conscientious objection to performing same-sex marriages, which is provided by the Charter and affirmed in the proposed legislation, does not conflict with the right of same sex-couples to marry.

“The enactment of the proposed legislation means that same-sex couples will be able to obtain civil marriage,” explains [the chair of the committee]. He adds that while same-sex couples may not be able to obtain religious marriage, depending on the views of a particular faith community, that is also the case for many other couples such as interfaith couples.

In the case of my own parents, the Catholic church would not marry my parents in the Catholic church because my father was about to marry a heathen Protestant, and the Catholic church would not have it at the time. It was not a charter issue. It was matter of religious freedom. They got married elsewhere.

I wanted to raise this matter tonight. I was not going to enter into the debate, but when this came across my fax machine just one hour ago I felt it necessary to share this because I thought it might bring some comfort to my colleagues, who are clearly not comfortable yet with what is going on today.

The closing line of the press release is particularly powerful. It states:

Freedom of religion does not trump equality, nor does equality trump freedom of religion; the rights must co-exist.

That is the balance we seek today. That is what we strive to achieve: to balance these competing interests. I do not view them as competing interests, but some do. One does not trump the other. They can and do and will co-exist and make our society stronger, not weaker.

Nothing about allowing same sex couples to marry diminishes in any way my heterosexual marriage. Equality is not some finite pie, that if we give more to one group, the other group has to do with less. In fact, my rights grow as they are extended to others. Freedom is only privilege extended until it is enjoyed by everyone. These are the basic fundamental concepts we are dealing with tonight.

I note that people have mobilized around the country on this issue. I wish they would mobilize about issues such as child poverty or global warming with the same degree of passion that they bring to this debate. However, from my point of view, I do not feel threatened when loving couples want to have their commitment to each other ratified and confirmed by an institution like the state of marriage. Others should not feel threatened by that either.

We should take some guidance from the United Church when it says also that it believes the protection for conscientious objection it guarantees, which is provided by the charter and affirmed by the proposed legislation, will not conflict with the right of same sex couples to marry.

These are important principles. I hope that this has some calming influence on my colleagues. Maybe they will sleep better tonight when they know that one of the major religious institutions of the country is urging Parliament to vote in favour of same sex marriage. It is calling upon the Canadian government to move in a timely fashion to end the debate on Bill C-38, which is what we did only an hour earlier when we voted to limit the amount of time we commit to this, and urging again for all members of Parliament to vote in favour of the same sex marriage legislation.

If that is useful to my colleagues, I offer that as providing some comfort to them. If they have any questions, I would be happy to expand on it. I will reiterate one last time that those who do not support same sex marriage should not marry somebody of the same sex, and then perhaps they will not be so conflicted with what is going on today. They should marry somebody of the opposite sex.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:55 p.m.
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The Speaker

I am sure the hon. member is getting back to the topic, but I must say that in the debate tonight we have heard a lot about other bills and the application of time allocation on them. While I am sure the hon. parliamentary secretary has his mind on Bill C-38, he has wandered off briefly to describe something else and I know he will be back to the topic before the end of his remarks in one minute's time.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:45 p.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the comments coming from the other side. I understand and I think all of us understand that this is a very sensitive issue. Emotions are inflamed on this for many reasons.

I want to share with the House a little story. As I was walking up to the House a little while ago there were a couple of people who were very big supporters of the Conservative Party and their big issue was the issue of marriage. They wanted to support the status quo or the historical status quo.

When I asked those people what would happen if Bill C-38 did not pass in the House, they said that same sex marriages would no longer be legal and that only marriages between a man and a woman would be allowed in Canada. I told them that they were wrong because marriage between same sex couples was already legal in eight provinces and one territory. That is the reality.

For those who oppose this, only one rational debate can occur, and that is on whether to use the notwithstanding clause under the charter. Under the law that is the only rational debate for those who choose to oppose this. Anything else is just hot air.

They may wish for life to be different. They may wish to remove this bill from the parliamentary calendar, they may wish that it had never existed, as was mentioned from the other side, and they may wish that marriage between same sex couples was illegal but that is not the case.

The other side may wish to simply say that with the stroke of a pen, without getting into the notwithstanding clause, that they may choose to simply bring a bill to this House to say that we want to reverse history. Would that make any difference? No, it would not. Whether or not the other side wishes something does not make it a reality.

At the end of the day, all of us have to live within the context of the law and the Constitution. The law and the Constitution state very clearly that if a party wants to change through legislation dictums that have come through from the lower courts, they have to use the notwithstanding clause.

The Conservatives are being utterly disingenuous in not offering that option. Unless they offer that option, they may as well sign on to this bill and go home to their families, go home to their constituents and say the bill has passed. However they will not do that and that is utterly disingenuous.

I want to get to some other issues that were raised today. I want to talk about the fact that in eight provinces and one territory this is the law. Indeed, in many other countries this is the law. Some of the people who are opposed to this think that the sky will fall, that somehow incest will be legalized, that some people will marry their brothers or their sisters, or that some other concoction will be legal.

The reality is that is not the case. In those countries in Europe that have adopted it or those provinces and that territory in our country that have adopted it, one would be hard-pressed for those who oppose this particular bill to point those out and say that the sky has fallen in those provinces and that territory. The reality is that is not the case.

I think what will happen is that 10 years down the road we will all look at this and say how silly we were to have evoked such venom against this particular bill. At the end of the day, the bill does not change my heterosexuality. It does not change anybody else's marriage. It does not change anything. It simply includes and extends a little bit the boundaries of civil marriage to those who love each other and who choose to enter into marriage.

What we need today is a lot more love and a little less hatred. I think we would all be a little bit better off at the end of the day. At the end of the day the bill will not hurt anyone who has a religious marriage. The bill also will not hurt or damage the rights of churches, synagogues or temples to marry or not marry whomever they choose. It will not infringe upon those rights.

The bill is about civil marriage, not religious marriage. The courts have been very clear that those, for example, who wanted to have a situation where people could have a civil union, that was struck down by the courts. Again, they may wish to have something else but that is not the case.

What I find profoundly disappointing is that we have tried very hard as a government to deal with a myriad of issues, from children to homelessness to students to education to major foreign policy challenges, and rather than the opposition finding the best within themselves and the best ideas that they have and offer those ideas to Canadians as something to put forward, they have churlishly decided to sink themselves into this debate in a highly venomous fashion without opposing it in a way that is rational and legal.

Instead of those members trying to oppose something that is essentially a faite accompli, I challenge those members to offer up better solutions than we have and we will offer up better ones than them because at the end of the day this is about the Canadian public. This is about those people who do not have homes, who cannot get health care, and it is about making companies more competitive.

We have a myriad of challenges. The G-8 summit is coming up. We have offered, as a government, a number of solutions, from forgiving the debt of highly indebted nations to providing more aid, in particular, for Africa and doubling it to 2009. We should deal with the issue of the undervalued Chinese yuan which has huge economic implications for the world and, in particular, for our country as a trading nation.

Those are the issues that matter to Canadians because it matters whether they have a job, it matters whether our exporting companies are competitive, it matters to the future of all Canadians, it matters to our tax base and it matters to our social programs. Those issues are important because it hits Canadians at a visceral level, at their dinner table, and those are issues that mean something to them.

We have offered up solutions for students and for our economy. We have balanced the budget for the eighth time eight years in a row. Do we hear any solutions from the other side? No, we do not. Have we heard a budget from the other side? No, we have not. Have we heard a rational set of solutions for the G-8 summit? No, we have not. We have not heard one solution for a major summit that is taking place, that has profound implications, not only for our country but for the international community and the world in which we live.

Do we hear solutions from them on how to mould the L-20? Do we hear solutions on how deadly conflict can be avoided that has claimed the lives of millions? Do we have any solutions on how the global fund for TB, AIDS and malaria can be improved? Do we hear any solutions on how our research and development can be improved, not only to address health care issues in Canada but also to address those internationally?

Do we hear any solutions to a major health care problem, the issue of mental illness in our country, or that depression will be the second leading cause of morbidity in our country in the future? Do we hear any innovative solutions to what we need to do for our aging population, to how we can incorporate our ever-increasing aging population, albeit healthier, into our workforce, to lower pressure on our social programs and our pension systems? Do we hear any innovative solutions to those things? No, we do not.

Do we hear any innovative workable solutions on defence? Do we hear any solutions on how we can increase our soldier? Do we hear any solutions on how we can improve the way in which our defence forces work?

We are trying. The Minister of Defence has put forth umpteen solutions to accomplish those objectives.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak the report stage of Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill. In the 10 minutes I have allocated, and that is another issue which I will speak about, I will talk about why we are here today, the same sex marriage bill. I also will talk about how this could have been avoided and where we can go from here.

With the government invoking time allocation at report stage and third reading, we will be voting on the legislation tomorrow night and there is nothing we can do about it now except to be here to vote and we will. Bill C-38 will probably pass tomorrow night, but that will not be the end of it.

Why are we debating Bill C-38 today? That is an important question. Just a few years ago the current Deputy Prime Minister was in the House defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman. She said that nothing would ever happen to change that and anybody who would suggest that would be speaking absurdity and all kinds of things like that.

The Deputy Prime Minister rose on the opposition motion brought forward by our party back in 1999 and speaking on behalf of the government in a carefully crafted speech she said:

The definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended, and will continue to defend this concept of marriage....I continue to believe that it is not necessary to change well-understood concepts of spouse and marriage to deal with any fairness considerations the courts and tribunals...

She went on later to say:

The institution of marriage is of great importance to large numbers of Canadians, and the definition of marriage as found in the hon. member's motion is clear in law.

This was one of her closing statements, “I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage” as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Why are we debating Bill C-38 today? That is an important question and a question I have a great deal of difficulty understanding.

We know that about two-thirds of Canadians do not support this legislation. I did a survey of my constituents and received thousands of returns. About 98% of those who responded to my questionnaire, which was dropped at every household in the constituency, supported marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Many of my colleagues have done similar types of surveys and they have found the same results. Polling nationally showed that two-thirds of Canadians do not support the legislation. In my constituency it is much higher.

Why are we debating Bill C-38 today? It seems to me that the government is so obsessed with the issue of same sex marriage that it will not let it go. In the 12 years I have been here I do not remember closure being used in the House the way the Liberals used it on Bill C-48, the NDP budget bill. If Bill C-48 had been defeated, the government would have been defeated and Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill, would not be here today and we would not be dealing with it.

It is not only the government that is obsessed with same sex marriage, but the NDP is also obsessed with this issue. This is the first time the NDP has voted with the government in favour of closure and now today on time allocation.

The Bloc is obsessed with the issue of same sex marriage as well. The Bloc members, who are generally democrats and would not support time allocation or closure, are so obsessed that in the last two days they have formed this unholy alliance with the government; the separatists, the government and the socialists. They have signed an agreement and together they are doing everything they can, including bypassing the normal rules of the House of Commons, to push the bill through.

This is an unholy alliance and this is why we are here today debating Bill C-38. Those three parties are obsessed with the same sex marriage issue. Because of that, they made this deal in bed together, the government with the Bloc and the socialists.

How could this have been avoided? First, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and many members of the Liberal caucus could show that they believe what they say. Many of them, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, said a few short years ago that they did not support same sex marriage and that they believed that marriage should be retained as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Therefore, there should be no reason for this bill to be debated today.

More recent, a free vote, which means all cabinet and all parliamentary secretaries in the governing party, would have killed the legislation at second reading. That is how this could have been avoided.

I want to talk a little about that. The government put our a document last week on parliamentary reform. I looked through that little booklet and I was shocked at what I saw. The document is from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. It is entitled, “First Annual Report on Democratic Reform”. What a joke. The things the government has pointed to as being changes it has made to make this place more democratic are exactly the opposite to what in reality has happened. However, there are some things of interest in there.

For example, it talks about how often the government has used the one line whip, the two line whip and the three line whip. I want to explain that. A one line whip is when the government says that it is a completely free vote. A two line whip is when the backbenchers can vote freely on the issue but cabinet and parliamentary secretaries must toe the government line. A three line vote is when all members of the Liberal Party are expected to toe the government line.

The government's own numbers in the document say that there were zero one line votes. That means no free votes whatsoever in the time that was documented in this report. Eighty-two of the votes were two line votes, including the marriage bill vote. That means that half of the Liberal caucus members are not free to represent their constituents on the important issue of marriage, cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. A three line whip was used 18% of the time. There was not one single free vote on government legislation.

I want to go to my third point. Where do we go from here? I want to say without a doubt, even if this bill passes tomorrow, which it probably will, that is not the end of the issue. The Conservative Party and the Leader of the Conservative Party are committed to bringing this back to the House when we form the government and we will have a truly free vote on this issue.

We know, as I have said before, that about two-thirds of Canadians support the option where marriage is retained as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Legal civil unions in Canada give all the rights that married couples have to those who want to be involved in a civil union. That is what we will put before the House. We will put options before the House and there will be a free vote.

Under a Conservative government I fully believe same sex marriage will be struck down and we will move on to become a country where we have marriage enshrined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not even sure the last question deserves an answer. However, it annoys me that bills as important as Bill C-48 and Bill C-38 would come to the House without notice and be voted on while I was having dinner. I came back to the House. I have been in the House more often than that member.

The government ought to be responsible and take its duty seriously. Bill C-48 has no plan, it has nothing. How many housing units were build by the government in 11 years? There were very little for the money spent. The Liberals spent $1 billion with not a house being built.

There are more people living in poverty today than 11 years ago. There are more people homeless on the street while the government has been in office. That is something to be noted.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that this member would be concerned about how much it costs to operate this House. This bill needs to be opposed and the costs should be put in the background.

Where was this member when this House was being filibustered by his own party for days on end, when they took away supply days because they were not prepared to face a confidence motion? The Liberals went for a week or more trying to skirt that issue, filibustering on their own committee reports.

What was that costing per hour, and what was the purpose of that, except to cling to power at all costs? What about spending $4.6 billion? We will wait to see what the cost will be for the little side deal that was made to invoke closure over the last little while. There may be some consideration coming out sooner. They blow billions of dollars and they are afraid to keep this House open a little longer so they can hear responsible arguments on Bill C-38.

As far as the committee is concerned, what happened to the Prime Minister's promise to keep the committee going? We would not have to be sitting here if the Prime Minister had kept his promise to have broad consultations in committee, allow the committee to have more hearings, and allow positive injections. The reason we are still sitting is because of the member opposite who voted for this House to be extended without notice.

What happened when the Liberals took away our supply day motions, and when they lost the confidence of this House indirectly? They had a constitutional obligation to bring the issue of confidence before this House, but they used a week because it was not convenient for the Prime Minister. He flew around the country and gave out goodies, spent money, and used the machinery of power and government jets when he had no authority and no constitutional basis to do that. He did that simply to cling to power illegitimately and to legitimize government, and that was wrong.

As far as marriage is concerned, if the hon. member would listen very closely, it is the potential to procreate, and one lady and one man have the potential to procreate naturally, biologically, and not otherwise. That is the phrase “potential to procreate”. I would say that there is more to this issue than a few dollars and the machinations of clinging to power at all costs.

We should not be here at all. This bill should be in committee. This bill should not be here. We are in a democracy and ought to be experiencing it, but senior parliamentarians fail to see that and they ought to know better, but they do not.

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June 27th, 2005 / 10:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be taking a different tack tonight. I will look at the process that has led us to be facing Bill C-38 at report stage and closure.

I must say, in respect of the bill itself, that marriage essentially is the union of two people, a man and a woman, who consummate the relationship with sexual relations with the potential to procreate. Marriage has well been said to be something more than a contract, either religious or civil, to be an institution, and it should remain that way. For the Liberal Party, it is more about politics, power and arrogance than it is about the essence of Bill C-38.

The government was prepared to make deals to keep its own members on side by promising broad committee hearings and not introducing the bill past report stage and third reading until fall. Then, when the Liberals were able to make a bigger deal, they decided to proceed to ram the bill through both stages. There will be a price for such an action and the Prime Minister and his enforcers shall pay the ultimate price at the ballot box.

Surely, the public at large will not let them get away with this. For those in the Liberal Party who oppose Bill C-38, the marriage bill, but voted with the government in a sneak manoeuvre to pass Bill C-48, the NDP budget bill, without notice, can certainly talk the talk, but they fall far short of walking the walk.

Let me speak briefly about procedures being used in this House that preclude the giving of notice. I could hardly believe that in a democracy, in a free and democratic country like Canada, the governing party would resort to procedures that would achieve their end by means of subterfuge and subtleness.

Surely, on an important issue like the NDP budget and Bill C-38, the government should at the very least provide notice of its intention and face the issue fair and square, so that the representatives of the people of Canada can make their views known.

Instead, what did the Liberals did? According to a Canadian Press report of June 25, by 8:30 p.m. Thursday last week, the Liberals were hiding out in the government lobby with one MP stating that the Liberals were going to bushwhack the Conservatives. I am sorry for the confused logic. It is really an affront and it is a bushwhacking of democracy.

I left the House at around 9:00 p.m. to have supper with my wife. Before I was finished supper, and without notice, Bill C-48 was up for a vote. Something as important as a budget vote was being snuck through the House. In all of my life, I have never heard or seen anything like it. The Liberals could not hijack democracy without the complicity of the NDP and the Bloc.

It is understandable that the NDP would engage in a procedure such as this as the leader himself asked if putting aside corruption, would the Minister of Finance change the budget? The NDP were prepared to make a deal regardless of the tactics or the manners of the government.

However, the Bloc, who opposed the NDP budget, Bill C-48, had nothing to gain or lose by the vote being taken on Thursday or on Monday, when we had a full contingent of our members in the House. To agree to Bill C-48 being placed before the House without notice was either intentional mischief or done for consideration of some kind. I can see no other rational conclusion. In either case, such actions are odious and any trust on my part from here on in will have to be earned.

All these steps were taken to force Bill C-38 to remain on its own, undressed, in full view of closure motions, limits on debate, and the concurrence of three parties to shove it through. Then on a foundation that it accepts important and significant matters, the government disposes it without notice given to the representatives of the people of Canada. That is wrong.

Any debate in this circumstance, in this context, is a farce and simply a matter of the government trying to appear magnanimous when it knows full well, it is about to drop the hammer to close matters off, as we just witnessed in this House tonight. I find this offensive. The fix, as they say, is in.

Indeed, this type of conduct may be what is necessary to awaken a sleeping giant. Those who agree with Bill C-38 and whose views will be made known in the ballot box in the next election will find out who is the ultimate judge in this particular case.

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix , on June 25, stated with reference to the government's conduct that “Thursday was the third time such a stunt was used in Canada's history”, and a stunt it was. I doubt it was ever used in such an important and significant a situation as a budget bill and a bill that redefines the definition of marriage. Obviously, it has never been done in this context. This is an all-time first and an all-time low in terms of its use in the history of this great country we call Canada.

Let us have a look at what brought us here today. Last week on Thursday morning, under Standing Order 57, a minister of the Crown served notice that debate with respect to extending the sitting of this House should not be further adjourned, with the provision that no member shall be allowed to rise to speak after 8:00 p.m., when a vote was held with respect to this motion. To put it simply, it was a closure notice with a time limit on speeches on an important issue such as we face here today. That was wrong and the government will pay the price for that.

Let us have a look at the motion itself, and I spoke to it the other day. The motion was prefaced by saying “notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice”. In other words, it was overriding anything that could stand in the way of the motion by way of Standing Order or usual practices. We put those aside. What does the motion go on to say? Essentially, that the sitting would continue until a minister of the Crown proposed, without notice, a motion to adjourn.

In other words, a minister could unilaterally have this House adjourn at any time without notice. It has come to this. What if anything or is there anything the government might not do to achieve its end? This seemed to me to be a heavy-handed approach and something one would not expect in this country.

This stunt, as referred to in the Star Phoenix , took place when the NDP, the Liberals, and the Bloc agreed that the Minister could propose to pass Bill C-48 without notice, without debate or amendment.

The government dispensed with the Standing Orders and usual practices to its advantage in circumstances that the Standing Orders were never intended to be used. It is in these circumstances, with this play of characters in office, that Bill C-38 finds itself.

What hope is there for those who oppose its passage? The hope is in the ballot box where they will have an opportunity to remove these characters from office.

The government tried to tie Bill C-48 to this bill in case it needed to apply to the Speaker for extension of the sittings, but then decoupled it when they and the sneaky, no-notice NDP budget Bill C-48 was voted in, in the middle of the night last Thursday.

Father Raymond J. de Souza said, “When holding unto office becomes the beginning and end of all activity, there are no more politics, just the machinations of power”. He went on to say that the corruption of our politics is now complete.

He refers to an article in the Toronto Sun that states, “--the time has come to cool the fury in Parliament, to ease the pressure on the Prime Minister to resort to seedy vote buying”. He says that Canada's largest circulation newspaper and ardent supporter of the Liberal Party concludes that the Prime Minister is engaged in seedy behaviour but excuses it on the grounds that otherwise he would be defeated by the opposition. It is all about power and if a little seedy vote buying is necessary, so be it.

He says what is cynicism in politics? It is the belief that politics is not about the common good, nor what one sincerely believes is right for the country, but only what is personally advantageous to the office holder. It is a Prime Minister's Chief of Staff discussing how one could go about trading offices for votes without officially trading offices for votes.

The mockery of the process of Bill C-38 in committee has caused the Liberal member for London—Fanshawe, to his credit, to leave the party and sit as an independent. Why? Because he knew what the Prime Minister promised, he would not deliver.

He observed what we did, the tricky procedural moves in committee such as removing Liberal MPs in exchange for others who would vote in correct ways, having members leave a meeting to cause it to adjourn for lack of quorum, calling witnesses in batches of four on very short notice, limiting witnesses to be called, and heavily stacking the Liberal committee members and the witnesses in favour of same sex marriage. Is this evidence of the Prime Minister's solemn word for full, fair and meaningful public hearings? Of course not.

The committee was asked to work to an unnecessary and premature deadline to report to the House. The member went on to state that witnesses were being given inadequate notice to appear at committee hearing and some have been rudely treated when they have attended. He said that the process as it was unfolding was unfair and perfunctory at best, and that it was not what he agreed to as a proper democratic consultation on such a major piece of legislation as the proposed definition of marriage. He added that in his view, the government had no democratic mandate from the people of Canada to redefine marriage.

I wish to conclude with Chantal Hébert's comments in the Toronto Star which could well be prophetic. She said:

Given the lengths to which [the Prime Minister] and his team have gone just to prolong the life of their minority government for a few more months, one has to wonder how many more ethical niceties they would dispense with--

Having heard [the Prime Minister's] chief-of-staff Tim Murphy nod and wink and dress up the Liberal window with future government considerations, can anyone doubt that this is an administration that is just as likely to live and die by the rule that the end justifies the means?

The democratic deficit [the Prime Minister] so likes to wax lyrical about has been compounded into an ethical one. And past sins of omission and/or commission have been overshadowed by current, in-your-face transgressions...It is a malaise that permeates the upper reaches of the government.

So much for the loyalty of the country. Anything the Prime Minister said suggesting that he encouraged a full debate on Bill C-38 in these sittings was, simply put, hogwash. The price the Prime Minister will pay will be paid at the ballot box. He cannot get away with such treachery as we witnessed in the House for this long. The voters will see to it. Marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others with no exceptions, no amendments, period.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 9:20 p.m.
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Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

Mr Speaker, I wish to state that an agreement has been reached under Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the deliberations at report stage and third reading of C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2), I move, seconded by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the following motion:

That, in relation to Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, not more than one further hour shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and not more than eight hours shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, at the expiry of the time provided for in this order for the consideration of the report stage and at the expiry of the time provided for in this order for the consideration for the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purposes of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 9:10 p.m.
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Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-38 at report stage.

This bill is of indisputable importance, given its nature and the interest is has generated since it was introduced in this House. The subject matter of the bill sparked an interest before the government ever presented it. First the government referred the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada for its advice, which it gave last year. The government used that advice in drafting the bill, which it then introduced in this House.

I want to take this opportunity to state my intention to vote in favour of this bill. Some who have been following this debate will recall that I have always believed in human rights and, accordingly, have always voted for human rights and always will. In fact, the issue had been raised in this House by the hon. member for Hochelaga through a private member's bill. I was one of those in this House who voted in favour of the bill. Some will also recall that votes were held on this subject in 1999. I voted in favour of civil marriage for same sex couples, believing at the time, as I do now, that it was an issue of human rights and equality. I will continue to vote that way because I sincerely believe this is about human rights and equality.

After the court handed down its ruling, the government felt that this bill should reflect a balance between rights and freedom of religion. Bill C-38 does. I am happy to see that, during consideration in committee, various amendments were proposed, one of which was adopted. Again today, there was unanimous consent to adopt another amendment in order to reinforce this issue of freedom of religion. Once this bill becomes law, we must ensure that religious officials are not forced to celebrate marriages for same sex couples. There must not be any consequences if they do not wish to recognize such marriages, if this goes against their beliefs.

We are therefore protecting freedom of religion and equality. As a matter of fact, this is what legislators do. We are, above all, legislators. We are responsible for the contractual, legal and civil aspect of marriage. We are fulfilling our responsibilities in this bill. We are ensuring that, in civil and contractual terms, the legislator is complying with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as eight or nine courts in Canada have ruled, the need to ensure equality. When this bill becomes law, the right of same sex partners to marry will be recognized throughout Canada.

We are not responsible for the spiritual or religious aspect of marriage; religious and spiritual groups bear that responsibility. By protecting the ability of religions to say yes or no and by exempting them from any negative consequences, we are respecting this freedom of religion. Thanks to this balance, most Canadians agree with what the government is proposing and what the Canadian Parliament will soon pass, we hope. If so, the Marriage Act will be amended to recognize same sex couples.

So this is what it is about. We have still had lengthy debates. In the end, the country as a whole has been involved in the debate for a while now, for more than two years, since the various courts, starting with British Columbia, then Quebec and the other provinces, gave rulings.

At this point, all the arguments had been heard over and over. We are also in a situation where Parliament has extended its sitting in order to deal with this bill. I think it was appropriate to do so.

That reflects the will of a majority of members of this House. Given that all the arguments have been heard and amendments to the bill have been made in committee or at report stage here in the House, strengthening and protecting what people wanted strengthened and protected, I think it is time to move on.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 9:05 p.m.
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Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a point that a number of his colleagues have mentioned about a number of situations in the courts where people have been attacked for religious freedoms and other such reasons. A number of members mentioned the same particular cases.

I would like to ask the member what his party's suggestions are to deal with this. Bill C-38 has not passed yet, so it is not this bill that is the problem. What are the suggestions of the Conservative Party to correct those elements of those people that have been attacked unfairly, as the Conservatives are suggesting?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

No, I am not kidding. The PM assured members of his own party that that would not be the case. But in an effort to retain his own integrity, one member walked.

Another thing that I have heard tonight that strikes me as a bit odd is that the Prime Minister suggests this is a violation of human rights. We know it is not a violation of human rights, but let us assume the Prime Minister's position for a moment. My hon. colleague earlier this evening said that if the Prime Minister is correct in his assumption, how can he support 33 human rights violators in his caucus? That is not democracy; that is hypocrisy.

No internationally recognized human rights document has ever suggested that there is a right to same sex marriage. I have searched everywhere and I cannot find one. I challenge the government to produce such a document. They cannot.

As well, attempts to pursue same sex marriage as an international human right have failed. In 1998, the European court of justice held that stable relationships between two persons of the same sex are not regarded as equivalent to marriage. That does not mean they are not equal, because we have already pointed out the difference between equal and being different. My wife and I are different, and thank goodness, she looks a lot better than I do, but we are equal.

In 1996, the New Zealand court of appeal rejected the recognition of same sex marriage, and this is the important part, despite the fact that New Zealand's bill of rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. When the New Zealand decision was challenged before the United Nations human rights commission as a violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, the United Nations ruled that there was no case for discrimination simply on the basis of refusing to marry homosexual couples. In fact, to this date no international human rights body and no national supreme court has ever found that there is a human right to same sex marriage. The only courts that we talk about in the House are provincial or state level in Canada and the United States.

Why have the hours been extended for this national emergency? Surely, the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in poverty may have a different opinion of what is a crisis. The automotive industry in Ontario and the forestry industry in Ontario are in crisis, but we did not extend hours to deal with their problems. Here is the crux. This Liberal government has messed up health care so badly in Canada that a court has ruled that it is now a human rights violation because Canadians cannot get care in time. Are we talking about that tonight? Are we talking about that tomorrow? We asked for an emergency debate on some of these issues and were denied.

I am pleased, to be quite honest, to represent the vast majority of my riding of Cambridge and North Dumfries, but I do want to acknowledge and respect those who wrote to me and preferred that I vote differently. I want them to know that I have listened to everything they have said. I have read their e-mails, I have sincerely and sensitively spent hours contemplating their opinions, and I have concluded that this comes down to being about the word “marriage”. The Conservative Party has clearly said that there is no doubt that we need to extend equal rights and benefits to all Canadians. In fact, when I questioned those who were strongly against Bill C-38 and asked how they felt about equal rights for gay marriages and gay relationships, they said there was no problem. That is the Canadian way and that is the way we feel. However, the issue comes down to the word “marriage”. We have no problem extending full and equal rights to all Canadians, but forcing such a redirection of society by a political party, the social engineering that is so common in dictatorships, well, that is exactly what I am saying about Mr. Phony. Politics is the art of compromise and we need to compromise.

I would like to close by reading a letter I received from a constituent, not in my riding but from another riding whose member is not listening. She writes:

If I may, I would like to give you my opinion on C38 as well, as part of a gay couple living in Ontario. We firmly believe that you and the conservative party should vote against it and we truly hope that this will be the downfall of the federal liberals for many reasons.

...we do not, nor ever have we believed that the definition of the word marriage should be changed in any capacity. What we simply asked for is the right to have a civil union that is equal to the rights granted by civil marriage. I don't think...gay couples understand that it really doesn't matter what it's called in order to cement [the relationship]. ...that is simply semantics.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of examples of being different but equal in Canada.

Quebec is a province that has a distinct society clause. It says that it is different, but it is very much equal. Whether they are in Quebec, Ontario or my province of British Columbia, Canadians are equal, but they can be distinct. I gave the example of men and women. They are very distinctly different but very equal. We need to respect all Canadians' freedoms. Even if we are different, we can be equal.

One of the constitutional experts who spoke to us, David Brown, said that in the coming years where this is going to take us is an attack on the freedom of speech and access to facilities. We have heard how the Knights of Columbus were set up and were under attack. Mr. Kempling was under attack. Fred Henry was under attack. We heard from some of the members. I am hearing from some of them right now with a bit of heckling from the corner.

We heard the questions,“Have you ever been forced to consummate a marriage between same sex couples? Have you ever been forced to do that and had a consequence?” The answer that Mr. Brown gave was that Bill C-38 is not law yet. He said that will happen. Faith based schools will be forced to teach a curriculum or they will lose their provincial funding. The churches will lose their charitable status.

We are going down a road that will change Canada as we know it. We need to oppose Bill C-38. We need to send it back and look at an alternative way of providing the same benefits and rights to Canadians in same sex relationships, and it cannot be marriage.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, that issue is one of the salient points of this debate.

I have had constituents say that they will not get married in Canada if Bill C-38 goes through, that they will go to a country that presents the traditional definition of marriage.

If this bill goes through, there are questions as to whether same sex marriages will be recognized in the rest of the world. I do not think so. Canada will be to the far left on social issues, more than any other country in the world. Will these marriages be recognized? I think the traditional definition of opposite sex will be, but I have heard from a number of Canadians who are very concerned about having a traditional marriage here in Canada and are talking seriously about going outside the country. That is a real concern.

One of those was a new Canadian from Romania. She left communist Romania a number of years ago and came to Canada and was very excited to be here. She is saying now it is frightening her because we are heading in a direction where religious freedoms, personal freedoms and freedom of speech are being curtailed and taken away. She is very concerned about the direction in which Canada is heading.

It is our responsibility to provide freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We are not getting that with Bill C-38. We are heading down the wrong path.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

I am sorry but I have the most wonderful woman. We have five children, four boys and a girl. Girls are totally different from boys. It has been a wonderful experience in how they think, what they do and how they relate to one another. What a wonderful privilege it has been for me to experience not only dealing with a wonderful wife, but also with a girl and boys and experiencing how different they are. It makes me fuller as a person. The human species is not complete unless we have the experience of both male and female relationships. I am really honoured by the experience I have had in raising my children.

My five children are grown. The youngest is my daughter who is expecting a baby any day. I am here to protect the traditional values of marriage. I would like to be with my daughter. I am hoping I will be there when she delivers her first baby, but I am here to represent my constituency and I have my daughter's blessing.

I contacted my riding of Langley and asked my constituents how they want me to vote on this. I told them that I personally believed in the traditional definition but that I would represent my constituents. I was overwhelmed with the response. We received thousands of responses from the residents of Langley and 96% of them said that they wanted me to support the traditional definition of marriage. They also wanted me to provide the same benefits to same sex relationships and to ensure that religious freedoms were protected in Canada. That is why I was honoured and gladly supported the Conservative position to do those three things.

Religious freedoms are not being protected in Bill C-38, which is why we brought forward amendments. I also want to bring to the attention of the House that I was on the marriage committee. Every party that was represented on the marriage committee acknowledged that religious freedoms would not be protected the way Bill C-38 is presented to the House. Every party, except for the NDP, provided amendments to Bill C-38 acknowledging that it would not protect Canadians' freedom of religion. Unfortunately, those amendments were ruled out of order, which is why we are here tonight debating and supporting these amendments that will try to make a horrible bill somewhat better to guarantee religious rights in Canada.

I want to go back into some history and the reason we are here today. We have heard time and time again that there has been adequate public input and adequate debate on Bill C-38. The Liberals, the NDP and the separatists got together to get it through. In the 37th Parliament we had a subcommittee of the justice committee that wanted to look into this to see how it would handle same sex relationships.

The committee did travel. It went to a number of different cities. It heard from 467 witnesses. We have heard that the report was cut short. We never received a report, but we have also heard verbally from some of the people who were involved that there was a consensus. The consensus was that the best way to deal with the same sex relationships, guaranteeing them exactly the same rights and benefits, was through a civil union. That was what the committee heard. Unfortunately, there is not a written report so we have to take the word of those who were there and witnessed that to this House.

From that, what we have is a bill from the government, its number one piece of legislation to destroy traditional marriage. The government came up with Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill. The government created a committee. Normally legislation would come to this House and would go to the justice committee, which is what was expected. But the Prime Minister created a special legislative committee after consultation with certain members of his caucus. The government created a legislative committee. It limited the travel. It limited the amount of input that could be given, and limited the number of witnesses. Why would the Prime Minister come up with this special committee that would limit debate?

It gets worse. This committee that supported the number one piece of legislation for the Liberal government was stacked with members of the Liberal Party. The number one qualification for this committee was the government's bill had to be supported. There was no member of the Liberal Party who opposed the bill on that committee. Those members had to support the government bill. It was the same for the NDP members. The only members who were permitted on that committee who were open-minded, who listened to the witnesses, were from the Conservative Party. We worked hard. There was no travel. One of the parliamentary secretaries would beat on the procedure book saying that certain things could not be done, that they were out of order. He raised points of order, and on and on with interruptions and intimidation. That committee was a fraud, a travesty, a sham. It did not give Canadians any opportunity to speak freely and the number of speakers was limited.

The Conservative justice critic, the member for Provencher, worked hard. The government limited the number of witnesses to 41 and that critic managed to add another 22 witnesses. The member for London—Fanshawe left the Liberals out of disgust. He just could not take it any more. He spoke about an hour ago about the promises made by the Prime Minister and how those promises were broken. Bishop Fred Henry, Mr. Kempling, and a number of witnesses were deliberately withheld from that committee. The justice critic is with us tonight, and I want to give him credit for the hard word that he did. Through his hard work we did get some input, but 43 witnesses were rammed through in a very short period of time.

I kept asking the witnesses where this was going to take us and what the difference is between a civil union and marriage. If same sex relationships can be given exactly the same rights and benefits, what is inferior? I heard that different is not equal. That is right. Men and women are different, but they are equal, so different can be equal. It is not inferior. Civil union can be equal, but it is different. I never heard one of the witnesses who supported the government's bill, in fact any of the witnesses, who were able to tell me what is inferior about a civil union.

Two years ago that was the consensus of the committee and that is still the consensus of Canadians. Two-thirds of Canadians want civil unions with the same rights and benefits, and to protect the traditional definition.

I want to know where this is going to take us over the next five or 10 years. I am very concerned where this is taking Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member should be very careful about attributing information that is not quite right. He mentioned that the amendments being put forward here were somehow by government members. In fact, out of the seven motions to amend at report stage, five of them are by his own party, one is by an independent and the other one is by me to withdraw a clause, not to add anything. The member should be very careful about his facts on this matter.

He further suggests that somehow people are being coerced. I have spoken out on behalf of the family and defended marriage and will vote against Bill C-38 for a third time. However in all honesty I have never heard or felt any pressure by anyone. In fact, the member well knows that it is against the rules of Parliament to try to influence a member's vote, and that would be under a matter of privilege.

The member reacted to something I said in an earlier question and I think we should let this debate go a little bit further. If Bill C-38 did not exist and the other two provinces and two territories just made their copycat decisions, the common law would be across Canada and the definition of marriage would be any two persons to the exclusion of all others. There is no difference between that and Bill C-38 passing.

The question really comes down to what the resolution is. We have the courts changing it but we know there should have been appeals. At the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Halpern decision trashed marriage. We did not appeal that and I want to know why we did not do it? How will we ensure that the line in the sand, being the protection of religious rights and freedoms, will not be subject to the same kind of attack by the courts?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting. Today a number of members suggested that some Liberal members should have voted against Bill C-48. That would have brought down the government down and they would not have had to deal with Bill C-38 until some other time. That does not change the common law definition that is in eight provinces and one territory already. Quite frankly, it is time to address the problem more frontally.

The problem is we have a situation of court made law. I will get into that hopefully when I speak at third reading. Since we are speaking about the report stage motions under Group No. 1, could the member name one of the amendments proposed in this group?

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June 27th, 2005 / 8:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his comments in the House here today. He is doing a fine job on behalf of the people of Regina—Qu'Appelle.

Originally, 34 Liberals voted against Bill C-38. One is now an independent member of Parliament in the House. We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the MInister of Justice earlier today say that cabinet had to be whipped in order to support Bill C-38 because it was a human right.

Why does the Liberal government now support 33 human rights violators in its caucus?

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June 27th, 2005 / 8:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question. Does anyone here remember what Richard Rich accomplished as Attorney-General for Wales? Probably not. Father Raymond de Souza asked that question in his most recent article.

Many people remember Richard Rich not for what he did as attorney general, but rather as a stark contrast to the life of St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More stood by his principles, acted according to his conscience and paid the ultimate price for choosing his conscience before his political master. For choosing his political master before his conscience, Richard Rich was rewarded with the 16th century equivalent of a cabinet position.

Father Raymond de Souza relates a story about the film on the life of St. Thomas More. As St. Thomas is led up to the gallows, he turns to Rich and, seeing the insignia for Wales on his neck, says the following, “It does not profit a man if he gain the entire world but loses his soul. But for Wales, Richard?”

Today we can ask ourselves, “But for a cabinet spot in the Liberal government?”

We cannot discuss Bill C-38 without discussing the Liberals' aversion to democracy. We are sitting here today, a week after the House was supposed to rise, debating this issue due to the heavy-handedness on the part of the Liberal government. The Liberals trampled over parliamentary democracy last week by extending the sittings of this House to ram through their radical position on marriage. They had to ram it through, because they know that the vast majority of Canadians do not want to see the definition of marriage changed.

I sat in on a committee hearing for Bill C-38. I saw at first hand how the Prime Minister's idea of a fair and open committee operates.

We heard dozens of groups opposed to homosexual marriage complain that they were given little to no notice. They were even unable to get their documents translated in time and therefore were often prevented from tabling their evidence in time for the hearing. I also saw government members badgering witnesses and berating them, in the words of a former Liberal MP, for being opposed to the legislation.

The nature of the committee itself was also manipulated to ensure speedy passage. The committee was struck only to look at the technical aspects of the bill. Its members were not even allowed to hear evidence regarding the substance of the bill or how the bill might impact society.

There were also many reports that those groups opposed to Bill C-38 were not given funding for their travel expenses and other expenses incurred in coming to testify before the committee, but many groups who were in favour of the government's position were provided that funding. There is a clear imbalance there.

Upwards of 30 Liberal MPs are currently stating their opposition to this legislation. Logic would dictate that the Liberal whip would allow even just one pro-traditional marriage member to sit on that committee, but again, we know that there was not.

Another example of how the Liberals hate democracy is the fact that the entire Liberal cabinet is being whipped on this issue. Cabinet ministers have wrestled with their consciences and their consciences have lost. The lure of the cabinet car and the fierce stick of the Prime Minister's Office pounded their consciences into submission. I hope they put up a good fight.

Canadians have already seen the rights of religious groups and others being infringed. Religious institutions are already under attack. Individual Canadians have already been attacked for their own views on this subject. I can give members a few examples.

First, there is the case of a British Columbia teacher. Exercising his freedom of speech, he wrote several letters to the editor about this subject. In return, his teaching licence was suspended. This is an example of freedom of speech being infringed. Bill C-38 does nothing to protect individuals like this one in the example I cite.

Second, there is a move in Ontario to remove the biological information of parents from birth certifications. Can members imagine children not knowing who their biological parents are?

I would like to quote Dr. Margaret Somerville, because the central question we are talking about here is whether marriage is still connected to the potential to have and raise children and to provide a stable environment for those children, or whether it is simply connected with the personal needs of two adults in a close relationship.

Dr. Somerville states:

The crucial question is: should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one? The answer will decide who takes priority when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a child and the claims of adults. Those who believe that children need and have a right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents, oppose same-sex marriage because...it would mean that marriage could not continue to institutionalize and symbolize the inherently procreative capacity between the partners; that is, it could not be primarily child-centred.

In short, accepting same-sex marriage necessarily means...abolishing the norm that children...have a prima facie right to know and be raised within their own biological family by their mother and father. Carefully restricted, governed and justified exceptions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the norm would have far-reaching impact.

We also know of the case of the Knights of Columbus also in British Columbia. It is being harassed because it refuses to compromise its own conscience and rent a hall out to a homosexual couple. Its religious beliefs do not allow them to rent it out and it is being persecuted for following their faith.

There is also the case of Bishop Fred Henry. He dared to speak out against homosexual marriage and was rewarded by having the charitable status of his church threatened. Here is Bishop Henry's assessment of the so-called protection of religious institutions portion of the bill:

The recent Supreme Court decision bows in the direction of religious freedom. However, it adds a disturbing qualifier to its decision, namely, the statement that, “Absent unique circumstances with respect to which the Court will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials...

When you read this carefully, you don't have to be a lawyer to recognize an open door. Particular circumstances might lead to some future court legitimately trying to force religious officials to perform these ceremonies against their conscience, though the justice system declined to speculate on what those circumstances might be. It's disquieting that the court would even raise the possibility.

Bill C-38 not only does not close the door; as a matter of fact, it fails in a number of particular ways to support religious freedom.

He lists them:

One, it fails to recognize, protect, and reaffirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which the Supreme Court of Canada did not suggest was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor did it suggest that a redefinition of marriage was necessary to conform to the charter.

Two, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to enact the necessary legislation and regulations to ensure full protection for freedom of conscience and religion so Canadians are not compelled to act contrary to their conscience and religion.

Three, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to ensure all leaders and members of faith groups are free everywhere in Canada to teach and preach on marriage and also on homosexuality, as is consistent with their conscience and religion.

Four, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that in addition to sacred places, all facilities owned or rented by an organization that is identified with a particular faith group are protected from compulsory use and preparations for or celebrations related to marriage ceremonies contrary to that faith.

Five, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure all civil as well as religious officials who witness marriages in Canada in every province and territory are protected from being compelled to assist when these are contrary to their conscience and religion.

Six, it fails to safeguard faith groups that do not accept the proposed redefinition of marriage from being penalized with respect to their charitable status.

Bishop Henry put it quite well. Those are major problems with the bill.

Now let us talk about the issue of human rights and the courts. Many people in the Liberal Party contend that this is a matter of human rights. Let us read what Justices McLachlin and Iaccobucci in the Supreme Court decision in 1996 mentioned about the idea that it was a human rights issue and that Parliament could not legislate statute law in violation of what the court said. The justices said:

It does not follow from the fact that a law passed by Parliament differs from a regime envisaged by the Court in the absence of a statutory scheme, that Parliament’s law is unconstitutional. Parliament may build on the Court’s decision, and develop a different scheme as long as it remains constitutional. Just as Parliament must respect the Court’s rulings, so the Court must respect Parliament’s determination that the judicial scheme can be improved. To insist on slavish conformity would belie the mutual respect that underpins the relationship between the courts and legislature that is so essential to our constitutional democracy.

That is what the justices said, that Parliament does not have an obligation to do whatever the courts say in the absence of statute law. Parliament can in fact enact that statute law. Yet we have still seen a growing number of Canadians being attacked for their religious beliefs.

In my home province of Saskatchewan marriage commissioners are being fired for their personal beliefs. The anti-democratic behaviour of the government, along with the failure to protect religious officials and ordinary Canadians from persecution from expressing their own personal beliefs is appalling.

I want voters to know that if they had elected an NDP member of Parliament, their MP would not vote according to his own conscience or according to the wishes of his constituents. He would vote the way his leader told him to. Anything the Liberals can do to be undemocratic, the NDP can do better. The leader of the NDP is forcing his MPs to toe the party line and endorse homosexual marriage.

Thankfully, the voters in my riding rejected that kind of heavy-handedness. I will vote according to the wishes of my constituents and according to my own conscience.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Ontario Court of Appeal decision came down and instantaneously changed the common law definition of marriage, at the same time there was no statutory definition of marriage in any statute of Canada. We actually went from 1999 on without a definition of marriage in federal law because it is in the common law.

The argument was made that we need to have Bill C-38 so we can normalize it right across the country, but while we have been working on this process, interestingly enough, now we have eight provinces and one territory doing this. The vast majority of the country is already there. It seems to me, and maybe the member wishes to comment, that Bill C-38 no longer serves a useful purpose. It probably should be withdrawn and we should let the courts continue to make the law.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 8 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

First of all, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the support from all members of the House, in my estimation, some 20% of eligible voters voted for the Liberal Party. It was 20% if we factor in the percentage that voted in the general election and the percentage that voted for the Liberals. The same is true for the NDP.

Based on the feedback we have had and the literal outpouring of concern by citizens right across the country through emails, petitions, phone calls, faxes and meetings, I contend that this is a big issue--I have been invited to a number of meetings and rallies--and it is an offence to the Canadian people to so ruin the democratic process that they are not listened to.

Furthermore, I venture to guess that the proportion of people in the Liberal Party who support this would be much closer to the proportion in the general population if they were actually able to represent the wishes of their constituents. I cannot believe that those who are ready to vote in favour of Bill C-38 are totally immune from these presentations.

I was asked about questions 41 and 42. First, why was the definition of marriage clearly upheld in 1999 but now is under attack? To me the answer is very simple, that is, the Liberals, and especially the Deputy Prime Minister, who is famous for that speech she made in 1999, did not speak from conviction at that time or else they would not have changed their convictions. I think that is basically the answer.

Why is the Prime Minister so determined to jam this bill through? I think it is simply because the Liberals know they are going to be punished at the polls if it is still on the books. They want to get it out of the way and hope that voters will forget. I trust, however, that the voters will remember and will say that they are going to turf these Liberals because they are doing the wrong thing here.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 7:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to address Bill C-38 in order to filibuster or obstruct Parliament, as some contend. I rise to speak in order to change the minds of those who would vote in favour of this bill.

I sincerely and profoundly want Bill C-38 defeated. I represent millions of Canadians who do not want this bill passed. I represent millions who believe that marriage is and should remain as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

It is undoubtedly unrealistic of me to expect that every member of Parliament will take a copy of my speech and before he or she goes to bed tonight will read and ponder what I am about to say. I probably kid myself into believing that each one will thoughtfully ask himself or herself the pertinent questions which I am going to pose.

Instead of restating the positions which I have already articulated in my previous speeches on this topic, I am going to ask a series of questions which I challenge others to answer honestly, to put aside prejudgments on these questions and to try desperately to think of these things on a deep level.

Here are the questions. They are not in any particular order. I just wrote them down as they came to mind.

Question 1: Am I ready to undo the traditions and teachings which have directed societies and nations over many millennia?

Question 2: Am I ready to contribute to a weakening of the family unit as it has come to be understood and sought after by generations of people in history?

Question 3: If I have a belief in God as taught by my religion, am I ready to go 180 degrees against the teaching of my religion?

Question 4: If I have no professed religious belief, am I ready to undo thousands of years of tradition and history?

Question 5: Why is it necessary to so profoundly offend the millions of Canadians who, from either a religious or non-religious basis, do not want to have the definition of marriage redefined?

Question 6: Have I read and studied with an open mind the hundreds of studies which show that children raised in families with their biological mother and father do best in all defined measurable categories?

Question 7: Do I really believe that it is in Canada's best interest to promote the increase of families which do not have a mother and father present for the development of the children?

Question 8: Am I ready to say to children brought into these homosexual unions that they may never know their biological roots, being denied forever the knowledge of either their biological father or mother?

Question 9: Am I ready to say to every person so raised that they do not have the right to determine their genetic heritage?

Question 10: Have I asked myself why in this debate the only questions of equality are for the equality of homosexuals, instead of the broader question of equality for all relationships, including non-sexual relationships?

Question 11: What are the actual benefits to society to have the traditional definition of marriage nullified?

Question 12: What benefit is there to the children involved in society as a whole if we transmit the message that fathers do not matter, or mothers do not matter?

Question 13: Is it really true that there are no consequences to a child being raised in a home where only one gender is represented in the parentage?

Question 14: Will this redefinition assist or hinder young people in gender identity issues?

Question 15: How will children in these relationships have any hope whatsoever of learning the roles of males and females when they are not being modelled for them?

Question 16: Why did members of the Liberal Party do a 180 degree reversal of their position of supporting the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of others, as demonstrated in their 1999 speeches and vote?

Question 17: Were the Liberals right then and wrong now, or were they wrong then and right now?

Question 18: Why would the Deputy Prime Minister, then minister of justice, speak so eloquently that the equality issues can be addressed without redefining marriage if she did not believe it?

Question 19: Is there some concern about the hidden agenda in the Liberal Party when it promised right before an election, “It is not the intention of this government to change the definition of marriage,” and then after the election do the precise opposite?

Question 20: Why will the Prime Minister not permit a free vote on this important issue for all members in his party, including cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries?

Question 21: Is it not important to hear the thousands of Canadians for whom this is a very important issue and to seek a compromise solution that avoids offending deeply so many good citizens of our country?

Question 22: Is it not a bit of a hollow promise on religious freedom if in the very vote on the issue Liberal members are not permitted to exercise their religious freedom and conviction?

Question 23: If their position on this bill is so right, then why can they not trust their members to vote correctly, without coercion?

Question 24: If this is truly a human rights issue and there are apparently some 30 or more members in cabinet or in parliamentary secretary positions in the government, why are these intolerant members permitted to continue in their positions?

Question 25: Why is the government giving false assurance of religious freedom when we already have a number of cases in which people with religious faith or leaders in religious organizations are being hauled before various tribunals and in some cases are being punished?

Question 26: Is there not a concern regarding the loss of individual religious freedom when this bill addresses only the apparent freedoms of religious organizations? I emphasize the words “individual religious freedom”.

Question 27: Is there not a concern with the fact that the Supreme Court, in its reference, ruled that religious freedom in the sense anticipated by the bill is not within the federal jurisdiction to grant?

Question 28: What about the marriage commissioners in British Columbia and Saskatchewan who have been given notice to solemnize same sex marriages or lose their credentials? What about their religious freedom?

Question 29: What about individuals like the teacher in B.C. who was suspended from his position solely on the charge of expressing his personal opinions in letters he wrote to newspapers?

Question 30: What about the individual in Saskatchewan who lost a case in which he was charged with quoting the scriptures?

Question 31: What about the Catholic school board that was forced to go against the teachings and beliefs of the church at a recent graduation ceremony?

Question 32: What about the mayor of a major Ontario city who was fined for not promoting a teaching that was against her religious beliefs?

Question 33: What about the religion based camp in Manitoba that was charged because it refused to go against the convictions and beliefs of its supporting members?

Question 34: Is it a concern that the democratic process is being trashed?

Question 35: Why are the million or so names on petitions presented in this House being ignored?

Question 36: Why are members of Parliament being bullied into voting opposite to the wishes of their constituents?

Question 37: Why was the justice committee of the last Parliament shut down before being permitted to report and the present special committee totally stacked with individuals on one side of the debate, having its work truncated in order to ram this legislation through?

Question 38: Why is this issue so urgent that it justifies an extended session of Parliament into the summer?

Question 39: Is part of the tactic to push it through quickly, using the excuse that members must get back to their commitments in their ridings and other parts of the country?

Question 40: Why is it so important to stifle the opposition to this bill?

Question 41: How come, in 1999 and previous votes, the traditional definition of marriage was clearly upheld and now, just a few years later, it is under attack?

Question 42: Why is the Prime Minister so determined to jam this bill through quickly? It is because he hopes the voters will forget by the time of the next election?

Question 43: If this approach in social policy is so defensible, why is there such fear that the voters of the country will react negatively against the Liberal government?

These are important questions and they demand honest answers. I fear that many members have been bullied or deceived into supporting this legislation. In my view, this legislation is wrong. We should do the country and its citizens a huge favour by defeating it and getting the solution to these problems right.

I urge all members to support the amendments which address these serious questions and to vote against Bill C-38. We must do what is right. We must defend the family, moms and dads and the social order which has stood the test of time and history. Let us not go down the wrong road at this time and then have to deal with the consequences in generations to come.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 7:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

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

Pat O'Brien Independent 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 ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 7 p.m.
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Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring forward some areas about which we have not yet talked. However, the debate has been ongoing for quite some time and everything is pretty well covered.

I would like to point out though that my own personal values and beliefs in regard to this issue are very strongly faith based. I have good reasons to say that. I think most people would understand why I say it.

I am very pleased to belong to a group of individuals who saw the importance of faith based decision making, especially our forefathers who had the foresight to inscribe on our buildings that “he will have dominion from sea to sea”. I have no apologies to make for that and I will not. Many decisions that I do make are based on that very thing.

I would like to indicate though that I have found and discovered through my experiences in life, and I have a few years in now, that I have learned the importance more and more on various occasions as to what is good about a family that is defined as a mother, a father and children and why it is so essential that this unit remain strong and have the strength to carry on with daily turmoils.

It is obvious to me from my studies in history that when the family begins to crumble, society begins to crumble. In many cases whole nations and empires have crumbled due to the destruction of the family. It is essential that we work hard to keep that strong and existing.

I was in the education field for about 30 years. For a number of years, I was principal of a school of grade one to twelve. There were nearly 900 students every year in that school. I served not only as principal. Prior to that I spend some years as a guidance counsellor.

Let me assure the House that there were many times during those years that I was able to experience why it was so important and essential for a child to have access to a mother and a father. It was illustrated time and time again.

I remember one experience where I needed to pay a little more attention to what was happening in the school and in the social affairs of all the people who were involved. A young boy who was about eight was brought to my office because he was misbehaving poorly. With that many students, I was not aware of the history or the stories behind most of the students. However, I found out that this boy's father had died in an industrial accident when he was about four years old. He had been without a father for quite some time. His mother was doing an excellent job of raising a family, of caring for them as a single parent. She was one of the best as is true in many cases in a single parent situation.

On a number of occasions that eight year old was brought to my office for misbehaviour or other problems. I never knew enough about the history of his family to know that this might have some bearing on the difficulties he was having.

One day when he was sitting in the chair in my office, after having been brought in several times, I said to him that we had to do something, that he was getting into trouble all the time. I asked him what was going on with him. He looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Why do I not have a daddy like the rest of the kids?”. That made me sit in silence for a moment.

Here was a young fellow who was without a father. It was no fault of his own. It was no fault of anybody except a tragic accident had taken him away. That day it dawned on me how important it was to that young fellow to have a mom and a dad, how he could miss them and how it could play on his life.

The boy was constantly being teased and ribbed by small children, as they will without knowing the harm they are causing. They teased him for not having a dad. A lot of times they do not understand why parenthood and bringing children up in the proper way is so important. I had more and more occasion to start thinking about the situation in regard to the family unit.

I learned after 30 years that a solid family unit, with the love of a mother and a father, created the best situation possible to establish a strong family unit for the benefit and future of their kids. That is not taking away anything from single parents, single for whatever reason, who we worked with during those years and who did an excellent job.

However, I believe it is all about that. It is the children. They are entitled to be brought up in a family that has the love and care of a mother and the firm hand and understanding of a father. I think there is enough evidence. Studies have shown that those kinds of situations are good for the family unit which in turn makes it good for the community as well as for the country. It makes it strong. It is the base.

I would ask that we think about all these things when we come to legislation like this. One of the speakers from the Liberal Party, I believe from Scarborough, mentioned several times that there ought to be more debate on what the future implications of Bill C-38 could have on our children. I agree with him. It is something that has not been debated to any length and it should be carefully considered.

One of the other speakers pointed out time and again, this was not about rights. In fact, I do not know any country that mentions marriage as a right. It is about public policy and values. It is about what we as a society believe our country should be. Yes, the voice of the people should be heard. Not only do we want to listen to the debates in here and try to learn from each other, but it is essential as elected members of Parliament that we hear the voice of the constituents and that we represent them.

I am really pleased to be a member of a party that has a complete free vote on this issue instead of other parties that do not. I do not know how anyone could talk about this being about rights and equality but stifle their own members from having a free vote. That makes no sense to me. What is really puzzling is in 1999 a decision was made in regard to a motion on the definition of marriage. When the vote was taken, it passed by something like 215 to 55. A lot of the Liberals who are here today were of that group of people at that time who supported it. The now Deputy Prime Minister stated firmly:

I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

A huge majority of that party agreed with that and they supported it in 1999. Then suddenly it became an equality rights issue. When they all believed originally that it was not necessary to change the definition to accommodate equality, now it is a different story. What in the world happened to those people to come to that conclusion?

If they were genuinely interested in equality, they would take a look at some of the situations in our Indian reserves and the lack of equality for the spouses in terms of property rights. We have talked about that a number of times in the House. I am sure the Speaker will remember, it was not too many years back that I brought up the opportunity to adopt an ombudsman for people on an Indian reserve because they did not have an ombudsman. Every Canadian has an ombudsman, but the Indian reserves do not. That is a lack of equality. Why is that not being addressed? Yet the Liberal government, which is pushing this issue as equality, turned down that very possibility of making something equal on the reserves.

It is really a very sad day that the Liberals recognize equality in this area when the real equality is that every child should have a mother and a father. We should concentrate on strengthening that unit.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Both she and I are members from eastern Ontario. Would a Conservative government, should there be one and should this country be so unfortunate, revoke Bill C-38 if elected, and if so, would it use the notwithstanding clause to unmarry those married already?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I often say that I wish the Liberals would respect us for what we are and not for what they want us to be. This comes to mind more and more when I hear issues like this one being debated in the House. I would like to ask my colleague about that particular aspect of Bill C-38.

We hear across the way, “The judges made us do this. This is something that is coming from the courts. We cannot stop it ourselves. It happens here because of this judge and that judge”. In many cases we all know it is probably politically motivated. I would like my colleague to clarify for those who are listening whether he believes this is politically motivated or foisted upon Canadian society by the courts and why.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I did not point out that there are no Liberal members in the House, although perhaps i could, but what I would point out is that there are so few of them willing to debate the issue.

The way the government has gone about this violates basically everything that has made the country what it is. It really points out the fundamental difference between the government and the people of the country. Many people believe there is a law natural to all men. Some of the people who want to speak on this issue talk about their belief in a creator who has set principles in the hearts of men and women. Other people talk about their belief in universal principles.

I think all of us agree on some fundamental principles, things like honesty, telling the truth, integrity and the importance of democracy. It has been frustrating here because the government has short-circuited those principles in so many ways.

In conclusion, I believe that the Prime Minister has betrayed himself. He has changed his position in the House on this issue. I think he has betrayed Canadians because he has forced this issue on them against their will. I would suggest that he has also betrayed his creator because he refuses to live out what he claims he believes in.

He has a chance to redeem himself. I encourage him to take the bill off the table for the summer, go home, think about this, and come back in the fall. I ask him to set aside Bill C-38 and do what is right for Canadians.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to once again address Bill C-38.

Let me begin with Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest in 1995, who spoke on behalf of the majority of the judges in the Egan decision. I want to read for members what he said, because I think it sums up a lot of what we are trying to talk about today. He said:

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. But its ultimate [reason for being] transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

I would like to make the point that in the 10 years since then, things have not changed. That statement is still a valid statement.

Will Rogers was a cowboy philosopher from the United States. One of his comments was, “I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts”. If he were here today, I wonder if he would be laughing or crying.

The government seems to be out of control in most of its actions. A week ago we were leaving the House and then the government decided that we were staying because we had to debate important issues such as Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. Then the government turned around and said it did not want to debate these issues; it wanted to bring in closure. It did that on Thursday night to ram through Bill C-48. There are indications that it will try that same thing with this bill. It seems as if we are in the middle of a bad joke.

Bill C-48 was a joke in many ways. We talked about that last week and about the fact that the NDP had been sucked in on the bill. If one reads the page and a half long bill, one sees clearly that it states the government “may” commit up to $4.6 billion in spending in four areas. It does not have to spend it and cannot spend it until September or October of 2006.

The bill passed, and although somebody may be stuck with it even after the next election, it really has no immediate consequences. It was a joke of a bill. It seems as though the NDP bought into that. In the end the Bloc did too, in order to carry it through and try to get Bill C-38 through.

Bill C-38 is another joke. The government has decided that it is pushing ahead with the redefinition of marriage, but in the middle of the discussion there has been a lot of debate about whether religious institutions are going to be protected. The government has assured us time and again that it will try to do that even though the Supreme Court said it could not.

Clause 3 of the bill states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

That gave no protection to anybody, which was recognized immediately, so the government has come back with another clause, clause 3.1. It certainly sounds fancy, but I understand that the justice department lawyers themselves say that this gives no more protection than the charter gives anyway. We know how useful the charter is; the judges have the opportunity to interpret it the way they will. It is frustrating. Once again we are faced with what I would say is a bad joke that is being played on Canadians.

As we know, Bill C-38 is being opposed by most Canadians. We just heard our colleague across the way, who is a Sikh, talk about his opposition to it. We know that the world Sikh leaders have opposed a change in this concept. The member for Calgary Northeast talked about his riding and the opposition from the Sikh community there.

Most of the Muslims oppose this. In my riding last year we had a summer rally with the Muslim clerics at which a scholar came to speak. His words were, “This is a non-starter for us”. I thought that was as clear a statement as one could make.

Christian leaders across Canada have been fighting to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, the traditional position, which is seen as a core tenet of their beliefs.

We have had Jewish leaders who have been working on this as well and who have been a fundamental part of the fight to maintain the traditional definition of marriage.

For many of these folks, the belief in the traditional definition of marriage goes back to their holy scriptures and goes back entirely to creation and their perception of that. The Liberals have chosen to listen not to them but to special interest groups instead. In fact, the Liberals do not even listen to their own charter. As the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster pointed out, the charter talks about us recognizing the supremacy of God in this country and the Liberals have chosen to completely ignore that.

I do not know if I have enough time tonight to even go through this, but we are faced with two irreconcilable views about what marriage is. On one hand, the prior status of marriage has been that marriage is recognized but it did not have to be created by law. It was not created by law; it was recognized by our society. Heterosexual marriage had never needed law in order to be socially recognized and accepted. It had been universally accepted that the union of a man and a woman was the appropriate definition for marriage. That view sees heterosexual marriage as a natural fact, as something that unites men and women.

It has been historically recognized down through the centuries. For many, as I have mentioned, it has also been seen as part of a granting of divine revelation to people. Others see it as observable by natural reason. For those who see marriage as a natural fact uniting men and women, the binding force would be nature itself.

As Iain Benson, the executive director for the Centre for Cultural Renewal, pointed out in his presentation to the committee dealing with Bill C-38, “To people who hold this view, the idea that two men or two women could be married makes as much sense as two men trying to become sisters, or two women trying to become brothers. It just does not compute”.

This view of marriage does not depend upon the state. The state's role and function is to recognize it, not to define it. That is why in the past there have been so few statutes defining marriage.

Marriage by definition, to the folks who believe in this, is one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. To change that definition changes marriage. It just changes the definition to where people do not recognize it as marriage.

The other view sees marriage as basically a social construct, something that is not given in nature but something that is chosen and defined by humans, something that is chosen by our will, and then because of that, it is something they insist everyone should recognize. The ones who hold this view will tend to portray this as an issue of rights rather than just a redefinition of a social institution.

The interesting part of this is for the folks who hold this second definition or the second view of marriage, it is essential for them to try to bring the state in and to bring the power of the state to bear on the definition of marriage. That is what we see happening in the House. It is what we have seen over the last few months. For them the act of redefinition requires the use of all possible available means. We see that going on.

We have also been able to see the judiciary be part of this. We know now that eight provinces and one territory have had one single judge in each of those provinces and territory step forward and make a ruling. The federal government and the provincial governments have not had the courage to appeal those definitions. We talked a little about that earlier, but they just have refused to appeal. The Supreme Court actually pointed out in its decision that this change has come about by default, that basically governments have not done what they should be doing. They have not done their due diligence and because of their neglect, they have allowed the definition to change without the proper discussion of it that should have taken place.

Obviously the resolution between these two views is not going to be easy, but the government has made it even more difficult because it has basically destroyed the forum for public debate. With the extension of the sitting this week, we expect the Liberals at some point are going to try to close down debate. We see them whipping votes across the way and we see those members barely willing to come into the House to address the issue. People who have been watching the debate this afternoon will note that very few government members are even interested in talking about this issue.

We see the government rushing to radical conclusions.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
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Bramalea—Gore—Malton Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Madam Speaker, I continue to oppose Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. Due to my profound concerns regarding the long term impact of Bill C-38, I plan to continue to express my opposition to this proposed legislation.

A Compass poll on February 2, 2005, indicated that 66% of the Canadian population opposes same sex marriage. Clearly, a majority of Canadians remain concerned that the common good of society will not be served by the proposed redefinition of marriage. That is because this legislation fails to recognize, protect and reaffirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

Marriage is a loving, life-giving partnership between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. It is also essential to the survival of society. Its purpose is the common good of the couple and the procreation and education of children. Marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, is a unique and irreplaceable institution that merits government protection and social recognition.

The interest of the state in the institution of marriage has always been and should always continue to be the integration of the sexes in an ideal social unit from which children are born and nurtured, not only for the benefit of the children but for society as a whole.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation eliminates this time honoured interest. It is clear to me that Bill C-38 would diminish the relevance of the most important social institution of our society.

Marriage even predates religions. Historically, the institution of marriage has always been viewed as the ideal unit for fostering a healthy environment for the development of children. Marriage is the institution which has played the greatest role in our survival and procreation.

As members of Parliament we are often called upon to deal with difficult social issues, including domestic violence and poverty. At the root of all of these debates has been the conclusion that the basic unit of society--the family, mothers and fathers, the children with their mother and father--remains the safest place for children and for women.

It is worth noting that in its final ruling the Supreme Court of Canada did not suggest that the traditional definition of marriage was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or that a redefinition of marriage was necessary to conform to the charter. In the marriage reference, the Supreme Court declined to answer the fourth question, which was whether the traditional opposite sex requirement for marriage contravened the charter.

As members know, the majority of my constituents are asking that we preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Marriage is an institution with a long and respected history and tradition. It has a clear purpose. Bill C-38 would take that tradition, that institution, and reduce it to the union of two people.

Bill C-38 essentially dismisses the relevance of marriage to any aspect of the social well-being of Canadians. However, there is no other human relationship equal to the only true marriage unit, that of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. The marriage of a man and a woman is unique, as is its contribution to society. Marriage serves a unique function in all civilized societies. The very preservation of society is dependent upon traditional marriage. As members of Parliament, it is our duty to defend the health and well-being of all Canadians, especially our children.

Marriage promotes the bonding of men and women and the creation of a stable and beautiful partnership of life and property. It recognizes the interdependence of men and women. It includes the moral, social, economic and legal dimensions. It reflects a commitment to fidelity and monogamy. It serves as an excellent social structure for the rearing of children for the perpetuation of society. It provides for mutual support between men and women, supports the birthright of children and strengthens relations between men and children.

Therefore, the potential impact of change on the parent-child bond and the overall impact on society is significant and should not be taken lightly.

Finally, I believe that the redefinition of marriage would lead to a major societal change. While it might not have immediate social consequences, over time it could have enormous implications. The potential for long term consequences is so great that we should take the time to more fully assess the broader implications of this fundamental change to families, children and religious freedoms.

The proposed legislation is about diminishing the relevance of the most important social institution of our society. Why should we rush into adopting radically new legislation when there are so many important long term consequences to consider for all society? Why should we be considering the dismantling of one of the most essential institutions in our society?

Marriage clearly plays a meaningful role in our society. Changing one of the basic foundations of this social institution will have a profound effect on the entire marriage structure as a whole. Bill C-38 proposes to change a critical feature of a key social institution. Doing so will undoubtedly have a major destabilizing impact on marriage.

In light of the above arguments, I must strongly and respectfully request that we act for the greater good of our nation by supporting the traditional definition of marriage. The stability and future of our nation are at stake here. The stakes have never been higher. We must all do what we can to support the traditional definition of marriage and to stand up for that which we truly believe to be for the good of our nation.

Marriage and the family are fundamental institutions which contribute to the common good in terms of the formation of children, loyalty, faithfulness and responsibility in our society. Marriage as we have known it cannot be allowed to slip quietly away.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to speak for the third time in the last few months to Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.

Despite opposition to this legislation throughout the country, the Liberal government is bound and determined to push Bill C-38 through the House before Parliament rises for the summer. The vast majority of my constituents are included in those who are opposed to Bill C-38. It is therefore worth repeating, and I have said it every time that I have spoken, that I am opposed to changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. I firmly believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

A number of my colleagues this afternoon and throughout the last number of times they have spoken have made an excellent case for the traditional definition of marriage as being the most important social institution for bringing order to society and providing the best environment for raising children.

Speaking of children, I naturally think of family. I think of my family today. I would like to focus on the family for a minute, recognizing the fact that a family is defined as people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

If the government can change the definition of marriage, if it can change social institutions, then what is to say that the government cannot redefine what a family is? If two friends want to be known as a family and take advantage of the ensuing benefits such as claiming a dependent for tax purposes, would this lead to changing the definition of family to include people who are related by friendship, or related for other reasons of convenience?

The same argument that the traditional definition of marriage discriminates against same sex couples could apply to the traditional definition of family. It could be argued that the definition of family discriminates against other kinds of close relationships like that between friends.

This point is extremely important because eventually the argument could be extended to include many other relationships. It could be enlarged to include relationships such as polygamy. The Liberal government scoffs at the idea that polygamists will one day argue that they are being discriminated against, but the reality of that happening is very real.

It is also important because it begs a question. Why would one fight for such a change? In the case I used of two friends wanting to be recognized as a family, the sole purpose would be for monetary reasons, for taking advantage of the taxable benefits of having a family member listed as a dependent.

In the case of same sex unions, we must question why these relationships should be defined by marriage. We must question why gay activists are so intent on having same sex unions defined as marriage when they are already entitled to the same rights and benefits as those involved in traditional marriage. The only thing they are not entitled to is the term marriage.

The only difference between opposite sex unions and same sex unions would be a different name or definition which would simply recognize the different makeup of the relationship. One relationship being that of two people of the opposite sex while the other relationship being two people of the same sex. Both relationships have the same benefits and both have the same rights.

Unfortunately, in my opinion this issue is not about legal rights. It is not about human rights. It is about acceptance. That is what this argument is about. For some same sex marriage advocates the issue is about acceptance and forcing Canadians, despite their religious beliefs and the values that they have held for a long period of time, to accept homosexuality as being the same as those involved in the traditional marriage.

Governments simply cannot legislate acceptance any more than they can legislate people to abandon their religious beliefs or to forget about morality or the values that they have held perhaps since childhood.

On the issue of religion, there is no absolute guarantee that our religious freedoms will not be challenged. The Liberal government has failed. Despite promises to the contrary to protect religious freedoms and to protect the rights of those to worship or to adhere to whatever religion they want, they have failed.

During the last federal election campaign, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency told church groups who opposed same sex marriage that if they spoke out they could very well risk losing their charitable status, while churches that spoke in favour of same sex marriage, oddly enough, never received the same type of threat.

Bishop Henry in Calgary is being hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission because he spoke out against same sex marriage. Time does not permit me to provide other examples of how our freedoms of speech and religion are being curbed by arguments of human rights.

Many argue that extending marriage to include same sex union is a matter of human rights, yet almost every other country around the world, and the United Nations specifically, has rejected the notion that same sex marriage is a human right. It has already been pointed out that if it is a human right, then why are we trading and dealing so much with countries that are human rights violators? I think even the government realizes it is not a human right.

Marriage is a fundamental social institution, not only recognized by law but sanctified by faith throughout the world and throughout history. The requirement that marriage partners be of opposite sex is one of the core universal features of marriage across many different cultures and many different religions around the world. In Canada and elsewhere, the identity of marriage has always been seen as a bond between a man and a woman.

A University of McGill professor of comparative religion and ethics told the special committee of justice and legal affairs--on which I served--back in 2003 that:

From our study of all world religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, and the world views of small-scale societies, we conclude that this institution is a culturally approved, opposite-sex relationship intended to encourage the births and rearing of children at least to the extent necessary for the preservation and well-being of society.

In another submission to our committee, one witness defended marriage as the union of one man and one woman on the basis of procreation, as I pointed out in my initial remarks.

Traditionally, marriage was defined as the union of one man and one woman, with the expectation that they would procreate and that they would guarantee the survival of the human race. The product of this union was children. They would create and establish a family, and that allows humanity to continue on.

While there are many purposes to the family--that is, providing lifelong relations, shelter, and food to its members--the main purpose is the means by which society can maintain its existence.

Procreation in marriage has to be considered one of the most essential functions. Civilizations of the world have come to embrace this fact in recognition of the benefits it brings to those involved in society as a whole.

As a matter of fact, there are only two countries in the world that allow same sex marriage, and it is important to note that neither of these countries has had the issue decided or defined by the courts of their country. We continue to believe, as does the Supreme Court of Canada--much to the dismay of the Liberal government--that MPs who are accountable to the citizens of the country should have the final say on this matter. We should not be limited in our debate. We should not be sitting back and limiting our debate.

On that note, I implore this government to not shut down debate on this issue, despite the rising temperature outside. Today someone said there is a humidex of 41 out there, and I can tell you that all I know is it is very hot and there are a lot of people with shirts sticking to their bodies and the sweat is pouring down. The heat is not only outside; it's inside the House also.

We have seen the measures this government has taken to ram this legislation through before the House rises. We have seen the anti-democratic ways that this government has used to push something through.

I remember back in 2001, when this House was called back early to deal with September 11 and the terrorist attacks on that day. The House came back early because of what was happening around the world. Today we are extending the hours because this government feels so compelled to push through this type of legislation.

I implore this government to allow the House to rise for the summer recess with Bill C-38 still on the table. Allow us to go out into our constituencies and listen to people, close to 10,000 from my riding--6,800--who have contacted me, asking me to support the traditional definition of marriage. We need time this summer to listen to our constituents so that when we come back in the fall we can properly represent those people who sent us here.

Thank you.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am not sure who does the strategy for the Prime Minister. The Liberals thought this would go through and be quite easy. They did a lot of polling with specific questions that were asked and so on which gave them the preordained conclusion for which they were looking.

However, I think they have a lot more than a tempest in a teapot that they thought they had. I think people are finally galvanized over an action. They see this as just the beginning of a lot more things that could come forward. It is almost governance by stealth would be the best way to describe it.

We have to ask ourselves on so many different levels, why this and why now in a minority Parliament? Certainly we have to respond to what the courts are doing but there are ways to do that.

There are ways to address a void if there is one in the Canadian Constitution. I cannot seem to find it. I am not a constitutional expert and I am not lawyer, but I cannot seem to find where anyone's rights are being withheld or circumvented at this point.

As I said, I do not think Bill C-38 will ever give the gay homosexual community what it is seeking.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I realize this has become a bit of a grey area. I would ask the member why we would defer to the courts in the first place. We are the supreme court of the land, in this building, in this chamber. We are the ones who answer to the people in the way that we are elected.

The Supreme Court answers basically to the laws that are made. It takes a look at them. It judges on them. It makes appeals and it makes rulings. There is not a lawyer who will not bring something to the Supreme Court if it is a juicy enough subject, the money is right and so on. That is the nature of our civil society. That is the way it is done.

However, I do not for the life of me understand why we, as the Parliament of the country, who basically write the rules and set them into play, would allow the courts to rewrite something that we really have not had a chance to work on ourselves.

I guess by ignoring it to this extent, the courts have gone ahead, moved into that vacuum and made some rulings with which the vast majority of Canadians do not agree. In fact, there is a lot of talk about judicial activism, that the judges have gone too far in certain areas and perhaps not far enough in other areas. There are loopholes and grey areas. We seem to write laws for lawyers and they will always be challenged.

Bill C-38 if and when we pass it in the form it is in will be challenged. There is no doubt in my mind. Arguments will go on for decades on either side of the issue.

Therefore, we are not really finishing anything here. This is the beginning, as I said, the thin edge of the wedge. We will see arguments go on into the next millennium over this issue. We will get into family situations. We will get into adoption. We will get into all sorts of things of which this is just the beginning.

Many people are saying that it is a rights issue, that somehow some rights are being denied. However, in our Constitution and in some decisions that were made in the late eighties any same sex couple has access to the rights and privileges of any opposite gender couple.

Really I cannot for the life of me understand what it is that they are missing out on at this point, and somehow Bill C-38 is going to be the panacea and make all of that right.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak again to Bill C-38. We are in the dying days of a dying Parliament and we are discussing Bill C-38, same gender civil marriage. It follows on the heals of almost a preparatory motion that we passed in 1999 when a lot of the front bench of the Liberal Party said that they would never change it, that it was carved in stone, bedrocked in the country and that it would never happen.

Here we are, a short five years later, a couple of elections later and guess what is on the agenda?

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the minority Liberal Parliament and this particular issue certainly was not a flagship of its election platform. I guess the Liberals have to look in the mirror when they start talking about hidden agendas because here we go.

A lot of legislation that has come forward in this past year of a minority Parliament has been with the help of the government's buddies in the NDP and some of the Bloc, of course, which is why we are seeing legislation like this come forward. I tend to believe this is the right place for it to be.

We are able to go out and talk to our constituents and ascertain from them what direction they want us to go. In that vane, I did a householder. It is a little hard to quantify the numbers because it goes out to the household but in a lot of cases it came back with Mr., Mrs. and so many voting children who live in that household when they really only receive one particular sheet. We received somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,500 to 3,000 responses, which goes far beyond a scientific survey. Most polling that is done in the country is on a 1,000 sample coast to coast to coast. Well I received 3,000 samples back in my riding of 73,000 to 74,000 people, so it is fairly indicative of what is happening out there.

Then I received a tremendous number of e-mails, letters, cards and so on from my own riding, as well as from other parts of the country, telling me not to back off on this and not to let this thin edge of the wedge start. I am standing here today committed to doing everything I can to see Bill C-38 hit the scrap heap.

I have gone through every piece of information I could get. I have had two responses from my riding saying that I am on the wrong side of the issue. I followed up on my householder and 12 or 15 that came in said that I should just let it go, that it was not going to affect them. I had two that followed up. One was from a United Church minister and the other was from a young law student who came at it from a little different direction. However the basic premise was that it would not change anything so I should just let it go, or the argument that somehow it is a human rights issue. I know it has been mentioned here before.

I grabbed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and printed off a copy. I will be darned if I can find any mention of marriage in here at all of any description. If we look at the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it tries to govern the world with its decrees and it does not even get into this debate. The European code that has been developed, with the whole European Union giving birth to a brand new continent of countries over there, does not even get into it, other than one of the members, Holland. Our own Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has some pertinent clauses, but we start off with the preamble which says, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” , and yet we hear this constant argument that this has nothing to do with religious marriage and so on but our own charter says that we recognize the supremacy of God.

In the church to which I belong, the Catholic church, marriage is a sacrament, as it is in most other churches. We recognize the supremacy of God, the love of God and so on, when we do a marriage. I had the tremendous privilege this weekend of attending and participating in my daughter's wedding. I arrived a little late for the dress rehearsal the night before because of things that went on here until midnight Thursday and making plane connections. While I was driving the two hours to the community where the church is and the wedding was going to be held, I was thinking that this was the only legislation left on the Liberal agenda and we were going to go back Monday. I knew I would have to cut short my revelry with relations, friends and family and everything else because we were coming back to throw into the mix Bill C-38.

I felt a tremendous amount of pride. I even shed a couple of tears at the wedding of my daughter and the gentleman with whom she has chosen to spend the rest of her life. In reflecting on it, how would I have felt if it had been two women up there or two men? Would I have felt differently? Would I have been less of a proud parent? I do not think I would have been but I cannot for the life of me understand how two people of the same gender, sharing their lives under a civil union, or however it can be done now, how that would make it any different than the religious ceremony that I attended.

We had a Catholic priest, which is my daughter's religion, and a United Church minister, which is the religion of the gentleman she married. They coordinated and both took part in that service. However, as much as I tried to concentrate on the beautiful day that was unfolding, I could not help but slip back into wondering how this bill would change anything. I really cannot understand that.

As I said, there are some things in the charter that talk to that. I will quote from section 2:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

d) freedom of association.

It is already in there so nobody can take that away from people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Section 7 says:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Maybe this is a justice issue. Maybe somehow we are denying them the justice of being married. One member on the Liberal side talked about how we have become a divorce society. That is justice gone wild. That is a perversion of marriage, and we have, because it is now available and it is an easy out.

I read a little article in my daughter's material that she received in her marriage preparation course. It was good advice for people who were getting married. It said that people had to remember and be assured that the better often follows the worse, as it is in the wedding vows when it talks about for better or for worse. I do not understand how this could be a lack of someone receiving justice.

I have heard subsection 15(1) bandied about here quite a bit. It reads:

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 and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

We seem to have covered everybody who lives in this beautiful country. They have access to everything everyone else has. There is nothing limited in that.

Then there is subsection 24(1) regarding enforcement:

Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

That is what really started all of this. We saw courts at the provincial level rule that they would not differentiate between people of same sex or people of opposite gender in getting married. A lot of people say that they went beyond where they needed to go. I think there was a tremendous vacuum there because this place had never really done its homework in that regard, and that came back in spades when the Prime Minister tried to hide behind an extra ruling he wanted the Supreme Court to make, an extra question he wanted asked, and they refused to answer it. They said that it was under his purview and that he should get out there and do the right thing. The courts said that they were being forced to uphold this because he had let it happen, that he had not stopped it at any of the provincial levels and that he had let it slide this far.

We are at this juncture now. We are playing catch-up and we are going about it all wrong.

Last but certainly not least, section 26 says:

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada.

That is a bit of an open-ended section. We could add or subtract anything we want but with more addition than subtraction. I see that tossed around a lot that this is a rights thing, that somehow people are being denied their rights, but it does not show up in the charter at all. We are actually going back into the charter and, in some way, reinforcing that they are not being allowed to advance their cause. I really do not go for that argument at all.

We had a committee of the House of Commons struck under the justice committee and the Prime Minister used it as a bit of a shield for a time. I guess the shield shattered or did not stand up to the job because he lost one member of Parliament over that. The gentleman sits up here in this corner now, the member for London--Fanshawe. He did stay onside for awhile because he had a meeting with the Prime Minister who assured him that the committee would travel and that it would hear anybody who wanted to come and make a presentation before that committee in regard to this legislation because it was such a fundamental change. The member said that if he was going to do that then he would hang in. Well that did not happen. He attended the committee meetings himself and even tried to appear as a witness. They were having three or four witnesses at a time with limited timeframes and 24 hours' notice to come and make their representations to the committee. He felt that it was almost a kangaroo court.

There are some major concerns. We are pushing this through much quicker than we need to do. Year after year there have been fights. In the 30 years that I have been paying attention to politics, those in the homosexual community fought against labels. They did not want to be labelled. They knew they were different somehow. They knew they wanted to do things in their own right and they did not want any labels that the rest of society was putting on them. Now it seems they want a label that is near and dear to my heart, and the bill has gone too far.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in the House to speak against this bill. It takes a lot for all members to be in the House today. In fact, as we speak, my daughter is on her way to her graduation. I feel very strongly that we as parliamentarians have to be here to stand firmly for the kinds of things that need to be addressed.

This issue should not be before Parliament today. This is something that we as parliamentarians need to deal with in our own homes because we live in a democratic society, and in a democratic society we have the freedom of choice. We are here today because we have to take care of the nation's business. The people of Kildonan--St. Paul sent me here to deal with the nation's business.

When we rise to speak, we must speak from the heart and think of our families. This issue has become too political. This is about democracy. In our great nation we have the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the freedom to live the kind of lives that we choose to live. Making a law that will cause marriage to just go away with the stroke of a pen late at night and probably some time this week is wrong. It is wrong to do that. I am baffled as to why Bill C-38 is before Parliament.

I believe in the definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Marriage does have its problems. Divorce happens. Other things happen, but it is the fundamental fabric for which we stand for in our great country.

I also believe in people's right to choose. I believe people in same sex unions or same sex relationships should have all the benefits they deserve in terms of financial benefits and charter freedoms. Bill C-38 would change the very fabric of our country. Members have come to the House to discuss this issue and have missed graduations or weddings. Our constituents elected us to stand up for what is right and to be brave and have courage.

I cannot stand in the House of Commons and not put my remarks on the record for the sake of our great nation. I represent my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul and over 85% of my constituents have told me that they want the definition of marriage retained as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

They have also told me that they do not want to be discriminatory. They do not want to tell somebody else how to live their life. How people live comes from their heart. That is what democracy is about. It is about the choices we make. When we make choices, we have to live with them.

My daughter knows that I am standing here today as a member of Parliament and as a mom, and discussing the business of our nation, so that when she graduates, she will be able to have those choices. If she decides to get married, she will know that the meaning of marriage is the union of a man and a woman. If she chooses otherwise, it will be her choice. The definition of marriage will not go away in the dark of night with the stroke of a pen.

Many things cause us to question Bill C-38. First, how in the world could a government in 1999 say it would not change the definition of marriage and then turn around today with this piece of legislation?

I will quote from the Deputy Prime Minister's letter dated April 24, 1998:

--the definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended and will continue to defend this concept of marriage in the court...I continue to believe that it is not necessary to change well understood concepts of spouse and marriage to deal with any fairness considerations the courts and tribunals may find.

She could have written my speech today because that is exactly where I stand, defending the right of one man and one woman to marry, defending their right to propagate and have children, and defending the right for them to make a choice.

I am also here defending the right of same sex couples to make that choice, to have financial benefit and live as they choose. I am defending that right because it is called democracy. In our family we have spent our lives, generations of people, standing up for the democracy that we have here in our great nation.

My father went to war during the second world war and defended our country. He did not come back to tell people how to live. He did not come back to say that there had to be rules and regulations. I am appalled that the bill is before Parliament today because it is not a bill about equality. It is a bill about discrimination against people who are now married and have been married for years. As members of Parliament, we sign certificates congratulating our constituents for 20, 50, or 60 years of marriage. I signed one the other day for 65 years of marriage.

This is something special. That is not to say that marriage is perfect and I hope my husband is not listening now. I can say quite categorically that it is not always perfect, but it is something that I would not trade for all the world. Over and above that, I would not trade as a member of Parliament the democratic right to make those choices.

Today we have heard so many arguments. We have gone through the bill. We have stated our ground back and forth. Today I am here because I needed to speak to the bill and make my words known. It is very wrong to have this bill before Parliament and I certainly will be voting against it. I would call on all members from all sides of the House to show the courage and vote against the bill, not party against party and not person against person but to vote for democracy.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague reminds me of the democracy that prevails in the Liberal caucus, which is true. It is a fairly highly contentious caucus from time to time over a variety of issues, not the least of which is this one. It is also ironic that just as the public is starting to engage in this debate, we are now moving to a vote.

I hear hon. members argue that we have been talking about this for years now, incorporating the travelling road show that we had with the justice committee, et cetera, on which the justice committee of course could not report because the court of appeal pre-empted the decision. Actually there has not been that much debate other than the hearings that have been held by the legislative committee over the last few weeks.

I know that both sides of this debate are, frankly, heartily sick of the debate. They just want it to end. They think that because the debate is ending the issue is going to go away. I respectfully suggest that this is just the beginning of the end.

This bill will revolutionize the way we think about marriage in this country. I would analogize it to the way in which the Divorce Act back in the 1970s under the late Prime Minister Trudeau revolutionized the issue of divorce in this country.

Who would have thought at that time that by making very minor and arguably insignificant changes to the Divorce Act, it would create a divorce culture where a considerable percentage of marriages now end in divorce? Who would have thought that we would create a feminization of poverty? It is women and children who pay the bills at the end of the day with respect to the marriage breakups. Who would have thought that we would have created a culture in which parents and children are increasingly disconnected, largely to the detriment of the children?

Small changes in law inevitably lead to large societal changes. I would argue that this small change is in fact going to lead to a large societal change.

The Government of Canada wishes us to believe that we are changing the definition of civil marriage. The previous speaker laid great emphasis on the notion that this is a civil marriage change, but I would beg to differ with the hon. member who previously spoke. This is a distinction without a difference. This bill changes the meaning of marriage, period. It is a profound bill. It changes the way in which Canadians think about the institution of marriage.

Trying to make distinctions between civil marriage and religious marriage or any other kind of marriage in my respectful opinion is nonsense. Marriage under Bill C-38 requires no gender difference. Therefore, anybody who believes that marriage requires a gender difference, that it is between a male and a female, is by definition a bigot. Look at the preamble:

WHEREAS, in light of those considerations, the Parliament of Canada’s commitment to uphold the right to equality without discrimination precludes the use of section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to deny the right of couples of the same sex to equal access to marriage for civil purposes;

Anyone who believes differently is in implicit violation of the law. The preamble declares that the view of marriage which requires no sex difference prevails in all matters, and anyone who believes otherwise is a bigot. We could line up all the priests, rabbis, imams and pastors from here to Montreal and back, and frankly it would make no difference. Seventy per cent of Canadians believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. With the passage of this bill, that 70% will be the new class of bigots in our society, and they will feel the wrath of transgressing this law very shortly. The state of course cannot sanction bigotry, so clause 3 of the bill must fail, because it pretends to protect and it cannot. It simply cannot.

Those Canadians who take the view, as do many of us, that marriage is between a man and a woman are simply going to be on the wrong side of the law. Any person who refuses to marry two persons of the same gender is going to feel the effect of that law. We have already seen marriage commissioners fired for their perverse view that marriage requires a man and a woman.

Inevitably, a religious official will be set up and inevitably a prosecution will entail. Inevitably, under a human rights council or something else similar to a human rights commission, the person will be prosecuted and will be found guilty of discrimination. Frankly, there is no protection that this government or indeed any other can give to that perverse view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

In my view, Bill C-38 creates a whole new class of bigots for that strange and weird and crazy view that marriage is between a man and a woman. Why is it that these crazy bigots insist on this perverse view that marriage is between a man and a woman?

For thousands of years it has been the view of human beings throughout the world that when people entered into a state of marriage they all understood that marriage was something about sex and something about babies. No marriage, no babies; no babies, no marriage. It is not much more complicated than that. Life itself is more complicated, of course, but the institution in and of itself was central to the well-being of society and its perpetuation. The cross-generativity was and is the norm of most people's view of marriages.

Why is it that the laws of marriage and divorce are so complicated? I know that there are a number of men and women in this chamber who have studied law. They realize that the family law area is incredibly complex and has become incredibly complex over the period of time since the changes to the Divorce Act. One anticipates that it will become even more complex.

If marriage is just about two people announcing to the world that he or she is my new best buddy, really who would care? Why would we have this whole set of complex laws?

In order to get to this close relationship theory of marriage, which is the theory that now replaces the theory that currently underpins marriage, we have to eliminate a lot inconvenient beliefs and facts. We have to believe that a cross-gender relationship that leads to the bridging of the sex difference is of no consequence. We have to believe that babies that result from a sex difference are not important to the marriage bond. We have to believe that how babies come into this world makes no difference to the child.

Why does society insist on this very public commitment of a male to a female and a female to a male? Why does it create law to protect the female and the child during the very vulnerable period of baby making and baby rearing? Why do we make it so difficult to be divorced? If in fact the law was just about two people getting together and announcing their commitment to each other, what would be the point of all of these divorce and family laws?

The only answer is that society gets its existence out of marriage. Society builds up elaborate rituals, religious and others, and laws to ensure that it continues. It is the way that the male is brought into the system and that the female is protected. Marriage reaches forward into future generations and it connects back into previous generations. It says to society at large, “We will perpetuate you; you, society, through your rituals and your laws, protect us”.

Under the close personal relationship theory of this bill, which is the theory that underlies the bill and underlies the decisions of the court, everyone should have a buddy, all of that becomes irrelevant. I would point again to the preamble:

WHEREAS marriage is a fundamental institution in Canadian society and the Parliament of Canada has a responsibility to support that institution because it strengthens commitment in relationships and represents the foundation of family life for many Canadians;

It is the foundation for family formation. When marriage is degraded to simply a public declaration of one's best buddy, then the institution of marriage becomes meaningless.

The other area I object to in the bill is the delinking of children from their DNA and biology. In order to do that, we have to put in a consequential amendment, because now a child will have its parent determined by a judge. It will be a judge who says is a child's parent. I think this is a retrograde step, but it is a necessary consequential amendment.

The bill is seriously flawed. It should be defeated. It changes the public meaning of marriage. It creates a whole new class of bigots. It delinks children from marriage. It cannot be amended and it should be defeated.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to stand and debate Bill C-38. It is certainly a debate that has caused a lot of division among Canadians, and it is one where I think many of us are searching to find something within the debate that will actually unite us.

Unfortunately, I think this is an issue that Canadians have decided. They are either on one side of the debate or the other. I really suspect that we will not change a lot of opinions, that we will not turn many heads, and I do agree that it is time to have the debate out on this, to have the vote on it, and to move on as a Parliament.

Certainly the debate on same gender civil marriage--and I do want to emphasize the word “civil”--is an issue on which I have spent a great deal of personal time and research, and it is one where I have struggled to find balance. This is not an easy issue for many, but it is also not an issue on which I intend to abrogate my responsibility as a member of Parliament.

I can say to anyone in South Shore—St. Margaret's, the riding I am fortunate to represent, that I have approached this issue in an honest, straightforward, and methodical manner, and I plan to continue in that manner.

From the beginning of the discussion on same gender civil marriage, I have maintained that all of our religious institutions must be free to decide for themselves whether to sanction same gender marriage. Allow me to be very clear on this point. Paragraph 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives extremely clear and unambiguous protection for religious freedom. People who say differently are using scare tactics. Our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples in Canada will decide their own future on religious marriage, as they have up to this point.

I think it is extremely important to mention that we already have same gender religious marriage in Canada, that the United Church of Canada recognizes and some of our Anglican churches in Canada recognize same gender marriage now. They moved on this point before the Parliament of Canada. They did not wait for the Parliament of Canada. That is up to the churches. We could not say yes or no to them because they are independent of the legislative process.

Bill C-38 deals only with civil marriage, but it does go so far as to actually reinforce the protection for religious marriage in the preamble of the bill. Again, I think this is the strength of the bill, whereas nothing in the act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion, and in particular the freedom of members of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Every day our churches refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Catholic church refuses to marry divorced couples. The Anglican church that I was brought up in refuses to marry divorced couples. Someone might find a priest who is friendly and may marry them, but that is their doctrine.

The church has always been clearly separate from the legislative process. They have always set their own rules. They have always had the ability to change the rules should the church itself decide to change them. I am very afraid that we could set a precedent in Parliament that turns that around, that we do start to tell the churches who they can and cannot marry. If we do not pass same gender civil marriage, are we de facto then saying to the United Church of Canada and the Anglican church that they cannot recognize same gender marriages, that they should not marry same gender couples, that they are not an independent religious institution? That is a question we should all be asking ourselves.

Parliament, on the other hand, has a responsibility to legislate same gender civil marriage. The only way Parliament cannot allow same gender civil marriage is to use the notwithstanding clause. I adamantly believe that this would be an abuse of civil rights which could lead to the erosion of other civil rights that Canadians have long carried. If we use the notwithstanding clause on this issue, what would prevent us from using it on other issues? I am not willing to agree to that in any way, shape or form.

I believe that my job as a member of Parliament is to be informed of all the ramifications surrounding an issue and vote on that issue to reflect the will of my constituents. I am well aware that every time I vote a group of people in Canada and a group of my own constituents will disagree with my position. Therefore, I try to the best of my ability to base my decisions on fact, not on fear, and on reason, not on instinct.

I am well aware of the sensitivity of this issue and the almost visceral response that some people have to it. I have saved all the e-mails that have threatened my life, my kids and my family because that is a stance that is unacceptable. It does not matter which side of the debate one is on, that is unacceptable.

None of that, however, changes the fact that Parliament has to deal with same gender civil marriage. I have not made a rash or uninformed decision and I fully understand, I believe, that people are split roughly fifty-fifty on this issue. I have certainly considered the fact that the overwhelming majority of the public is willing to recognize same gender civil marriage but wants religious marriage to remain under the jurisdiction of our religious institutions.

I explained earlier that section 2(a) of the charter protects religious freedom. Parliament's responsibility is to study and make informed decisions about same gender civil marriage based on Parliament's role to legislate, guided, I would add, by the parameters of our Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would be intellectually dishonest of me to say that Parliament does not have to legislate this.

Today Canada has varying forms of same gender marriage in eight provinces and one territory. This includes a decision by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia that has led the way to same sex civil marriage in my own province. A recent decision has led the way to same sex civil marriage in the province of New Brunswick.

I am absolutely satisfied that churches are protected and are masters of their own destiny. I have explained in a couple of instances already where that has proven to be true throughout the ages. Therefore, they can refuse to marry same gender couples or, like some of our churches today, they can choose to marry same gender couples. It is clearly their decision for religious marriage, not Parliament's.

For civil marriage, however, government has only two options. The government can challenge the provincial supreme court decisions, which the provinces have already chosen not to do, or it can legislate civil marriage. I have carefully reviewed both options and agree with the government's decision to proceed with legislation on same gender civil marriage, as eight provinces and one territory have already done.

I am frankly astounded by the reaction of some parliamentarians, who in the past have criticized the Supreme Court of Canada for making decisions they thought should best be left to parliamentarians. Now, some of those same parliamentarians are saying the government should litigate and not legislate.

Frankly, I am also surprised at the clarity of the language in Bill C-38, at the lack of ambiguity and the clear protection for religious marriage because of the protection of the charter. I am not used to this type of clarity from the Liberals and generally expect to find legislation riddled with mistakes. Bill C-38 is one of the few pieces of their legislation I have analyzed that is not.

In summary, I note that Bill C-38 has done what I believe it has needed to do in order for me to support it. It has clearly protected religious marriage while allowing for the civil marriage of same gender couples.

I realize that not everyone will agree with same gender civil marriage. Some will continue to say that a civil union is good enough, but I respectfully disagree. This was the same argument that was used to justify segregated schools in the United States and was struck down in the now landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which ruled that separate is not equal. I feel certain that the same result would befall any similar legislation here.

I also know at first hand the entrenched views of many people who would deny the right of civil marriage to same gender couples, yet I know that there is a lot of tolerance in this country. Often I hear that there is less tolerance in rural Canada, but I believe there is as much tolerance in rural Canada as there is in urban Canada, whether the issue is same gender civil marriage or any other issue that is put before people. I represent a rural riding in a very conservative part of the country that is as religious as any other part of this country. I can say for a fact that there is room in most of this country to accept divergent views and to accept the right of couples who are in a committed relationship to further commit to that relationship through civil marriage.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that I believed the legislative process was a farce.

With respect to the hon. member who ran the committee, he did an excellent job. However, this is no valid way to study it.

I was plopped in there. We did not receive any reports beforehand. Many of the witnesses complained they had received only 24 hours notice to testify. They received 24 hours notice to prepare a presentation to a committee that was supposed to study the ramifications of Bill C-38, which could be astronomical for our social policy in the future.

There was no timeframe. The committee heard from 55 witnesses. I still have not received some of the reports. I have only read two or three of them because that is all I received before questioning. We had four days in a row of six hours of committee work, working through supper and through different meetings. There was not enough time to study the ramifications of it.

I believe the committee itself was a farce. It was a put on. I do not think anyone, except for maybe some of the members of this side of the House, even read most of the briefs and presentations put forward. They certainly did so with an open mind, compared to other members of the committee.

As far as the member's second question, I cannot speak specifically to those people on the other side of the House. I think it is a situation where they have had the ability to topple the government and stop Bill C-38 if that were he wish of their constituents.

I believe, no matter what happens here today, that we should follow as a House and as members of the House the will of our constituents. I believe the will of Canada overall is to not have Bill C-38 go forward and to have it stopped today. It should stop today.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have two quick questions for my colleague. I had the opportunity to sit on one of the legislative committees. He touched on it briefly in his speech.

First, does he think this legislative committee process was a valid way to study the impact and issues surrounding Bill C-38?

We have heard from a former Liberal MP, now an independent MP, who was so disgusted by the way the rules were set up. With the heavy-handedness of the government, it was going to ram this committee along, lump all the witnesses together, preventing people to speak against the idea of homosexual marriage or from having a reasoned and timely way to express their opposition to it.

Second, does he think the Liberal MPs, who pretend to be in opposition to homosexual marriage, are being truthful with their own constituents? Time and time again when they have the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin for Bill C-38, to stand up for what their constituents want them to do and to vote on their behalf, they have voted with the government. They have obeyed their political masters in the Prime Minister's office rather than the voters in their ridings.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with pleasure to support the concerns of my constituents and to take their position in speaking in opposition to Bill C-38. I would like to encourage my friend from Hochelaga to take a closer look at the Conservative position on this issue because it deals directly with his concerns. I would suggest that if he were to look closer at it, he would be prepared to adopt our position.

I stand in surprise that I am in agreement with two Liberal members, specifically from Mississauga South and Scarborough Southwest. I would suggest that my friend from Fundy—Royal, who is also on the committee that studied Bill C-38, did an excellent job today in summing up the findings of the committee, in fact speaking about some of the procedural difficulties with that committee.

The institution of marriage was created for the purpose of procreation and nurturing children of the union. After listening to many of the experts who came forward at committee, I am greatly concerned that the committee has not had a thorough analysis of the issues and has not drawn enough attention to what I consider to be the voice that has no voice, and that is the children of future generations of Canadians. I am greatly concerned about the children of our future, as they must be protected.

A stable home with a mother and father is the foundation of our civilization. Although it cannot in today's age always be attainable, it is something that we should work toward and maintain and keep secure.

I would like to begin by summarizing my position and state emphatically that the bill is about social policy. It is not about charter rights and in no way can it be expressed that the definition of marriage itself is an inalienable human right. I have argued constitutional and charter cases protecting minority rights in northern Alberta. I have immediate family members who are members of visible minorities, including the homosexual community, Métis and treaty communities. This is why I will not support any legislation that infringes upon the rights of any Canadian. I believe Bill C-38 will do so.

I believe in this case the Government of Canada is taking one group's position over another group's position and is therefore infringing upon the rights of that other group. I believe strongly that the Charter of Rights must be respected and the rights of all minorities must be protected, not just the rights of the homosexual community but also the rights of the heterosexual community, especially religious groups, and the rights of children, which must be of paramount concern in this case. That is why I support the traditional definition of marriage.

I have risen in the House before and given this same argument, but I like the argument so I will give it again. I believe words have three parts: the first is the word itself; the second is the meaning that describes the word; and the third are the rights and obligations that flow from the word. I believe the word “marriage” is no different from that and it is no exception. It identifies a group of individuals within our society. In this case the group that it describes is the relationship between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others in a state-recognized contract, nothing more, nothing less.

It is my position that the rights and obligations that flow from this word need to be extended to other groups that have not even been a part of this discussion, other minority groups that are not protected. I would submit those other groups should receive not only the rights of married couples, but also the obligations of married couples which are so obviously and continuously ignored.

As the leader of the official opposition has stated time after time, we must respect all Canadians regardless of sexual orientation. All couples who apply for solemnization of their relationship should receive that respect and the rights and obligations of married couples. However, this can be done without changing the definition of marriage.

I also believe we should send a clear message of protecting minority rights to another minority, and that is the minority of common-law couples who have been in cohabitation for a certain period of time. Some provinces in Canada currently do this, but this is a place where we as legislators should move forward and protect the rights of individuals which are at this stage taken for granted.

Each of these groups, though, should be defined individually. Let us face it, the relationship is different between a man and a man, a man and a woman and a woman and a woman. All these groups should have the same rights and obligations under the law and should be respected equally.

In terms of protecting rights, it is also my belief that as members of this House we must protect the rights of those who have already entered into marriage, believing that it is a contract between them with specific terms. We must protect the rights of those people who have no voice, who have no vote here today and have no vote even to elect us as members. They are the future generations of children who have been ignored by the legislation and will be the cost of our society.

Protecting rights is a dual obligation though. Just as with every right comes a corresponding obligation, receiving a right can sometimes infringe upon other people's rights and expectations. Respect works both ways. If Bill C-38 is passed, there is no question that we will infringe dramatically on the rights of people and groups within our society.

If we want our beliefs respected, then we should respect others, but it is reciprocal and they should respect our beliefs as well. With mutual respect comes the end of bigotry, hate and prejudice, and this is what I seek: a utopia where we can all get along, not just in Canada but in the entire world.

The Conservative Party is calling for a free vote. I would challenge the members opposite to allow their members, even the members of the government, to have a free vote so they can express and take the ramifications of their decisions on that final day, election day, when it does come.

We in the Conservative Party respect the supremacy of Parliament. I believe we should respect the will of Canadians and vote that way while at the same time protect minorities. With the agenda and policy that Conservatives have put forward, that can be done.

In my constituency of Fort McMurray--Athabasca in northern Alberta, I had less than 12 responses in favour of same sex marriages. I had almost 2,000 responses wanting the traditional definition of marriage maintained but at the same time protecting the rights of all society and all groups in society.

We have taken a reasonable compromise position that should be more thoroughly analyzed. I believe and would suggest that it would protect the rights of minorities. At the same time, it would be consistent with the views of a vast majority of Canadians. We want to recognize the traditional definition of marriage without detracting from the rights and obligations of people in same sex relationships.

Here is a reminder. After hearing evidence at committee, it is obvious that 99% of the world's population continues to honour the traditional definition of marriage. That means 99% of the world, except for Canada, possibly and a few other nations in the world, take the position of the Conservative Party.

We want to create the status of civil union. I would suggest to the party opposite that it is not too late to recognize civil unions but at the same time give identical rights to all groups. With Bill C-38 passing, I foresee serious threat to religious freedoms, more serious than I thought originally before I sat in the committee. I believe charitable statuses will be taken away, that it will affect the ability to preach sacred text and ultimately force the change to the text itself, including the Bible and the Quran. I can see that in the near future being part and parcel of passing Bill C-38. It will simply not protect religious freedoms or religious institutions.

Finally, the Conservative Party represents the only middle ground, the only compromise position on the debate from any political party. Canada's law should reflect the priorities of Canadian society while protecting the rights of all minorities. We should be following the will of Canadians. We are elected and we are answerable to them, so why are we not following the will of Canadians?

The Conservative Party has proved that we will respect both sides of the debate and all Canadians equally. Now it is time for other members of the House and other Canadians to do the same. In 25 or 50 years, when Canada reaps what it sows from this Liberal same sex social experiment, Canada and Canadians will be able to look back and see that we in the Conservative Party had the best interests of Canada in our hearts, our minds and our words.

My opinion is the terms of reference of the Bill C-38 legislative committee were a farce. With respect to how it was run, I believe the timeframes were ridiculous, the witnesses and the research materials were impossible to logically study. The time and the witnesses were quite frankly disrespected because they did not have time to prepare and provide proper analyses.

It is obvious to me that although the rule of law and due process are requirements of all Canadians, the courts and tribunals, it is not necessary in this House of Commons and it is shameful. The House is supposed to represent the people of Canada. Those Liberals in control of this agenda should be absolutely ashamed of how it was run.

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June 27th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, with considerable serenity, joy and solidarity, I rise with pleasure to speak to this important bill.

As we know, this bill adds an extremely important building block to the institution of human rights. I believe all parliamentarians concerned about human rights have a reason today to delight in the fact that this matter is before Parliament, in order to give homosexual persons the right to enjoy loving relationships and, since it is the issue, to also contemplate marriage.

The origins and roots of today's debate run deep. In the early 1970s, some people went to court to contest the ban on their getting married. I would like things to be put in perspective. It is easy, in such a debate, to get off the track, to mislead the House and even to make erroneous statements.

Bill C-38 does not have anything to do with religious marriage. It is true that, in the division of powers we have in Canada, the celebration of marriage is a provincial responsibility. What has been challenged before the courts in this new century is the question of whether it is compatible with the equal treatment provisions in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to refuse access to what is still one of the great civil institutions in our society, the most important one after schools, namely marriage.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was inconsistent with equal treatment and with Canadians' and Quebeckers' ideals of magnanimity and equality and the recognition of full citizenship rights not to recognize the right of same sex partners to engage in marriage.

It has nothing to do with religion. Every time the Supreme Court has been seized with the issue, it has recognized an extremely liberal definition of freedom of religion. This freedom is defined as the right to profess a dogma, a religion or a world view without fear. I am convinced that no one in this House would want any religious denomination to be harassed or accused of discrimination for refusing to recognize same sex marriage.

It is something else, however, to lead people to think that even secular public officials, whose job it is to apply the law, could fail to do so in the name of their personal religious convictions. All are equal before the law. From the moment that Parliament passes legislation—as we are confident Bill C-38 will pass—this legislation applies everywhere in Canada and there is no room for people who refuse to apply it. People who do not agree with the interpretation of the law will have to do something else.

In any case, it will not be possible to avoid applying the law, any more than it is for a public servant at Revenue Canada who does not agree with the tax tables to avoid taxing people. When someone is a public official, and not a religious official, he or she has a responsibility to apply the law as it was passed by people with democratic legitimacy, that is to say, elected officials.

It is interesting to ask the following question: why do people with a homosexual orientation want to get married? I know a lot of people who are same sex partners and have been together for 15, 20, 25 or 30 years, sharing exactly the same values as heterosexuals, and who have decided to get married.

What are these values? Obviously, spouses want to mutually support one another. There is also fidelity, the desire for recognition as a mutually exclusive couple. So we have mutual support, fidelity and, of course, last but not least, a third value, which is the need for social recognition. It would be extremely sad not to see homosexual unions receiving the same consideration and respect as heterosexual unions.

During this entire debate, people have tried to make us believe that homosexuals are less capable of commitment and seriousness in a relationship. This begs the question. Who has threatened the institution of marriage?

I am not saying that people have to get married. Common-law partners mutually support one another, obey the law, pay taxes, are involved in their communities and are model citizens. No one has to get married. However, believing that just because people are homosexual, they are less capable of honouring the commitments of marriage, just does not hold water, in my opinion. Allowing the marginalization of homosexuals is a form of blatant discrimination.

Currently in Canada, eight provinces and two territories have permitted homosexuals to marry in the last few years. Has anyone in the heterosexual community been denied their rights? Has allowing homosexuals in Canada to marry infringed on the freedoms exercised by the family or the heterosexual community? No one in the House could give an example of a negative consequence that could be attributed to the recognition of homosexual unions and life as we know it, or as our communities should know it.

One political party in this Parliament has systematically practised institutional homophobia. Since 1993, its members have asked us at every opportunity to consider homosexuals as second class citizens. I am happy that the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and a majority of Liberal members have never responded to this call to treat homosexuals as second class citizens.

The official opposition voted against recognizing same sex spouses in the public service, against recognizing spouses as common-law partners, and against section 718 of the Criminal Code prohibiting hate crimes and giving harsher sentences to those who beat up homosexuals. The official opposition is going to vote against the recognition of same sex marriage. That is their right. Perhaps they are doing so for political reasons, but, once again, I am quite pleased that a majority of parliamentarians in this House have chosen to put an end to the institutional homophobia that exists and denies full citizen rights to gays and lesbians.

Why is it important to recognize same sex couples? It is important because from now on in the public schools in our communities, we will be able to say that the issue of marriage and the family encompasses the right of gays and lesbians to be full citizens. Anything that contributes to giving a sense of respectability to same sex unions and to gays and lesbians as individuals deserves to be encouraged.

Did you know that there are still many adolescents who, at age 15, 16 or 17, discover their homosexuality and wonder how they will fit into society in the future? Well, in the future, if a young person, regardless of where he is in Canada, wonders what his place will be in society, he will know that in his professional life and in his romantic relationships he will be recognized as a full citizen who contributes to society. I am convinced that this will be a positive step to his full acceptance as an individual.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, as much as I would like to support the member's motion, the problem with the motion is this: if we stand and say we vote against that particular provision, the Liberal government will stand and say that we do not want to protect the rights of religious organizations to solemnize marriages. It is a clever trap, the kind of trap that the government has consistently performed.

As for the Bloc, I am not surprised. The Bloc has no long term interest in this country. Supporting this bill has absolutely nothing to do with the Bloc. The majority of federalist MPs in this House oppose this bill. The Bloc has no interest in this country. It does not want to see this country survive and for the Bloc to work together and make an agreement with the government is absolutely shameful.

My question is for the member. He had it in his hands on Thursday to vote with us against the government in order to stop this scandal from spreading, and those Liberals simply went with the government. What I find interesting is that when their votes are not necessary, then they can vote against the government. When the government wants their votes, then they have to vote with the government. That is what I find difficult about those Liberals who purport to support Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, the committee heard 60 some witnesses though we were not going to hear that many.

I heard the parliamentary secretary say we heard 400 and some witnesses. That was in another Parliament. As the hon. member knows, that committee was basically hijacked as it was hearing general testimony from coast to coast on whether the Canadian government should appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling regarding the definition of marriage.

As we know, members who supported marriage were pulled off that committee and other Liberal members were inserted who opposed traditional marriage. We know the committee did not even render a report. That is of no benefit. We are in a new Parliament. This bill put before us changes what the word marriage means and we are not given ample time to study it.

The member has raised an important question. There are only two other countries in the world that have changed in law what the word marriage means, so we do not know yet the long term effects. We can hypothesize what the impact could be on changing an institution that predates Canada.

The committee heard testimony from many witnesses. On the protection of religious freedom, for example, I will read an excerpt:

The advance of social liberalism necessarily stirs anxieties about cultural and religious freedom. Bill C-38 promises that it won't break into the religious sanctuaries to coerce religious officials to solemnize marriages against their consciences. The fact that this legislation raises the spectre of such draconian action is telling.

I agree with that 100%. We do not know where this is going to lead when it comes to freedoms. We know, in the original B.C. decision on this issue, that Justice Pitfield ruled that marriage predates Canada. It predates Confederation. Not only is it not for a judge to change what the word “marriage” means, it is not for Parliament to change what the word “marriage” means.

It is interesting how this has been framed as an issue of fundamental human rights. A few years ago members on that side overwhelmingly voted to support the traditional definition of marriage and yet those same members come here and have the gall to suggest this is about fundamental human rights. If this is about fundamental human rights, why are those members not championing this cause? They are not because it is not a fundamental human right. It is a social policy decision and there has not been one court from any national or international body or tribunal that has suggested otherwise.

We do not know where this is going to lead, but it is virtually unprecedented. We know that Sweden, Norway, France and Australia are taking a reasonable approach. They recognize that there are equality rights and access issues raised by the issue of same sex couples, but they have not attempted to change what the word “marriage” means in their countries, nor should we.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of my constituents to speak to Bill C-38 at report stage.

It is interesting that over the course of presenting petitions there were a number of petitions where constituents were calling on Parliament to recognize and to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. To put it another way they were calling on Parliament to affirm marriage in the traditional sense or in the sense that it is universally applied across countries, across cultures, across religions. When I attended various events in my riding, people asked, “Why are you going back next week? What is going on? Why the virtually unprecedented extension of the sitting of the House?” There is only one government bill on the projected order, Bill C-38, which in effect will change the legal definition of the word “marriage” in Canada”.

If Canadians are so concerned, so divided and so upset about changing a fundamental basic institution in our country, why is the Liberal government embarking on this approach? Why did it not look for alternatives that could have accomplished some of the concerns that were being raised?

This has not been the approach that other jurisdictions have taken. In France and Australia, for example, there has been a recognition of the rights of other couples but preservation of what the word “marriage” means.

It has been interesting to see over the last couple of years how the language has changed. This takes to me one of the amendments. In 1999 members across the way, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and many members on that side and many members in this House, overwhelmingly assured Canadians that Parliament would not only affirm the traditional definition of marriage but would take all steps necessary to protect that definition of marriage in Canada. It was some time later, in 2000, when in the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, a clause was inserted which stated:

For greater certainty, the amendments made by this Act do not affect the meaning of the word "marriage", that is, the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

The then justice minister and current Deputy Prime Minister spoke at length about the uniqueness of the institution of marriage and that how, as she said, Parliament and the Liberal government had no intention of changing what the word “marriage” meant in Canada.

The reason it is interesting to note that particular clause in the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act that was passed by this House 2000 is that in Bill C-38, clause 15 states:

Section 1.1 of the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and the heading before it are repealed.

It is just that simple. Is it any wonder that there is cynicism out there? Those on the other side give assurances that religious freedoms are going to be protected, that freedom of expression is going to be protected, that changing what the word “marriage” means in our country is not going to have any impact on our country, is not going to have any impact on those that come after us. With a bit of revisionist history however, the Liberals in the year 2005, reach back to the year 2000 and pretend that Parliament at that time did not insert that declaratory clause on what the word “marriage” means. This brings me to one of the amendments. Remember, it states that for greater certainty the bill does not impact on the definition of marriage and then sets out what that definition is.

I sat on the legislative committee studying Bill C-38. I have heard the parliamentary secretary say a few things today that I would take issue with. One is that this issue has had a good hearing among Canadians. As members know, we on this side had to fight tooth and nail to get the number of witnesses we did. Theses were witnesses that the parliamentary secretary quoted, witnesses that he now acknowledges were good witnesses. The Liberals fought against including them on the witness list.

It is interesting that, through that committee, one of the amendments to Bill C-38, and this bill can only be described as smoke and mirrors, other than changing what the word “marriage” means in law in Canada, nothing else in the bill is of any legal effect. It does not offer any protection or is of any consequence to Canadians, other than the fact that it changes the definition of marriage.

I would like members to listen to the familiar words and see if this sounds familiar. Clause 3.1 says “For greater certainty”. Again, another assurance using the exact same language. The expression “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind. Once again we have members on that side saying “Don't worry about it; this won't impact on you”.

It is just like a couple of years ago when the Liberals said to Canadians not to worry. They indicated that this would not impact on what the word “marriage” meant and that it would not have that effect. Anyone with any common sense would know that was the ultimate conclusion that they were leading to. Now with the same conviction, those on that side are saying “For greater certainty”. I would like to read this provision. It says:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

That sounds pretty good to me. To someone who is perhaps not a lawyer or to the average Canadian who might read this bill would say that sounds good. That sounds like the government has it covered. Canadians should know as well, as I do, that in law this is a declaratory provision that is not only unconstitutional but it does nothing to protect Canadians. That was the evidence we heard in committee.

We heard a justice department lawyer explain to us, and it is obvious if a person takes a close look at the provision, that this is simply restating that we have certain rights under the Canadian charter of rights. We heard where those rights can lead us. I heard witness after witness give testimony that their rights had been impacted because of the definition of marriage.

We heard at length about Bishop Fred Henry. We heard about marriage commissioners whose livelihood is being affected. We heard about the Knights of Columbus. Here is a real life example. The Knights of Columbus are a religious order of the Catholic church. They are being brought before a human rights tribunal in British Columbia because they will not sanction a same sex ceremony because it violates their religious beliefs. This is not some hypothetical down the road. This is happening right now. Bill C-38 does absolutely nothing to protect religious beliefs.

If we look at Bill C-38, the first clause says it is called the civil marriage act. I want to speak and support the amendment put forward by my colleague from Calgary Southeast that this clause be amended. The reason it should be amended is that there is no civil marriage in Canada. There is no distinction between civil marriage and marriage. There is only one definition of marriage. By even raising that concept that there is somehow two kinds of marriage in Canada is misleading to Canadians. It is creating more smoke and mirrors and clouding the issue. I support taking that out.

Motion No. 2 states that clause 2 be deleted. It says:

Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.

I have heard sufficient testimony that leads me to the conclusion that if we change the definition of marriage, it will have an impact on other rights. I am also confident that there are ways to address equality concerns without changing the definition of marriage. That is the Canadian way. That is what Canadians support. They support equality, but they also support this basic institution.

Motion No. 3 would delete clause 3 which says:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

We know that the Supreme Court of Canada considered this bill and came to two very ironic conclusions. First, it said it would not say the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional and did not rule it unconstitutional. Yet the Liberals will lead us to believe it did. Second, it said a provision like that is ultra vires, outside the jurisdiction of Parliament, and it cannot act to protect religious freedoms. I will be opposing this bill. I urge my colleagues to do so and look for a Canadian compromise.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 27th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by individuals in my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard on Bill C-38. The petitioners are calling on the Parliament of Canada to ensure that the definition of marriage remains the union of one man and one woman.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I have a few comments that I would like to make prior to getting into the substantive debate. The member indicated that he had not heard of anyone who had been disciplined or brought before commissions or courts because of their views in respect of marriage or the nature of homosexual or heterosexual relationships.

I do not know where this member was, but we heard it constantly. Not only did we hear it constantly before the justice committee, but we heard it constantly before this legislative committee. We have heard about Bishop Henry. He is facing two hearings in front of the Human Rights Commission in Alberta. We have heard that the Knights of Columbia in British Columbia are being taken before the Human Rights Commission because of their refusal to rent their property to celebrate and gay and lesbian marriage.

We have heard about Camp Arnes in Manitoba which has been brought before the Human Rights Commission because it refused to rent its church-sponsored facilities to a gay and lesbian choir. We have heard about the Brockie case, and here we are talking about individuals who for reasons of conscience refuse to do certain things, that has been brought in front of human rights commissions and in fact disciplined.

We have heard about the Saskatchewan bumper sticker case. We have heard of a number of cases. Some of these are still pending, but the point is that these cases are being brought before human rights tribunals on a regular basis. We have heard about Chris Kempling. The B.C. Court of Appeal said freedom of religion only goes so far and upheld the discipline of his losing his job for three months.

I want to move on, however. The issue that this is somehow a human right is something that I find very curious, given the Liberal government's position on this matter.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice say this is a matter of human rights. If this were a matter of human rights, would the government give its backbenchers the right to freely vote on this issue? If this were a fundamental human right, it would stand up and insist that every member must vote because this is a matter of fundamental human rights.

This is a social policy issue that is being dressed up under the charter of rights. The court in the reference case never characterized this as a fundamental human right. To characterize it in that fashion is a fraud. Quite frankly, the approach that the Liberal government has taken by saying that this is a human right but not demanding that its members vote that way demonstrates what kind of a fraud this is.

In respect of the evidence that was heard, we have heard it said there were about 500 witnesses. In fact, the justice committee, which was never allowed to report back because the government put a stop to those hearings, heard approximately 450 or so witnesses, but it never dealt with the bill. It dealt with the general principle of whether or not there should be same sex marriages. So that dealt with not a legislative focus but indeed on the entire concept of same sex marriage.

At second reading this House accepted in principle that there would be same sex marriages and passing it to the committee. In committee, my focus, and many of the members' focus, was not as much on the issue of how we redefine marriage, but how to protect those who for reasons of conscience and religion had concerns about this change. We had approximately 40 witnesses, and it was stated that would be it. It was through the Conservative efforts that another 20 witnesses, and I might say significant witnesses, were brought forward.

We were only allowed to bring 20 witnesses forward because an agreement was made that those 20 would be allowed to appear if we agreed to some kind of closure. That was not my preference, but that is in fact what happened.

In respect of this bill, and the significance and the consequences of this bill, we have heard less than 60 witnesses. This idea that we have been talking about this bill for the past three or four years is simply not correct.

I want to talk about how Bill C-38 approaches the problem. This bill is full of unconstitutional provisions. The reason those unconstitutional provisions are put in there is to give the people of Canada hope. Unfortunately, it is false hope, dealing both with the preamble section which talks about the freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the right of religious officials to refuse to perform same sex marriage. Clause 3 states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in the reference case, specifically held that whether that section is substantive or declaratory it is unconstitutional. What the Government of Canada tried to do is hoist this on Canadians and said that it is protecting our religious freedoms and that Canadians do not need any more protection other than what is stated in that.

Clearly, a proper reading of the Supreme Court of Canada decision says this is unconstitutional. I am surprised that the Minister of Justice has not moved his amendment to remove that now that this fraud has been exposed. It is better to have the plain truth staring at us, than to sugar coat it in this type of a fraudulent manner.

The next point I would like to make deals with clause 3.1. Again, this deals with exactly the approach that the Liberal government has taken to this issue. The amendment reads:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

The charter of rights is a constitutional document that protects citizens against the government. We do not violate the charter of rights, as some Liberals have suggested, by expanding the rights given under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a floor. It is the lowest common denominator that is accepted as the floor of our guarantees.

It says that we can have no greater right of freedom of religion or freedom of conscience or freedom of expression than that which is guaranteed by the charter. It establishes a floor and this section confirms the lowest common denominator.

What many have found out, as Mr. Kempling found out by the B.C. Court of Appeal and others have found out, by saying that we have freedom of religion and freedom of expression, is that what was said or what a person's religious beliefs are, they are beyond the scope of that freedom of expression. It is freedom that goes beyond what is entrenched in the charter.

It gives no more rights and freedoms that are already guaranteed in the charter of rights. That charter has been hollow in terms of protecting rights and freedoms of people like Mr. Kempling. It simply has not granted them.

What needs to happen, if this is to have any substance, is to have the reference removed limiting that right to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and saying Canadians have the right to their freedom of religion without this kind of limitation which we know that the courts consistently put into second place when religious rights collide with equality rights.

This will essentially confirm the continued practice of the courts to affirm equality rights at the expense of religious freedom whenever those two rights collide. It is because equality rights are the new religion of the courts and the Liberal government. They will stomp on religious rights at every opportunity and the courts have demonstrated that in a number of cases.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not quite sure what the question was in all of that.

As I explained in my speech, there are significant protections for religious freedom in Canada. The charter has not been proven deficient in this area. In fact, it has been proven vigorous in this area. Even the witnesses appearing before the committee could not point to any place where religious organizations or religious officials had been discriminated against on that basis.

One of the greatest examples is that religious organizations like the Catholic church have different standards when it comes to, say, the access to certain jobs by women within that institution. The ordination of women is not contemplated in the Catholic church. Yet no woman has been able to take the Catholic church to court to sue to be ordained in the Catholic church.

When I raised the issue of why that has not happened with one of the legal experts who was called to testify before the committee, one of the legal experts who was not supportive of Bill C-38, he said that it was unlikely that any lawyer would take such a case because the protections available under the law for religious institutions to make that kind of decision based on their beliefs, their theology, their doctrine were so strong that the case would not succeed.

I have every reason to believe that the same is true for the protections guaranteed around religious marriage. It is very different from civil marriage, which is what we are talking about in the bill. I believe those religious protections are there.

The hon. member in his long comment said that the Prime Minister was the one who had forced the debate on Canadians. I disagree with that too. The debate is before us today because gay and lesbian people in this country sought full equality in a key institution of this society, that institution being marriage. It was not brought upon us by politicians, by the Prime Minister or by activist judges. It was brought about by people who care about their full participation in our society and who care about the institution of marriage, and who believe in that institution and respect it fully.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate at report stage of Bill C-38.

I want to remind the House that this bill is a cause for celebration among gay and lesbian Canadians. It is a time when our relationships are being recognized, when our fight to be included in a key institution of Canadian society will finally be resolved.

This is not a new fight for gay and lesbian people in Canada. We began this fight over 30 years ago when Richard Vogel and Chris North took their fight for a marriage licence to the marriage office in Winnipeg. They were denied a licence at that time but later found support with the Unitarian Church. This fight has gone on for over 30 years because gay and lesbian Canadians, like other Canadians, believe in the institution of marriage. Many gay and lesbian Canadians want to be married because they believe in the commitment and responsibilities that are implied in marriage. That is why couples have fought through the courts to see their ability to be married recognized.

This has not happened because of some errant or wilful judge who wants to upset the apple cart in Canada. It has happened because there are couples who want their relationships recognized in exactly the same way that heterosexual relationships are recognized in this country, and who want access to the important institution of marriage. They do it because they believe in the institution of marriage and they want to be accepted into that important institution in our society on the same basis as other Canadians.

This is an important equality issue for gay and lesbian Canadians and indeed for all Canadians. It is important that our relationships are recognized, that we have the access to the stability that that recognition will offer, and that our children have access to stable families as well. It is also important that when our relationships fail we have access to the mechanisms of our law that allow us to deal fairly and justly with the dissolution of that relationship.

These are all important things that are covered in Bill C-38. This is a reason to celebrate. This is an important step forward for our society and for all Canadians. I do not want to lose that important aspect of this legislation. This bill on civil marriage will ensure that gay and lesbian Canadians have access to this key institution of our society on an equal basis.

The bill before us at report stage has been amended and further amendments are being proposed. Let me just say that we in this corner of the House do not support the amendments we are debating in Group No. 1, because these are amendments that seek to essentially gut the legislation and change fundamental aspects of it. We will not be supporting the amendments in Group No. 1.

Let me say as well that the bill before us was amended at committee. We have heard from other speakers this morning about the large number of people who have spoken on marriage over the past two and a half years. Over 450 witnesses appeared before the justice committee in the last Parliament on this issue, and almost 60 witnesses appeared before the legislative committee in this Parliament on this current bill.

In the legislative committee a vast majority, over two-thirds, of the witnesses we heard were people who had concerns about this legislation. They had a hearing at the committee. They were not always agreed with, but they were always listened to with care and with respect.

The bill was amended at committee in ways that provide greater reassurance. Those are not amendments that I thought were necessary. I thought the bill in its original form was clear in its intent and was clear that it protected religious freedom in Canada, but we heard regularly at the committee that more reassurance might be helpful, so the committee did accept several amendments. One is an additional preambular clause that states:

Whereas it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;

That is an important addition to the bill, even though preambular clauses are interpretive clauses. They help us understand the intent of the legislation, so that was an important addition and one which the committee made willingly. I did not think it was necessary, especially given the other clauses in the preamble which make the commitment to freedom of religion very clear.

As well, for greater certainty, another interpretive clause was added to clause 3 of the legislation. Clause 3 states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The committee in its wisdom decided to add clause 3.1 to add even greater clarity on that issue. That clause reads:

3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

I do not know what could be clearer in terms of interpreting this legislation to guarantee religious freedom in Canada and to guarantee the freedom of those religious organizations which do not, for whatever reason of their beliefs or theology, feel that they would be able to solemnize the marriage of a gay or a lesbian couple. It is very clear; it was clear previously, but it is now absolutely crystal clear. We have gone out of our way to make this absolutely well known in this legislation. The amendment introduced by my colleague from the Bloc goes even further to grant that reassurance.

One of the things we heard at the committee hearings was concern about the charitable status of organizations, religious organizations in particular. The amendment proposed by my colleague from the Bloc goes some way to offer reassurance on that score as well. Let me read it again:

Section 149.1 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (6.2):

(6.21) For greater certainty, subject to subsections (6.1) and (6.2), a registered charity with stated purposes that include the advancement of religion shall not have its registration revoked or be subject to any other penalty under Part V solely because it or any of its members, officials, supporters, or adherents exercises, in relation to marriage between persons of the same sex, the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We are very clear with this amendment as well. There is no threat to the charitable status of religious organizations because they hold a different view of marriage than the one put forward in the civil marriage act.

This legislation has taken great care to offer reassurance on the issue of freedom of religion. At the committee I do not think anyone expressed doubt or fear about the guarantees of religious freedom provided by the charter. I know of no witness who was able to provide an example to show that any religious institution had seen a failure in that protection of religious freedom. They could give us no explicit example of where the guarantees for religious freedom in the charter had failed in the past. There is no expectation on my part or on the part of others that will be the case in the future. The guarantee of religious freedom in the charter and in the Canadian Human Rights Act is solid. Equality rights do not necessarily trump religious freedom as we have heard from time to time.

We need to be very clear that religious freedom is important in Canada, but it cuts the other way as well. There are religious organizations in Canada that seek to marry gay and lesbian couples and want to do it in exactly the same way they do it for their heterosexual members. Currently that is not possible in some provinces where the court decisions are not in effect and they cannot legally marry gay and lesbian couples. This is an important issue of religious freedom from that side of the coin as well. Religious organizations that do support same sex marriage should have the ability to follow through on their belief and their doctrine in that regard and solemnize those marriages. This is important legislation for those organizations as well.

We have had a lot of debate on this issue. The justice committee toured Canada and heard from over 450 witnesses. Debates have been held in the House. Debates have been held in society from coast to coast to coast. There was a very thorough hearing of Bill C-38 by the legislative committee.

The majority of Canadians want us to get on with this legislation, whatever their views are on Bill C-38. They want us to get to the other issues that are before Parliament and move along. We have had a long debate with respect to Bill C-38.

As I said, we in this corner of the House cannot support the amendments in Group No. 1. However, we are glad that the bill is back on the agenda of the House and look forward to its passage in the very near future.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Madam Speaker, before beginning the debate, as such, I rise on a point of order. Consultations have taken place among the parties, and, if you seek it, you will find there is unanimous consent to adopt the following amendment. I move:

That Bill C-38 be amended by adding, after line 5 on page 6, the following:

11.1 Section 149.1 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (6.2):

(6.2.1) For greater certainty, subject to subsections (6.1) and (6.2), a registered charity with stated purposes that include the advancement of religion shall not have its registration revoked or be subject to any other penalty under Part V solely because it or any of its members, officials, supporters or adherents exercises, in relation to marriage between persons of the same sex, the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If you seek the unanimous consent of the House, I believe you will find it.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the House with respect to the report that has been received from the legislative committee on Bill C-38, being the civil marriage act.

The question of ensuring equal access to civil marriage for same sex couples is one that has engaged large numbers of Canadians, in particular Canadians of religious faith, as marriage is a religious sacrament to many, beyond a civil ceremony with legal consequences. As a result, many groups and individuals in our society have thought seriously about this issue and have important contributions to make to the debate.

A good number of them were prepared to take the time and make the necessary effort to present their points of view to the legislative committee and provide written observations.

For four weeks, 12 other members of this House, representing all parties, and I had the privilege of hearing their thoughts on future challenges and their dreams for the future of our great country, as well as their reservations and concerns on all aspects of Bill C-38.

The bill is a model of citizen engagement in the democratic process and I was honoured to be part of it. Indeed as the Minister of Justice has pointed out, the subject matter of the bill has had more discussion and debate, both here in the House and throughout the land, than almost any other issue.

The committee adopted the testimony and the evidence presented to the previous House committee on justice and human rights, which travelled to some 12 cities, heard over 450 witnesses and received over 300 written submissions and many thousands of e-mails and letters. Between then and now the question has been considered by the courts, of which including provinces and territories we are now at 9, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada that reviewed the government's draft legislation with the aid of 18 intervenors.

The committee has heard from over 60 witnesses representing a broad range of opinion, who came to Ottawa to share their views and concerns.

These included religious representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Fellowship, the Pentecostal Assemblies, the United Church, the Unitarian Church, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, lawyers representing the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, the Law Commission of Canada and many others, as well as the diverse interest groups such as the Home School Legal Defence Association and the Institute for Canadian Values, academics from the disciplines of law, sociology, political science, psychology and theology, gay and lesbian organizations such as EGALE and the Coalition pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe, marriage commissioners from at least three different provinces and representatives of some of Canada's ethnic communities such as the Chinese Canadian National Council. It was a wide and enriching dialogue and members listened very carefully to what was being said by all.

I want the hon. members of this House who did not have the chance to be a part of this dialogue to know that it was marked by respect. All the groups and individuals, and all the political parties, regardless of their views on extending equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples, agreed that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other group of Canadians.

Indeed, almost all groups and individuals took as a starting place that the equal benefits and responsibilities of married couples should be extended to same sex couples. The debate was over different visions of what that equal respect means in terms of the law.

There has been significant social evolution in Canada in our attitudes toward the importance of full participation for all minorities and specifically in terms of gay and lesbian Canadians. The presentations and discussions at these committee hearings provide strong evidence of that respect.

Many hours of the committee's time were spent in discussion of the wide range of views on the role of marriage in our society. Central to this aspect of the debate is the recognition that civil marriage differs in law from religious marriage. This premise was not always accepted by witnesses, particularly those whose understanding of marriage was anchored entirely within their faith with no recognition of its civil nature. Committee members stressed that the bill would mean that religions would continue to have the ability to marry whomever meets the criteria of their particular religion.

Yet many of the witnesses to the legislative committee made us increasingly aware of the level of concern over the possible unintended ramifications for religious groups of any changes to civil marriage. David Novak, a Judaic scholar from the University of Toronto, was particularly articulate on this aspect when he explained that when the purpose is seen in the civil context as addressing an injustice--here, the exclusion of a particular group from civil marriage--then axiomatically it appears that the religious groups which choose to preserve the heterosexual definition of marriage are perpetuating that injustice and so could be viewed as “counterculture”.

There are those to whom marriage is a sacrament. Marriage plays an important role in religious beliefs and inevitably is subject to a broad range of opinion. That, in part, is what gave rise to one of the two amendments made to the bill during consideration in committee, which added a new provision to the preamble.

It states:

--it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;...

The second point I want to emphasize to members of this House is that the focus of the committee was on ensuring that Bill C-38 provides a balance in its two foundational principles, extending equal rights to a minority and ensuring respect for the fundamental guarantee of religious freedom. Within the context of Bill C-38, this meant ensuring the continuing freedom of religious groups and of religious officials to make their own decisions on how to approach marriage within their faiths and beliefs.

This intention to balance these two compelling charter rights and freedoms can be seen in the structure of the bill itself. Its essence is contained in two simple provisions. The first states:

Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.

I stress “civil purposes”.

The second states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The intent to balance these two principles can also be seen in the preambles to the bill. Two in particular speak to religious freedom. The first one states:

WHEREAS everyone has the freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;...

The second one states:

WHEREAS nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs;...

The intent to strike a balance so that both rights are fully protected and neither takes precedence over the other can also be seen in the government's decision to first refer draft legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada last year before tabling this bill in the House. The major reason for the government making this reference was to respond to the concerns that religious freedom might be at risk by ensuring that the highest court in the land agreed with the government's view that religious freedom was already fully protected by the charter.

In response to the concerns of some religious groups and individuals, the government posed the question directly to the Supreme Court:

Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by 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?

In its response to the reference, the Supreme Court made one of the strongest statements ever on the nature of the charter's guarantee of freedom of religion.

I note that my time is up, but clearly, I believe, the way has been very clear to bring forward this bill and to demonstrate that equality, respect and dignity are a very important part of Canadian life.

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June 27th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have always defended the family and marriage and I will continue to do so. I will vote against Bill C-38. I wish I had a chance to answer the rest of the member's questions, but he very much has the wrong idea of what the facts are.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, there certainly was a clarity back in 1999. My clarity concern was with regard to Bill C-38. The member is not talking about that.

In Bill C-38 we have a series of whereas which tend to tell a story. However, the court basically said in its decision on the four questions and specifically mentioned the definition of marriage did not appear in any federal statute. Yet it was in the preamble of the benefits improvement bill. The Supreme Court has used that against the position on Bill C-38.

I only raise it from the standpoint, for the member's interest, that if we were to take out all the whereas clauses, which have no force in law, and if we were to take out the others, what we would be left with is marriage is the union of any two persons to the exclusion of all others with no defining characteristics whatsoever. This is the fundamental flaw of the bill.

Marriage no longer has any defining characteristics. Marriage was trashed by the Halpern decision in which it basically said that children could exist in a relationship through adoption, through a previous marriage or through reproductive technologies et cetera.

Since when does the exception make the rule? Marriage is a founding institution of society. It is a fundamental institution. It contemplates family and children. The tragedy of the bill is that children have not been the issue of debate and they should have been.

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June 27th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member across the way carefully. I think one should listen to him carefully because he is very consistent in his position.

He talked about the lack of clarity in Bill C-38. The member was in the House in 1999 when the Prime Minister made a pledge to take all necessary steps to preserve the definition of marriage. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the House leader, all voted in favour of that motion. Now the member is talking about a lack of clarity. I thought it was very clear what members on that side of the House would do. What happened?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the bill in its totality. This is probably the most important bill that has been addressed by Parliament since I have been here in the last 12 years. I was very disappointed with the bill itself in terms of what it tried to present and what it in fact actually presents.

The bill and the representations of the justice minister have been that all of the protections necessary with regard to religious beliefs and to matters of conscience already exist in the charter. I tend to agree, but if we accept that, then we also accept the preambles which are not operative. In the reprint there is a clause that says “for greater certainty” and in clause 3 it says “it is recognized that”. These are declaratory clauses.

The title of the bill is the civil marriage act and that marriage is, for civil purposes, the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. That is the entire bill. Although there are some consequential amendments to other acts, they are simply reflective of those provisions.

I want to raise this from the standpoint that maybe the public is somewhat disconcerted about the words that have been used. I suspect, judging by what people have said to me, that the public do not understand what difference between civil marriage and marriage as defined in common law before the changes from the Halpern decision.

We also have a Marriage Act. One of the things that most Canadians would probably be surprised to know is that marriage is not defined in the laws of Canada today. It is a matter of definition in the common law. In fact, when the bill was before Parliament to deal with the extension of benefits to gay and lesbian persons, all of the references and inclusions of the definition of marriage were deleted from all existing legislation. There was, however, a preamble to that bill, which basically said that nothing in this bill takes away from the fact that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in its decision with regard to the reference of the four questions, said something in what I believe was section 60 that was quite disturbing to many. It said, and I will paraphrase it, that in the absence of unique circumstances of which we will not speculate, the right for religious persons or persons of religious groups to deny marriage to same sex persons will be protected.

It is kind of an ominous statement to suggest that something might come up. One of the reasons for report stage motions is an effort to draw the line in the sand that deals with the protections of matters related to conscience and religious beliefs under section 2(a) of the charter.

In the legislative committee that dealt with Bill C-38 there was one additional clause. It was a declarative clause and I will read it into the record. It was an important achievement of those on the committee who felt it was necessary to identify for Canadians that there was a strong view of Parliament included in the bill. It states:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

That is the legalese, but it basically says that under section 2(a) of the charter those who continue to express their conscience or religious belief with regard to marriage are not at risk.

However, there is this case of the statement within the Supreme Court response to the reference of the four questions, which raises the spectre that this may very well come back, and I have no doubt it will. The question will come back in the form of, “I was born into this church, I have been in this church all of my life and the church has no right to deny my right to be married in my church”. The matter will come before the courts.

It is extremely important for all hon. members, regardless of their position on the definition of marriage, to ensure they have on the record that it is the will of Parliament to ensure that matters of conscience and religious beliefs shall not be challenged or trumped by the equality provisions under section 2(a) of the charter.

One of the previous speakers talked about human rights and the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights wherein the definition of marriage was sustained. When we talk about the equality provision under the charter and the concern that it would be trumped, the fact is even should Bill C-38 pass, persons of religious groups could refuse to marry same sex persons. That means the equality provisions of the charter are in conflict and will be in conflict. There is not true equality here. The equality is subject to and provides the opportunity for those who, because of matters of conscience or religious beliefs, choose not to perform marriages of same sex persons.

I would have wished the representations with regard to the bill could have been clearer. Unfortunately, some of the debate has been skewed into some other areas. Quite frankly, I think the starting point for all who have heard the debate in this place must very well be to ask the question, what is the point at which we abandon all the fundamental basic institutions of our society? I cannot think of any institution other than the institution of marriage which is more fundamental to a strong Canada and to a vibrant society. Society exists and sustains itself because of the family and marriage. Without that, society as we know it would cease to exist.

I hope that other members will participate in the debate to ensure our commitment to Canadians that matters of conscience and religious beliefs as protected under section 2(a) of the charter will never be challenged by the argument on the equality issue.

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June 27th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I come to this debate today with a sense of sadness in my heart because I never thought it would come to this, at least not so soon.

I also come with a sense of sadness because I have children and three grandchildren. I anticipate that I will have great-grandchildren hopefully before I pass off this earthly scene. Because of that and because of the ill -thought through and ill-advised move that is being made in these days, I think it will have a very serious effect on our society, as it has already been proven in Scandinavia and other countries like that.

I, like many others on this side of the House, and our party, the Conservative Party, am grateful that in some of the other parties there are a few individuals who hold as well that the natural law, the superseding law that actually over the course of many years down through history has been the matter of a heterosexual union, a man and woman, an opposite gender definition of marriage to the exclusion of all others.

We need that within in our society because it builds a bond between those two people and then children come into that union. Also we state “to the exclusion of all others” because there is nothing like unfaithfulness to one's spouse or to one's partner that will break that marriage down and destroy that union to the detriment of those individuals, to the detriment of the children and of course society at large.

Marriage and the family based on marriage are basic fundamental institutions of society. We should not change these kinds of foundations lightly. We should not be doing it in the manner that we are in these last months.

I do not believe the government has demonstrated that there are compelling reasons to alter this central social institution.

My colleague who just spoke well made the point that there are other ways to address this issue and yet the the Liberal government, that insists on a wonderful Canadian virtue of tolerance and working things out in an amicable manner, has ignored that in a very divisive way. When it could have addressed this issue in a rather different manner, it has chosen to take the most divisive manner possible and drive a wedge right down the very middle of Canadian society with a great deal of vigour.

One of the major purposes of marriage has been to provide a stable environment for the procreation and raising of children. That does not mean that other relationships are not loving and valuable. Often in the definition of marriage people will say that they have some of the earmarks of marriage. That may be true to a point but it does not include that one fundamental purpose of marriage relationships, of a bond of a man and a woman coming together in terms of the next generation, the procreative element. There is no possible way in the same gender, a same sex relationship, that procreation can occur. The fruit of that union does not come as a result of anything other than an opposite gender definition.

We believe as well that the institution of marriage has as one of its goals the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father and the right of every child to know and to be known by their mother and father.

We have often heard of those great anguishes, struggles and journeys of individuals who were adopted to find out who that mother and father were; who were the individuals who procreated them, the biological ones who brought them into being.

If we change the definition of marriage to end the opposite sex marriage requirement we will be saying that the goal of marriage is no longer important.

I guess that is why it leaves me with a great sense of sadness, disappointment and discouragement at this juncture and at this point in history insofar as the law is a teacher. Ancient texts have said that the law is a teacher. It teaches us what is good, what is not so good and those things that are to be exalted, uplifted, encouraged, reinforced and, in this case, one way or the other, for good or for bad, the law will be a teacher again.

What kind of message will it send to our children and to our young people as they are coming up to that age of marriage? is it that a one night stand, a two week shack up or a six week living together kind of thing is equivalent in every respect as individuals coming before witnesses, family and others, before God and committing themselves to one another until death do them part, for life?

What kind of a message do we send to people who might be in the galleries today and our young pages here? What kind of a message do we send to them about the importance of the institution of marriage?

We know the answer to that. In some of those Scandinavian countries, we have already seen the very devastating impact that there has been to marriage. There has been less marriage. There are less children coming about as a result of marriage. There are more children born to single parent situations, where individuals, while remarkable, are taking care of those children 24/7.

The central question that we are wrestling with is whether marriage is still connected to this potential to have and raise children, and to provide a stable environment for those children, or whether it is simply connected with the personal needs of two adults in a close relationship.

We know from untold documentation and research to no end that, and it is there for anybody who would care to look at it, children who are in heterosexual married, intact family relationships do better. There are a great deal more problems with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and in not doing so well in the schooling system and other things such as criminal involvement. The studies have been done. I do not need to say that. There will of course be individuals who will torque that and twist that comment. If they were to simply look seriously at the research that is there, they would find that demonstrated in spades.

We are coming to the point where if Bill C-38 were to pass, there would be an emphasis on an adult relationship. Instead of marriage being that which takes on responsibilities and provides for children, “it's all be about adult relationships, about me and myself as an individual and the pleasure I get in this union”.

I get a great deal of pleasure in the relationship and union with my wife. She has been a faithful companion to me for some 29 years now. It is beyond that. It is more than that. It is about the children that have come into the world by way of our union and the responsibility that we have to them. It is not just about adults. It is not just about two individuals. It is about the offspring and the progeny as well.

Margaret Somerville, the ethicist at McGill University, makes this point very eloquently in the recent book Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the Dangers in Canada's New Social Experiment , an excellent book. I have it on my desk and it is a book that I recommend for anyone to read. There are some excellent essays there. Dr. Somerville says:

The crucial question is: should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one? The answer will decide who takes priority when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a child and the claims of adults. Those who believe that children need and have a right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents, oppose same sex marriage because...it would mean that marriage could not continue to institutionalize and symbolize the inherently procreative capacity between the partners; that is, it could not be primarily child centred. In short...accepting same sex marriage...means abolishing the norm--the accepted value--that children...have a prima facie right to know and be reared within their own biological family by their father and mother. Carefully restricted, governed, and justified exceptions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the norm would have a far-reaching impact.

That is probably the most central reason why we need to be concerned about society and the impact on society down the road. The birth rate has seriously declined as it is. Then, more importantly, when we have children born in other kinds of relationships and not cared for through a lifetime and supported through at least some two decades of growing up years, then it begins to have an effect on society in terms of the social cost, the justice cost, the cost on education and health and so on.

We still have that standing on the record in this country. It has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has not even yet ruled that traditional marriage is unconstitutional in any way. It has not come to that point. Dare I say that if the court was tested on that, it may well not either.

I note the fact that whether this law passes in its present form or not, there is a higher law. There is a natural law. We can say black is white and we can say white is black. We can twist it how we want in terms of federal, provincial, or municipal laws. At the ultimate end of the day there is a higher natural law that says traditional heterosexual marriage, the opposite gender union, is what constitutes marriage and will continue over time down the road.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague was not here in 1999 but had she been so she would have been witness to a debate on a motion brought forward by a member to reaffirm the House of Common's understanding that marriage constituted a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and that all necessary means be used to protect this definition in law.

The reason the motion came to the House was because of various court decisions that began to cause serious doubt about the intention of the courts to maintain respect for the common law understanding of marriage.

Parliament, never having actually used its constitutional responsibility under section 93 to define in statute the definition of marriage, has always simply respected the common law heterosexual understanding of marriage. Following the debate in 1999, Parliament decided overwhelmingly, by a vote of 240 to 50-some, to retain the traditional definition of marriage.

At the time, the current right hon. Prime Minister voted in favour of maintaining the traditional definition of marriage and using all legal means necessary to maintain it. The current Deputy Prime Minister, who at the time was the minister of justice, stood in this place and said that the government had no intention whatsoever of ever seeking to change the definition. She went out of her way to assure Canadians that even the suggestion that there might be such an agenda in the future was ridiculous and irresponsible. Accordingly, I believe that something like 90% of the Liberal members of Parliament at the time stood in their places and voted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.

I would remind my colleague that this was just a few months before an election. Those members were apparently unwilling to reveal their hidden agenda at the time, which was to support a change in the definition of marriage. We see the same thing before us here today.

The reason we are now sitting beyond the scheduled date of Parliament for the first time since 1988 and, I believe, the second time in post-war history, is that members opposite are terrified of facing the verdict of Canadians on their hidden agenda to change the meaning of marriage. They have recalled us to this place to try to jamb this bill through so they do not have to face their constituents on this matter in the summer or in the next election. They want to say that the matter has been dealt with and is behind us.

I put those members on notice that even if Bill C-38 should pass, this debate will continue in Canadian society because the majority of Canadians will not accept the state taking over a fundamental institution of civil society and changing its essential meaning without public consensus.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise as the first speaker at report stage of Bill C-38, a bill which I believe is not in the best interests of Canada, Canadian citizens or Canadian families. That is why I was pleased to furnish certain amendments to change aspects of this bill to which many Canadians object.

As we know, what this bill seeks to do is to change the meaning of marriage. I think it is important at the outset of any intervention on this bill that we remind ourselves of the unprecedented nature of this bill in the historical and legal context.

Through all recorded human history, in every civilization, in every culture, in every religious tradition, in every secular tradition, in every legal and political tradition, marriage has been understood universally and without exception to mean a committed lifetime sanctified relationship between a man and a woman. There have been cultures that have accepted polygamist relationships--thankfully not in Canada today, at least not legally--but the sociological and anthropological evidence which has been presented before Parliament, and indeed which had been presented by the government to the courts when this matter was being litigated is unanimous, that marriage has always been understood by its nature and its essence to constitute a heterosexual union.

It is equally important at the outset to state yet once more for the record that the ontological meaning of marriage as a heterosexual union, which is by its nature therefore open to the transmission of life and culture, does in no way constitute unjust discrimination against those who seek recognition for unions in non-traditional relationships.

Indeed in Canada today, in every province, there are social benefits provided to people who live in non-marital unions, people of the same gender, people of opposite genders who do not live in a marital relationship. There is no legal prohibition. There is no legal sanction. There is no cultural opprobrium attached to that kind of relationship. There is no denial of benefits attached to those non-traditional relationships.

What this bill seeks to do, unique in all of human history, is to change the meaning of marriage, not to just change its definition, but to change its essential meaning. The motions which stand in the House in my name today are predicated on this belief. I submit that this Parliament does not have the power to change the meaning of essential social institutions which predate this Parliament itself. Marriage predates the Canadian state. It predates the modern state itself. It is a natural institution.

I submit that it is a dangerous moment from a libertarian point of view when the state, through a bill such as this, seeks to intervene into an institution which belongs to civil society, not to the sphere of the state, to change the meaning of something which is natural and ontological, which is not a toy, a plastic entity that the state can play with and change its meaning as it pleases.

I think this represents a fundamental misunderstanding about the appropriate limits of power of the modern state. I would further submit that this is widely understood by Canadians. There is really no contest that the consensus among public opinion polling reflects that some two-thirds of Canadians are opposed to changing the meaning of marriage in law.

A majority of Canadians oppose unjust discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and rightfully so. A majority of Canadians support the provision of benefits on grounds such as domestic partnership relationships, which are grounded on unions of economic dependency rather than relationships of a mere conjugal nature, and yet still two-thirds of Canadians, from every culture that exists in this country, from every corner of the globe who have come to this country to build a future for themselves and their families, recognize that marriage is, as the Supreme Court said the last time it spoke to this issue in the Egan case in 1995, “by nature a heterosexual institution”.

It recognized what the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized, which is the right for a man and a woman to marry. Two-thirds of Canadians recognize what the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes, that there is a right for “a man and a woman to marry”. These two-thirds of Canadians recognize what the Organization of American States covenant on human rights recognizes, which is that men and women have a right to marry.

These two-thirds of Canadians, who we represent here today, believe what the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled, which is that it is in no way a violation of human or civil rights to recognize that marriage constitutes a union between a man and a woman.

These two-thirds of Canadians recognize what the Supreme Court of Canada said on this matter when it last ruled in 1995 on the constitutionality of the definition of heterosexual marriage, when Judge LaForme said that marriage was “by its nature a union between a man and a woman”.

I submit that these two-thirds of Canadians are in the broad mainstream of public and political opinion of historical precedent and legal practice in this and in every other country of the world, which is why I submit that we should stop and pause before rushing in to adopt the bill, overriding the consensus of history and the consensus of the Canadian people, which represent very important values that we ought not to undermine without very serious forethought.

I therefore put these motions forward. The first seeks to delete clause 1 of the bill. As I have said, there is no foundation in law, practice, tradition or history for a distinction between civil as opposed to any other kind of marriage, including religious marriage. I further believe that the title of the bill could mislead and confuse Canadians. The bill attempts to redefine the definition of marriage for all purposes to the extent that could be done by the Parliament of Canada. Because I believe Parliament is attempting to redefine in a fundamental way the capacity of persons who have had no such capacity in the past to marry, I therefore submit that the act is simply misnamed.

With respect to my second motion now before the House, it would delete clause 2 which provides that marriage for civil purposes be redefined. This again is a misnomer. In any case, defining marriage as simply the union of any two persons was not dictated by any decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. As I have reminded the House, the last time the courts spoke to this matter it reaffirmed the heterosexual nature of marriage. I submit this because Parliament is not compelled as a matter of law and would be going against the opinions and views of a clear majority of Canadians by so redefining the institution of marriage.

With respect to clause 8 in the name of my colleague from Saskatoon--Wanuskewin, it would amend the bill be deleting clause 7, which would delete the Merchant Navy Veteran and Civilian War-related Benefits Act. This section of the act deals with the allocation of pensions. Bill C-38 does not replace this section of the act with a new clause. The committee heard no discussion about the impact of deleting this clause on the allocation of these pensions. It therefore begs the question of how the government is planning to protect survivors who currently depend on these pensions.

Finally, with respect to Motion No. 10 in the name of my colleague from Saskatoon--Wanuskewin, it seeks to delete clause 15 which relates to the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and the heading before it. These sections confirm the traditional definition of marriage as it then was in 2000. This is like rewriting history. It is one thing to let legislators make changes but it is another to rewrite history.

What we seek to do by deleting Motion No. 10 is restore the clearly stated intent of Parliament in 2000, including the entire cabinet and some 90% of the Liberal government at the time who voted into law the preamble to the Modernization of Benefits Act to recognize the essential heterosexual nature of marriage. I ask the government simply to be consistent and not change, without having an electoral mandate, its position on the fundamental question of what marriage means.

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June 27th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
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Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberalfor Mr. Tom Wappel

moved:

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

moved:

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 15.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / noon
See context

The Speaker

There are 11 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-38.

Before I address the issues relating to the selection and grouping of these motions for debate, I would like to mention that I have received several submissions pertaining to the admissibility of motions submitted for report stage. These motions of course are not printed on the notice paper and are returned in confidence to the author with reasons why they are procedurally inadmissible. I must state that this has been the normal practice of the House since 1994 when the Standing Orders were amended to provide that only those motions which are considered admissible by the Speaker are to be printed on the notice paper.

It is extraordinary for the Speaker to address admissibility issues in the House. Standing Order 76.1(2) states: “If the Speaker decides that an amendment is out of order, it shall be returned to the Member without having appeared on the Notice Paper.”

In this instance, the Chair will take certain liberties and explain the three basic reasons why certain report stage motions for Bill C-38 are inadmissible and have been returned to their sponsors.

First, a preamble to a bill can only be amended if it is made necessary due to an amendment to a clause of a bill, or for reasons of clarification. That is why, for example, preambles are considered at the end of clause by clause examination of the bill by the committee.

Second, an amendment to a bill cannot modify a statute or a section of a statute which is not contained in the bill. This is commonly known as the parent act rule. Its primary purpose is to keep amendments focused to the precise provision of the act which is being modified by the bill.

Third, amendments to the clauses of a bill after second reading must respect the scope of the bill, as “Amending Bills at Committee and Report Stages” states on page 5, “The scope of a bill means the schemes or ways by which the principles of the bill are achieved”. Thus, all amendments must fit within the four corners of the bill to be admissible. They cannot import matters which are not addressed in the bill. They can only refine what is already there.

Regrettably, many report stage motions address matters which are considered beyond the scope of the bill and hence are inadmissible. Many of these procedural issues also arose in committee and were ruled upon by the chair of the legislative committee, the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House.

The Chair understands the concerns of members but assures them that the amendments judged to be inadmissible were given close attention and that decisions were exercised based on well-established rules and precedents.

Now, I will proceed with my ruling on the selection and grouping of motions for report stage of Bill C-38.

Motion No. 6 will not be selected by the Chair as it was defeated in committee. Motions Nos. 7, 9 and 11 will not be selected by the Chair as they could have been presented in committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1 will include Motions Nos. 1 to 3, 8 and 10. Group No. 2 will include Motions Nos. 4 and 5.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the Table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 3, 8 and 10 in Group No. 1 to the House.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

June 23rd, 2005 / 10:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member had connected it to Bill C-48 already. Liberals do not want to hear about this, but they are going to hear about this.

These 30 Liberal MPs will not, because they do not have the courage, vote against Bill C-48 and defeat the government, so we can go to an election and through an election decide the outcome of the marriage bill. Because they do not have the courage, Bill C-38 will certainly pass. Many members of the government will not even have a free vote on the issue. There are 30 MPs who will not take a stand for their constituents. They will be responsible for same sex marriage coming into place in this country in spite of them saying exa