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.