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House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course I was not referring to the hon. member. I had already stated that the attempt to link those two has been done by many. I did not wish to cast any aspersions whatsoever on the hon. member, and he knows that.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Vaudreuil Québec

Liberal

Nick Discepola LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that I will share my speaking time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.

As the member for Vaudreuil, I am especially proud of the fact that the government tabled this bill. This bill recognizes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Canada.

The bill amends the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding sexual orientation to the prohibited grounds of discrimination already listed in the act, including race, colour, religion and sex.

This will bring the wording of the act in line with court decisions prescribing that sexual orientation be included in or added to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination contained in the act so that the act will be consistent with the Canadian Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously recognized that sexual orientation was a ground of discrimination similar to those listed in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter applies to all legislation passed by this Parliament, including the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The proposed amendment will make this act consistent with the rights protected under the charter as well as with court decisions granting gays and lesbians the same protection against discrimination as other Canadians enjoy.

Those who object to sexual orientation being recognized as a prohibited ground of discrimination make it a matter of moral values, when this is mainly a legal matter. No one in this country should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. This is a basic matter of justice and fairness. We have no business judging people on the basis of their homosexuality or heterosexuality. On the other hand, we have a duty to protect all Canadians against discrimination in our society.

The courts and people of Canada have recognized the fact that gays and lesbians form a vulnerable group. They have historically been disadvantaged and been the victim of stereotypes, social biases and considerable discrimination in our society.

No individual should be less deserving of being recognized as a full fledged member of Canadian society because of his homosexuality. All deserve the same respect, the same consideration and the same protection under the law of the land.

According to recent polls, most Canadians feel that gays and lesbians should enjoy legal protection against discrimination as regards employment and services. Canadians support the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

All recognize that sexual orientation, like sex, race or religion, should not have a bearing on the right to employment or services. The Canadian Human Rights Act seeks to prevent discrimination at the federal level in the areas of employment and provision of goods and services. It applies exclusively to federally regulated departments, agencies and corporations. The act provides a recourse to anyone fired or unfairly treated by an employer, or to whom goods or services are refused on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Gays and lesbians must enjoy the same legal protection as all Canadians, so that no one in our country is a victim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This amendment provides such victims with a quick and inexpensive way to engage in a conciliation and settlement process.

Eight provinces and territories already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in their own human rights legislation. They are Quebec which, since 1987 already, has had such an act, as well as Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

This amendment aligns the federal act with the provincial ones, while also ensuring that it provides the same protection to any person who is discriminated against on the basis of sexual

orientation. The amendment promotes greater fundamental justice and equity for all Canadians.

Some people have raised various concerns regarding this amendment. It is important to address these concerns. First, the protection granted to homosexuals does not apply in the case of pedophilia. Judicial and administrative tribunals have interpreted the expression "sexual orientation" as meaning homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. Pedophilia is a specific crime in the Criminal Code, regardless of whether it is committed by a heterosexual or a homosexual: it has nothing to do with someone's sexual orientation.

In addition, this amendment does not call into question the definition of the family, marriage or spouse, or the fundamental role of the family in Canadian society. Neither does this amendment lead to the automatic recognition of benefits for same sex partners, or open the door to homosexual marriages or the adoption of children by homosexual couples.

The sole purpose of this amendment is to provide protection for gays and lesbians against discrimination with respect to employment and the provision of goods and services in areas under federal jurisdiction. It must also be pointed out that the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply to religious, cultural or educational institutions under provincial regulation. This amendment will therefore not affect these institutions. The fears raised by this amendment do not, in general, take sufficient account of the context and true scope of this amendment.

We believe that this amendment is necessary in order to ensure a certain basic equity in order to protect all Canadians against types of discrimination they encounter in their daily lives.

The Canadian Human Rights Act, more than any other kind of legislation, reflects the values of a country and of a people. Tolerance, equity, and justice are fundamental principles of our Canadian identity. Canada is recognized internationally as one of the countries in the world with the greatest respect for human rights. We cannot accept that people in this country continue to be victims of discrimination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. The purpose of this amendment is to correct precisely this situation and to ensure greater equity for all Canadians in our society.

Canadian society recognizes the importance of an individual's right to be respected. Each individual is unique and distinct, and must be able to count on the same protection under the law. Everyone has a sexual orientation, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, and this distinction must not be used to justify different protection from that enjoyed by the majority of Canadians against discriminatory practices. This amendment makes it possible to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in federal work places or in federally regulated businesses, such as banks or airlines.

The exclusion of sexual orientation in Canadian legislation offers basic protection against discrimination, such as in the case of dismissal, or the refusal to provide services simply because a person is gay or lesbian.

Although this is only a minor amendment to the act, I would like to conclude by saying that this bill nonetheless constitutes an essential amendment to ensure equal treatment and opportunities for all Canadians. This bill will help build a society in which discrimination is not tolerated and in which there is equal protection for all individuals. This amendment makes it possible to ensure that gays and lesbians receive the same basic protection against discrimination enjoyed by all other Canadians. It is a question of rights, of justice and of fundamental fairness.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, because of the great interest in this bill and because of the lengthy list of speakers, some of us will not have an opportunity to speak, so I am hoping to make a few of my points by asking questions and making comments.

I listened very carefully to my colleague. I have two comments to make and two very simple questions for him.

He indicated, and he is absolutely correct, that sexual orientation is contained in the human rights codes of numerous provinces. I wondered if he was aware that sexual orientation is contained in the human rights act of the territory of Yukon and that the sexual orientation phrase is defined in the human rights act of the territory of Yukon. It is defined as follows: "Sexual orientation means heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual and refers only to consenting adults acting within the law". If he is aware of that, I would ask him if he thinks it was incorrect to define the phrase in the Yukon human rights code.

Second, I hold in my hand the Criminal Code of Canada. It is my assertion that nowhere in this book is the word pedophilia used. There is no such thing in the Criminal Code of Canada as the crime of pedophilia. If a person commits certain sexual acts against a child, that is a crime. Pedophilia is no more a crime than thinking about planning a murder. There is no crime in planning a murder. There is a crime in acting on those thoughts.

I wonder if the hon. member would agree with me that the so-called crime of pedophilia is not in this book, but that it is the acting out of the desires of people which are specifically banned.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fundamental issue is whether it is a moral issue or whether it is an issue of discrimination. I have conscientiously looked at all the alternatives. I have a family. I am

the father of four. I believe this is fundamentally an issue of discrimination.

As a practising Catholic I do not want to get into the debate of whether someone is more religious than another person. No religion tolerates discrimination. That is what the issue is. We are adding two simple words to the act and if we have differences of opinion on that I respect everyone's differences.

I am in the fortunate position today to be a member of this House. If it was my daughter or my son that was discriminated against, what would I want and how would I want my son or daughter treated?

I have a gay employee who has worked for me for the last 15 years. I have never had to put him in the back of the shop. Thanks to his contribution to my small businesses we have prospered.

When I talked to him at great length over it there is one question that he asked me that I could never answer and that convinced me. He said: "Why is it wrong for one human being to love another human being?" I have no answer for that and until I have an answer then I have to say discrimination is intolerable in our society.

That is the direction from which I come at it. I respect others who do not share that opinion, but it is for that reason I will be voting in favour of bill tonight. I thank the Minister of Justice who has put this initiative forward.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me first reiterate that the Canadian Human Rights Act only applies to the federal government and to federally regulated businesses like banks, railways, airlines and telecommunications companies, and governs employment and the provision of goods and services in each of these sectors, which covers only 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce.

The rest of the Canadian workforce is covered by the provincial and territorial human rights codes. I am also satisfied that the act does not apply to religious, cultural or educational institutions; they are not under federal jurisdiction.

In 1995 royal assent was given to Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts in consequence thereof. In section 718.2 of that act, the words sexual orientation were added. The act contained many beneficial changes, but what some members of the House focused on was the inclusion of the words sexual orientation in the list of grounds for discrimination. These two words have created a lot of concerns on the part of many people who understandably have brought them forward in various ways.

This debate is here again with the inclusion of sexual orientation in Bill C-33 which is to protect those who work under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As we know, this inclusion will prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians. This discrimination is already prohibited in seven provinces and one territory, and B.C. is one of these provinces.

Many Canadians are concerned that the amendment will open the door to other demands, such as same sex benefits. I would like to comment that nothing earthshaking has happened in the above provinces since the legislation was introduced. There was no request to include the same sex benefits.

For me it is a matter of human rights. I believe that everyone in the world should be treated equally. I also believe that I must protect those who suffer discrimination yet have no voice. My role as parliamentarian is to give them a voice. I do not think it is up to me to judge people or the way they behave.

We are also talking about the family, and I would like to say I believe in extended families. Families that include everyone whose presence means comfort and compatibility. Those we are compatible with are not necessarily those closest to us.

The family has changed in recent decades. When I was in Italy, I belonged to a large family. I have only one brother, but my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my uncles and aunts, my cousins and my friends were part of the family. I got along very well with many of them.

My father and my mother were always in the picture. In Canada, my family simply includes a son who is now 28. All the rest of my family is in Italy and I often find comfort in my friends. Believe me, many people in my riding are in the same situation so what is the family? A nucleus of people who choose to be together and rejoice in each other.

If we have concerns about the family, we show little faith in the family because the family has always taken care of itself and has survived through thick and thin. In fact, there is nothing more meaningful or more comforting than a family and its members in the manner in which we choose them. Families are resilient. Families are as strong as their members are.

Let me add that Roget's International Thesaurus on page 884 uses the following synonyms for family: kinfolk, race, brood, lineage, offspring, community; quite a wide choice of synonyms. Is the world not a large family?

Let me add that the proposed legislation will not change the definition of family, marriage or spouse. It will, however, do something extremely important. It will send a message that discrimination is unacceptable under all circumstances, a message that Canadians have been upholding all along.

It is a message which we heard loud and clear when in October 1994 an Angus Reid poll told us that 81 per cent of respondents said they would be bothered if a lesbian or a gay colleague experienced discrimination in the workplace; 81 per cent also indicated their belief that gays and lesbians experience discrimination in the workplace; 48 per cent of Canadians said they personally knew someone who was gay or lesbian; 36 per cent stated that they had a gay or lesbian friend; 12 per cent stated that they had a gay or lesbian co-worker; and 12 per cent said that they had a family member who was gay or lesbian.

Because of these statistics and my convictions, I believe in this bill, which respects the rights of individuals. After all, we are talking about human beings, about people who face serious and often threatening difficulties and who, at the same time, must pretend to be different from what they are because of the consequences.

Why do we permit this hypocrisy in a country like ours, where families are separated because of immigration, life situations or other reasons? We should be able to accept and understand everyone without discrimination. The rights of all our fellow citizens must be protected, and we must understand that, the day after this bill is passed, nothing will change. We will, however, be able to count on a law that will enable us to put a stop to all discrimination and to help those who need help. It is too bad there will still be people who will not enjoy the same rights.

In conclusion, in my opinion all the amendments proposed to the legislation were a travesty because this bill addresses the concerns of people discriminated against and nothing else. Therefore, I support the bill and I have been voting in its favour.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I repeat, I am rising on questions and comments as I will not have an opportunity to speak because of the long list of members who wish to address the issue. I want to take the opportunity to make some of my points this way.

I want to commend the hon. member for her remarks and her belief. However, she did say one thing and I wonder if she was aware of something. She indicated that the changes to the human rights codes of the other provinces did not lead to demands or calls for same sex benefits.

Is she aware of the speaking notes of Attorney General Marion Boyd? The attorney general of the province of Ontario introduced Bill 167 in the province of Ontario and it flowed, in my submission, from the change to the human rights act of the province of Ontario. She said on May 19, 1994: "I have today introduced legislation which will provide same sex couples with rights and obligations equal to those of opposite sex common law couples". What was her justification for so doing? She stated: "Our government regards this issue as one of fundamental human rights," which is the exact same argument that is being put forward today.

In view of the controversy that spawned in the province of Ontario, would the hon. member not allow for the possibility that some will use the changes to the human rights laws that we are passing today as a justification under the argument of fundamental human rights to press their case with the tribunals and with the courts to provide same sex couples with rights and obligations equal to those of opposite sex common law couples and if not, why not?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, let me thank my colleague for taking this issue to heart. It is important that we can express our feelings and our opinions in this country. I believe that we should all propose what we believe in.

Yes, in a way I apologize. In fact, I should have remembered that Ontario has gone through this legislation. My own opinion is that it may have flowed from the human rights act but not necessarily so.

We are not discussing that right now. What we are discussing and what we have to concentrate on is the lack of rights for some people who work in the federal government or in other companies that are under federal jurisdiction. This is what I concentrated on and what I am concerned about. Whenever something else comes on board then I will have to focus on that and consider it for what it is worth.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is my second opportunity to put a few words on the record with regard to Bill C-33.

This bill, as members know, has raised very high emotions in many members of Parliament on both sides of the issue. There have been some words spoken and actions taken that will reverberate long after this bill is forgotten and the House moves on to something else, which is the way this place works. Whatever is top of mind today is not top of mind tomorrow.

The concern that many people in our country have with this bill is the way in which the government brought this bill forward, carried it through the House, through committee and back into the House again. It does not bring credit upon this House or upon our country.

It does not give the citizens of Canada the benefit of the doubt that we could make a reasoned decision, that we could come together in harmony, that we could do what is right for all people connected to this issue. Those Canadians who are part of the gay and lesbian community may feel that this is just a small but important step, one which is long overdue and which will give them equality before the law just as everyone else has. Other Canadians, most of whom are in the middle, are not all that

exercised one way or the other. Then on the other side of the scale we have those Canadians who feel this is a very dramatic change on the social mores of our country and should be considered carefully before we go forward.

The tragedy of this debate, in the pell-mell rush to get the bill through, is that people on both sides feel somewhat trampled, particularly people who oppose this bill who are said to be in some way discriminatory, or that they are homophobic, or that they are somehow unkind and mean-spirited people. If people in our country do not have the opportunity to have their voices heard in Parliament, why should they then feel that they are part of Parliament? Why should they feel that they are represented?

We are not cheerleaders. Our job is not to stand and say that whatever the government or any group brings forward is just fine. Our job is to measure, to temper and to test the laws as they come forward.

We know in a majority government that at the end of the day our country will have a law that exactly represents the will of the government even if that government is elected with 43 per cent of the popular vote. That is the way our government works and that is the way it is. We have to accept that.

I know many people from the gay and lesbian community honestly feel that to even question the veracity of this bill or the honesty by which it has been brought forward is in some way deprecating our fellow citizens who are gay or lesbian.

I know there has been debate in the House which has tried to make the point to link certain unlawful activities with homosexuality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is not right. It is not fair. We have to distinguish and separate what is lawful in our country and what is not. It is not made lawful because of adding two words to the human rights act to include the words "sexual orientation".

I speak for myself, but there are many in the House who understand that the nature of family in the country has changed dramatically over the years. We know there are families which are composed very differently.

In committee the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve brought forward his definition of family. It is particularly beautiful. His definition of family is people who are joined together under the common bonds of love, mutual support and mutual protection. That description aptly describes the nuclear family. One would hope it would be the foundation of the description of the family.

Families change as many people in the House know. My family is not a nuclear family. I have been divorced twice and married three times. It is not something I am proud of. We do not have a traditional family, but we do have a family that has love, mutual support and mutual protection. Our extended family has that as well.

Our eldest daughter was adopted. At 21 her adoptive parents supported her in finding her birth mother. We got to know one another. We were visiting with her adoptive parents and as would happen, friends of her parents asked who these people were. Greg was stuck for an answer so he said they were special relatives. We thought about it and about the relationship we have as a family and the strength that Kate's mother Nancy had in supporting her to find her birth mother. Nancy said it did not take a lot of strength and courage.

How can we possibly hurt someone by loving them? How can we love someone too much? How could it possibly hurt if another family loves a person?

No one can tell me anything about the nature of families and mutual support and how important it is for us to be flexible and as a society to be open and supportive, even if these relationships are not ones we feel comfortable about. It is really none of our business. On the other side of the coin, marriage and family have a longstanding societal and religious significance. That should not be taken lightly either. That is the essence of this debate.

In my view, it would have been far more difficult for me to come to the decision, and it has been a very difficult journey for me, to vote against the bill if it had been brought forward honestly and dealt with the real issues at hand. The real issues in my view are not the issues surrounding discrimination. We are all protected from discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are all protected against discrimination today by virtue of the fact that we are human beings.

However, this bill introduces two words, sexual orientation, into the statutes of our country. The effect of introducing those two words will be to give a foundation to the courts to further continue to interpret laws which would essentially support putting same sex relationships on the same plane as heterosexual relationships.

If that is what we as a country want to do, then let us do it. Let us bring forward legislation that states exactly that and debate it on its merits. Let us not do it in a Trojan horse fashion saying that this is legislation designed to prevent discrimination, that anyone who would vote against it would obviously be in favour of discrimination and not acknowledging that what is sure to follow has not been brought forward honestly into this debate.

Had that debate come forward, this House may have been able to find a way to accommodate both sides. I mentioned in the House previously the notion of a registered domestic partnership. If this is not the intent of the government, it would have been possible for the government to have written the legislation initially to accommodate the concerns of people who feel threatened by it. It could have limited the scope of the legislation explicitly to human rights issues or it could have accepted considered and reasoned amendments which would have done so.

If these amendments were accepted, it would have allowed many more Canadians to support the bill. I believe most Canadians are pretty charitable. Most Canadians would have nothing to do with discrimination against anyone, including by virtue of someone's sexual orientation.

A private member's bill was tabled today in the House. Its preamble states: "An act providing for equal treatment for persons cohabiting in a relationship similar to a conjugal relationship". There is nothing wrong with that being brought forward. It is entirely appropriate that such a bill would be brought forward. However, it is evidence of the fact that this debate is not over.

The people with whom I have had contact in the gay and lesbian community would be the very first to say that it is not over. They will press their case, as they have the right to do, as hard as they possibly can until the battle is won. I want to put on record that from my point of view the people from the gay and lesbian community with whom I have had any contact have been absolutely forthright and absolutely honest in their intent in what they are trying to achieve and why they are trying to achieve it. There has been absolutely no suggestion otherwise.

As with many members, I find myself greatly discomforted in voting against this bill. None of us should in any way want to have our hands in anything that would discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or for any reason, although we are dealing specifically now with sexual orientation.

At the same time I am charged with the responsibility of representing not just my constituents who are concerned about the impact of this bill, but all Canadians who are concerned about this bill. When I rise this evening to vote against the bill it will not be with any sense of satisfaction or joy; it will be with considerable sadness and with a heavy heart.

I know there will be people who will think that my doing so is a repudiation of them as human beings or that in some way I am making a value judgment. I am not. I recognize and I accept that people are born the way people are born. We are who we are and that is the way it is. I celebrate love and companionship. Who am I to tell anybody else how or whom they should love? However, that does not allow me to forget my responsibilities to the people who sent me here and the obligations I bring to this high office.

In a few short hours we will be voting on this bill. There will be many people in the months to come who may say that we would have been wise to have given more consideration to exactly what we are doing. The House gave the same consideration to the $2 coin as it has to this fundamental question. This is a question which is fundamental to many Canadians on both sides of the issue.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. I know he has personally wrestled with this issue. He spoke earlier this week at a reception hosted by EGALE. I want to signal the extraordinary contribution which has been made by EGALE, John Fisher, the late Les McAfee, and others in this long journey.

The member has shared with this House in a very personal way the fact that his son, J.R., is gay. One of the important elements of this legislation is to ensure that those who apply for jobs within the federal jurisdiction are not discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. The son of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest could apply for a job in a bank, on a railway, in telecommunications or some other job within the federal jurisdiction and he could be turned down. The employer could say that he does not want him because he is gay and he might hurt his business, or maybe the employer would let him work at the back of the shop but not at the front.

I would plead with the hon. member. Does he not understand? Does he not recognize that if this bill does not go through his son, his own flesh and blood, would have no recourse in law other than that which is pursuant to a court decision which may be in conflict with another Alberta court decision? Does he not recognize that we need this legislation to at least prohibit that kind of discrimination, not just against his son but against all gay and lesbian people in this country?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I answer the question of the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway, I want to acknowledge the courage he showed in being the first man to come out here in the House of Commons. I also acknowledge the courage of the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. It is not an easy thing to do. I recognize that.

The question my friend posed to me is central to the agony I have had to endure in determining how to vote on this issue. If the nub of my friend's question was discrimination, if I felt that were the case, then nothing could prevent me from voting in favour of this legislation.

Such is not the case. My son, as are all Canadians, is already covered by the charter of rights and freedoms. He does have recourse. I received a list of companies that have already extended benefits to same sex couples. It is as long as my arm.

Society is already way past that question, which is not to say there is not real foundation to that question. Twenty years ago or ten years ago, imagine having the Egale gala on Parliament Hill. Not even 20 years ago there were teams of people going through the federal government and the armed forces who were called the queer police. They were ferreting out people to take them out of their jobs. Those people in the gay community, those citizens of Canada who are gay-forget the gay community-or lesbian have a foundation on which they should feel the necessity of such a law.

If it were limited to the notion of the prevention of discrimination, even if it were not necessary, even if it were redundant, I would support it. It begs the question why would the Minister of Justice not accept amendments that would limit the bill specifically to what he says it is to make it possible for me and many others in the House to support it.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member commented that if certain amendments had been adopted this legislation would have been acceptable to him.

I refer to one of the amendments he put forward, that the bill be amended to define family as meaning a heterosexual couple with their natural or adopted children.

As I pointed out to the member in a note, does that mean if I were a woman with four young children and my husband had the bad grace to die on me, I would not be considered a family under Canadian law? If I were living with my husband, having raised our children and maybe our mother was living with us, sharing our meals, bathing in the same bath tub, using the same washing machine, looking after each other, that we would not be a family?

According to his definition we would not be. I would like him to explain why that amendment to the legislation would have made sense to him. Is he aware the Canadian Human Rights Act is already being interpreted as if discrimination based on sexual orientation were in it?

Does he not think employers, providers of services, have the right to know they cannot discriminate? Right now they do not by reading the legislation.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising these questions because it gives me a chance to put on the record clarification.

We exchanged some notes last evening during the vote. The amendments which came forward in my name, had I had the opportunity to withdraw them I would have. I think the point was very well made. When the amendments went in it was to refer to marriage and family. When the amendments were printed it was family. I should have caught it but I did not and I apologize.

This is one of the reasons for the good faith of the members assembled here. They are able to have a look at legislation and say that it does not make sense, and it was deservingly defeated.

However, there are other members who brought forward amendments which would have served the same purpose and they were defeated as well.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I accept what the hon. member said, that some motion went in in his name which did not reflect his position.

My question to him is a very straightforward question. If that is the case, why did he vote for an amendment which excluded single parent families? Why did he vote in favour of it?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was in that long silent walk home, as I was considering the events of the day, when I thought perhaps I blew it that time.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Francis Leblanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my 20 minutes with the hon. member for Burlington.

I welcome the decision of the Prime Minister to permit a free vote on this legislation. The subject matter of Bill C-33 is a human rights issue. It is also a moral issue. As a moral issue it is important that members of Parliament be permitted to vote according to their conscience.

I do not wish to have my support for this legislation misconstrued as having been coerced. I realize many of my constituents have different views on this question. I know those views are deeply held and the product of sincere conviction. I respect those views. I want to explain how I have come to my position.

Those who oppose the bill fear it will have the effect of giving social approval to homosexual relationships, to same sex marriages and to same sex benefits through the courts, or that it will make it possible for crimes such as pedophilia to be protected by human rights laws. They argue Bill C-33 grants special rights to gays and lesbians.

Are these concerns valid? Let us remember what Bill C-33 does. Bill C-33 makes a slight amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Act is a federal law which prohibits discriminatory practices in the workplace and in access to goods and services in activities which are the legislative responsibility of the Parliament of Canada. For the purpose of this legislation, these activities include the Government of Canada itself, banks, airlines, railways and telecommunication companies.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is about discrimination related to employment and access to goods and services in these sectors of our economy. It sets out what is discrimination and the recourse and remedies available to individuals when it occurs.

Under the current act the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for which a pardon has been granted. Bill C-33 adds the words sexual orientation to these categories.

It is important to emphasize the words are sexual orientation. This ought to provide reassurance to Roman Catholics, of which I am one. I quote from a recent letter to the Prime Minister by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Most Reverend Francis J. Spence, Bishop of Kingston.

The letter, which I obtained through the courtesy the Most Reverend Colin Campbell, Bishop of Antigonish, has been helpful to me in considering my position on this legislation. In his letter Bishop Spence points to a distinction made by the church which he says "is not often made in the public debate between orientation-inclination-and behaviour".

Bill C-33 is entirely about orientation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with behaviour. The term is entirely neutral. It applies equally to persons who are victims of discrimination because they are heterosexual as to those who are victims of discrimination because they are homosexual.

It has nothing to do with whether a person is sexually active or not. The celibate homosexual gets the same protection under Bill C-33 as the most promiscuous sexually active heterosexual. What counts is whether the individual is the victim of discrimination in the workplace or in terms of access to services strictly because of his or her sexual orientation. The bill has nothing to say positive or negative about the behaviour itself.

At the same time, Bill C-33 does not in any way invite or encourage an individual to express or practise or flaunt his or her sexual orientation or desires in the workplace. It in no way changes what are acceptable social norms of behaviour in this regard. If an employee or a customer in a federally regulated institution chooses to behave in a lewd or sexually aggressive or inappropriate way he or she can expect no protection from discipline under Bill C-33. They are subject to the same actions related to sexual harassment or sexual assault or immoral conduct and so on as exists under present laws. However, even in those cases the individual is entitled to due process before the law and not to be the object of systematic discrimination.

Will Bill C-33 lead to the legalization of such crimes as pedophilia? The answer is now. Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. It is a crime. It a crime regardless of whether the offender is heterosexual or homosexual. It is an offence under the Criminal Code which is a totally separate statute in no way affected by the bill.

Will Bill C-33 end up sanctioning same sex marriages or the granting of same sex benefits? No. These are completely separate issues that have nothing to do with the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Act has to do with discrimination in terms of employment and access to goods and services. It has nothing to do with marriage. Nor does it apply to same sex benefits.

Bill C-33 is not about homosexual unions. It is not about same sex benefits. It is not even about sex. It is about human rights. Bill C-33 advances the moral proposition that it is a violation of fundamental human rights to deny a person access to services or to discriminate against someone in terms of employment purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I ask the hon. member's co-operation and I will certainly see that he has the opportunity to complete his remarks in the fullest following question period.

ForestryStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the week of May 5 to 11 is National Forest Week, a time when public awareness of Canada's forest resources is encouraged by the Canadian provincial forestry associations.

Canada has 10 per cent of the world's forests. These forests form a vital part of our economy, supporting over 350 communities and providing jobs for over 800,000 Canadians. With $50 billion of shipments annually Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers of forest products. In my riding of Thunder Bay-Atikokan the forest and lumber industry is a significant employer.

This year's National Forest Week theme is "Forest Regions: Varied Treasures". This theme reflects the fact that various parts of the country support different types of forest ecosystems. In Canada we have 10 distinct forest areas, each of which offers its own treasures.

Figure SkatingStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this House to recognize the determination and relentless hard work of Josiane Fréchette, from Sainte-Perpétue-de-Drummond.

Josiane is a brilliant figure skater. She won a gold medal in the Canadian championship, Atlantic division, pre-novice level, and she came first in the short program, novice level, in an international invitation competition, the Residential City Cup, which was held in the Netherlands this year.

Having been selected by the Quebec figure skating federation for the fourth year in a row, Josiane will attend a provincial figure skating seminar.

Thank you, Josiane, for giving those around you this example of faith and perseverance. Our hearts are with you.

Quebec has another reason to be proud of its young people.

Canadian Human Rights ActStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation has been shrouded in a deliberate campaign of misinformation by the justice minister.

The minister is doing this dance of deception in order to deny the truth and consequences of Bill C-33. He portrays the bill as the simple addition of two words in an act, a simple two clause bill that this House should dispose of quickly that will simply address discrimination. Not so.

The truth is this bill will have profound consequences that will impact Canadian family by redefining it, and that undermine the fundamental principles of equality.

The minister continues to mislead and dodge the truth, while the government rams the bill through the House in record time. Under false pretences, the government has disabled democracy.

History will be the judge of these nine days that have mocked our parliamentary institution and the Canadian people.

National UnityStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate two high school students in my riding for their contributions to the pursuit of national unity. To Sarah Boyd and Michael Holmes, both students at Parry Sound High School, I say well done.

These two young constituents tied for first place in an essay contest that I launched in all of the high schools in my riding to promote pride in Canada.

In her essay Sarah urges Canadians to speak out and to contribute their skills to helping Canada remain strong and united. She suggests linking towns of similar sizes to promote understanding and strengthen community bonds.

In his essay, Michael advocates encouraging corporations to make unity their responsibility. He advocates pairing community newspapers to facilitate a shared letters to the editor venue that fosters kinship and understanding.

I am proud of the efforts of all those who entered my national unity essay contest. Today I ask my colleagues to join with me in saluting Sarah Boyd and Michael Holmes.

FirefightersStatements By Members

May 9th, 1996 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week the International Association of Firefighters is in town.

A number of statements have been made in the House lauding the work of firefighters and the risks they take on behalf of all of us. I would like to echo those sentiments.

However, the best way we can honour firefighters is for the House and the government to take their policy recommendations seriously with respect to Operation Respond, a proposal they made for dealing with hazardous materials which they would like to see set up in Winnipeg as a pilot project. I encourage the government to get moving on that. It should also get moving on the proposal with respect to a public benefit for firefighters and similar service people who lose their lives in the line of duty, and also recommendations with respect to the Canada pension plan.

The government should take all these recommendations to heart and we should see some action on these very soon.

Bill C-33Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the public wants individual members of Parliament to have more say in reflecting their opinions.

I note that the British system allows for a degree of independence provided by a tiered disciplinary system. I am most pleased that my leader has provided a free vote on Bill C-33.

With free votes it will be even more important to attempt to understand and represent the views of all constituents. To this end I have had a personal and professional poll prepared in my riding of Durham, asking the people what their attitudes were to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

While there was a clear case of polarization, it was evident that the majority was in favour of the changes which they saw as a matter of human rights. I hope this will herald a new era of relaxing to some degree the discipline in this place in order that members can more effectively represent their constituents.

With this newfound liberty, members will have to be more diligent in ensuring that they fully understand the views of their constituents. I look forward to a more liberalized parliamentary system

City Of MontrealStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday, Montreal launched a promotional campaign under the theme "Montreal, you are my city".

This two-year operation was the fruit of concerted efforts by the City of Montreal, the Government of Canada, 11 private corporations, and the vast majority of local media.

This multimedia operation offers concrete proof that the climate in Montreal is changing and that all stakeholders will now work toward a common goal.

The hon. member for Outremont and Secretary of State for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec was happy to announce, on behalf of the Canadian government, a financial contribution of $1 million.

This is another fine example of this government's commitment to work in partnership with other socioeconomic stakeholders to improve conditions in Montreal and Quebec.

National Nursing WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week being National Nursing Week-whose theme this year is "Ask a nurse"-I take this opportunity to draw attention to the important role played by nurses in keeping everyone healthy.

I wish to pay them a special tribute in this House so that these professionals know we are aware of the upheaval their profession is going through: the job cuts in hospitals, the shifting of part of the work to patients' homes, the review of duties and of the training required to practice their profession in this new environment. That is quite a lot.

I therefore want to recognize their strength of character, their dedication and their determination to provide quality care despite the uncertainties of tomorrow.

They are true professionals. On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to commend the nurses of Abitibi, Quebec and Canada for their professionalism and their strong dedication to their communities.

National Forest WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Mr. Ed MacDonald, a forester from Vancouver Island, for donating 300 coast cedar seedlings to help celebrate National Forest Week. They are available today in the opposition lobby.

The seedlings remind us that trees clean the air and protect watersheds, in addition to sheltering wildlife and providing both recreation and jobs for people. Eight hundred and eighty thousand people work directly or indirectly in forest industries which produced $49 billion in products in 1995, more than half of which was in the export industry, making us number one in the world.

Even given the limitations of the new softwood lumber agreement with the United States, forestry contributes more to the balance of trade than agriculture, fishing, mining and energy combined. The people of Canada, primarily through their provincial governments, have a big say in what happens in our forests because most of them are publicly owned.

Therefore we must choose wisely regarding land use decisions, including native land claims, to protect forestry, the backbone of Canada's economy.