Debates of June 1st, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #209 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Department Of Health Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Cultural Exchanges
- Environment Week
- Visit Of Thomas Mitsios
- The Environment
- National Access Awareness Week
- Chile's Inclusion In Nafta
- Liberal Red Book
- Regional Development
- Gun Control
- Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader
- Red Cross
- Upper Nicola Indian Band
- Sergeant Thomas Joachim Hoppe
- Parti Quebecois
- Gross Domestic Product
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Government Appointments
- Air Navigation
- Student Exchanges
- Air-India Disaster
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Canadian Wheat Board
- The Environment
- Research And Development Contracts
- Employment Equity
- Gasoline Prices
- Contraventions Act
- Presence In Gallery
- Business Of The House
- Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Nic Leblanc Longueuil, QC
Mr. Speaker, this motion condemns the federal government for wanting to centralize powers through legislation, and more specifically, through Bills C-46, C-91, C-88 and C-76. Little by little, the government, acting as it were behind the scenes, has made the Canadian federation, and especially the government of that federation, the master of this Canadian destiny, while ignoring the people of Quebec who want to develop their potential according to their own priorities, their own culture, their own way of doing things. It is always the same old story.
The process is a very gradual and very discreet one, and if we look at the situation very carefully, we realize that gradually, the provinces, if the process is allowed to continue, would become regions that would merely act on decisions handed down by Ottawa, something Quebec will never except, since for years we have refused to become a part of this way of running Canada.
The federal government, and a Liberal one to boot, says it wants a flexible and open federation, but at the same time it decides to centralize and give itself certain powers without further consultation. As my colleague said, there have been no federal-provincial meetings since this Liberal government was elected. Why? Because it is independent. It thinks it is the only government in Canada that should determine the future of this country. It does not consult the provinces, and it goes ahead, slowly but surely, little by little, very discreetly. It is very smart about the way it is doing this, but we in the Bloc Quebecois, who came to Ottawa to defend the interests of Quebec and promote the sovereignty of Quebec because we felt we had to do this, we cannot let this go on.
I would remind you that this desire to centralize powers in Ottawa is not new. Sixty years ago, Mr. Duplessis was elected in Quebec in 1936 on a platform of: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin". I remember by father and grandfather voted for Mr. Duplessis, who was Quebec's premier for many years and who got elected on the platform of: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin d'Ottawa". Quebecers' mistrust of the federal government is not new. In
order to grow, we need more independence. Mr. Duplessis got elected with the slogan: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin".
Jean Lesage was a Liberal, a senior public servant and a former member of Parliament in Ottawa. He ran for election in Quebec City in 1960 and was elected with the slogan "Maîtres chez nous". This is important. Quebecers voted for Mr. Lesage because he talked to them about being "Maîtres chez nous". He was a Liberal, a former member of Parliament in Ottawa, and he became the Premier of Quebec who got the quiet revolution in Quebec rolling. This is when Quebec really began to pick up speed in achieving success and bringing about change. It happened because Quebecers began to take pride in themselves and because the Liberal Premier of Quebec in 1960 said that we had to be "Maîtres chez nous". This is how he got elected.
Daniel Johnson, the father of the Union Nationale, got elected with the slogan "Égalité ou indépendance". So, here again, Quebecers elected a government in Quebec on the strength of a slogan like "Égalité ou indépendance". It is important, when the federal government wants to centralize things here in Ottawa and proves the point with the bills we mentioned earlier, to note that governments in Quebec have been elected almost since the start of the century on the strength of such slogans.
We are not here by chance, we in the Bloc Quebecois. We were sent here by Quebecers to defend this point again. Today, as in the past, while it has been in power, the Liberal Party continues to try to centralize, obviously a little at a time and somewhat deceitfully. They are good at it. People do not really realize it, but we are being had yet again.
In 1976, Mr. Lévesque got elected with "Souveraineté-association". We can see that things have evolved. Sixty years ago, Mr. Duplessis used to say: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin". Mr. Lesage: "Maître chez nous", Daniel Johnson Senior: "Égalité ou indépendance", and Mr. Lévesque, in 1976: "Souveraineté-association". While keeping a close eye on things, we realized that the federal government wanted to take over more and more and centralize more powers in Ottawa.
What happened? In the 1970s, Mr. Trudeau's Liberals realized that Quebec was really coming along with its governments which were really working for the people-Maîtres chez nous, Égalité ou indépendance, and so on and so forth-Quebecers were really starting to be proud and to grow. So the federal government said: "We cannot let this happen, Quebecers are going to be ahead of us". In order to stay ahead, the federal government decided to use its spending power. And it established all kinds of programs. It set health care standards. It injected money, taxpayers' money, of course, it is never the money of the federal government, it is the money of taxpayers. It started borrowing.
In 1972, the federal government borrowed so much money that it started accumulating a debt. From a zero deficit in 1972, the federal government had accumulated a $175 billion debt by 1984. In 1980, its accumulated debt had reached $80 billion, strictly to show its superiority over Quebec. Seeing that Quebec was developing, seeing Quebec with a sovereignist movement more sovereignist than Quebecers themselves, if I may say so, the federal government, not looking kindly on these developments, said: "We are going to show Quebecers that we are important. We are going to spend money and show them that they will not survive without us".
Quietly, they borrowed and borrowed. What has been the result? For the sole purpose of proving its superiority, the federal government borrowed and spent. At the same time, it created a completely artificial economy which contradicted the very model of the Liberal free entreprise system. It did not create a system, it created an artificial economy by injecting so much money into it. It was not free enterprise which caused the economy to overheat and go into a crisis, it was the government with its interventionist policy.
Remember that in the 1970s, the federal government caused inflation by trying to prove its superiority with its free spending. The annual inflation rate climbed to 10, 12 and even 15 per cent. The federal government continued its free spending until after the 1980 referendum. We had to wait until 1980. In that year, a referendum was held in Quebec, a referendum which was lost by Quebecers. But still they won by 43 to 45 per cent.
It was only after the referendum that the government began to say that it made no sense. It had been causing inflation for so long that it now had to stop it. And the only way to stop it-the governor of the Bank of Canada said it himself-was by raising interest rates. So, in 1981, 1982, interest rates soared to 21 per cent. The recession which ensued was so severe that many small businesses in Quebec as well as in Canada went bankrupt. The hon. member from Vaudreuil knows that, he just mentioned it. I know too, I was in business at that time. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that those were very hard times. A lot of businesses went belly up.
Many businesses were expanding, they had lines of credit and heavy mortgages. Quebecers went with the flow, they grew, contracted loans, etc. because Quebec was part of the modern economy. The recession which was a pure creation of the federal government which brutally raised interest rates up to 22 per cent over a very short period of time caused bankruptcies and economic and social chaos. The whole problem was caused by the federal government which wanted to prove that it was the big
boss, that it was the greatest and that it must stick its nose everywhere. It was terrible, simply shocking.
In 1984, the cumulative debt totalled $170 billion. That year, to show its superiority, the liberal government, with Mr. Lalonde as Minister of Finance, presented its last budget before being defeated that same year. Its deficit was estimated at $38 billion and its revenues at $70 billion. The government was borrowing $38 billion, which meant it was spending almost 150 per cent of its anticipated revenues. It collected $70 billion and borrowed $38 billion. That was the Lalonde budget. All that, I repeat, only to show that it was superior, to show Quebecers that it was the big boss, that it spent and controlled.
As you know, in the 18th century, the Emperor Napoleon spent 135 per cent of what he could collect in revenues to maintain his empire.
But in 1984, Lalonde and Trudeau were spending 165 per cent to maintain their superiority here in Ottawa. That is what happened. People wonder why we are deep in debt and why things are not working. Why? Because two nations want to grow and they are fighting to see who will be the strongest. We decided that the best way was to have two countries so that both nations could grow.
The same thing happened in 1984. I arrived here as a Conservative in 1984. We had three slogans: decentralization of powers, national reconciliation and spending cuts. Those are the three reasons why I joined the Conservatives and why we were elected in 1984. Some said that a decentralization of powers was needed, and I agreed with that. In any case, we had lost the referendum, so we decided to take the risk of starting over again if that were possible.
The Conservatives were well-intentioned. They said that they would decentralize powers. A national reconciliation was necessary. Everybody was fighting, so we had to clean up our act. A reduction in spending was obviously needed. We had an accumulated debt of $175 billion, which was way too much. That is what we said. The Conservative government did cut spending and did make extraordinary efforts toward a national reconciliation. But you know what happened to Meech.
The Meech Lake Accord failed because it provided for a reduction in the federal government's spending power. That is why it failed. It failed because Mr. Chretien, the current Prime Minister, did not want to see the spending power of the federal government reduced. He used the premiers of New Brunswick and of Newfoundland, Mr. McKenna and Mr. Wells, and also Mrs. Carstairs, who is now a senator, to bring about the failure of the Meech Lake Accord because it limited the spending power of the federal government.
That was the major problem. We were absolutely right in asking for that, but it was the reason the accord was rejected. The leader of the present government is the one who caused the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. He is the one most responsible for the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. Everyone knows it. It is not something we made up.
What were the consequences? The consequences were that the Tories spent even more to prove their superiority. Despite spending cuts, they spent approximately $30 billion, $32 billion annually in excess of what they collected, that is a yearly deficit of $30 billion, $32 billion dollars. They continued to artificially inflate the economy, to raise inflation. They created a kind of artificial economy.
The economic growth was between 3 and 3.9 per cent, but the real economic growth-if the government had not invested $30 billion, $32 billion dollars to prove its superiority-would probably have been 2 per cent. Real economic growth such as we are seeing in Europe and elsewhere. Real economic growth of 1.5 or 2 per cent per year. But no. The federal government borrowed abroad and now 40 per cent of the $600 billion we owe are foreign owned. They artificially inflated the economy, and we are now faced with this big problem.
What I want to say is that because of the federal government's desire to centralize, to prove that it is in control, the Canadian economy has been destroyed. Canada is bankrupt as a result. It has to stop. Even if, tomorrow morning or in the fall, Quebecers lost the referendum, the problem would be the same. Fifty per cent of the sovereignists in Quebec still would want to prove their superiority, to continue to develop according to their needs, to their priorities. The problem would be the same.
I am telling Quebecers through you, Mr. Speaker, that they must vote for sovereignty. They have to create a new country for the good of Canada and for the good of Quebec. We must strive to do so. There is no alternative, otherwise we will never get out of it. For the good of our children, for the good of our grand-children, for the good of Quebec and Canada, we should build a sound economic union. If we had some kind of union council, with delegates from the two countries, it would be fine. But we should each have the opportunity to develop according to our own priorities and according to our own culture.
I guarantee you that we would be better off not centralizing, as it is done right now, but becoming two separate sovereign nations linked by an economic union. There is some kind of agreement on the management of such an union.
Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC
Mr. Speaker, this is the second time the member for Longueuil refers to the debt. In his speech, he said that in the sixties our slogan was "Maîtres chez nous", in the seventies it was "Égalité ou indépendance"
and in the eighties it became "Souveraineté-Association". I prefer to talk about the "Beau risque" of the seventies. But now, the change of direction of March 1995 has turned into no direction at all.
Why do I say that? Because the Bloc Quebecois with its separation option does not know what to offer Quebecers. The member for Longueuil speaks about the debt as if it belonged exclusively to the federal government. Quebecers also participated in that debt. If Quebec becomes independent, the quality of life of its citizens will drop from the 9th position, where it stands right now, to the 19th. The member also said that the political system is not working, that it does not meet the expectations or requirements of Quebec and that we created an artificial economy in Canada.
My question for the member is this: If he does not approve of Canada's political system, if our economy does not meet his expectations, why is it that in their plan, the Bloc members say they want sovereignty, but they also want to maintain the same economic union and the same political system? Is there not a contradiction there? I am asking the member because he said himself that after the referendum, if the answer is no, there will still be 54 members promoting independence for Quebec.
I want to ask the member if that means that all Bloc Quebecois members will resign if their option is rejected during the fall referendum, as he claims?
Nic Leblanc Longueuil, QC
Mr. Speaker, I find it rather strange that when we say that we want an economic association with the rest of Canada, the Liberal Party, especially the Quebec members and the Prime Minister, who is also from Quebec, say: "We do not want any association with the rest of Canada". And yet, they too are Quebecers.
You see, this economic association is unavoidable, no matter what. We do a lot of trade with Ontario and western Canada. As a matter of fact, the West sells more in Quebec that we sell there. There is a deficit. Ontario buys slightly over one billion more from Quebec than we purchase from Ontario. If we were to become sovereign, without an economic association, Ontario would have a trade deficit with Quebec.
In order not to disturb this economy which is working and will go on, in any case, and which business people and economists will want to keep going, we say that we need some kind of economic association. No matter the form it takes, we will need some kind of economic association to manage and continue to manage our trade.
Moreover, we must say that, at the present time, it is harder to trade among provinces that it is with the United States through the FTA. I find this terrible. It seems to me that it should be easy for Canada and Quebec to have an economic association at least as open as the one we have with the United States.
In Quebec, we tend to trade north-south, because the market there is very large, as in New York City and Boston. It is said that there are close to 100 million consumers within a range of 1,000 kilometres from Montreal. This explains why we tend to trade with the South. But this does not mean that we do not want to maintain our economic links with the rest of Canada. To achieve this, we say that we need an economic association. It could be managed by some kind of a council which could sit, perhaps here in Ottawa, with delegates from the government in Quebec City, MPs delegated by the government in Ottawa, who could sit once in a while to manage this united council. This is not complicated, this is simple. Life goes on.
Any way, one cannot claim that governments can do everything. It is the economy which fosters good trade relations.
I hear the Liberals laugh over there, and I think they are being rather foolish. I cannot understand why they are laughing. It bothers me to hear them laugh, I do not like it. I heard the Prime Minister, himself a Quebecer, say that he does not want a union with the rest of Canada, that he has no need for it. I do not know what he is going to do. He is going to die alone. I do not know; maybe he will have to move to Toronto, because he lives in Quebec. I think he lives in Quebec, although I am not sure. I rather think that he has been living in Ontario for 30 years. I am not sure about that. When I listen to him, I wonder if the language, the words he uses are not words that Quebecers were using 30 years ago. The language of Quebecers has evolved, but the Prime Minister talks as people used to 30 years ago. I think that he has been living in Ontario for 30 years and that he seldom goes back to Quebec. The language there has evolved.
So, I find it a little strange to hear Quebec Liberals-because that applies only to Quebec Liberals-say that they do not want an economic association with the rest of Canada. I am really disappointed. I do not understand.
In this regard, in the interests of all Quebecers, it is high time for us to be sovereign so that we can grow and also have an economic association with the rest of Canada that will come naturally, I am sure. Some may say that they do not want it, but that is not true; it will come naturally. Business people, professionals, economists, all those who are in business will want it to be maintained.
Planes full of business people link Montreal and Toronto every day. I used to be in business and I used to go regularly to Toronto to buy products. I was president of a wholesale company and I used to buy a lot of products in Toronto. I went there
regularly. Ontarians will surely want Quebecers to continue to buy products in Toronto. I am sure of it.
In Ontario, over 100,000 jobs are dependent on sales in Quebec. I doubt that Ontarians will refuse to sell to Quebec any more if 100,000 jobs are at stake. I doubt that westerners will refuse to sell their beef to Quebec when we buy $800 or $900 million of it each year.
Therefore, those who claim that there will be no economic union with Quebec are talking nonsense. Anyone who is the least realistic will understand that this is a bare fact, that we are not inventing anything and that it will evolve quite naturally.
What we are saying is that we are determined enough to do it. If Liberals, and especially those from Quebec, maintain that they do not want that, it just baffles me.
John Manley Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to engage in this debate, particularly after having listened to that rather enlightening rendition of creative imagination on the part of the Bloc Quebecois members. I am happy to know that Jules Verne is alive and well and writing science fiction when we hear their description of how everything can change while everything remains the same. It does challenge the imagination.
I want to speak for a few moments about the allegations contained in the motion on the floor today with respect to Bill C-88. That is the bill to implement the internal trade agreement which was negotiated and signed among the federal government and the provinces about a year ago today. I must say that the allegations contained in that motion represent an inability or perhaps an unwillingness on the part of the Bloc Quebecois to understand the plain meaning of the text in the bill.
As was said in the House before, the federal government would seldom intervene as plaintiff in a dispute that arises within the context of the Agreement on Internal Trade. If a dispute is settled in the federal government's favour and the province concerned refuses to accept the conclusions of an impartial panel, the federal government could then suspend benefits or impose retaliatory measures of equivalent effect.
Clearly, such measures would be imposed in the same sector as the initial violation or in another sector regulated by the agreement. Retaliatory measures would not affect transfer payments or social programs since these do not come under the purview of this agreement.
Bill C-88 does not make the federal government the policeman of the internal trade agreement as the official opposition mistakenly insists. Anyone who takes the time to read the bill, even the headnote to clause 9 of Bill C-88 or to read article 1710 of the agreement on internal trade can only verify the accuracy of what I have just outlined. Bill C-88 deals only with what the federal government must do to live up to its obligations under the internal trade agreement and nothing else.
As I said in the House on May 4, the agreement on internal trade is a consensual agreement. All the parties who agreed to it must act within their own jurisdiction to implement it and comply with its obligations.
So far, only the federal government and the Government of Alberta have tabled legislation to implement the agreement and comply with their respective obligations in this regard. It is probable that most of the other parties to the agreement will decide to do likewise, sooner or later.
I am sure that all Canadians are anxious to see what governments that claim to support domestic free trade will actually do to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade and eliminate the barriers they themselves created over the years.
Bill C-88 is an historic milestone. It is an opportunity for the federal government to show leadership and to do so with the governments of the other parties to the agreement, as they implement the first comprehensive domestic free trade agreement since the British North America Act, 1867.
Since 1867 the Canadian economy has grown and evolved in ways never imagined by the Fathers of Confederation. The federal government still has the constitutional responsibility for trade and commerce. Over time, provinces have assumed prominent roles as influencers of economic growth and in the regulation of trade and commerce at their level.
As a result, trading arrangements and regulations have developed in an ad hoc way often in response to a particular regional need. Many of these measures create barriers to trade as they impact on the free flow of goods, services, people and capital within Canada.
Such barriers can lead to the inefficient use of resources and limit the ability of industry to take advantage of economies of scale and to maintain competitive market positions. The result is to reduce the competitiveness of Canadian business and adversely affect the Canadian economy.
Also, in Canada we have a patchwork of regulations, standards and other barriers to interprovincial trade that have grown around us and have become an unacceptable feature of our domestic market. There has been growing concern and evidence these barriers to trade are seriously affecting our ability to remain competitive in the international trading environment.
It is urgent that we establish a new trading regime in Canada, one based on more open interprovincial trade, one that would not impede the movement of people and investment within the country and one that would allow for co-operative approaches to the resolution of domestic trade disputes. Bill C-88 is a key element in bringing to fruition the process of intergovernmental negotiation and co-operation that will produce that new regime.
This bill concludes a lengthy process to which many people have contributed and which has involved analyzing a great many issues and points of view. Ministers and officials of the federal, provincial and territorial governments took an active part in this process, as well as representatives of the private sector.
In fact, representatives of the private sector and especially members of the business community have put constant pressure on all levels of government to find ways to deal with interprovincial trade barriers and the resulting economic cost for Canada.
The Canadian Manufacturers Association, for instance, estimates that trade barriers on domestic markets cost the Canadian economy about $7 billion annually in terms of lost jobs and income.
The agreement on internal free trade signed last year by the Prime Minister and other first ministers is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished within a co-operative framework in Canada. It is also important to note that political parties of all stripes and all regional perspectives have been part of this process.
All parties that took part in the negotiations share the same view and recognize the benefits of a more open market for Canada.
As a result of the work done by the committee of ministers on internal trade and by the chief negotiators, we achieved a comprehensive agreement. It provides for a rules based system for trade within Canada, a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve issues on internal trade matters, a standstill on new barriers, commitments to future negotiations to broaden and deepen the agreement, a code of conduct to prevent destructive competition for investment, increased labour mobility and a commitment to reconcile standards related measures. These are significant achievements.
Dispute settlement is a key component of this agreement as it is of any trade agreement. This agreement represents a unique response to circumstances that are uniquely Canadian. The agreement is based on rules which, in turn, are based on certain concepts and agreements that are well established in international trade but adapted to the Canadian context.
Well known examples include the GATT agreement, the European Union and NAFTA. There have been suggestions that we in Canada should just use one or other of these models in the Canadian situation. However, these suggestions overlook the important issue of the sovereignty of the parties to an agreement as well as the degree of political control the parties themselves are willing to give up to the compliance mechanism which is in place in the accord.
The agreement on internal trade sets out the framework and basic underpinnings for a dispute resolution mechanism approach that is unique to the Canadian context and provides for open access to the settlement process. This approach commits all parties to the use of conciliation to address problems arising from the provisions of the agreement, including its principles, its rules and its individual sectoral agreements.
The mandate of the committee on internal trade is to "assist in the resolution of disputes arising out of interpretations and applications of the agreement". The working philosophy of the committee and of the agreement is to use consultation and conciliation in dispute resolution.
Disputing parties will be encouraged to make every attempt through co-operation, consultation and other forms of dispute resolution to arrive at a solution. If consultation fails, governments or governments on behalf of individual persons or persons directly can ask to have matters raised with a panel. The panel will consider the facts and make recommendations for changing policies or behaviour, but it will not assess damages. The underlying objective of the process is to seek to change inconsistent behaviour and policies and not apply penalties or award damages.
Under the agreement, retaliation is only possible at the end of the dispute settlement process. Only in cases where the federal government was a complainant in a dispute and only where a province has refused for a year to change a measure found by an impartial panel to have violated the agreement could the federal government consider taking retaliatory action.
Such action would first have to be discussed with the committee on internal trade. Even then it could only be such as to have the equivalent economic effect to the measure that had originally violated the agreement and it would have to be taken in a sector specifically covered by the agreement. This is what the Bloc Quebecois is complaining about as an undue intrusion of the federal government into provincial affairs. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you have ever heard anything so ridiculous.
In addition to dispute resolution procedures, the bill also presents amendments to a number of other federal acts which need to be changed in order that we meet our obligations to the provinces and territories to make the changes to federal legislation and regulations necessary to implement the agreement which we signed last year. All parties to the agreement were informed on April 12 in Calgary that the federal government would be introducing these amendments in the near future.
Our work to date has emphasized the value of the co-operative approach to solving trade problems internally in Canada. Our work in the future will do so as well. That is the very reason the agreement on internal trade has been criticized by members of the Reform Party for not going far enough fast enough. Other members opposite would have had the government act unilaterally. They have suggested under sections 91(a) and 121 of the Constitution to impose free internal trade on the provinces. That is the very thing the other opposition party accuses us of having done. Both criticisms are purely and simply ill founded and wrong headed.
The government tried to resolve this country's problems in collaboration with the provincial governements. The process leading up to the Free Trade Agreement bears witness to this. It has been our approach in the past, it is our approach now and it is the only approach that any responsible Canadian government can take in the future. It is the only way to govern and that is what real power is.
Cases where the federal government is the grievor in a disagreement under the Free Trade Agreement will be few. If a dispute were settled in favour of the federal government and if the province in question were to refuse to respect the conclusions of the impartial panel, the federal government would have the right to withdraw equivalent benefits.
Such retaliatory measures should be taken in the same sector as the initial violation or in another sector covered by the accord.
Retaliation could not involve transfer payments or social programs because these things are not covered by the agreement. Bill C-88 does not make the federal government a policeman of the internal trade agreement as the official opposition has claimed.
Bill C-88 only covers the federal government's obligations under the interprovincial trade accord, nothing more. The interprovincial trade accord is a consensual accord. All parties to this accord are responsible for applying it in their own jurisdictions and for meeting its requirements.
What we have heard over this day of debate is a series of allegations founded on misapprehension, perhaps wilful misunderstanding of the contents of bills before the House.
The agreement on internal trade we want to see broadened, deepened and strengthened. There is a lot more work to do. I call on the official opposition, since the Government of Quebec has claimed to be a free trader, not to put up roadblocks to a real free internal trading market within Canada but to begin to support it with actions instead of protestations.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
It being 5.30 p.m., it is my duty to inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order 81, proceedings on this motion have expired.
The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.
The House resumed from April 26 consideration of the motion.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
June 1st, 1995 / 5:25 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
At the time of adjournment on Wednesday, April 26, 1995 the hon. member for Elk Island had seven minutes remaining for debate.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have had a speech interrupted by a period of some two to three months. It is difficult to keep one's train of thought when that happens. However, I shall review the beginning of my speech and then carry on.
We are debating the motion put forward by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which has to do with the government taking the necessary measures to recognize same sex spouses. In my intervention last April 26, before I was interrupted, I was stating that as legislators, we have a responsibility, an obligation, a high calling to do what is right for our country and its citizens. Very often debates such as this are limited because we allow our emotions to enter into them to such an extent that we sometimes fail to ask the real questions. We need to ask some very serious questions about this issue. Where are
we going as a society? How are we going to determine what is best in this regard?
I would like to submit several ideas for the criteria we could use in determining what is best. One which is very important, and which I alluded to in my last intervention, is that we need to listen to Canadians. That is so important. As members of Parliament we are sent here to represent our constituents according to what they want us to do.
We are all aware that Canadians have been expressing their views on this issue. There is a continual stream of petitions on the subject. Why do people do these things? Why do they get into the mode of asking questions of people? "Here is an issue. Do you agree with it? If you agree will you sign the petition?" They think a decision is about to be made which is of considerable importance to them. They want to express their opinions and have them represented in the House. Consequently, we have had many petitions in which the members of Parliament, the House of Commons assembled, have been petitioned to not change any laws that would indicate approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality.
That may on the surface appear to be somewhat intolerant, but the question needs to be asked: Are we experiencing the tyranny of the majority? Does the majority feel this way? According to statistics and various surveys that have been taken, by far the majority of Canadians believes that heterosexual couples are the ideal models for marriage and for family.
We would err if we were to ignore the advice from Canadians when they say: "Hold it here, legislators. There is a danger. You are embarking on dangerous ground. Stop, do not do this".
There have been other very notable instances where the wishes of Canadians have not been taken into account. I suppose the best example is the infamous GST. If I am not mistaken, there were more petitions presented on the GST than on any issue when it was being debated. However, the legislators of the day chose to ignore that advice and we now have on the books and in practice the most hated tax that Canada has ever had. It is so hated that we all know what happened to the government that brought it in.
It is incredible that the present government got elected on, among other things, a promise to eliminate the GST. That is how strongly Canadians felt about it. Consequently the GST is one of the best examples of government ignoring the advice of Canadians. There are some consequences to us in this place if we ignore advice and put through legislation anyway.
That would be one of the arguments I would put in favour of my view and in my opposition to this motion. We need to learn to increasingly trust and express the views of the Canadian people when they express themselves in this way.
Something else we ought to take into account is that this is not the tyranny of the majority. By saying we do not want to recognize same sex couples, we are not telling these people that it is justifiable to persecute them and to do other things that are not right to any member of our society. I would really emphasize that.
I grieve for anyone who is attacked, beaten up or assaulted. It does not matter to me whether that person is male or female, a native Canadian or an immigrant Canadian, or a Canadian who has been here for two or three generations. It also does not matter to me whether that person is a homosexual or a heterosexual. If that person is assaulted it is wrong. No Canadian should be deprived of the protection of law for such fundamental things as freedom of security and freedom of person. When we speak in opposition to this motion it is not because we are in any way condoning that type of activity.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is my definite opinion and certainly the opinion of many who have communicated to me on this topic, that we need to promote, to the greatest extent possible, what we might label as the traditional family: the mother and father, the procreative couple, the family with children. Our taxation laws and laws on benefits should promote and encourage that kind of loving family relationship.
At the same time we say to these people who wish to engage in same sex relationships that there is presently nothing in the law preventing same sex relationships. Many of us disagree with it. It would be ill-advised of us as a Parliament and as a country to condone it, to approve it, to say that it is okay by voting in favour of a motion such as the one that we have before us.
With great respect for the member who brought forward this motion, I will not be able to support it.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Roseanne Skoke Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, from the outset I wish to advise the House that I do not support this motion.
This motion is specifically asking Parliament to encroach on a jurisdiction that is not within the domain of Parliament. This motion is asking Parliament to take the necessary measures for the legal recognition of same sex spouses.
In effect, Parliament is being asked to provide special legal status to homosexuals, thereby allowing them to redefine the family, to redefine marriage, to enter into the realm of sanctity of marriage, to allow homosexuals to adopt children, to enter into schools, education and infiltrate the curriculum within our school system and to impose an alternative lifestyle on our youth. This is unacceptable.
All these demands are encroaching on and undermining the inherent and inviolable rights of families. Families have existed before the church. Families have existed before the state. Parliament has absolutely no legal or constitutional authority to redefine family, or to enter into the realm of the sanctity of marriage.
It is important for the House to understand why this line of thinking is present here today and why such a motion would even be entertained on the floor of the House.
The first theme that we have to come to understand is that of freedom. At the collective level, people are saying that they want freedom to govern themselves, develop their own economies, to enhance their overall quality of life, and the freedom of choice.
Closely tied to this theme of freedom is our second theme, that is, the individual. At the personal level, people are saying that they want to be free to express themselves, free to work, free to worship, free to travel, free to be what they aspire to be and once again, individual freedom of choice.
Closely tied to our themes of freedom and individualism in our country is our third emphasis and that is pluralism. As a policy, pluralism contributes to collective and personal freedom by legitimizing diversity. It appears on the surface to resolve the issue of how different individuals who want to be free can live in community and harmony.
Our three themes of freedom, individualism and pluralism are now joined with our fourth theme in our country, relativism. The free expression of the individual and groups is made possible only by suspending value judgments about how people live or what choices people have made.
Truth has been replaced by relativism, which is the legitimization of diverse choice. Under the guise of equality and fairness, pluralism coupled with relativism has come to pervade Canadian minds and Canadian institutions.
Canadians have become conditioned to be tolerant, to respect, to appreciate diversity. The insistence that individuals must be free to think and free to behave without interference according to their conscience has been reinforced in our pluralistic secular society today.
The introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the promotion of multiculturalism has once again reaffirmed Canada's goal of harmonious co-existence whereby the ideas, lifestyles and free thinking of all individuals must be accepted and respected to ensure equality and fairness.
To accept and to endorse the theory of pluralism coupled with relativism is to accept that truth is nothing more than personal opinion. Relativism in our pluralistic society has stripped us as Canadians of our ethical and moral guidelines. Justice, law and morality are inseparable. In Canada we cannot have laws unless our laws are just and moral.
The preamble to our Canadian Constitution set forth in the Constitution Act recognizes the supremacy of God in the rule of law. The recognition of the supremacy of God entrenches into the Constitution natural law, and therefore the laws of our country must not contravene natural law, for to do so the laws would be ultra vires or unconstitutional.
I refer to recent Supreme Court of Canada decision Nesbit and Egan. This decision was rendered on May 25, 1995 and the decision makers refer to the relevancy and the functional values underlining the law and that the Canadian charter of rights is not enacted in a vacuum but must be placed in its proper linguistic, philosophic and historical context.
Also Chief Justice Lamer and the majority of the Supreme Court judiciary stated quite eloquently: "Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of longstanding philosophical and religious traditions, but its ultimate raison d'étre 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".
The rights of family are being seriously undermined and eroded in Canada today. The conventional terms of debate in matters of political, economic and legal issues tend to focus on individual rights and the rights of state, not the rights of the family. This is unfortunate and must change, for the family is the most important reality in our lives. To redefine the family to include homosexual and lesbian relationships is immoral and unjust and a violation of the rights of the family which are well founded in both our Canadian and natural law.
The family unit is the basic institution of life and the solid foundation in which our forefathers have built this great nation. The protection of families, family life and family values must be a priority with the government. Families have inherent and inviolable rights. Families have existed before the church, families have existed before the state. The rights of family must be preserved, safeguarded and protected by Parliament.
To recognize same sex marriages would give credence to a faction in our society undermining and destroying our values, principles and morality. Such a special recognition of same sex marriage by Parliament is an overt acceptance and condonation of homosexuality being imposed on Canadians. It has the effect
of legislating a morality that is not supported by our Canadian principles, morals and values.
Canadians do not have to accept homosexuality as being natural and moral. Homosexuality is not natural. It is immoral and it is undermining the inherent rights and values of Canadian families and it must not and should not be condoned.
To endorse same sex marriages or to include the words sexual orientation in any federal legislation would allow homosexuals to obtain special legal status. It would allow them to redefine the family, to redefine marriage and enter into the realm of the sanctity of marriage, to adopt children, to enter into our schools and infiltrate the curriculum of our schools and to impose an alternative lifestyle on our youth. All these demands are encroaching on and undermining the inherent and inviolable rights of family.
Families have existed before the church and families have existed before the state. Parliament has absolutely no legal or constitutional authority to redefine family or to enter into the realm of sanctity of marriage. For Parliament to do so would encroach on the rights and responsibilities of family. It would also encroach on the rights of the church. I use the word church all inclusively.
Parliament must be reminded that separation of church and state has been respected for centuries. The state must not interfere in matters of church. However, the church has the right and responsibility to enter into and be concerned with matters of state. The power of church, and I use the word all inclusively, must not be underestimated. Over the last 25 years Parliament has gradually encroached on the rights of the church, the rights of family and the rights of life.
Over the last 25 years morality, an essential element in justice and legislation, has been gradually removed from our laws. Such examples are decriminalization of homosexuality, no fault divorce, facilitating and funding abortion and our Young Offenders Act. Now this motion before the House is requesting special legal status for homosexuals to allow them to redefine family, to undermine and erode and destroy the rights of family and to destroy the sanctity of marriage.
It is important for Parliament to be reminded that family is the basic institution of life. Life begins from the moment of conception and continues until natural death. In the words of the Supreme Court of Canada in Egan and Nesbit, marriage is heterosexual by nature.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the members of this House that I fully support the motion by my colleague for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. As we know, this motion concerns legal recognition of same sex partners. In my opinion, we must remember, for the purposes of this debate, the limit my colleague wanted to set in his motion. We are not talking here about the right of same sex couples to marry or adopt. Debate on this matter, also a current issue, will take place later.
Today, we are trying to decide whether the Government of Canada should legally recognize couples of the same sex. I say it should. My support for the motion is based on certain observations, and I would like to present to you the conclusions I have drawn from them.
Individually, the members of a same sex couple enjoy the same rights as everyone else. This first point may seem rather obvious. However, I still think it should be made, because there is sometimes a tendency in some debates to assume that certain people are more equal than others. I am thinking here primarily of white heterosexual males.
Individuals who are homosexual are entitled to the same individual rights as everyone else and are also entitled to the same protection of these rights. Their constitutional rights, that is their basic freedoms, their democratic rights, their mobility rights, their legal rights, and their right to equality are guaranteed by the law and monitored by the courts. No government can set aside these rights with impunity. On the contrary, government has the obligation to ensure that everyone's rights are respected.
My second observation: homosexual couples are discriminated against.
Although homosexual individuals enjoy the same rights, individually and under the law, as their heterosexual neighbours, they become the subject of discrimination when in a relationship.
In fact, treatment accorded homosexual couples is completely opposite that given heterosexual couples. The courts have recognized this discrimination on many occasions, in cases involving the entitlement of members of homosexual couples to the benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual colleagues.
In Canada, several judges and arbitrators have had to analyze laws and collective agreements that did not recognize same sex spouses, thus denying these people the spousal rights and benefits provided under these statutory instruments. In several cases, after noting the existence of discrimination and its impact, the courts ordered employers to provide the same social benefits to both homosexual and heterosexual spouses.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada finally recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian charter. However, on the issue of recognizing same sex spouses, the Supreme Court ruling clearly sends the ball back into Parliament's court. We can expect the conse-
quences of this decision to help lessen discrimination against homosexual and lesbian partners.
A third finding is that the cost of eliminating discriminatory policies will be minimal.
The legal recognition of same sex spouses would not cost a fortune, contrary to what some people may have feared. Although there are no detailed actuarial studies on the additional cost of extending social benefits to same sex spouses, we can look at the experience of employers who have recognized such couples.
Several private companies, organizations, and governments asked actuarial firms to assess the cost of proposed measures intended for same sex spouses. The experts surveyed concluded that the additional costs would be minimal, in the order of 0.5 to 1.5 per cent depending on the various social benefits being considered. The argument that costs would be prohibitive is therefore not valid.
Fourth and last, the public would support the recognition of same sex spouses.
Finally, in discussing new social policy-and that is what we are dealing with today-we must assess how acceptable this new policy is to the public. This is essential to the success of the operation. Often, governments that tried to impose changes without first securing public support were quickly called to order.
I think that the public is ready now for the legal recognition of same sex spouses. In Quebec-we are always different-you would even find greater support than in Canada.
According to an Environics poll conducted in Ontario in the spring of 1994, fifty-five per cent of respondents were prepared to recognize entitlement to social benefits for same sex spouses. An Angus Reid poll showed similar results across Canada. In Quebec, 73 per cent of respondents to a SOM poll conducted in the fall of 1993 were in favour.
To conclude, the members of this House should support the motion put forward by my colleague because it is a matter of justice and equity. First and foremost, it is a matter of justice because all individuals in our society are equal. Being equal, they should not be subject to discrimination when they join with another person to form a couple.
Second, it is a matter of equity because homosexual couples are not given the same treatment as heterosexual couples, and the only difference between the two is sexual orientation. Parliament must therefore encourage the government to take the measures necessary to put an end to this discrimination against same sex couples.
In turn, this stand for justice and equity may well prompt the public to exhibit a more positive attitude in terms of respecting differences, something we really need in our society if we want it to be a better place, with less violence and hatred.
This motion does not ask for the recognition of special rights, but for the enforcement of the right to equality. That is why I urge this House to vote for the motion put forward by my hon. colleague from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion which calls on the government to take the necessary measures for the legal recognition of same sex spouses.
I commend my colleague from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve for his initiative in bringing up this issue; it is timely and exceedingly important.
Before I discuss my views on the question I state clearly and unequivocally I reject the suggestion this debate is blasphemy or that those who would promote equality are part of some conspiracy to kidnap our children.
In due course the government will have to address this issue. The precious moments of private members' business at the end of each day provide an opportunity for us to express our personal views, and I am pleased to do so.
I have spoken in the House in support of the hate crimes provisions of Bill C-41 and in support of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act. I have encouraged my colleagues on all sides of the House to support these initiatives. I have supported them because these initiatives are the right and decent thing to do as Canadians.
Amending the Canadian Human Rights Act is a matter of fundamental justice and equality. The goal of the act is not to confer special rights on anyone but rather to ensure equal rights for everyone. The measures we have taken in Bill C-41, the proposed amendments of the human rights act when they are introduced, are totally consistent with the commitment we have as Liberals and as Canadians to attack hatred and discrimination and promote tolerance.
I am pleased that in its ruling last Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed that sexual orientation should be read into section 15 of the charter, thus barring discrimination against gays and lesbians. It is an important step toward full equality for all members of Canadian society.
On the thornier issue, the more difficult issue of extending benefits to same sex couples living together, the court was split. It will soon be up to us as legislators to decide what actions we should take as we consider the question in the debate today and in the weeks ahead.
I want to make it clear that extending recognition to non-traditional relationships is not an attempt to undermine the family, but it is rather an effort to recognize today's realities and to end discrimination. Traditional families remain the majority and a fundamental building block of society. But we cannot ignore that there are different types of family units that exist today.
In response to a question put forward by the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve dealing with the Egan and Nesbit supreme court ruling and the extension of same sex benefits, the Minister of Justice expressed views before the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons to the following effect. When we talk about extending benefits we should be looking at relationships and dependency instead of exclusively sexual criteria to define those relationships. We should be thinking of a brother and sister living together, a son taking care of an elderly mother, a mother taking care of an adult daughter, and other types of relationships where adults depend on each other emotionally and financially. And there are many such cases in this complex society.
I think the Minister of Justice has put forward an interesting and innovative proposition, and I would be ready to support that position. However, I must stress that we have no immediate intention of introducing such legislation. We must engage in a full cost analysis and we must have a full debate in the House.
I want to add that the benefits we need to consider granting to partners in non-traditional relationships go beyond monetary ones. Even if the government has yet to put same sex relationships on an equal footing with more traditional ones, I firmly believe that measures should be taken to prevent incidents of discrimination in the workplace and we should be looking seriously at bereavement leave and family care leave to same sex partners.
Ironically, while we as elected officials are anxious to provide leadership on these issues, it is the courts and the private sector who are doing so, doing the right and courageous things by protecting the rights of all Canadians.
In its 1994 annual report the Canadian Human Rights Commission listed major private institutions offering such arrangements, firms such as BC-Tel, Hudson's Bay Company, Northern Telecom, Southam Publishing, Shell Canada, Levi Strauss, Toronto Sun Publishing Corporation, Dow Chemical, and the Toronto Dominion Bank. Canada Post entered into an agreement with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that would provide same sex benefits for its 52,000 members.
I think the Human Rights Commissioner expressed it best when he said in reference to these corporations: "All of this should deliver a simple message. Institutions of this sort are not wild-eyed reformers. They are not interested in endorsing certain lifestyles or debating the meaning of the word spouse. They are changing their practices to bring them into line with the intent of the charter, provincial law and a growing body of jurisprudence". And I might add, to bring them into consistency with reality.
As I conclude and I look at the clock, it may be 1805 to some members of the House, but on this side of the House it is 1995. Discrimination, bigotry, ignorance persist. One of my goals as an elected member of Parliament is to work toward ending all forms of discrimination. In that effort, I invite the help of my colleagues on both sides of the House. This is not an Ozzie and Harriet world, however much we might wish it would be. I look forward to working with hon. members on both sides of the House on these important issues.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Mr. Speaker, this, in my opinion, is the most important piece of private members' business presently before the House. There is no more pressing issue facing the House than in what direction we as parliamentarians want to take the morality of the country.
Our actions as parliamentarians have consequences. We must take extreme care not to subvert institutions that form the fabric of our society and way of life. This motion would do just that. That is why I am strongly, unreservedly, and unapologetically speaking against it. That is why, as an elected representative of the families of my riding, I will fight against any move by this or any government to subvert or undermine traditional family values. The family is the very building block of our society, not individuals, because individuals alone cannot maintain and sustain our country, only families can. It is in this defence of the family, the most important and basic union of all, that I give this speech.
I am one of those not so rare people who believe that law is about morality. I believe it is impossible to separate law and morality. All laws are either based on or express a fundamental view of ordering of human relations. That, whether we like it or not, is morality.
I am also one of those people who believe that a liberal democratic society founded upon rights requires a certain kind of moral grounding if it hopes to function. Therefore, if you are like me and you accept these premises, then you must also accept the conclusion that government must not pass laws that threaten the morality upon which fundamental structures of our society are built. It is not only undemocratic, it is dangerous. Government must serve its citizens. It must respect and promote the morality that is the consensus of its citizens. It must not attack it. It must not threaten it. It must rarely seek to change it.
This government does not agree with me. The government and the hon. member from the Bloc who sponsored today's motion think that it is the role of government to subvert the consensually accepted morality of our society, not universally accepted, of course, as no single moral rule is ever universally accepted, but consensually accepted.
Poll after poll show that Canadians are overwhelmingly opposed to changing the definition of family to include homosexual unions. People are overwhelmingly opposed to giving homosexual unions moral and legal parity with the union that sustains our country and sustains our species, that of man and woman. Canadians are overwhelmingly opposed to giving in to the vocal if irrational demands of the 2 per cent of the population who think that sexual preference does not matter when talking about family. However, that does not stop the gay rights ideologues and the radical attackers of the family from shamelessly promoting their narrow special interest cause.
Our Supreme Court is waiting for the House to make its decision on the family. It is waiting for a message from the House. The message my colleague from the Bloc wants to send is that there is no morality, that Canadian law should promote homosexuality, and that the traditional male-female union is not the best model of a family history could ever devise. He is wrong, and I hope that the motion and any other laws like it are stopped before the moral fabric of the country is rent apart by narrow interests' societal engineering.
A respected professor of political history and human rights at Claremont College in California has said that the gay rights movement is the most radical and sinister challenge to emerge to not just sexual morality but to all morality. He did not say that lightly or flippantly, and neither do I. Morality, the structured relations of humans with one another, is based on our natural affinities. It is based upon the fact that we are all human. Human rights are just that: rights that are based upon our common natural humanity.
Nature is the basis of all humanity. It must be. Convention is not enough. Common agreement is not enough. This is a bond to break down in the face of opposition. Morality is, has been, and always will be based on our natural condition as fellow members of the human race, dedicated to self-preservation and the good functioning of our communities.
Allow me to cite Professor Jaffa again, because he puts this argument so well. The reason we regard the killing of people as a personal and societal wrong is because we share a common nature. The reason we regard the enslavement of people as wrong and not the enslavement of cattle, for example, is because we share a common nature with people. That commonality, which is the basis of all morality, is grounded in nature.
Homosexuality, to anyone who has not been brainwashed by the last decade of effective propaganda by the gay lobby, is unnatural. It is a repudiation of nature. Nature requires procreation. Morality must defend the continuation of humanity. Rights must protect those things that promote the continuation of our country and of our species. Homosexuality does none of these things. Homosexuality is nihilistic. It protects nothing, it defends nothing, it continues nothing, and it sustains nothing.
The call for so-called gay rights is an example of an extreme repudiation of nature, an extreme repudiation of morality, an extreme repudiation of every ground upon which we base human rights. There lies the irony and there lies the tragedy of the project our justice minister and his colleagues are embarking on in Bill C-41 and the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act. There lies the tragedy of the failure of our highest court to firmly and unequivocally defend morality. There lies the tragedy of this government's apparent unwillingness to send a strong message to the courts about the need to protect the family.
Canadians agree with me that we need to protect the family because Canadians have more sense possibly than the justice minister, more sense than my colleague from the Bloc, more sense than my colleague from Burnaby-Kingsway. Canadians understand the importance of the family and of the necessity of natural relationships to our society.
Canadians may not have the fancy rhetoric or the well practised if wrong headed arguments of the gay lobby, but they do have common sense. They have the lessons of history, and that is what this House should be defending and representing.
Governments have defined the family as a man and a woman because that works and because we need that sort of family. It is not because we want to punish someone for not choosing that lifestyle but because we want to reward those who do. We confer benefits upon that kind of union because it provides benefits for us. We have protected that sort of family because it protects our children and ultimately us.
We legally recognize the natural family because we want to promote it. We as a society have the right to defend and protect those institutions that benefit our society. We are under no obligation to protect and codify into law unions or lifestyles that confer no societal benefit. And when there is damage that will be inevitably done to our society and to our shared collective morality by the legal recognition and therefore promotion of homosexuality, we are under no obligation to recognize that lifestyle under law, none whatsoever. We are, however, under an obligation to protect the family from attacks by special interests.
Let me finish by saying that I have never in my experience, inside or outside of this House, heard anyone call for active discrimination against individual homosexuals. No doubt some will build strawman arguments by suggesting that the opponents of the legal recognition of homosexual unions are in favour of this. That is pure nonsense and pure fear mongering. That is up to individuals. However, when someone who prefers living a certain lifestyle that demands of me as a citizen and a legislator that I codify government support for the union that lifestyle spawns, then they are asking for me to approve of, promote, and support that lifestyle. They are asking for my sanction on that union.
As someone who is dedicated to Canada and to the families of Canada, you can count me out. I will not support any measure in law that attempts to make homosexual unions and natural families equal. My constituents have spoken loud and clear. I, unlike some members of this House, including the justice minister, have been listening.
I encourage all Canadians from all over this country to start a campaign. I urge all Canadians, in the name of the preservation of our families, to let your MP, the justice minister, and the Prime Minister know how you feel about the preservation of the family. Stand up for what works in our country. Stand up for the family. Fight back with common sense against motions of this nature.
I urge all hon. colleagues to defeat this motion.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to look at the exact wording of this motion. I have been listening to people going off on tangents talking about things that are absolutely irrelevant to the motion before the House today. The motion states:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take the measures necessary for the legal recognition of same sex spouses.
There is no such thing in this country at the present time as a same sex spouse. Spouses are heterosexual. Spouses are husband and wife either legally married or common law. That is the legal fact in this country now. The words of the motion are simply incorrect to begin with. At best the motion should perhaps read: "That, in the opinion of this House the government should take the measures necessary for the legal recognition of same sex couples".
What the mover of the motion wants is that same sex couples be given legal recognition. How? By being called spouses. What does that mean? It means this motion is calling for this House to recognize two people of the same sex to be legally married. There is absolutely no other possible interpretation of this motion.
The motion calls for the legal recognition of same sex spouses. We cannot recognize same sex spouses legally unless we declare them spouses. The only way to declare them spouses is to marry them. There is absolutely no question at all about what this motion is calling upon Parliament to do. I do not care how they try to pretend it does not do this, the words themselves say it. They want this House to declare homosexual unions as legal marriages.
What do my constituents say about that proposition? It just so happens I have asked my constituents that very question. I want to read one of the questions I asked them. I will not read them all because I want to keep my comments relevant to the motion we are discussing, unlike some people who have spoken here. The question was: Do you want same sex marriages to be legally recognized as the equivalent of heterosexual marriages-pretty straightforward-including the right to sponsor same sex spouses or fiancés for immigration purposes? The answer was crystal clear: 84 per cent of my constituents said no; 13 per cent said yes; and 3 per cent were undecided. Eighty-four per cent.
In my respectful submission, there is no poll that could be taken anywhere in this country that would deviate from those numbers significantly. That is simply a fact. My constituents do not want homosexual unions to be recognized as marriages.
It has nothing to do with fear. It has nothing to do with hate. It has nothing to do with equality. It has nothing to do with homophobia. It has to do with promoting and giving advantage to that which promotes and gives advantage to society.
People have talked about inequality. I stand here as a white male. I admit it and I make no apologies for the fact I was born a male or that I was born a Caucasian. That is the way I am. The fact is that everyone in this country is equal under the law. The charter of rights and freedoms provides that everyone is equal under the law. There is not a criminal matter, there is nothing that I am entitled to as a matter of law that no one else is entitled to.
There is often a distinction made or a distinction tried to be played between a right and a benefit. A benefit is not a right. No matter how we call it, no matter how we try to disguise it, a benefit will never become a right. One is not entitled to it as a matter of right; one is entitled to it after meeting certain criteria.
The debate then has to be as to what kind of benefits we want to give to what kind of people. We can talk about that as much as we want but not under the rubric, at least not with logic, of this motion. This motion is not talking about benefits. This motion is not talking about equality. This motion is talking plainly and simply about asking this Parliament to legally recognize same sex unions as a marriage because there is no other way to legally recognize same sex spouses.
I repeat that someone cannot be a spouse unless he or she is married. The only way to recognize same sex spouses is to recognize the legality of the marriage of same sex spouses. Why should we not do that?
The Supreme Court has spoken and four of the judges, including the chief justice, had a few interesting comments to make. I wish to quote directly from the decision. I am talking about marriage. That is what we are talking about in this motion.
The decision states: "Suffice it to say that marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of longstanding 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", say these justices of the Supreme Court, "marriage is by nature heterosexual".
The decision goes on: "It would be possible to legally define marriage to include homosexual couples", which is what this motion wants. Yes, it would be possible but this would not change the biological and social realities that underlie the traditional marriage. We can call a homosexual union what we want but it is not a marriage. That is what this particular motion wants.
The court then went on to consider that it is perfectly legitimate in Canadian society for Canadian society to promote the traditional heterosexual biological family. There is nothing wrong in doing that and it is not discrimination according to the justices.
Why not? I quote again from the judgment: "The singling out of legally married and common law couples as the recipients of benefits necessarily excludes all sorts of other couples living together, such as brothers and sisters or other relatives regardless of sex and others who are not related, whatever reasons these other couples may have for doing so and whatever their sexual orientation". Of course it excludes them if we are promoting the traditional family.
The court goes on to say: "Homosexual couples, it is true, differ from other excluded couples in that their relationship includes a sexual aspect, but this sexual aspect has nothing to do with the social objectives for which Parliament affords a measure of support to married couples and those who live in a common law relationship. In a word, the distinction made by Parliament is grounded in a social relationship, a social unit that is fundamental to society and that is the heterosexual biological traditional family".
The court states homosexual couples are not therefore discriminated against, that is to say when society provides benefits to the heterosexual couples. They are simply included with other types of couples such as brothers and sisters, boyfriend and girlfriend, two sisters living together who are also excluded. The court specifically said, at least four of the judges, that there was no discrimination.
My constituents have spoken clearly no matter how one pretends to hide what this motion means; it means House of Commons, declare homosexual unions, marriages under the laws of Canada.
My constituents have said no. I say no.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
André Caron Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the motion tabled by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, asking the government to take the measures necessary for the legal recognition of same sex spouses.
I listened carefully to the comments of many members who oppose the motion. I think we have to put things in their proper context. The fact is that there are same sex couples engaged in a relation which is in every way similar to that of heterosexual couples.
That is the reality. And it is a reality which we must respect, primarily because these are human beings engaged in an emotional relationship. These people also happen to be citizens who have a right to enjoy the same benefits as any other Canadian, and that includes the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which I will discuss later on.
It is essential to keep the notion of respect in mind, otherwise we quickly fall into stereotyping, an attitude which, for centuries, has had the effect of marginalizing and stigmatizing same sex couples. The time has come to put an end to that in Canada.
In our country, same sex relations were decriminalized in 1968. Consequently, the issue that we are discussing today does not fall under the Criminal Code. It is absolutely unfair, demagogic and unacceptable to assimilate the lives of people engaged in same sex relationships to those of people engaged in sexual deviations prohibited in the Criminal Code.
In 1968, under Prime Minister Trudeau and justice minister Turner, homosexual relations stopped being considered a crime in Canada. We are talking about relations which are accepted in our society, which are not criminal in any way, and which are experienced by Canadian citizens.
These Canadians are also entitled to the benefits of the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. As you know, the charter prohibits discrimination, specifically discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. I think that sexual orientation falls into the same category as the grounds listed in section 15 of the charter.
In today's society, same sex spouses can use section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms to put a stop to any discrimination against them. I believe that the latest decision made by the Supreme Court in this area, the Egan decision, recognized that fact. It indicated that discrimination based on sexual orientation is similar to all the other types of discrimination mentioned in section 15 of the charter.
Now, could any breach of the charter be justified? I do not think so. As you know, pursuant to some provisions in the charter, under some circumstances, some types of discrimination can be accepted, but I do not think it would apply to homosexuals, because we do not see how it could be justified.
Why could discrimination based on religion, race, colour or age be prohibited, but discrimination based on sexual orientation allowed, when homosexuality has not been illegal in Canada since 1968? Of course, there is some opposition to this motion, as we heard from some of the previous speakers, but I think some members are mixing everything up and are raising issues which have nothing to do with the motion put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
They talk about family and marriage. In the motion before the House, we are not trying to redefine family or marriage. We are only trying to put a stop to the discrimination against same sex spouses in Canada. My colleague is not asking Parliament to recognize that two individuals of the same sex who live as a couple constitute a family. He is not asking Parliament to decide if they are married or not. This issue may be debated at another time, but the object of today's motion is only to recognize that two homosexuals having a stable relationship can enjoy the same benefits the Canadian government and Canadian legislation give to legally married spouses or common law partners.
While listening to the previous speakers, I realized that the arguments they used must be the same arguments that came up during the debates over the Divorce Act or other bills granting benefits to common law spouses. They would have said that we are attacking the family and the whole concept of marriage, but that is not the case.
Obviously, the legislation concerning divorce in Canada and giving some benefits to common law spouses have in no way undermined the concept of family in Canada. I see that my time is up. I hope I will be able to complete my speech during the third hour of debate on this motion.
Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
The hon. member for Jonquière is absolutely right. Next time the motion tabled by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is called, he will have the opportunity to complete his remarks in the third hour of debate.
The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.