Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased with this opportunity to rise in the House today, especially since I unconditionally support Motion M-264, which seeks the legal recognition of same sex spouses. Voting for this motion will give nearly 10 per cent of the population the recognition to which it is entitled.
Since the Quebec government launched its prereferendum campaign, the federal government has spent millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to convince us that Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in, a country that is tolerant and especially, a country that accepts diversity.
I therefore ask this government to act accordingly and support the motion standing in the name of my colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. In fact, the hon. member for Central Nova told us in her speech on the same topic that Canadians are tolerant and respect and appreciate diversity.
Will the government be as tolerant and show as much respect for diversity as the hon. member? In May 1994, the Minister of Justice also promised to redefine, in fairly broad terms, the ties between people who live together, are interdependent and should therefore have the same social benefits as traditional families, which does not mean-and I can understand that-changing the concept of the family. Let us be clear about this. The motion does not seek to redefine the family but to enhance the rights of certain people and ensure that discrimination against homosexuals is unacceptable in Canada.
Last June, the Reform Party member for Elk Island reminded us, and I quote: "As legislators, we have a responsibility, an obligation, a high calling to do what is right for our country and its citizens". He directed this message to all Canadians, without exception. It included all Canadians. Consequently, our role as legislators, in my opinion, is to set an example by being openminded, by our sense of justice and our sense of fairness.
That is why, according to this motion, we have a duty to amend, yes, amend all provisions of Canadian legislation concerning spouses. It is a matter of justice, fairness and equality for all citizens.
Let us recall that, last May, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed that sexual orientation should be added to section 15 of the charter, thus prohibiting discrimination against homosexual men and women.
While the cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa-to name but a few-as well as many private and public companies also recognize same sex spouses, we in the Parliament of Canada, a supposedly tolerant country that allows anyone to make racist comments or distribute hate propaganda, deny such a basic right to 10 per cent of our population.
I see this as an injustice. A closer look at the definition of the term "discrimination" shows that it means imposing on an individual or group of individuals certain burdens, obligations or-as in this case-disadvantages that are not imposed on other groups. Discrimination also means denying or restricting access to the opportunities, benefits or advantages offered to other members of society. That is discrimination.
In fact, the Quebec human rights commission has recommended that the government review all its laws and regulations and pass a law that would make all legislation dealing with spousal issues comply with the charter, so that same sex spouses can enjoy the same rights as heterosexual common law couples.
Will allowing same sex spouses to take bereavement leave when their lifelong partners die change anything for heterosexual Canadians? Will allowing same sex spouses to receive benefits from public pension plans after their partners die or to contribute to spousal RRSPs change anything for the remaining 90 per cent of the Canadian population? I do not even want to hear the argument that such a measure would result in higher costs.
According to the studies done by many private and even public companies, it would cost less than 1 per cent to correct this situation. Since this Parliament is supposedly not homophobic-as many members keep bragging about in this House-I see no reason why we should not recognize same sex spouses. This would be quite normal and not a privilege granted to one group of people. On the contrary, it would simply be fair to a segment of our population.
I remind you that this is 1995. Today's reality is completely different from what it was 50, 30 or even 10 years ago. Federalists boast that this institution, the Parliament of Canada, is not out of step, obsolete or ossified. They should just prove it and stop talking about the status quo. The status quo is nothing but a vacuum. Again, voting in favour of this motion does not recognize any special rights except for the right to equality. Quebecers are fed up with the double standard inherent in this government's policies. We already know that a sovereign Quebec will fight such measures. The question is: Will the Canadian government be as courageous as the Quebec government?