Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak in support of Bill C-33. Members of Parliament have an obligation to state the facts and clarify and dispel the myths that have existed in society. Only then can we ensure we are really giving valid information to our citizenry and thereby proper support to this bill.
The bill will prohibit discrimination, the essence and soul of this piece of legislation.
Let me start with the preamble of the bill. Let me restate:
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 that right is based on respect for the rule of law and lawful conduct by all;
Who would disagree with the preamble? Show me a citizen.
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 all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
The purpose is very clear. Let us convey that message to all citizens and we will have a fuller understanding of the bill and its importance.
It is important to underscore that the purpose of human rights legislation, as this amendment is to this piece of law, is to protect vulnerable groups, not to prey on them.
Recently there was an advertisement in the Globe and Mail which raised a couple of concerns, that Bill C-33 will give special status to homosexuals, that the bill could have a profound effect on Canadian society and would threaten the institution of marriage and family.
I respect their concerns, but they have been based on a misunderstanding of the bill itself and our laws and of the separation of the church and the state.
Bill C-33 will not give special status to anyone. No one could credibly argue federal and provincial human rights legislations now confers special status on Catholics or Protestants, on husbands or wives, or on those with disabilities. Although each of these is expressly covered by the existing statutes, it is obvious no such special status is conferred.
On the matter of the consequences of Bill C-33, we have to restate some of the fundamental principles. The Canadian Human Rights Act applies only to employment and the provision of goods and services coming under federal legislation. The Canadian Human Rights Act does not and cannot affect law on marriage. Ask any constitutional expert or any lawyer.
Even the Supreme Court of Canada has already decided in a recent case that family status does not include same sex relationships. Therefore we should not worry about that. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court came to the same conclusion that family status does not include same sex relationships.
With respect to the possible effects on benefits, Bill C-33 does not change law on benefits. Again, the Supreme Court of Canada has said unanimously that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination under the equality provision, section 15 of the charter. However, the same court also held that such discrimination did not support the extension to same sex partners of the pension benefits which were the issue in that case.
The Canadian Human Rights Act and consequently the amendment now before the House have absolutely no application to marriage. The common law has always provided that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The common law has equal force with any statute law.
With respect to a need for definition, over the years there has been considerable understanding by which tribunals and courts have looked at discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. They have developed an understanding of this term. They have interpreted it to mean homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality.
The Canadian Human Rights Act and therefore Bill C-33 do not apply to churches and religious organizations. The latter comes under provincial jurisdiction. Even if for the sake of argument the Canadian Human Rights Act were to apply, the Supreme Court of Canada has already held that it is reasonable and justifiable for a given religious school to require that the religious views of its instructors conform with the view of the church.
Moreover, we have to remember the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It overrides all other laws, whether federal or provincial. It has supremacy over the Canadian Human Rights Act. Nothing that could be done in the Canadian Human Rights Act could take primacy over the charter of rights and freedoms or affect the freedom of religion, expression or association guaranteed by the charter.
I state my full support for the bill. I hope that we all together clearly state to our Canadian citizenry the facts of the case, the governing Canadian constitution and its primacy over any piece of legislation things that are feared could happen will not happen. I suggest we all gather together and support the bill unanimously.