House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was family.


Report Of Official Languages Commissioner

10 a.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleagues, I have the honour to lay on the table, pursuant to section 66 of the Official Languages Act, the annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for calendar year 1995.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(4)(a), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-277, an act to amend the Criminal Code (selling wildlife).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce a private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code. This bill will make it an indictable offence under the Criminal Code to kill, capture or sell wildlife or wildlife parts if the act is carried out without a licence, permit or an exemption order.

The bill does not replace provincial wildlife laws, but rather it complements them in a similar manner that the Criminal Code also deals with serious driving offences.

It provides for a maximum sentence of two years incarceration for a first offence and a maximum of three years for subsequent offences. If the animal in question is a threatened or endangered species, the maximum sentences are increased to a maximum of four years for a first offence, and eight years for a subsequent offence.

The bill also calls for this section of the Criminal Code to be included as an enterprise crime, which means that it would be subject to the proceeds of crime legislation.

This bill is a necessary piece of legislation to protect one of Canada's greatest treasures, its wildlife.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise, pursuant to Standing Order 36, to present a petition signed by 100 people from Ontario and British Columbia.

The petition states that we, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House to the following: that the wartime merchant navy was the fourth arm of the armed services; that veterans of the wartime merchant navy are under the Civilian War Related Benefits Act; that one in ten Canadian merchant seamen lost their lives, the highest proportional rate of all services; that merchant navy prisoners of war spend 50 months on average in imprisonment but only 30 days are recognized; that veterans of the wartime merchant navy are excluded from the War Veterans Allowance Act, from pensionable benefits, from veterans post World War II free university education, housing and land grant benefits, small business financial aid and veterans health care benefits.

Therefore your petitioners call on Parliament to consider the advisability of extending benefits or compensation to veterans of the wartime merchant navy equal to that enjoyed by veterans of Canada's World War II armed services.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions. The first one relates to euthanasia.

The petitioners request that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide should be retained without changes and enforced in order that Parliament not sanction or allow the aiding and abetting of suicide or euthanasia.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, additionally I have some petitions with regard to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In accordance with the Speaker's ruling that we may not comment, I table these petitions.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on second reading of Bill C-33 by which the government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien achieves a number of important objectives at the same time.

First, we fulfil an outstanding political commitment to the people of Canada. Second, we act to implement a longstanding policy of the Liberal Party of Canada. Third, we move to fill a gap in the federal human rights legislation, identified at various times in the past 20 years by previous Parliaments, by human rights commissioners and by the public at large.

As to fulfilling a political commitment, the Prime Minister in the course of the last election campaign undertook to introduce this amendment. In the first throne speech in this Parliament after the election, that undertaking was repeated. In the months, indeed, in the years since as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the government I have repeated that commitment. And what is more, Canadian governments going back a decade have made the undertaking. It falls to us today at long last to fulfil it.

In the policy of the Liberal Party of Canada which forms the government of the country, it is now almost 20 years since that party in its national convention adopted as a policy, a resolution that the act governing human rights should be amended in the very fashion prescribed by Bill C-33. That resolution has been repeated at various policy conventions in the years since.

Indeed, in 1994 at the biennial convention in Ottawa, just such a resolution was once again adopted. As recently as this past weekend as the Ontario branch of the party met in Windsor, the subject was discussed and decided anew. The resolution once again is that sexual orientation ought to be added as a ground on which discrimination is prohibited in the federal human rights legislation.

In filling a gap in the federal human rights law, the statute as it stands was enacted in 1975. Ten years later, eleven years ago, a resolution was adopted unanimously by an all-party committee of the House endorsing the concept of amending the statute in just the fashion that is proposed in Bill C-33.

The courts have identified the gap. In the case of Haig in the Ontario Court of Appeal some years ago, it was the decision of that most senior appellate court that the federal act must be read as though it includes the words sexual orientation in prescribing discrimination and discriminatory practices in matters governed by the statute. The provinces have identified and have dealt with this gap.

In the years since 1977 when Quebec was the first to amend its human rights legislation to add this ground, eight provinces and territories have moved to do so.

So, this amendment is far from revolutionary. Quebec prohibited all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1977. Ontario did the same in 1986. In all, eight provinces or territories have amended their legislation in this regard. This means that almost 90 per cent of the population is protected by similar provisions.

Against this background, in the midst of all these commitments, these resolutions and all the action elsewhere, what has kept the federal government from following through? Why has it taken all these years before this step has been taken? Quite simply, there is real controversy about what such an amendment is and what it is not.

The proposal stirs powerful feelings, caught up in notions of family and religion, who is and is not entitled to benefits in our society. That controversy, those issues and those feelings must not be allowed to stand in the way of simple human justice and equality. It is in the face of that controversy and notwithstanding

those feelings that we introduce and propose this amendment because it is the right thing to do.

I want to make clear before I go on that as this debate unfolds, at least in my respectful view, no participant has the moral high ground, no one is holier than any other. I know there are strongly held views among those even within my own caucus who oppose this proposal. I respect those who take a different approach. However, at a certain point a government has to make a choice. At a certain point a government has to plot a course.

In introducing this legislation the government has chosen to prohibit discrimination as a fundamental part of the equality of citizens in our country. I acknowledge that any government that introduces such a measure must accept responsibility for explaining what it is and what it is not. That we have undertaken to do. That I will attempt to do today.

Let us look at what this amendment is and what it is not, so that we can agree on the real issues in this debate. It is an issue of human rights. It has to do with equality, with the dignity of individuals, with the principle that someone should not be discriminated against in the federal workplace because of who or what they are.

The federal statute applies to the provision of goods and services and to employment in the federal public service and in undertakings regulated by federal legislation. Close to 11 per cent of the Canadian workforce is directly affected by the act.

The statute sets out its purpose in section 2. It is there provided that the purpose of the act is to give effect to the principle that every individual should have an equal opportunity with other individuals to make for themselves the life they are able and wish to have, consistent with their duties and obligations as a member of society, without being hindered or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

In the following part of the statute, under the heading "proscribed discrimination", we learn what this statute deals with. I think it is very important throughout this debate to focus on the stuff and the substance of this legislation. We are not here talking about the make-up of the family. We are not here talking about the freedom to hold certain religious beliefs. We are not talking about promoting lifestyles. We are talking about discrimination.

In section 3 it is provided that for all the purposes of this act the enumerated characteristics I have read, age, gender, marital status, et cetera, are prohibited grounds of discrimination.

In section 5 it is provided that it is discrimination in the provisions of goods and services or facilities or accommodation to deny access to any person because of one of the stated grounds.

It is discrimination in section 6 to deny the rental of commercial or residential accommodation because of one of those grounds.

It is discrimination in section 7 to refuse to employ or keep someone in employ simply because of one of those grounds; in section 8 to use or circulate any form of application for employment; in section 9 to refuse someone membership in an employee organization.

In section 13 it is provided that it is unlawful to send hate messages, in citing hatred against persons identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

In section 14 it is provided that it is a discriminatory practice to harass someone on the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

That is what this legislation is about. It is about protecting Canadians on the grounds of their race, their ethnic or national origin, their colour, their religion or their marital status, from discrimination in their employment or their advancement or the availability of services, from discrimination based on messages of hatred based on one of the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited.

All we seek to do is add sexual orientation to that list of grounds so that people will be protected on that basis as well. That is what this is about.

In the absence of those words what recourse does one have if they are fired or not advanced or refused a service on the basis of sexual orientation? At the moment their only recourse is to rely on a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal which requires the commission to read those words into the act so that complaints can be brought forward on that basis.

Let me say two things about the insufficiency of that remedy for persons in that position. First it seems to the government that it is up to the Parliament of Canada to articulate and to codify fundamental principles of equality in this country and not leave that job to the courts.

Second, while the Haig decision in Ontario had the effect I have described, there has already been a decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal to the contrary effect. There now exists confusion which will have to be resolved, if the Supreme Court of Canada grants leave, by the highest court in the land. Must the rights of Canadians to be free from dissemination on this ground be left to the outcome of contested litigation? I think not. It is time for Parliament to speak. It is time for us to codify this fundamental right.

That is what this amendment is. It is a measure that would move against discrimination in the federal workplace and assure fundamental dignity and equality to Canadians.

Let us treat for a moment that which this amendment is not. It does not deal with the conferral of benefits on any class or category of persons. It does not confer benefits on same sex couples. It does not confer benefits on homosexual individuals. The bill is silent on this point.

No matter what Parliament does in relation to this bill the contest in tribunals and courts goes on. For many years courts have been asked to extend same sex benefits based on provincial and federal legislation. No matter what Parliament does in relation to this bill that issue will go on in the courts.

It seems there is very powerful response to those who say that adding these words will lead to same sex benefits. The provinces since 1977 have almost all moved to add these words to their human rights legislation. Yet same sex benefits have not automatically followed from that measure. Those matters are still very much an issue throughout the country. Those who suggest adopting this bill will result in same sex benefits being extended should look to the provinces and see for themselves how faulty that logic is when applied in jurisdictions where this amendment was made.

A recent judgment in the Supreme Court of Canada makes this point crystal clear. In the case of Egan and Nesbitt the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to decide based on an argument founded on the charter whether provisions in pensions benefits that were not available to same sex couples were discriminatory. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Egan and Nesbitt case earlier this year decided that sexual orientation must be read in as one of the grounds in section 15 of the charter on which discrimination is prohibited. It was unanimous on that point because it is an obvious principle of law.

When it came to extending the benefits in the pension scheme to same sex couples, the court by majority refused it. The court by majority decided that the mere fact the charter prohibits discrimination does not equate with the proposition that benefits must be extended. That is a vivid demonstration of the principle that simply adding these words does not automatically lead to the extension of benefits.

Let us look at the next category of what this bill is not. It is suggested by some that this bill will either directly or indirectly undermine or diminish the importance of family in Canadian life. The House will observe we have included a preamble in the bill which repeats and emphasizes the cardinal importance the government on behalf of all Canadians places on the role of family in Canadian life. It is fundamental to Canadian society and we are determined to promote, protect and preserve the family as a centre point of society.

What is it about this bill that founds the argument that it somehow diminishes family in Canadian life? Some say it will lead to same sex marriage, to which I respond it cannot do so.

The solemnization of marriage is by the Constitution of the country a provincial and not a federal jurisdiction. While it is true to say that in section 91(26) of the Constitution Act of 1867 marriage and divorce are assigned to the federal government, the included category of the solemnization of marriage is by section 92(12) assigned to the provinces. There is legislation now before the courts by which applicants seek relief requiring Ontario to issue a licence to a same sex couple who apply, recognition that it is provincial regulation of the solemnization of marriage, including the issuance of licences, that governs who can marry. It is not a federal jurisdiction at all.

When the federal Parliament came to legislate on the subject of marriage, it did so in a very narrow category. In Chapter M-2.1, the Marriage Prohibited Degrees Act, Parliament dealt with matters of consanguinity and prohibited marriage between related persons. When it comes to the solemnization of marriage in determining who is eligible for a licence, that is provincial and not federal jurisdiction.

It is next said by some that this bill will undermine family by changing the definition of spouse, to which I say the bill does no such thing. The bill does not deal in any way with marriage, marital status or the definition of spouse. That word remains exactly as it appears in all federal legislation, including the Income Tax Act.

I am very sensitive to the need to support family as an essential component of Canadian life. I have been married for 13 years. I have three children, a daughter who is 11 and twin boys who are 8 and about to be 9. My wife and I work very hard together to create a family home in which to nurture those children, in which to educate and prepare them for life by among other things instilling in them values that they can live by. One of those values is tolerance of others. I believe that tolerance is a family value.

In my respectful view, nothing in this bill, no part of this amendment, diminishes my family. Nothing about this amendment threatens the security of our home or the love we feel for one another. Nothing reduces or impairs the rights that my wife and I enjoy to raise our children and live our lives according to our own values and according to what is in our hearts.

Indeed, I suggest to this House today that the adoption of this bill which extends fundamental rights against discrimination to all

Canadians can only improve the world that my children will grow up in. It can only improve the country and society that willbe theirs.

It is suggested by some that adopting this bill will lead to same sex adoptions to which I say that nothing could be further from the facts. The whole process of adoption is governed by provincial jurisdiction under the property and civil rights rubric in the Constitution.

Again, I invite hon. members to apply logic in analysing this issue. In 1985 the government of the province of Ontario moved to add sexual orientation as a ground on which discrimination was prohibited in the Ontario human rights legislation. That bill was adopted in 1986 and became law in that year.

Some eight years later in 1994, the legislature in Ontario was engaged in the debate on Bill 167 on whether to allow adoption for same sex couples. While that bill was defeated, the fact is that notwithstanding the addition of sexual orientation to the human rights act some eight years earlier, it was necessary to treat as a separate and distinct issue the question of adoption, recognizing that adding sexual orientation does not lead to that result. Those are the facts and that is the logic.

To those who contend that on any basis adopting this amendment will confer special rights on gays and lesbians, let me point out to the House that the modification prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, that we all have a sexual orientation, that it includes heterosexuality as well as homosexuality.

May I also point out that in 1975 when this act was first adopted by this body no one suggested that by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion, race or ethnic origin we were conferring special rights on Catholics, on Caucasians or on those from a certain country. No such argument was tenable and no such argument can be made. I suggest that in the present context no such argument can be made.

Let me continue to deal with what this bill is not so that this debate can be carried out on the facts and the merits of this case. Some suggest that this bill is inconsistent with principles of religion, that it is contrary to precepts or concepts of the worship of God. I am proud to stand in the House today to tell my colleagues this amendment has the support of the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, B'nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress. This bill is fundamentally consistent with the most basic teachings of religion.

I am by faith a Roman Catholic. My Irish Catholic mother saw to it that I was brought up in the church. I attended regularly, served as an altar boy and was educated from the beginning to the end of my years at school in Catholic institutions. I developed a deep respect for the tenets of the Catholic faith. I suggest this amendment and the action it constitutes is completely consistent with those tenets.

Let me read from the apostolic constitution "Life in Christ" in the new catechism. In paragraph 2358 of the new catechism of my church, the Roman Catholic church, the subject of homosexuality is dealt with. In speaking of homosexuals, in speaking of gays and lesbians, in speaking of those very people against whom we propose to prohibit discrimination by Bill C-33, this is what my church, the Roman Catholic Church has to say: "They"-gays and lesbians-"must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided".

That is from "Life in Christ". That is the fundamental tenet of my church and that is the fundamental proposition of my bill: that every element of unjust discrimination should be prohibited.

I believe that in adopting this bill the House would be acting on an important and basic principle in Canadian life. In the federal workplace, in those shops, stores and offices over which we have jurisdiction in prescribing basic principles of human rights, they shall not be discriminated against merely because they are gays and lesbians. That is the teaching of Christ and that is the principle of this bill.

This amendment is a matter of fundamental justice, of protecting those who are discriminated against in our society, of tolerance, of treating all our fellow citizens with dignity and respect and of looking out for one another.

Canadians have a tradition of tolerance and fairness they are proud of. This amendment will prove definitively that these very Canadian values continue to be part of our identity.

We are discussing amendments to the human rights act. We deal here not with abstractions but with people, with humans. Gays and lesbians are not abstractions. They are very real, with very real entitlements to dignity and respect. They are our brothers and our sisters. They are our sons and our daughters, our neighbours and our friends. They are our colleagues.

I urge the House to assess this bill based on what it is and not on what it is not. I urge the House to assess this measure on what it achieves and not on what some suggest and which cannot be maintained. When this bill is assessed on the facts, when we look at it for what it is, I suggest it deserves the wholehearted endorsement of this House of Commons.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, both in my capacity as the official opposition critic on human rights and the status of the disabled, and personally, to take part in this debate on Bill C-33, the objective of which is, as the minister has just reviewed for us, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to add sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Before addressing the matter of homosexual rights, I would like to begin with a criticism of the government for the way it has handled this issue.

Only two and a half years into its mandate, we find this government is wearing out, in fact I would call it a government on its last legs. It is obvious in several areas. On the constitutional level, the "principal homeland", its latest invention for recognizing Quebec and its specific character within Canadian federation did not last long. We have also seen this on the economic level, with all the humming and hawing around the GST. We have seen it as well, and still do, in connection with national defence and unemployment insurance. Now we see the same wishy washy approach to human rights.

Why am I blaming the government? Because we really have the impression that this bill has created enormous tensions within the Liberal caucus. This is the reason the government has waited so long before settling this question, which has dragged on for so many decades.

I am, of course, pleased that this bill has got to the House, although, as the Minister of Justice has already told us, we have had to wait more than 20 years since the Canadian Human Rights Act was first adopted to add sexual orientation to the prohibited grounds.

For more than 20 years now, as the Minister of Justice has also pointed out, the Liberal Party has made it one of its platform policies, but when they formed the government no political decision was made to support that policy, nor to give it concrete form.

The human rights commissioner has intervened regularly since 1979, and in report after report in recent years has reminded the government of its irresponsibility concerning human rights as they apply to homosexuals.

Again in the latest report, tabled in this House a few weeks ago, human rights commissioner Yalden had some very harsh words for the government, describing its non intervention, its inaction in this matter, as irresponsibility.

The official opposition has also needed to hassle the government on numerous occasions since the election to get it to, finally, decide to do something.

It took the passing of a piece of legislation similar to the one before us today, just a few days ago, by the Senate, the other place, for the justice minister to finally decide to table Bill C-33 putting an end to discrimination against the gay and lesbian community on such a ground. Also, I would have liked the justice minister to behave in a less partisan fashion with regard to this issue. It seems to me that when dealing with human rights, one should transcend party lines. I believe everybody should agree that, in this country, every one is entitled to being treated with respect and fairness.

Last week, I asked the justice minister when he was going to table his bill. I would have liked him to let the official opposition know ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute, as if he wanted to get rid of this issue in a hurry; obviously, as I said before, judging by the split we can feel in the Liberal caucus, this is a hot potato indeed.

When talking about human rights, there cannot be any grey area. It is not a question of tolerance. Sure, mindsets are changing with time, but the arguments we hear from the opponents to this bill are in every way similar to those we heard just a few years ago regarding women.

For centuries, women were not even recognized as having a soul. They had to wait until the 20th century to be allowed to vote both at the federal and provincial levels. Last year, in Quebec, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of women's enfranchisement. The arguments raised in those days are essentially the same we are still hearing today.

I will give you as another example the history of blacks in the United States. For centuries, men and women had to fight just to be recognized as human beings with feelings, with hopes, with a desire to improve their status in their own community.

I hope that during the debate we are launching into today, members of this House as a whole will keep in mind that we are talking about human beings. Last week, or maybe it was ten days ago, during the human rights committee proceedings, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce asked human rights commissioner Yalden if the bill would allow homosexuals, gays and lesbians, to marry. The commissioner answered: "As far as I am concerned, when you are talking about human rights, you are not talking about marriage". I will come back to that point later.

The issue at hand is human rights. Therefore, I hope everyone participating in the debate will keep in mind that we are talking about human rights. What does Bill C-33 propose? What is the purpose of Bill C-33? Only to recognize a reality.

That bill proposes that sexual orientation be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act as a prohibited ground of discrimination. In fact, it will mean that, once the bill is passed, all entities under federal jurisdiction will no longer have the right to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation in matters pertaining to jobs or goods and services. That applies to all businesses and agencies under federal jurisdiction.

We must also ask ourselves why we insist, why we want that act amended. Are homosexuals protected or not by our legislation?

Let me remind the House that the federal government has almost abdicated in that area, as many members have already said. In Quebec, sexual orientation has been included in the charter of rights and freedoms as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977, for 26 years now.

As I said before, in 1978, the Liberal Party of Canada included that in its program. In 1985, a sub-committee of the House of Commons recommended that this issue be addressed. In 1993, during the election campaign, Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, made a firm commitment, saying he would submit a bill as soon as possible to settle that situation. So I do hope we will proceed as soon as possible.

There is another question we must ask, and the minister addressed it earlier: Will the bill give a special status to gays and lesbians? Naturally, the answer is no. It only recognizes what many pieces of legislation already recognize, here in the federal Parliament and in other jurisdictions. Even Supreme Court justices recognized discrimination based on sexual orientation, even though section 15(1) of the Canadian charter does not specifically mention sexual orientation.

We must also ask ourselves, and the answer seems particularly hard to find within the Liberal caucus: Is the bill changing the concept of family? There again, clearly, the answer is no. Unfortunately, I would say this bill does not go far enough, at least as far as I am concerned, but it is clear, and the minister confirmed it earlier, that it does not change in any way the concept of family as we know it. However, we should recognize that the concept of family changes with time.

Our laws refer to the traditional family, a man and a woman married in church or legally, but we have to recognize that for a number of years now several jurisdictions have recognized common law unions.

When the human rights commissioner appeared before the human rights committee, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce asked him whether adding non-discrimination of homosexuals in the Canadian Human Rights Act would automatically give gays and lesbians special privileges. In other words, would that lead to recognition of gay couples? The commissioner said, and I mentioned it earlier, this does not change in any way the concept of marriage as we know it.

However, when the time comes to implement legislation, if we accept non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, if we accept common law marriages, we will of course have to recognize one day or the other that two men or two women could live together, recognize each other as spouses and benefit from the advantages resulting from that.

The point is not to change the concept of family, it is to recognize de facto situations, to recognize that in our world today, some men and some women decide to live together without necessarily having their union approved on a legal or religious level, and that is recognized in terms of the benefits that must be given to these individuals. As soon as we accept to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians, it is obvious that, sooner or later, a further step will have to be taken to recognize that two men or two women can live together, and I repeat, benefit from the advantages resulting from that.

There are already precedents in this regard. Once again, Quebec is showing the way. The National Assembly is currently considering Bill 133 that aims to give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in terms of social and economic benefits.

If, as the justice minister mentioned in his speech, some provinces, in this case Quebec, take specific action to recognize gay couples, it is obviously because the simple fact of listing sexual orientation among the prohibited grounds of the discrimination in Quebec's Rights and Freedom Charter and in the Canadian Human Rights Act does not allow to automatically provide to gay couples benefits that are presently provided to heterosexual couples. I point this out to demonstrate and to insist upon the fact that we will soon be taking one step, but that there is still work to be done in this direction.

Another key argument we often hear every time the subject of sexual orientation is raised, every time there is talk of granting homosexuals the same rights as those enjoyed by all other members of society, is that those who are opposed are betraying their own insecurity toward homosexuality. They wrongly claim that recognizing the rights of homosexuals is tantamount to promoting homosexuality. Worse yet, we have heard members of this House link homosexuality with paedophilia. We heard members of this House liken homosexuality to a disease, to an immoral act.

I find this kind of talk unacceptable, because it is not based on reality and only intended to discredit, to show contempt for men and women who are only seeking respect and recognition for their

basic rights, which are indeed recognized by the Catholic Church, as the Minister of Justice pointed out in his speech.

In the few minutes I have left I would like to refer to the Bloc Quebecois' position. As he was leaving the House of Commons yesterday, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois indicated that his party would support Bill C-33. We in the official opposition would like the Prime Minister to see to it that his party, the Liberal Party, adopts a similar position.

It is important to send our fellow citizens a clear message that intolerance in any way, shape or form cannot tolerated, that discriminating against, discrediting or bringing shame on honourable men and women is unacceptable.

This Parliament is making an important gesture today, even with the limited impact of this bill.

I want to remind the Prime Minister that he has made formal commitments in this regard. During the 1993 election campaign, the Prime Minister promised to ensure that gays and lesbians are granted the same rights as those enjoyed by all other Canadians. This promise was reiterated in a letter sent to EGALE by the Prime Minister's senior adviser on October 18, 1994.

This adviser, Mr. Goldesberg, wrote this on behalf of the Prime Minister, and I quote:

"As this initiative is a matter of longstanding party policy and fundamental human rights, the bill will not be the subject of a free vote".

I insist in the name of human dignity, fundamental justice, equity and tolerance that all members of this House give their support to this bill. By amending its human rights legislation, Canada will not set a precedent at the international level, or even at the national level. As I mentioned earlier, Quebec has had its pioneering legislation since 1977, that is the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, in which sexual orientation is included as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Similar legislation was also passed in seven other provinces, the exceptions being Alberta and Prince Edward Island. Countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Holland also passed such legislation to give gays and lesbians rights similar to those of the rest of the population.

I will conclude by emphasizing the exceptional work done by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve regarding this issue. Members will remember that, when he was the critic for human rights issues, our colleague rose on many occasions to remind the government of the importance of taking action regarding this issue.

You will also remember the private bill tabled in this House to recognize the rights of same sex couples. Today, we should unanimously resolve this issue once and for all. As Stéphane Baillargeon from Le Devoir pointed out: ``Nowadays, homosexuals want to be fully recognized, just like ordinary citizens, with no more and no less rights than left handed people or members of other minority groups''.

It is in this spirit that the official opposition will support Bill C-33.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-33 today. This bill was tabled in the House yesterday and second reading debate is today. It is a bill to add sexual orientation as a prohibitive ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Just yesterday the minister stated that he wants to deal with this bill quickly.

I have two main concerns about this bill and I want to address those today. The first is that the bill truly address equality and the equality issue in Canadian society. Perhaps we will look at some of the implications of equality and even at the word discrimination. The second concern I have is one which stems from what the justice minister has said. If he wants to put this bill through quickly, will this bill indeed express the wishes of a fully informed Canadian public and will the Canadian public be represented in the decision that is made?

I will address the second issue first because it will be briefer in my comments, which is whether the wishes of a fully informed Canadian public will be represented. Need I remind this House that even recently this government has had a litany of broken promises. Certainly we all know of the broken promise of the GST, a promise made in the red book and trumpeted in a different fashion but certainly trumpeted and responsible for many of the members who are sitting on the far side of the House. That promise they made at the doors of Canadians has been broken.

The Deputy Prime Minister has broken her promise to resign. There has also been another broken promise, one made in the red book, the one to allow MPs greater freedom to vote. The member for York-South Weston was booted out because he kept his promise. This government is not great at keeping its promises.

It is interesting to note there was no promise in the red book to bring this particular legislation into the House. There was no mention in the recent throne speech to enshrine sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the government now chooses not to follow through on the promises that were made to Canadians, but promises that have been made over a number of years to a very powerful special interest lobby.

There was however a very important promise which I mentioned in connection with more free votes for members of parliament. Key to all discussions in this place is that this vote go forward with a free vote for members of the government side. Reformers believe that the main purpose of members standing in the House is to represent the wishes of their constituents. Canadians believe that they send representatives to Ottawa to represent their wishes. That must be a priority in this place and it must be a priority of this bill.

It would seem however that the Liberal government will once again enforce party line. Worse still, because the minister wants this through so quickly, again the government will probably force closure on this bill. Both of those things are an insult, not only to the issue but to the Canadian public which the bill will greatly affect.

To comment on our situation in the country right now, social institutions are failing us through government overspending. Through government decisions and government policies, institutions are failing the very Canadians who depend on them. At this time fundamental institutions are being redefined.

Today's debate concerns a bill of three pages and basically looks at two words which would be added in a few situations. However, this particular bill is another step in a long journey of social reconstruction which is not working. We see it on our streets and we see it in our homes.

The implications of this bill will reflect on the integrity of the government in that what it is saying and putting forward as the reason for the bill is not the full impact of the bill. In their comments the Liberals simply say it is human rights and it will only do such and such. I put it to the House that there is much more involved and I will expand on that.

The Reform Party has taken several positions which would run contrary to the essence of the bill. I will review them to begin.

First, I would like to read the Reform blue book policy on the family: "The Reform Party supports limiting the definition of a legal marriage to the union of a woman and a man, for the purpose of the provision of spousal benefits for any program funded or administered by the federal government".

Also, as a caucus we have put forward a position that will go to our assembly in June for ratification. It reads:

The Reform caucus affirms the equality of every individual before and under the law and the right of every individual to live freely within the limits of the law and with the full protection of the law.

Under the charter of rights and freedoms, homosexuals have the same rights and privileges as all other persons in Canada. The Reform caucus supports the continued protection of these rights, based on the position of each human being, not on his or her sexual orientation.

For these reasons the caucus opposes as unnecessary and inadvisable the government's announced intention to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and in other legislation.

I would like to repeat some of the key notions of our position. We affirm that all Canadians, including homosexuals, are entitled to life, liberty, security of person and freedom from discrimination regardless of personal characteristics and that these entitlements should be strictly enforced. We affirm that these entitlements should be based on personhood, not on sexual orientation or on any other personal characteristics.

We oppose the tendency of the courts and of Parliament to create or recognize different categories of persons for the purposes of defining or augmenting their rights under the charter or the Canadian Human Rights Act. We oppose the practice of granting undefined or unlimited rights under the charter or the Canadian Human Rights Act. We oppose the government's announced intention to specifically include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act as unnecessary and inadvisable.

There has definitely been a history of a push to have this enshrined in legislation. However, I would like to go back to April 17, 1982 when the charter of rights and freedoms enshrined the recognized rights and freedoms as fundamental to the principles of liberty and human worth by putting them beyond the reach of Parliament and provincial legislatures in a document which is part of the Constitution.

By its mandate, the supreme law of Canada, every law must conform. Otherwise it will likely be struck down by the courts as having no force or effect.

One of the guaranteed rights is the right to equality which is enshrined in section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms. Subsection 15(1) 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.

That particular section could have stopped after the words, "and equal benefit of the law without discrimination", in that it reads that 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. Surely that covers Canadians as equal participants in a society of equals.

The list that follows is an open list, granted, but it categorizes individuals which then, in turn, puts those with special rights or privileges above those who may not be on the list. Perhaps that is

why there has been a concerted effort to add to the list. I ask where the additions will stop.

In 1986 a parliamentary committee had as its mandate the bringing of federal laws into conformity with the charter. It is interesting because that committee went far beyond its mandate. It suggested including sexual orientation in the charter at that time which was far beyond its mandate and completely out of place. Lately I have heard that it was a compromise solution to a suggestion that it recommend inclusion of sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, again because of persistent demands of committee members with a very definite agenda in mind.

Recall that in December 1992, when justice minister Kim Campbell introduced Bill C-108, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, one amendment in the bill added sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination. Simultaneously, Bill S-15 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kinsella who has recently introduced Bill S-2 which has just passed the Senate again. Both bills were interrupted by the dissolution of Parliament.

Key to all of this has been a concerted and ongoing effort with no record of demand by the Canadian people. There have certainly been efforts by individuals through the years to put this initiative forward.

I would like to spend some time looking at what is meant by discrimination. It is part of the protection for every Canadian according to the charter of rights. The list in the charter of rights is an enumeration of certain classes of people who are discrete and insular minorities with distinct and immutable status. They have been given a protected class status and special legal standing. As we have seen with our laws that legal standing includes consideration in affirmative action programs. When we look at lists we look at special standing, at inclusion in our laws and special recognition within those laws.

Do homosexuals as a group, which is addressed by the definition of sexual orientation, whose members are linked solely by a shared sexual behaviour, warrant a protected class status such as that which is implied by the word discrimination? Historically there have been three touchstones in awarding protected class status to a group of individuals.

The first touchstone is that the entire class has suffered some history of social oppression evidenced by a lack of ability to obtain economic success, adequate education or cultural opportunity. The second category is that the entire class would exhibit immutable characteristics like race, colour, sex, that define them as a discrete group. The third touchstone is that the entire class exhibits political powerlessness. These are the definitive characteristics of classes which would be protected specifically within our discrimination list.

Not all minorities are eligible for protected class status under discrimination. For instance, top corporate executives could be seen as a class of Canadian citizens but they would obviously not fall within these three categories. This group would not be eligible for protection against discrimination. Another group who could be identified are the 295 members within this House. Obviously we do not qualify under these guidelines.

If as MPs we organized ourselves or if top corporate executives organized themselves to lobby for special recognition they would represent a special interest group, not a true minority.

Looking at the first criteria, are gays economically, educationally or culturally disadvantaged? Under that criteria would they be included as a group who should be specifically protected from discrimination?

There have been recent studies done by homosexuals which indicate that they are enormously advantaged in our society. On July 18, 1991 the Wall Street Journal carried an article called ``Overcoming a deep-rooted reluctance, more firms advertise to gay community''. That article reported findings by the Simmons Market Research Bureau and the U.S. census bureau.

Some conclusions of that report are that gays have an average household income in the United States, but it would be reflected within Canada, of $55,430 contrasting the general population income of $32,144. More than three times as many gays as average Americans achieved graduation from college, 59 per cent versus 18 per cent.

More than three times as many gays as average Americans hold managerial or professional positions, 49 per cent versus 15.9 per cent. And 65.8 per cent of gays were overseas travellers, more than four times the percentage of average Americans and 13 times as many gays as average Americans, that is 26.5 per cent versus 1.9 per cent, were frequent flyers. Certainly these statistics do not represent a community that is economically deprived.

Another contention put forward is that there is a preponderance of violence against this group in our society. I will admit there is a rampant increase of random violence in our country but that is seen everywhere. We have been shocked with what is happening on our streets and the feeling of unrest and insecurity of the members of our community. We can lay that at the feet of a faulty criminal justice system, a criminal justice system that demands no accountability.

The present Young Offenders Act is designed so that there is nothing to stop establishing behaviour patterns within youth. Criminality pays no price. All Canadians need protection and the security of their person.

For instance, a local gang in our area, a small minority, attacked anyone in a local mall who was wearing the colour purple. During the year or so that this was going on I heard of no individual attacks on the homosexual community. I have not seen any evidence of any greater proportion of violence against homosexuals as violence against other Canadians.

Again we concur that homosexuals, just as every Canadian, demand protection and should be protected under Canadian law but special protection is not indicated.

It is interesting and actually strange that this government should bring forward this legislation at this time. Why this particular group when there is no indication it needs special protection beyond any other Canadian when there is a group of Canadians, the minority English in Quebec, and what they are facing and how they are being ignored by the government.

The minority English in Quebec are facing inferior education. And what other group would see tens of thousands of their ballots rejected at a democratic election and not have an outcry from the federal government that is supposed to represent them? In Quebec this group is excluded from government positions. Yet this government says nothing about this group, which is obviously facing discrimination within the context of its community. Instead, this government introduced Bill C-33.

The second criteria was that specially protected classes should exhibit obvious immutable or distinguishing characteristics like race, colour, gender, national origin, which define them as a discrete group.

There have been many studies. A study of twins has been discredited. Researchers Bailey and Pillard were discredited because twins from this study were from the same household. There was a lack of scientific credibility with that result.

A study by Simon LeVay looked at the brains of 19 homosexual male corpses and tried to determine whether there was a distinction, an immutable characteristic. This study was discredited because of misclassifications, incomplete data or irregularities.

Author and American University associate professor Jerry Muller talks of sexual politics on America's college and university campuses:

In political arguments toward the non-homosexual public, the homosexual movement has tended toward a deterministic portrait of homosexuality as grounded in irrevocable biological or social-psychological circumstance. Yet among homosexual theorists in the academy, the propensity is toward the defence of homosexuality as a voluntarily affirmed "self-fashioning".

The confluence of feminism and homosexual ideology has now led to a new stage, in which the politics of stable but multicultural and multisexual identities is being challenged by those who regard all permanent and fixed identity as a coercive restriction of autonomy, which is thought to include self-definition and redefinition.

It seems there is a fluidity in the definition of sexuality within the homosexual community which indicates that even their own concept of the immutable characteristics or the constancy or even the identity of sexual orientation would be very difficult to pin down. The second criteria that they should exhibit immutable or distinguishing characteristics is nullified by the very notion that there is no identification within that category.

The third criteria is that specifically protected classes should clearly demonstrate political powerlessness.

As I have traced in the last number of years, there has been a steady progress in parliamentary decisions very lately, but if not within legislation certainly within the courts there has been a steady progress of sexual orientation within legal decisions and within the bureaucratic documents of government.

An interesting contrast was a private member's bill last September that thoroughly rejected the recognition of same sex spouses. It was a free vote and the count was 124 to 55, a rejection of the recognition of same sex spouses. The government, despite that decision, two months earlier through the Treasury Board had a directive which extended leave related benefits to partners of same sex civil servants. That was in direct opposition to what was decided here and I believe in opposition to what the public would say.

Does the homosexual community have political clout? Certainly as I have sat in the health subcommittee on AIDS I have seen that this is the case. In a subcommittee report we reviewed funding for diseases within our society and within the AIDS strategy.

The results of health funding for different diseases read like this: In 1994-95 $43.5 million was allocated by government to AIDS funding. Breast cancer funding for 1994-95 was $4 million, one-tenth the amount. Funding by Health Canada for cardiovascular disease was $3.8 million. It is interesting to note that the total incidence of HIV in Canada at the end of December 1994 was 10,000 cases with 7,471 deaths. Compare that with 17,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 1995 alone with 5,400 deaths. Decisions like this, decisions that come to the bottom line of government spending speak to me not of political powerlessness but of extreme political activity and effect.

Do homosexuals only want protection from discrimination, or with protection from discrimination could they also want protection from public scrutiny, from public criticism and perhaps from public accountability? I know the numbers I have just quoted have

enraged Canadians from coast to coast. They question, they ask and they are very concerned that their health care dollars do not relate to the severity of the diseases in our communities.

Myself I ask why this kind of spending was not questioned before this time. Is it that perhaps AIDS is a politically correct disease that falls outside the scrutiny of the Canadian public? I question too whether the very question that I have asked would be allowed in the future as we continue on this process concerning discrimination.

To give an illustration of that, recently a pamphlet from the Canadian AIDS Society came into my possession. Part of the AIDS funding is going to an AIDS awareness campaign and an anti-homophobia campaign. This may be part of that very campaign. This pamphlet is on homophobia. It says homophobia is another kind of prejudice. Prejudice is a word that occurred in Bill C-41 alongside hatred, alongside this whole business and this whole notion of discrimination. In this very document which I presume is funded partly by government it states: "We all take part in homophobia when we"-and there are a number of things on the list. The fourth one on the list is "when we deny basic rights like spousal benefits to lesbian and gay couples".

Is this what the government says is simply allowing two words to be protected from discrimination or is this a larger package: discrimination today, homophobia tomorrow, within the context of what can be said and what can be addressed. What we are seeing today threatens to impact more individuals in more life aspects than any single political move of this day.

Under homosexual advantage legislation whose rights would stand: a parent who resisted a homosexual's influence on their children within their school or within their community; school teachers or administrators, public or private, who are forced to persuade children that homosexuality is normal and attractive even though they do not personally agree; employers, business owners or the military that would be under coercion to recruit and promote homosexuals within some type of affirmative action program; employees who would be forced to value homosexual behaviour or they might lose their jobs; health care workers or victims who remain vulnerable because of privacy rights of the very serious but very deadly disease of AIDS; landlords who would be forced to rent to homosexuals when they or other tenants within their building may conscientiously disagree with this behaviour; or churches or parent church ministries that are faced with the contradiction to their firmly held doctrine and belief in hiring or perhaps even speaking of this behaviour?

I have heard the justice minister say that he values the beliefs of all Canadians. However, I ask how that value would be translated when a special interest group's agenda overrides the values of Canadians.

I have mentioned briefly Bill C-64, the affirmative action program in Canada, which we call employment equity. That too has a list within it which has been derived from the disadvantaged groups which are enumerated within the charter and the human rights act. That particular notion of giving special rights or special entry into employment has been rejected by Canadians.

It is interesting that the government census contains questions about sexual orientation that will be, I presume, used to determine numerical goals and quotas including that particular category in the future.

I was part of the human rights committee when it looked at Bill C-64. It was very apparent in the testimony of witnesses who came before us that it was the strategic success of the most powerful groups claiming historical disadvantage that won out, certainly the truly disadvantaged. Very often they were the aboriginal peoples or the disabled. The advantage of the other groups which were more politically powerful came at the expense of those truly disadvantaged groups. Employment equity does not work. Employment equity will not work and we certainly do not need another category added to it.

Much attention has been given to the preamble of the bill in the media which states: "Whereas the government recognizes and affirms the importance of the family as the foundation of the Canadian society". As we have seen in this list, the family may be asked to give up its personal choices and values in light of the label of discrimination against it. Rightly so, the question has been asked of the government as to why it put this in. In my estimation the government is bent on remaking and redefining the family unit. Here again we have another example of that.

We have a government that works against the family in its taxation and spending priorities. In the last 20 some years this government, and certainly we have to lay it at the Liberals' feet, has put a debt on our families which our children and perhaps our grandchildren will not be able to overcome or see the end of. It will affect their ability to get jobs and make a living.

The level of taxation has made it so that 46 per cent of a family's income goes to taxes. That level creates two wage earners not by choice, but by force.

The government has created social programs that are clearly unsustainable. Choices have to be made. We have received empty promises from a government that has proven it is untrustworthy in providing security for our families.

The criminal justice system ignores the security of law-abiding citizens, releases criminals when they are known risks to our streets. The Young Offenders' Act is a joke to our youth and a curse to parents and communities. Yet the government says it stands for families. No wonder the media is surprised to see that in this bill.

The latest move, the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground within the human rights act, is again part of a homosexual agenda to see their lifestyle affirmed and recognized in law.

Jeffrey Levi, a former executive director of the national gay and lesbian task force made a statement that relates to family and to the agenda of this group:

But our agenda is becoming broader than that; we are no longer seeking just the right to privacy or right to protection from wrong. We also have a right-as heterosexual Americans have already-to see government and society affirm our lives.

Now, that is a statement that will make our Liberal friends queasy. But the truth is, until our relationships are recognized in the law-through domestic partnership legislation or the definition of beneficiary, for example-until we are provided with the same financial incentives in tax law and in government programs to affirm our family relationships, then we will not have achieved equality in American society.

The goal is to become included in the family definition. That is not what Canadian families are looking at or want.

Canadian families are in distress. They are overtaxed, they are insecure and here we have a government bound on redefining the very family to include more, extending benefits or creating greater impact on the families which are now in distress.

Our party says that if Canadian families are broken, if they are in distress, the solution is not to redefine the family, not to explain it way, but to fix the programs that have caused the problems. Families are too important to his society and to future generations that will make up the next society. Government policy should always be evaluated in terms of how it affects our families.

The extension of benefits or the definition of family will affect more than 50 federal statutes. They will have a very real dollar cost at the expense of those who need protection and they will have a very real societal cost in weakening the understanding of commitment, nurturing and procreation that are the roles of the established husband and wife family.

This is not a simple addition of two words to a list. This is not simply addressing a basic human rights issue. And no, this is not only a moral issue, although it has the potential for negating the rights of those whose personal values reject homosexuality.

This is a special interest group hijacking the provisions in law that are meant for the disadvantaged of our society.

Again I say the gay and lesbian community has the same rights, privileges and protections under law as the rest of the population.

The Reform Party has taken the position that it rejects the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act as both unnecessary and inadvisable. As a party we take that position. As a party we also commit to representing the expressed wishes of our constituents in taking that position. I stand with my constituents and I stand with my party. I stand, I believe, with the majority of Canadians who resist the inclusion of sexual orientation and the incumbent rights of family which go with it. I represent my constituents in doing so.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Winnipeg—St. James Manitoba


John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Bill C-33.

Everything we say, do and touch in the House of Commons is important, one way or another, to all Canadians. Some things are more important than others. This bill to ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is one of the more important measures to come before the House.

It is important to all Canadians because it is about fairness. It is about tolerance. It is about equality. It is a message to all Canadians that discrimination will not be and is not acceptable.

For those of us who feel it is important, I point out I am a family man. I come from a large family, raised on the prairies. I am one of 12 surviving children. My mother gave birth to 14 children. I am number 11. I have a large family, at least in contemporary terms. I am the father of five children. I am the grandfather of four children.

Family values to me are very important. I assure all Canadians watching today that my wife and I take our family responsibilities very seriously. We think values are very important and we pass those values which we hold dear to us on to our children. We impart those values. I feel very strongly that Bill C-33 represents no threat to me, no threat to my wife, no threat to my children.

I understand that from time to time in the affairs of human kind certain ideas come along and certain changes are made. Some frighten people. I can understand that. Banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is one of the changes which frightens people. People say "don't do it, for it frightens me". We have heard these voices before. We have heard these voices on very important issues throughout history.

Slavery was abolished in the United States over 150 years ago. Before that happened there was a great debate. There were Americans who said "don't do it, for I am afraid".

More than 30 years ago integration became a hot issue in the United States. People said "don't do it, for we are afraid. Do not allow blacks to ride at the front of the bus".

In Canada in 1916 or 1917 Canadians were debating the right of women to vote. People said "don't do it, for we are afraid". The same thing happened in the 1960s on the issue of contraception. "Don't allow it, for we are afraid". The same voices were heard on the issue of divorce: "Don't permit the state to allow divorce, for we are afraid".

When we face these issues, people like me who feel a responsibility to push changes of this kind have a responsibility to allay fears. I want to allay some of the fears respecting Bill C-33. I refer people in the House and people watching across the land to the preamble of the bill.

The preamble has two important "whereas":

Whereas the Government of Canada affirms the dignity and worth of all individuals and recognizes that they have the right to be free from discrimination in employment and the provision of goods and services, and that right is based on respect for the rule of law and lawful conduct by all;

And whereas the government recognizes and affirms the importance of family as the foundation of Canadian society and that nothing in this act alters its fundamental role in society;

It is important to point out that preamble, for it gives this act meaningful context. It should allay some of the fears and concerns of some Canadians.

Let me put something else to rest. The bill is not about special rights. It is about equal rights. Right now in this land the human rights act states that one cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of age, sex, colour, religion. These are not special rights, because everyone enjoys them. The same can be said when the words sexual orientation are added to the list of prohibited grounds. It will not be a special right belonging to homosexuals or heterosexuals, because everyone will enjoy this same right, be they homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.

This amendment provides for protection against discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services. It means an individual cannot be fired on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. The law also prohibits an employer from doing this on the basis of other grounds such as race or religion.

It is not a special treatment but the very opposite. It is intended to stop employers from singling our homosexuals or blacks or a religious minority and instead treat them as everyone else, the same as everyone else. And so I say this is not a special right.

People might ask what does the Canadian Human Rights Act do? The title of the statute suggests a broad range of coverage, but when we look at what this law actually covers, we gain some perspective. It applies to employment and the provision of goods and services. It does not apply to other matters. It applies only to areas under federal jurisdiction, which is fairly narrow. The vast majority of employers and service providers, about 90 per cent, come under provincial human rights laws. Therefore the changed law would not be all encompassing, as some people might suggest. The interesting thing is that most employers and service providers are covered by provincial rights codes. The majority of these provincial laws have already been changed to add sexual orientation.

What about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and why is it important? It is important because the charter is part of the Canadian Constitution. It applies to all other laws in Canada be they federal, provincial or municipal. This is important because the Supreme Court of Canada has said that section 15, the equality guarantee, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It is in the law already. It is in the charter and the charter applies to all federal laws.

In this respect the Canadian Human Rights Act changes nothing. This is very important and worth repeating. The charter already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the federal level regardless of whether this amendment comes along or not. It is very important to take note of this. Thus before one draws conclusions about the impact of this amendment, it must be understood that its impact already exists because of the charter.

Another point I would make about the state of the law is that the courts have already ruled that sexual orientation is in the Canadian Human Rights Act. There has been, admittedly, a contrary decision about the Alberta legislation but the decisions with respect to the federal legislation stand. Overall the state of the law is such that it is hard to see this bill as anything but a catching up to what has already happened in most places across the country.

How does it affect the family? How does it affect marriage? How does it affect adoption? The preamble to this bill which I cited earlier answers the question. It recognizes that the family remains at the foundation of our society and this amendment is not going to change that. The family remains strong.

How does it affect marriage? This law has nothing to do with marriage. The Canadian Human Rights Act has no application here.

How does it affect adoption? This law has nothing to do with adoption. Adoption is a provincial matter.

This brings me to a fundamental point about this bill and the Canadian Human Rights Act. The purpose and impact of this bill is not as broad as some would have it. Its purpose is not to change people's sincerely held beliefs. Its purpose is to prevent an employer from firing someone because of his or her sexual orientation. It is to prevent someone from being denied service by a

federally regulated business simply because of his or her sexual orientation.

It is important to note that the law makes this distinction. The law says that when the border between belief and action is crossed, that is when an employer or service provider acts to refuse a job or service simply because of a person's sexual orientation, then the point has been reached where the law should intervene.

When you look at this bill more closely, Mr. Speaker, you realize that it does a lot less than some suggest but something still very important.

Let me address some other issues that have been raised. One is the meaning of sexual orientation. Some have asked if this might include unlawful conduct. As I mentioned, sexual orientation is already in the charter and the majority of provincial human rights laws, as well as being read into the Canadian Human Rights Act.

There have been quite a few cases and there is a well-developed understanding of this term. It means homosexuality and heterosexuality as well a bisexuality.

The answer to the question about unlawful conduct is a clear no. This law does not apply to such conduct. The preamble to the bill confirms this. There is no doubt about it. I remind the House of this and it is very important: pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. It is a crime. It is a crime regardless of whether the offender is heterosexual or homosexual. It is important to put those facts on the table. It is very important to understand that.

I have heard it suggested that it would be better to drop the list of grounds from the Canadian Human Rights Act altogether rather than adding the two words sexual orientation. I am not really certain if I understand this point. If the list of grounds is dropped, with what would it be replaced?

How do we protect against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and sexual orientation? How would we know what forms of discrimination are prohibited and which forms are not? I do not understand what this would accomplish. Either we protect against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and other listed grounds or we do not.

In my view it is misleading and disingenuous to suggest dropping the list. Ultimately this suggestion is quite meaningless. It is designed to stir up trouble and it is intended to avoid the issue.

Ultimately if we are to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the proposed amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act is the way to do it. There is really no other way.

Having reflected on this, and having carefully considered the purpose and the effect of the bill, what else can be said about this amendment? It is a rather modest bill, despite the kind of attention it is getting. It allows the federal government essentially to catch up, to the courts, to the provinces and to catch up to the law. When this is looked at issue by issue, point by point, the impact of this amendment has been greatly exaggerated by some. This amendment is about human rights, a simple matter of fairness and tolerance.

A majority of Canadians support this amendment and they have for years. For most people this is not a controversial issue. This is because Canadians understand that this comes down to a basic question: "Do you think it is right to discriminate against gays or lesbians, to fire them from their jobs, or refuse them a service simply because of their sexual orientation?" The majority of Canadians know that it is not. This flows from basic Canadian values, important values, values that we all hold very sincerely.

I have talked about catching up. Most of the provinces with the vast majority of the population have voted to add this protection to their human rights acts. This is not something new. It has been the Liberal Party's policy for a good many years. I think it goes back to 1978. The fact that the Liberal Party has supported this amendment has been known to people for a long time.

After so many years, after being elected to govern this country it is really time to act. Enough time has passed and now is the time to follow through. I sincerely ask all members to consider this bill, to examine it, and in the final analysis I think they will find that it is very worthy of their support.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell the hon. member who just spoke on this bill and claimed he looked at it inside and out that on the whole I subscribe to his line of questioning. I think that discrimination, whatever its nature and whatever its basis, is something harmful to our society. Regardless of the ground, be it sexual orientation, colour of skin or political ideas, discrimination is unjustifiable.

There are two kinds of discrimination, however, and I wonder if the bill introduced by the Minister of Justice, contrary to what he claims himself, does not extend any additional right to the gay community; I would like to believe that, and I hope it does not. But I do have problems reconciling the French version and the English version of the bill.

The hon. member who just spoke is an anglophone from Ontario, I believe, whom I respect very much, but I doubt he had the opportunity to compare the French version and the English version.

I can understand that, like myself, he reads and obtains information in his mother tongue.

I am trying to compare both versions to see if there might be a drafting error that could be corrected right away. Let us look at section 3 in the English version.

"For all purposes of this act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination".

The English version says: "prohibited grounds of discrimination."

The French version reads: "Pour l'application de la présente loi", which is the exact translation of the first phrase in the English clause, and the words "motifs de distinction illicite" are used. As if the word "illicite" were the correct translation of "prohibited". I really have to examine this, and members of Parliament who do not are perhaps demonstrating real carelessness.

The word "illicite" has to be seen in its context. Our rules of construction say that statutes are to be administered and interpreted according to their content and their wording. But they can also be interpreted a contrario, which means by reading between the lines.

If I state that illicit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited, can I also suggest a contrario that a form of legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is allowed ipso facto? Would I not be opening the door to the setting of quotas, which were so crucial an issue in the last election campaign in Ontario? We have seen the results of these quotas in Ontario. Those who know best about this are the Ontario Liberals; they lost the election because of quotas.

Discrimination is completely immoral. If a federal statute says so, I am in full agreement. But if its wording opens the door to the opposite interpretation, I have to give a warning.

It is acknowledged that homosexuals represent about 10 per cent in our population. Therefore, homosexuals have the right to claim the same proportion of jobs in the public service, in police forces, and so on. They have the right to exist, and that right should be acknowledged. If I were to interpret this clause a contrario, it would be like saying: "There are 4,000 male police officers in the Greater Montreal Area. To properly represent the gay and lesbian community in the Montreal region, we would need 400 officers from the gay and lesbian minority, which would mean that the hiring policy would have to be changed to ensure that the next 400 officers to be hired are gay or lesbian".

The thing is that, in these kinds of jobs, sexual orientation does not really have anything to do with the duties to be carried out. We should be able, for example, to hire 400 police officers without asking them about their sexual orientation.

Would sexual orientation not take precedence over skills? It has happened in other fields. This is not something that has come out of the blue. I met with a cadet, a police recruit, who had attended the Institut de police de Nicolet and had been designated the best cadet of his class. He had earned his diploma and some awards from the lieutenant governor. Despite all his achievements, he could not find a job, although everybody recognized that he was the best in his field. There is a positive discrimination system, as it is called, and I am afraid this poor guy will have to wait a long time before joining a police force. That is my only concern.

As regards discrimination based on sexual orientation, I agree 100 per cent with the minister and with his concerns and those of my Bloc colleagues. However, as a jurist, I have spent a good deal of my life interpreting legal material. I can now see the conflict that could come out of the interpretation or the wording of the French and English versions. I listened to my Liberal and Reform colleagues, who speak English version. But when you compare both clauses, you realize that they do not mean exactly the same thing.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he has thought about the consequences such a discrepancy or an inconsistency in the English and French versions could have.

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12:15 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, for the information of the hon. member, I am not from the province of Ontario. I am from the province of Manitoba.

The hon. member raises a couple of questions. One is a more technical question. He really wonders whether there is a discrepancy or a difference between the English language version of the bill and the French language version.

I am not a lawyer and I am not competent to address that question but let me assure the member that a question of this kind is certainly appropriate to raise at committee. At committee there will be members of the government and lawyers and others who can answer any technical questions. I invite the member to raise that question before committee. He will not have to wait long for that.

On the question of quotas, targets and affirmative action, let me assure the hon. member the bill has nothing to do whatsoever with affirmative action.

We have to be careful when dealing with the bill not to read more into it than is there. We are talking two words, sexual orientation. Those two words are being added to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. There is nothing more to this, nothing less. It

simply means Canadians, after the bill becomes law, will not be able to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. I assure the hon. member it has nothing to do whatsoever with affirmative action.

While the hon. member has some questions, I realize, recognize and appreciate that he and his party support the bill. That is very important. The bill is about equality and tolerance. We appreciate their support very much.

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12:20 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that I stand today to express my firm support for this bill. I do it with great pleasure, since I know that in this House there are times for being partisan and times for not being partisan. If you ask me what is the main reason for my involvement in politics, I would tell you that sovereignty was the first reason, of course, closely followed by my determination to promote equality among individuals. I think that each time Parliament discusses the promotion of equality among individuals, there should be no partisanship involved.

I listened to what my colleagues from the Reform Party had to say, but not only does it not conform to reality, it is in my opinion riddled with inconsistencies and nonsense to the point that it borders on the unacceptable. But this is not what I want to discuss today.

I know that my chances are very slim indeed, with a few notable exceptions-and I will always respect them for the great parliamentarians they are-of convinving Reformers, as I am fully aware that the Reform Party is to human rights what silent movies are to the motion picture industry. These are people who, oddly enough, take pride in looking back and confusing genres and styles with disconcerting aptness and eloquence.

This being said, what are we talking about today? Today, we are asked to examine the Canadian Human Rights Act. We have to remember-since this is a common mistake, including among the media-that we are not talking about the Charter. The Canadian Human Rights Act has no constitutional value and is not included in the 1982 Constitutional Act. It is one of two instruments to promote human rights. Thus it is an organic law, whose scope and status are the same as those of the other laws of this Parliament.

The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to all those who benefit from federal government services and to all workers under federal jurisdiction. So, essentially, we are speaking of interprovincial transportation, banks, the public service, large crown corporations such as the CBC, etc.

All we are asking members today is to accept that, as far as the Canadian Human Rights Act is concerned, discrimination based on

sexual orientation against people who receive services will not be tolerated. That is what this bill is all about. All efforts by our colleagues of the Reform Party or of the "Flintstone" wing of the Liberal Party would be intellectually dishonest.

Let them rise in the House and say that yes they believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation is acceptable; I am ready to accept that. It is not my opinion, I will not be pleased by that, but people have a right to be against the end of discrimination. But let us have the courage, as members of Parliament, to recognize that what we are speaking of today is the end of discrimination.

I will try to explain, a little later, that this has nothing to do with a redefinition of the family and, especially, that it has nothing to do with possible recognition of same sex spouses, something I want with all my heart. For as long as I will be in public life, I will never stop asking for it, but I will be honest enough, I will be intelligent enough to call a spade a spade and make the distinction where it exists.

Today, once more, allow me to be out of order and to look in that direction for 30 seconds, because what we are talking about is the end of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Discrimination, what does that word mean? It is clear in the act. Discrimination is treating a group of people differently or giving them different benefits from what they are entitled to.

I will give you a concrete example. Of course, these last few years, legal progress has been made.

It is true that between 1968, when John Turner, then minister of Justice, decriminalized homosexuality, and 1996, we not only made legal progress but we also developed an intellectual maturity, with some 52 exceptions.

It is this intellectual maturity that allows us today to be MPs and to rise in this House knowing full well there is, in Quebec, a majority of people who clearly showed us their support in surveys, and I personally think that such a majority also exists in English Canada.

As a Bloc member, I must frequently go to Vancouver and Toronto and to Manitoba. Since I was elected, I have gone to many parts of English Canada to give conferences and nobody ever told me that: "Yes, we must perpetuate discrimination".

When we address the issue intelligently and explain it with some consistency, we notice that people do understand that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable in our society.

How does one live that kind of discrimination? Not long ago, and I am not talking about 25 years ago-and I will choose my words carefully because I know that things are changing more and

more-known homosexuals were not accepted without some coolness. The first example that comes to mind is that of thearmed forces.

Does this mean that the senior command of the armed forces systematically practice discrimination? Of course not. That is not what it means. But we know very well that, by adding sexual orientation to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination included in the Canadian Human Rights Act, we are giving judicial protection to a category of individuals who, one might say, is very likely to experience discrimination.

Not long ago, in fact, two years ago, a officer in the Canadian forces, a sergeant I believe, was fired because her colleagues discovered that she was a lesbian. At that time, the Canadian Human Rights Act did not offer the protection we are about to include in it. That woman had to take her case to a civil court, but, in the end, there was an out of court settlement. Today, we are sending a clear message as to the way we want the laws interpreted.

Why do we have to take such action? We have to do it, and I think the Minister of Justice spoke eloquently about that, because we are parliamentarians. Being parliamentarians means that we have a public voice, of course, but it also means that we pass laws.

If we, as parliamentarians, do not have the courage to say that we want the words "sexual orientation" to be included explicitly in the Canadian Human Rights Act, how can we expect the judiciary to have the courage to interpret these words and how can we expect Canadians not to suffer from discrimination when we, as parliamentarians, do not have the courage to fulfil our responsibility to define in legislation the kind of society we want to live in?

I think that if we do not understand or subscribe to this basic principle, I would even go so far as to say that we do not deserve to have a public voice and that we certainly do not deserve to sit in Parliament. It has been mentioned, and I think it must be part of our understanding, that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is not a political body, a partisan body, has been saying since 1979-and that is a very long time in political terms-that the Canadian government must have the courage of its rhetoric.

I say that because, at the rhetorical level, there have been many occasions when parliamentarians rose in this House to say that discrimination is indeed unacceptable, that the situation must be rectified. However, in reality, it is today that things are happening, that we are getting serious about this issue and that we have to begin to take concrete measures to rectify the situation.

I would just like to read a short extract from an exchange between Human Rights Commissioner Max Yalden and a senator from the other House: "We are doubly pleased to see that Senator Kinsella has introduced a private member's bill that will add sexual orientation to the prohibited grounds of discrimination. Parliament has a responsibility-and that is the key point he makes-to legislate in this kind of important matter. Canadians should be able to find out what is in their legislation without having to read reports or interpretations of the courts. If Parliament does not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, it would, in our view, amount to an abdication-this could not be clearer, I think-of its responsibilities".

This, then, is exactly what the Minister of Justice is calling on us to do. Naturally, one may ask oneself questions, and you will understand that I have asked myself some, on what it is that makes some people homosexual. There are many theories. There are those who say you are born that way, that it is in the genes, that you come into this world homosexual, and that some people take longer to come to the realization, but if you are profoundly homosexual, sooner or later you are condemned to act on it. That is one view.

There are others who say that, no, homosexuality is not innate, that it is a social thing and that one context will predispose us to homosexuality and another to heterosexuality.

All this is terribly theoretical. But I think that what is important in society is that whether one is homosexual or heterosexual, whether one is polygamous or abstinent, whether one leads the life of a monk or is a little more hotblooded, what is important is that whatever one's choice, one can make it with respect for oneself and for others. And if there is to be this respect for others, some legislative conditions must be put in place.

And the most important of all is that we come to have a normative view of homosexuality. That does not mean that any of us is obliged to promote homosexuality. Someone said-I do not know if it is the hon. member for Chambly or my colleague from the government majority-that homosexuals make up about 10 per cent of every society. This figure was arrived at in the 1952 Kinsey report, the most comprehensive study on the sexual behaviour of Canadians ever made, a first. The study revealed that 10 per cent of people openly said they were homosexual.

Again, the important thing is that we, as parliamentarians, work to establish conditions of optimum tolerance. Whether you live in Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver or Montreal, the important thing is to know you will not be discriminated against if you are 13, 14 or 60-years old and you are homosexual. Homosexuals must know they are entitled to the same services whatever the circumstance. More importantly, homosexuals must have the assurance that in their professional life they will not be subject to discrimination or reprisal because they belong to a sexual minority.

Again, this is why we have to pass this act. The Canadian Human Rights Act is a concern for many people. The complaint procedure under the act starts with an investigation, followed by the

establishment of a tribunal and if someone is unhappy withthe tribunal's decision the matter can be heard by an ordinarylaw court.

Most of complaints submitted to the commission concern prejudices in the workplace.

I regularly meet people who are homosexual and who are experiencing discrimination. Sometimes very borderline discrimination, not always as straightforward as what we hear from the Reform Party, sometimes a situation is not that cut and dried. Sometimes the discrimination is as clear as black and white, sometimes it is grey. It may be in the workplace, when you are passed over for a promotion because of your homosexuality, when you are excluded from a delegation because of your homosexuality. It may be in daily life, where you bear the brunt of all manner of seriously inappropriate remarks disguised as humour.

Our responsibility, in the coming years as today, is to make it possible for someone who discovers he or she is homosexual to state it openly, to be comfortable with it. To get to that stage, however,-and we are not yet there-conditions of non-discrimination must be put in place. The real victory will be the day when people in Quebec, or anywhere in the country, can define themselves openly as homosexual without fear of reprisal.

Just imagine what a tolerant society, an ideal society, an absolutely admirable society, we will be living in when the day comes that there is no longer any differentiation, any different labelling, of those defining themselves openly as homosexual and those who are heterosexual.

We must be clear on this. If the government goes on to the next step I will be the first to state-the government could have no stauncher ally than myself-that it has not only fulfilled a commitment to which it had subscribed in the past, and I will say this every chance that I get, it will have taken a profoundly dignified and worthy step concerning human rights, for once again when human rights are the topic in a parliament, there can be no political partisanship.

We must be very clear. I believe my hon. colleague from Chambly is a notary, and you all know what they are like about documents and papers, and that I respect. That is what you need to be like to be a notary, but let us not kid ourselves. The bill before us is not about employment equity. The example our colleague gave a little while ago about police officers was not particularly enlightened, because no employer will be taken to court, after we pass this bill tomorrow, for taking a person's sexual orientation into account for hiring purposes. That would be out of the question in human resources management policy.

Even the Employment Equity Act, which the Reform Party opposed tooth and nail, does not require employers to hire people who are not competent. These myths arise from ignorance of the law.

I conclude by saying that I am a homosexual. I have already said so, and I am very proud indeed to be one. If you had a page deliver a pill for me to take to become a heterosexual I would refuse, because in my life, with my family, within my caucus, people have always known what I was. It is because people understood what I was that I saw homosexuality so positively. I do, however, understand that this bill before us also calls for respect for the concept of the family.

Families are special in society. Some of our colleagues, especially members of the Reform Party, might be tempted, rather awkwardly and with a narrow-mindedness that does them no credit, to vote against this bill saying, and you will not miss them, no voice is strident enough for what they have to say and no room big enough to resound with the inappropriateness of their discrimination. They will say: "Oppose this bill, because it calls the family into question".

I hope they will be honest enough to read the bill. I agree that the family is important in society. It can take all sorts of forms, not just the traditional family in which you and I were raised. One thing remains, and that is the family as a place for learning, for socialization and for mutual assistance. No one can deny that. However the bottom line is that no member should abstain or vote against this bill because they think it calls the family into question because that is not true.

Think how the stature of Parliament will grow if we send a clear message of non-discrimination with one voice. I hope the Reform Party will extend this generosity.

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12:40 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be standing for my intervention shortly, but before I do I will take this opportunity to say a few words through you, Madam Speaker, to the member who has just spoken on this issue.

In the last two and one-half years I have been in Parliament I have come to know the gentleman as a very fine individual. I am very proud to have him among my friends here in the House. I hope we will be friends as our lives progress no matter where our paths may take us. I speak and think very highly of the member, but we come at this from slightly different perspectives.

I concur and agree with him 100 per cent with regard to discrimination and the prevention of discrimination. Where we would divert is in the affirmative action that is bound to follow.

As a direct result of this change in the legislation, is it the opinion of the hon. member that eventually we will be recognizing same sex marriages?

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12:40 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is my friend and, to tell you the truth, I would have preferred that some other member ask me this question. If there is a Reformer who understands and is sensitive to this bill, it is him. It is, however, their prerogative to decide who asks the questions and I will tell him two things.

I do not think this bill will lead to positive discrimination. Looking at things from a different angle, has the fact that the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on religion led to positive discrimination for Catholics? Has the fact that the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on, let us say, conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted resulted in employers hiring more pardoned offenders?

Again, this bill will not lead to positive discrimination in terms of employment equity, something for which we both worked.

In response to the second question-will this bill lead to de facto recognition of same sex marriages?-the answer is no. The best proof of this is that even though seven provinces and one territory in Canada have human rights codes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, none of them recognize same sex marriages. Yet I feel that same sex marriages will inevitably be recognized in the short, medium or long term. I am going to work very hard to see it happen.

I cannot tell you that this bill will automatically lead to legal recognition of same sex marriages. We are talking about two totally separate things. I think same sex marriages should be recognized because we cannot claim to reject discrimination based on sexual orientation without going so far as to recognize homosexual relationships.

But the law should be clear. The Minister of Justice was clear; the human rights commissioner was clear. We have in Canada seven provinces and one territory where one has not led to the other. I would say that in statistical terms-you know how statistics courses usually made us sweat in the past-there is no cause and effect relationship between the two.

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12:45 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, further to the last question, I would like to ask the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve whether, in the province of Quebec, since measures were adopted to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, that has posed social problems for the traditional family?

Can one say that, in the province of Quebec, the situation of the family-let us leave aside the marriage certificate, which is after all a formality-is worse since the passage of legislation promoting tolerance and respect for others?

You have spoken about causality, and I recognize that, in the circumstances, it is very difficult to draw hard conclusions, but could you perhaps help the hon. members sitting in this House by telling them whether people in Quebec are saying: "Well, for ten years now, Quebec has had a measure to eliminate discrimination against gays and, ever since, the family in Quebec has deteriorated, there is a clear deterioration of the traditional family in Quebec"?

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12:45 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, let me quickly say that, last weekend, I delivered a speech in Toronto and paid tribute to the hon. member who put the question, because I know he is a enlightened colleague.

That being said, the issue is the following: Has the fact that, since 1977, Quebec has recognized in its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination noticeably changed the family, or is there, in all the documentation on this issue, information suggesting that this recognition has changed the family or inhibited people from starting a family? This is the real issue, and I believe the answer is no.

After all, there is still a secretariat for family affairs in Quebec, family allowances are still being paid, and there are still people interested in starting a family.

One day, I visited a community organization on international family day, and met a person who had no university degree but a healthy dose of common sense and who suggested a definition of the family I have never forgotten. That person said: "A family is made up of people who love, help and protect each other".

If we love, protect and help each other, we form a family. This definition can include all sorts of combinations. There are single parent families, blended families, nuclear families and families living with the grandparents. These are different families, but they all have one thing in common: their members love, protect and help each other.

This is absolutely fundamental and, again, we have to make it clear. I firmly believe in this principle as an individual and I personally adhere to it. My family plays a determining role, and I hope that some day you will meet my father, who has more or less my sense of humour. There are five children in my family, including a twin brother. I live on Viau Street and my parents are just around the corner. There is some good and bad in this arrangement, but I will not go into details. The bottom line is that the family is important, because it is still the place where solidarity is best displayed.

Sometimes things do not go well in my life, for example when the Liberals give me a hard time-it does not happen often, but it has been the case at times; luckily, the Chair is there to see that it does not happen too often. Each of us knows that when things are not going well, the only reality is the family.

Knowing we can count on our family makes us hope that it continues to exist, that it is recognized as an established value, and that it can take several forms. It goes without saying that many members in this House belong to families very different from the one I described and grew up in. However, the importance of the family remains and is affirmed in the preamble to the bill. The family is something that must be preserved; it is a value that must be recognized. Again, there is no link between making sexual orientation a prohibited ground of discrimination and any attempt to undermine the family.

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12:50 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise and discuss the motion before the House today.

I would be tempted to review some of the factors that relate to the history of this measure. However, the minister in his introduction clearly indicated the importance of the measure, its historical background and origin.

It is worth remembering this is not the first time this matter has been debated in the House. It is not the first time we have had to concern ourselves with this issue, a matter which an all-party committee of the House recommended in 1985 be done. It is a matter which the government said in the speech from the throne would be done. It is a matter the Minister of Justice has on many occasions said in response to questions in the House would be done. It is a matter the Prime Minister said in the House would be done.

It is thus time that it be done. It is time because justice and humanity in communities demand it, because the laws of the country which are being interpreted by our courts demand it.

We as ordinary citizens recognize that if we are to live in a society based on understanding, compassion, tolerance and respect for one another, precisely the qualities necessary in today's society, if we are to confront the unease being caused by rapid social change, by circumstances difficult for many of us to grasp in our lives, these very qualities necessary for societal survival, for the survival of our communities and the survival of our countries are precisely the qualities that make it required for us as we debate in the House to adopt this measure.

There are consequences of discrimination of which we must be aware and which even in a country as privileged as ours we cannot afford to ignore.

There are other parts of this world where discrimination has led to terrible social consequences. I do not talk of the evils of the past. I talk of the world in which we live today. I talk of the Rwandas, the Bosnias. I talk of suffering countries like that. If we trace the underlying evil, which is man's violence unto man, it is largely from circumstances that have arisen from discrimination.

The learned Judge Goldstone who until recently was prosecutor at the Hague tribunal for the Bosnia war crimes had this to say about discrimination, learning how discrimination leads to genocide. I do not suggest the conditions are the same in Canada. He had this to say, which it behoves us to remember if we wish to avoid the lessons other peoples have to teach us: "This kind of brutal ethnic or religious warfare is just discrimination taken to a violent phase. The victimized group must be dehumanized or demonized. Once this is done, it frees ordinary people from the moral restraints that would normally inhibit them from doing such terrible things".

There is a concern in this country that such moral constraints can be loosened. There are voices out there. I could bring items into the House items I have pulled from the Internet that incite people to violence based on other people's sexual orientation, race or religion. These items incite people to eliminate homosexuals from the face of the earth. We are not free from these influences. They are prevalent. They are here and we can find them.

That is why it is most important this measure be adopted. That is why it is supported by the National Association of Women and the Law, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith, the Canadian Foundation of University Women, the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies, among others.

I have the privilege of representing a riding in which it is said there is the largest gay and lesbian community in Canada. This in many ways does not make us remarkably different from other ridings.

We are an urban riding with all the attributes of that. In that sense we are unlike many of our rural counterparts. There are other ridings across the country where similar conditions prevail.

My riding is particularly fortunate to have within it a large section of the gay and lesbian community, at least in the city of Toronto, and in Ontario.

There are two faces to this community in my riding. I invite members concerned about this issue and who would like to learn more about it to come to my riding and examine with me those

different faces. There is the positive face of people who are making their lives, carrying on their lives and making contributions to our society. There is another face, a face of unhappiness, of worry. Particularly, it is the face of youth who come to downtown Toronto, youth who have been discriminated against.

They have been driven from home by perplexed or unsympathetic parents, from school where they have been treated like outcasts, where it is permissible to be discriminated against because of one's difference. It is legally permitted in a way that would not be tolerated if one were of a different religion, race or colour.

In my riding we have organizations like the gay and lesbian youth hotline. It deals with the crises in these young people's lives. They are suffering and unable to cope with the discrimination they have to face at a young and extremely vulnerable age.

We have institutions such as 519 Community Centre directed by Alison Kemper, a dedicated board and many volunteers who have given years of service to bring together all the elements of our community, those who are well off and those who are not so well off, to deal with the issues and the fallout that discrimination produces in people's lives.

I am proud to report there are some 600 organizations similarly spread across the country dedicated to bringing people together, to making society work not to discriminate, not to divide, not to make one group feel inferior to another, but to bring us all together.

There is another face in my community. It may be contrasted with that. It is the face of a gay and lesbian community of people who have established themselves, who have overcome discrimination, who have established healthy, productive lives in our communities, who work hard and who contribute to society, living stable lives, who contribute to the well-being of our city where often we face crises and breakdowns of social values.

This produces crime, violence and problems that often result from poverty and an inability to take advantage of what our society and our economy can offer. Many who argue against this measure base their case on a sincere belief that social stability is based on the family.

I subscribe to the view that the family is the cornerstone of social stability. If we threaten that in any way, we will be contributing to the lack of stability in society.

If those people were to come to my riding of Rosedale they would find that exactly the contrary prevails. If we are interested in a healthy, stable community, how can we tolerate a situation where discrimination is tolerated? It puts a part of our citizenry in a disadvantaged position and creates all the problems that entails.

Some people have said this measure is directed toward a small proportion of our population as if we were trying to give special rights to a small group and therefore this should not be important. The academic literature estimates this proportion of the population as ranging from anywhere as low as 3 per cent to anywhere as high as 10 per cent. If we believe the 3 per cent figure, we are still talking about 900,000 people in a country of 30 million. If we subscribe to the 10 per cent figure we are talking about three million of our fellow citizens against whom we say we are entitled to discriminate because of their sexual orientation.

The family is threatened in today's society not by measures which extend justice, tolerance and respect to others but by serious social problems which have led to high divorce rates and other problems. These are issues which we must address. We cannot persuade ourselves that these issues will be resolved and addressed if they are done so at the expense and the sacrifice of the rights to justice of our fellow citizens; citizens who are making an effort to make a contribution, who have been recognized already by eight provinces which have sought to eliminate discrimination in areas covered by their jurisdictions.

Private firms such as Bell Canada and the Toronto Sun ensure that in their employment practices they do not discriminate. The federal government has recently announced, to its credit, that it will ensure in its employment practices it too will not discriminate against its employees based upon sexual orientation.

Why is this? The answer is simple. It is an answer that should appeal to my colleagues in the Reform Party who search for an economic rationale, quite often wisely, in the social measures we seek to achieve in the House.

Why is it that private firms would remove discrimination? Why is it that universities would remove discrimination? They give pension rights even though they pay extra taxes and are not given the same tax break, although the people who pay into them pay the same taxes. Why is it that these private firms and other individuals do this? They do it because they recognize it is in their economic interest to do so. It is to their advantage to do so.

Discrimination whether based on race, religion or on any other ground is counterproductive. It denies opportunities to qualified people for a reason that is totally extraneous to their qualifications and thus is counterproductive. It impoverishes a firm, it impoverishes a nation, by putting a barrier between the way of qualified people and their access to opportunity. Thus, it impoverishes us all just as I suggest to members of the House that its elimination will enrich us all.

Cannot this Parliament, this federal government, enact into law this measure which is justified not only on the basic grounds of decency, justice and humanity, but on the economic and social health of the nation as well?

We are not alone in grappling with this measure. Other countries, other societies, are also concerned with this. It is a complicated issue. It arises out of our evolution as a society, as a democracy and as individuals. It must be treated with great respect. If we look at what other societies are doing, we see that they too are adopting similar measures.

I had the great privilege of teaching public international law before I was elected to the House. I had occasion to look at what the European Community is doing. The European Convention on Human Rights, which to some extent is the inspiration of our own charter, prohibits discrimination. The European courts have interpreted those prohibitions in a way which strikes down national laws which discriminate.

I recommend to members of the House the Dudgeon case before the European commission and the European court on human rights, which examined this issue when it put into question the criminal laws of Northern Ireland. It came to the conclusion that in spite of the fact these laws were rooted in centuries of practice, they could not stand in the face of a modern view about discrimination.

The European commission covers a vast range of societies, from Greece and Spain in the south right up to the Nordic countries of Europe. It covers Protestant and Catholic societies. It has examined a whole host of complexities of modern societies and has come to the conclusion that discrimination of the type we are discussing today cannot be permitted in an enlightened, tolerant and modern society if we are to go into the 21st century in conditions which will be socially productive. I recommend that model to the House. I recommend the literature from Europe and I recommend the cases to members who are troubled about what this measure is about.

We have talked about what this measure is designed to do, but what about what this measure is designed not to do? It is not, as was suggested by the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, designed to create a new form of marriage. That has never been and the minister never suggested that that would be. In fact it is clearly said in the preamble to the bill that it will be preserving our traditional family. It is not designed to confer special status or confer special rights on anyone.

There are still concerns about it but there are also some wildly exaggerated ones. I have heard it said by some that this will lead to a problem of pedophilia. Pedophilia is properly condemned in the Criminal Code of Canada. This was said by the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. It is fantasy to suggest that a measure like this could be interpreted in a way that would overrule the criminal law provisions of this country.

In no case reported in this country has it ever been suggested that an assault or other form of criminal act could be justified because of a religious, racial or other characteristic of a person who has committed that act. Why would it be extended in these circumstances? As a lawyer by background, I find such suggestions fanciful and designed to mislead.

We have also heard some comments based on psychiatric evidence that was rooted in the fifties and led to the most atrocious conditions being perpetrated on people. People were given lobotomies in the fifties on the basis that they could be cured of their sexual orientation. The psychiatric community of those days believed what today would be considered values that are totally out of the middle ages. That is not modern psychiatry. Lobotomy practised on people is something rooted in a misunderstanding of human nature and a misunderstanding of the nature of humanity.

Similarly, we are told that the family will be threatened by the existence of such legislation. That matter was addressed by the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. My parents' generation believed the family would be threatened if people who were not married lived together. Today many people who are not married live together and we do not discriminate against them. In previous societies they were discriminated against. The laws in respect of heritage for a long time discriminated against those who were born out of wedlock.

Can anyone imagine we would permit such discrimination in society today? We have moved. We have evolved. We will always move. We will always evolve. We recognize common law marriages today which is completely different from the situation that prevailed in my parents' time.

I am not suggesting that all the solutions we have found are perfect. But I am suggesting the solutions that we have found which are rooted in tolerance, mutual respect, and decency and a removal of discrimination are far more likely those that will aid in the resolution of social problems than others.

I have referred to the provinces. Eight have passed legislation eliminating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Quebec adopted a similar measure ten years ago, and I asked the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve whether he has noted any threat to the family as a result. I believe his reply was clear and convincing. There is no evidence, not even a hint, that there has been any cause and effect relationship between that measure and the status of the family.

The same can be said about other provinces. No doubt that is the reason the Bloc supports this measure and indicates that we can go

beyond the deepest political differences that separate us when human rights in this wonderful country are at stake.

I congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, as well as the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway, for all of their efforts over the years to advance such measures and to ensure that each and every Canadian citizen can enjoy the same dignity and independence.

In conclusion, it is a great privilege to be a part of this House. It is always a privilege to debate measures which relate to the well-being of our country. There are times when I have been in this House and have wondered how serious the things are that go on here. There are days when one wonders what we are doing here. I suggest to those of us who are here today that we are here debating our society, ourselves and our notions of respect, tolerance and the dignity of mankind. There could be no greater calling or privilege for us than to address these measures.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, for some members in the House today this vote will be very easy; it will be just a matter of coming in and doing it. For other members in the House today this vote is going to be much more difficult and that is on both sides of the issue.

The one thing that does unite all members, at least I pray it does, is that all Canadians share a bedrock value and do not discriminate against one another. It is our shared values that at least give me hope that our country and our legislatures including this one will fumble on into the future and things will turn out just fine, perhaps even in spite of us.

As my colleague from Rosedale just mentioned, today we are privileged to be speaking to a very important consideration that strikes at the heart of the deepest convictions and personal values of many people. These should not be taken lightly.

When I spoke earlier I mentioned my friendship with the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which I enjoy and value very much. This friendship might seem passing strange, the Bloc member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve who is gay and proud of it, and myself, a member of the Reform Party from Edmonton Southwest neither of whom could speak each other's language very well when we arrived at this place, and I still cannot. The thought of voting against a measure that would cause him pain hurts me. I do not want to do it because I would never vote in favour of a measure that in my view would add to discrimination against any human being.

All of us in the Chamber if not in our immediate family as is my case, have members of our extended family who are gay. It is a fact of life and something we cannot pretend does not happen. None of us would want to see persons whom we love and our friends discriminated against for any reason.

I concur with the member for Rosedale when he mentioned that people who would throw out the red herring of pedophilia are not bringing a measure of dignity or worth to this debate. Pedophilia is a criminal offence that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Pedophiles can be heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

As well, if we were to rank a threat to the family, certainly amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation would not rank as high as tax policy. The tax policy is a far greater threat and far more damaging to the traditional family than adding the term sexual orientation.

Why then would I speak against the motion? I do not think that by adding the two words sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act will change anything. It will not change discrimination against gay persons one iota.

If I felt there was any evidence to support the notion that by amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to add those two words would somehow magically change the Canadian populace so that there would be no more discrimination against gays or anyone else, then I would vote for it in a minute. But it will not. All that will possibly change that is education and enlightenment.

Members who have spoken expressed concerns saying that the enhanced dignity of gay people would be achieved through amending the human rights act are already there. As a matter of fact, the Canadian Human Rights Act is particularly eloquent in its defence and the statement of values that we as Canadians share:

The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that every individual should have an equal opportunity with other individuals to make for himself or herself, the life that he or she is able and wishes to have, consistent with his or her duties and obligations as a member of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices-

That is, at least in my opinion, an eloquent statement of values that virtually every Canadian can share.

Then regrettably, again in my opinion, we add a list:

-based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

Now we want to add sexual orientation.

The statement of values that preceded the list is of such magnitude and beauty that if we could somehow imbue Canadians from coast to coast with those values as an obligation and right of citizenship, none of us ever should fear being discriminated against. As citizens we would know that we have an obligation not

to discriminate against anyone for any reason. Then we would not be quibbling over whether a particular group is on or off the list. It is not the values that some Canadians have a problem with, it is the notion of a list. There is the concern that having made the list, this will then evolve into affirmative action.

We went through an affirmative action debate recently and another debate that had to do with hate crimes, Bill C-41. In that bill crimes were defined as worse and subject to more severe penalties if they were committed against persons identified on a list. That list included sexual orientation.

The net result is that if someone is lying in a ditch with a cracked skull it is a more serious crime if the person happens to be one of the people on the list than it is if a person is not on the list. That is absolutely preposterous.

This brings us to this bill. By amending the human rights act to include sexual orientation are we doing the same injustice to Canadians by suggesting that somehow we have to have a list about whom it is wrong to discriminate against?

It is the act of discrimination that is wrong. It is not determined to be wrong by whom the discrimination is against. It is every bit as wrong to discriminate against a person that is gay, a female, a person of colour or religion as a white male. Discrimination is discrimination.

If we did not have a list how would we go about having recourse if someone is discriminated against? If we did not codify what is right or wrong as we have been doing through the charter of rights and freedoms, but had a sense of what is right and wrong through our common law heritage, where would that put persons that are discriminated against? How would there be recourse and wrongs be righted?

That is the problem, the nub of the question. By adding the term sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act that is not going to be addressed. Nothing is going to change as a result of the change. We are going to be in exactly the same situation tomorrow as we are today, not one bit further ahead.

How do people who have been discriminated against find justice under the current system? A complaint is filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. What happens then? Well, you grow old, that is what happens. It might take three years or more before anything happens and justice delayed is justice denied.

If someone is discriminated against in employment or for any other reason, it is no different than from stealing from that person. If you steal a person's potential and future that is the same as taking money from their pocket.

We need all Canadians to share a common value that we do not discriminate one against another and that common value should be clearly understand and shared on a federal, provincial, municipal and corporate level. As the member for Rosedale said earlier, corporate Canada is light years ahead of public Canada as far as its relations with its work force is concerned. This is an absolute non-issue as far as the vast majority of Canadian business is concerned.

How do people who have been discriminated against get recourse? It would seem to me that it would be worthwhile if we could contemplate a situation whereby a person having been discriminated against would be able to go to a tribunal or a justice of the peace or some such body that greater minds than mine would determine, and make his or her case that he or she has been discriminated against. By convincing that body in short order that the person has a case, the person who has been discriminated against should be able to sue then and there. The benefit of that would be to bring community values into play.

For example, in Alberta there was a recent case everyone should know about of a gay person who was teaching at King's College, a religious institution. When he came out of the closet he was fired. He complained to the human rights commission in Alberta. His case was not supported.

On the surface this would seem to be a pretty clear cut case of a person being discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. However, I put to the House that in exactly the same situation, if that person had been working and teaching at the University of Alberta, which is a public institution, not a religious institution, then that person would not have been contravening the basic precepts of the institution for which he was working, and exactly the same jury in exactly the same circumstance would have found for him.

Common sense does come into play in the interpersonal relationships of people in the country. If we find the outcome of every single circumstance that we as citizens find ourselves in is determined because it has been codified and is written in law, then we will be removing the opportunity for the people to have their own community standards and community values.

That is not to say we would find ourselves in a country of patchwork where the strongest would survive here and the strongest would survive there. That is not my point at all. I am saying that there are two sides to every issue. Most Canadians live and let live and will look for reasons and ways to accommodate each other.

As we progress more and more into the realm of codifying relationships, the opportunity for discourse and settling things is taken away. This brings resentment and fuels reverse discrimination. To a large degree that is why affirmative action has been

discredited in the United States and is being reversed at exactly the same time we are implementing it here in Canada.

I had occasion to speak about just this. It has troubled me for quite some time. I have agonized over my approach, how I would speak to it and the position I would bring to this debate. A couple of weekends ago I had coffee with a friend in Minnesota who is gay. He told me that he almost ran off the road driving past the Humphreydome, the home of the Minnesota Vikings. On the billboard which flashed a sign to buy tickets, there was a slogan "remember gay pride week next week".

He said he could not believe it. He drove around the block to see if he was really seeing that sign, but there it was. He said that even 10 years ago he could not have visualized the remotest possibility of seeing a sign like that.

His life has not been made easy by the fact that he is gay. I asked him: "Are you gay because you want to be gay or are you gay because that is the way you were born?" His response was: "Why would anybody in their right mind choose a lifestyle like mine? Why would anybody go through the same grief I have gone through in my life, in family, in job, in housing and in everything people have talked about?" However, he said the wrong way to change this is by codifying or driving it through legislation. The right way to change things is through education and enlightenment.

That is the reason, although I am troubled, I feel confident that when I vote against this measure I will not be voting against people who are gay. I will be voting in the greater light by saying we must speak to the root problems of discrimination, not the surface symptoms.

I know the people in my constituency are divided on the issue. I know they are not divided on the notion of extending benefits to people because of their sexual orientation. I know people in my constituency are very concerned that I do the right thing and that I represent them in a way they would feel comfortable with and in a way they would be proud of. In this instance I know I am representing not just the people who voted for me but all the people of my constituency.

I am very conscious that the country is divided on this issue. Parliament is divided on this issue. It is a very difficult decision for many of us.

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1:30 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I have always enjoyed listening to his speeches in the House. I appreciate that he has a more enlightened view than other members of his party on a variety of issues.

I was interested to hear the speech of the hon. member for Rosedale, particularly a quotation from the learned Judge Goldstone, the leading prosecutor of the war crimes in Bosnia. He talked about Bosnia and what had happened there in terms of the terrible killings and atrocities and how that came to be possible. He said dehumanizing people loosens the moral constraints and allows people to demonize and dehumanise them and ultimately leads to genocide.

I believe that is related to this issue. What we are talking about in having a list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the human rights act is who we can treat as less than human. History is replete with cases of society's treating certain individuals as less than human beings. The human rights act is where we say because someone fits in this particular category we cannot treat them as less than human.

For example, there have been times in the past when people who were black or of other races were treated as less than human. Society said it was all right to do that. Even the courts said it was all right to do that. We are saying to the courts, by saying we cannot discriminate on the ground of race, that is not right any more, we cannot do that.

There was a time when Jews were treated as less than human. People of other religions were treated as less than human. We are saying that is not permissible.

There were times when children were treated as less than children. Society said it was all right. The courts said it was all right. However, the Canadian Human Rights Act states we cannot discriminate on the basis of age, ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex and so on, because these are people who have at times in the past been treated as less than human.

It used to be that children who were born out of wedlock were the outcasts of society and were treated as less than human. However, they cannot be treated that way today because the question of family status is listed here.

If there are any outcasts in this day and age, gays and lesbians are treated by much of society as the outcasts of this time.

When I think of Christian principles and the life of Christ, who showed more concern for outcasts than he did? From my point at least, my Christian values require me to support this bill. It is not okay to treat these people because of their sexual orientation as less than human.

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1:35 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I concur with much of what my friend from Halifax said. He reinforced much of what I said in my dissertation. I do not argue with the member opposite.

My concern is that I do not think this bill will do what he and others expect it will do. I do not think there is even the remotest possibility that by adding two words to the Canadian Human Rights Act the intent will come through. This is more window dressing.

Be that as it may, on the issues raised earlier and the notion of dehumanizing people, we are in another age of enlightenment and that ages of enlightenment are ongoing. Major societal changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

On the very issues we are debating here today, as I look in my constituency people of younger generations have a different mindset by and large than people of older generations. That does not mean the people of the older generations should not be respected. That means very likely the very issues which are so troublesome today will evolve and 10 or 20 years from now will not be at issue at all because society is in evolution. Changes do not come rapidly, much as this institution is protected from rapid change by the way it functions. That is probably good. It is a check and a balance.

I suspect our culture and our country and our society at large are far more sensitive to the notion of genocide and to dehumanizing people than other generations that preceded us have been. We spoke to that at great length in the debate last week concerning the Armenians and genocide and the term and the use of the word genocide.

I do not think we are all that far apart. People who have a different and just as passionately and strongly held view are worthy of the same respect as people on the other side of the issue.

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1:35 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest for his thoughtful consideration of this issue. It is a consideration and a thoughtfulness one would come to expect from the member.

I hope he will not be hurt if I tell him my reaction to his comment is that it is the rankest sophistry to say that one is in favour of eliminating discrimination or against discrimination but against a measure which is destined to eliminate that discrimination.

What does he say to those who say it is okay under federal legislation to discriminate? Will he stand in the House when other measures are talked about which deal with discriminatory measures based on sexual orientation in federal legislation and speak out against them? Will he denounce them?

Should members of the courts and human rights commissions read the statement he made in the House today as the reasoned argument that those who voted against this measure are not in favour of discrimination but just have some trouble with this measure and therefore our courts can proceed with the work they are already doing to eliminate discrimination? They could say that, after all, the will of the House is clearly expressed by that member that even those who vote against it are in favour of eliminating all forms of discrimination.

Is the member advocating we should take all the other lists such as references to ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or sex from the bill for the reasons he suggested? Does he not subscribe to the point made by the hon. member for Halifax that there is a historic reason why these provisions are in the bill?

These provisions are in the bill because those were categories of people who were discriminated against by a dominant class. That is the position we find ourselves in with respect to sexual orientation today.

Given what he said about his wish to get rid of discrimination, he should embrace this concept. If we have to clean up the bill to make it better and more effective along the lines he suggested, let us work on that together.

At least let us address this issue in an efficient way at this time.