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House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was discrimination.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-33 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This legislation will add the undefined term sexual orientation to the list of categories which offer special protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. This contravenes the concept of equality, the idea that all people are equal and should be treated as equals under the law.

This bill sets aside one more category under the Canadian Human Rights Act to include people who will get special treatment under the law. This is a break away from equality. I believe the intentions of the government is presenting this legislation are good and are honourable, but the results of this legislation, should it pass, and we know it will because closure has been invoked and the government whip will make sure it passes, will be one more category enshrined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The argument used by some members opposite of how could anyone oppose adding protection based on sexual orientation under the Canadian Human Rights Act is not a valid argument. What should happen is that all categories set aside for special treatment should be eliminated. We should, pure and simple, view Canadians as equal, and under the law we should treat all people in this country as equal.

I cannot support a bill which breaks away from this important basic principle of equality.

I would like to read the very first principle written in the Reform blue book. It is the most important principle that guides Reform policy.

It says: "We affirm commitment to Canada as a balanced federation of equal provinces and citizens". The most important principle of Reform is the principle of equality. I will support no legislation that goes against this principle. It is a basic principle that I think Canadians support without reservation. For that reason, I will vote against this bill.

I would like to comment on what my constituents say about this legislation. I did a survey about a year ago in anticipation of this legislation coming forward. The survey went out to all eligible voters in the constituency through a householder. I would like to read some results of this survey.

I will read the question so members know what was asked. It was a fair, unbiased question: Should sexual orientation, undefined, be included as a protected category under the Canadian Human Rights Act? That is quite a simple, straight forward question.

What response did I get from my constituents? The message was very clear. There is no doubt how my constituents feel on this issue. Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said they are against having sexual orientation, undefined, included as a protected category under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Only 6 per cent were in favour. The rest were undecided or did not respond to that question. Those results are pretty clear. They certainly guide my vote.

When going to constituents to determine their view on an issue, it is important to do the background work. This issue has been well debated in my constituency. The media have played their role on this issue. They reported what has gone on at public meetings. They reported what different people are saying on this issue. They have my point of view on it. They have the point of view of many others from the constituency who have an interest in this issue. The debate has taken place at public meetings. There has been media involvement. This has taken place over some time.

Finally, the formal mechanism, a key part of the process, which is a householder survey that went out to all constituents, indicated that 89 per cent are against having sexual orientation, undefined, included as a protected category under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I also asked in the householder some other questions about related issues. These related issues, although the government argues otherwise, are pertinent. When this change passes-we know it will-it will lead to more changes down the road.

Many members in this House and people outside who support this legislation say that this is only a first step. I firmly believe that.

The other related questions that I asked in this survey were these. I will read them and give the results: Do you agree with the definition of the family as those individuals related by the ties of blood, marriage or adoption and that marriage is the union between a man and a woman as recognized by the state? The response to this question: 96.5 or 97 per cent were in favour, only 2 per cent were against and about 1 per cent were undecided.

I asked two other two related questions. One question was: Should spousal benefits for any program funded or administered by the federal government be extended to same sex couples? In response 94 per cent said no, only 4 per cent said yes and about 1 per cent were undecided. Those results are quite clear.

I believe that not only do the results reflect the position and the beliefs of the people in my constituency but they reflect a much larger view. I have heard this certainly in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and across the prairies as I have gone around the country over the past couple of years.

The fourth question that I put to the people in my constituency was: Should a new category called households be established for the purposes of identifying dependent relationships that are not currently included in the definition of a family? In response 88 per cent said no, 7 per cent yes-

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member's time has expired.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase a famous orator: "Never in history has so much been said by so many about only two words".

I want to begin by reading from the Canadian Human Rights Act. This act enshrines the fundamental principle of Canadian society:

Respect for the dignity and equality of all human beings and their right to live and to work free from discrimination.

A great deal has been said to suggest that in fact this act treats Canadians unequally. Let me therefore read from the act:

For matters coming under the legislative authority of Parliament-every individual shall have an equal opportunity-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.

Every individual. Equal opportunity.

It then lists the characteristics on which discrimination most commonly occurs: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, a conviction which has been pardoned. The amendment before Parliament today adds two words to that list, nothing more. The words are sexual orientation.

As far as I know every single Canadian has a sexual orientation. You are bisexual, you are heterosexual or you are homosexual. Everybody is covered by this act.

Inclusion of race in the Canadian Human Rights Act does not say that black people are protected but white people are not. Inclusion of religion does not say that I am protected as a Roman Catholic, but a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Protestant is not. We are all protected from discrimination based on our religious beliefs, whatever they may be.

Not one person who has written or spoken to me on this issue has said that it should be acceptable to discriminate against someone, to deny them employment or services just because they are gay or lesbian. Nobody says it is all right to discriminate and that is what this act is about. It is saying it is not all right, it is not acceptable, it is not legal in Canada to discriminate.

People have raised with me issues that they are afraid may be implicit in this act so let me deal with these concerns. They are concerned about pedophilia. The preamble specifies the right to be free from discrimination based on respect for the law and lawful conduct. Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, it is a crime. It is prohibited by the Criminal Code and it will continue to be prohibited by the Criminal Code.

The Canadian Human Rights Act applies only to lawful conduct. Churches and schools are worried it will interfere with their right to preach religious values on matters of sexuality. Churches and schools are not under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Canadian Human Rights Act applies only to those matters under the purview and the legislative authority of Parliament.

Even when this issue was dealt with by the Supreme Court of Canada under an Ontario human rights act which does include sexual orientation and has for a decade, the Supreme Court of Canada said that Catholic schools were completely free to ensure that those people they hired had religious beliefs which were consistent with the purpose of the school.

People are concerned that this amendment may affect the definition of marriage. Again I want to go back to the preamble of the bill, which says very clearly that the government recognizes and affirms the importance of family as the foundation of Canadian society and that nothing in the act alters its fundamental role in society. In any case, marriage is primarily a provincial matter. If having sexual orientation in the human rights act automatically implied recognition of same sex partnerships, the Ontario government would not have had to go through introducing a piece of legislation 10 years after it included sexual orientation in its human rights act. It would not have had to introduce legislation to establish same sex relationships on a legal basis.

Again I want to go back to the courts because people are also concerned about the extension of employment benefits to same sex partners. It was very clear in the case of Egan and Nesbitt v. The Queen. The unanimous decision of the court was that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination under section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms. Not the Canadian Human Rights Act, but the Canadian charter, which is constitutional law. Notwithstanding the court's finding, it did not support the extension of same sex benefits in that case.

The claim that this bill establishes special rights is simply not accurate. This covers all Canadians. It protects us all from discrimination, from whatever source.

We are bringing our Canadian Human Rights Act into conformity with the human rights acts of eight of the provinces and territories in Canada. We are bringing to 10 per cent of Canadians who work in federal jurisdiction the same rights which are enjoyed by the majority of the workforce employed in eight of our provinces and territories. Is it not about time we had equality of rights across the country?

There are complaints. People can argue that there is no discrimination, but there are many complaints from gays and lesbians. The vast majority are about something as basic as the ability to get and keep a job.

Discrimination hurts us all. Discrimination hurts our society. It leads to isolation from society, to alienation, to being forced into hiding who we are for fear of discovery, for fear of losing our jobs, our apartments, the right to go where we want to go, to do what we want and to buy what we want. It means being ostracised. That is not good for the individual and it is not good for society.

Legislation will not end discrimination. Our Criminal Code does not end murder, robbery, beatings or rape. However, it gives a legal recourse to people who are victims of those actions which we have determined are unacceptable in our society.

This subject is often argued on religious grounds. As a Christian I have very strong religious principles that also guide my personal behaviour. The strongest of the commandments that I obey is the one that says: "Love one another as I have loved you". A similar principle is in other religions and I respect them all; however, to me it is a simple matter of human dignity, of fairness, of respecting every other person on this earth and treating them fairly.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment defeated.

The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons With Disabilities.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 5.55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed in today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 1996 / 5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

moved that Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of witnesses), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to introduce Bill C-217 in this House. The purpose of this bill is to protect any person testifying in criminal proceedings in which the accused is charged with a sexual offence or a violent crime.

Under this bill, the accused could no longer personally cross-examine witnesses. In such cases, witnesses would be examined or cross-examined by the court.

First of all, I would like to thank the members on both sides of this House who have already told me they would support my initiative. I wish to thank them all. I hope that my presentation will convince other members and that a majority in this House will feel that my bill is well founded.

Bill C-217 is a solution to the problem of accused people defending themselves. In fact, the accused can choose their own defence strategy, including defending themselves. They can then cross-examine their victims and confront them face to face. I have two examples of legal proceedings supporting my arguments.

My first example is the trial of former Concordia University professor Valery Fabrikant. That circus lasted five months, ending in August 1993. Fabrikant assumed his own defence after firing his lawyers. He was finally found guilty of murdering his four colleagues, and he is currently serving a life sentence in the Donnacona penitentiary, close to Quebec City.

The second case is that of Ferreira, whose trial took place in Montreal, last fall. This person was accused of forcible confinement and sexual aggression. As in the above-mentioned case, Agostino Ferreira assumed his own defence. He even personally cross-examined his two victims. I deplore the fact that these aberrations in our legal system were not more strongly condemned outside Quebec. I presume that a certain regionalism prevails when it comes to news items of this sort.

For example, reaction to horrible murders committed in British Columbia is not as strong in New Brunswick. To fully understand the purpose and the objectives of my bill, it is imperative to see the facts in these two legal cases that led me to propose this solution.

Here are these facts. On August 24, 1992, around 3 p.m., Valery Fabrikant, a teacher and researcher at the mechanical engineering

department, entered Sir Henry F. Hall, in Montreal's Concordia University. He was carrying three fully loaded revolvers, as well as boxes full of ammunition. He went to his office on the ninth floor with his union president, professor Michael Hogben, 52, and shot him point-blank.

He then killed in the same manner professors Ziogas, 48, Saber, 46, and Matthew Douglas, 66. He also shot secretary Elizabeth Horwood several times, 66, without managing to kill her. He then locked himself up in an office with the security guard, Daniel Martin, and Georges Abdou, who managed to disarm him when he was momentarily distracted. That is the first horror story.

On January 4, 1995, Agostino Ferreira entered a clothing store on Saint-Denis in Montreal. It was 10.30 a.m. and the store was empty. He indicated to the two young female employees that he needed their help to write a suicide note, but they did not take him seriously. In the face of this reaction, Ferreira showed them a bomb attached to his belt. He said it was powerful enough to blow up the whole neighbourhood.

He was also armed with a pistol. He calmly told the girls to get into a taxi. They were afraid that he would set off the bomb, and did what they were told. The three went to Ferreira's apartment. In a gloomy room, lit by candles, he had one of them write a suicide note in which he confessed to a double murder five years earlier.

He then bound the girls with tape. He gagged them, blindfolded them and tied their hands and feet. He cut the clothes off one of them with a knife. He then raped both girls. They managed to escape when he left the apartment to get some cocaine. So much for the facts.

The Fabrikant and Ferreira cases caused quite a stir in the metropolitan Montreal area. Apart from the cruelty and the perversity of these individuals' actions, these two sordid affairs have one fundamental point in common. These two individuals presented their own defence, without legal representation, and took advantage of their rights to personally cross-examine the victims of their crimes.

In the case of Valery Fabrikant, the trial lasted five months. Fabrikant, who refused to plead insanity, as his lawyers had suggested he do, wanted to show that he had been persecuted by Concordia University. He wanted to mount a defence mid-way between that of provocation and the battered woman syndrome. In all, the accused rejected 10 lawyers.

His defence, obviously, was not admissible in law. Provocation supposes that the accused has been subjected to an insult or an unfair action such that a reasonable person in the same situation would have been unable to maintain control and, in the heat of the moment, would also have killed his victim. This is a defence which, if accepted by the court, would not have led to an acquittal, but to lessened criminal responsibility. The individual could have been found guilty of involuntary homicide rather than murder.

I dare not even touch the battered wife syndrome argument for fear of losing my cool. There can be no more twisted and abject individual that one seeking to justify his foul crime by identifying himself with a woman who has been the victim of spousal violence. These are nothing more than the dreadful machinations of a paranoid and narcissistic mind.

The right to a full defence is a fundamental one in our society, and probably the grounds on which Mr. Justice Fraser Martin allowed Fabrikant to parade 77 witnesses, mostly from Concordia University, despite the inadmissibility of the defence of provocation.

During the entire trial, Valery Fabrikant presented himself as the victim of persecution, of a plot by the Concordia University community. He even summoned Elizabeth Horwood, the secretary who survived the massacre. Our system allows such things.

But I would ask this: Is our system better served when someone who has been accused of attempted murder can cross-examine his victim and attempt to discredit him or her? No. When there is a legal counsel, he or she serves as a middleman to cross-examine the victim without confrontation with the attacker.

I will give you an example of the type of question Fabrikant was allowed to ask Mrs. Horwood, whom he had shot at: "Where did I hit you? What did I look like at the time? Can you describe what I did?" Mrs. Horwood acquitted herself very well under the circumstances, but might she not have been spared a second attack by the perpetrator?

Take a moment to imagine the state of mind of Mrs. Horwood, when she again saw her attacker coming toward her to question her on the events that have left a permanent scar on her life? After five months of trial, the jury deliberated seven hours before finding the ex-professor guilty of the charges against him.

During the trial, Fabrikant did not hesitate to insult Judge Martin, which earned him six citations for contempt of court. The Supreme Court of Canada finally sealed this murderer's fate on June 2, 1994, by refusing him leave to appeal. That put an end to the circus trial.

The story of Agostino Ferreira is scarcely any better, in fact in some ways it is more loathsome. I shall not go into the facts of the case, except to point out that Ferreira was charged with forceable confinement, kidnapping and assault. At the trial, the victims were cross-examined by Ferreira himself, who did not have a lawyer.

He started out by apologizing to the first of the two victims for asking her questions. He asked her if the suspect-the suspect being himself-had acted not out of spite but out of love. Ferreira also asked questions related to his statement that someone or some

force may have been with him in the room when he committed these rapes. This cross-examination lasted an hour and and a half.

The next day, Ferreira cross-examined the second rape victim for an hour and ten minutes. Referring to a crucifix, he asked her is her legs were spread apart in the shape of a cross at the time of the rape. He also asked her: "Were you flogged? Did you have to wear a crown of thorns?" This, to me, is an abomination.

I readily admit that such incidents are fortunately not representative of most cases before the courts. Nonetheless, we as legislators have a duty to review Canada's criminal law so that it recognizes the rights of the victims.

If this House cannot give them an active role in legal proceedings, the least it can do is protect them adequately. This is the logic behind Bill C-217.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code so that the protection already provided to victims of sexual or violent offences who are younger than 14 is extended to all victims.

That is why I am asking the members of this House to support my bill.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. An agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the committee stage of Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice of my intent to propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.