Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech. I also appreciated his efforts to deliver a few words in French and would like to tell him his French is excellent and that I have no doubt things will improve. As the member knows, I try to speak English. I am taking courses three days a week at 8 a.m., with the firm objective of becoming perfectly bilingual within two years. This, however, is not the subject of today's debate.
There is no way we can forget that all sorts of remarks have been made on the subject of Bill C-33 in the past two weeks, since the debate got under way. Some remarks have caused us to grow, some have caused us to blanch and some have caused us outrage.
I would like to continue in the same vein as the hon. parliamentary secretary and try today to remain very generous, very open in what I have to say and try especially to put a number of things back into context.
I would recall that our debate today concerns an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act. So we are not talking about the charter. Sometimes journalists and perhaps our fellow Canadians get these two mixed up, but the act is an organic law with the same status as all the laws we pass in this Parliament. The difference between it and the Canadian Charter of Human Rights is that the charter is enshrined in the Constitution and cannot be amended without a round of constitutional negotiations and the use of the seven and fifty amending formula, which requires seven provinces representing fifty per cent of the population to approve any amendment to the Constitution Act of 1982, which is the country's supreme law.
That said, the Canadian Human Rights Act is a very important act because it is one way we have as parliamentarians to put a stop to potential discrimination in this country. There are in fact three ways to do this: the charter, of course, which has already been mentioned; the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was passed in the early 1960s by the Diefenbaker government and which continues to apply; and the Canadian Human Rights Act, which, and I do not think it can ever be said clearly enough, applies to firms under federal jurisdiction and to individuals receiving services from the federal government. So, we are talking about some 10 per cent of Canadian workers.
The Canadian Human Rights Act has been in existence since 1977. It is worth remembering that, first, when the Canadian Human Rights Act first came into effect-I was rereading the 1977 debates-some parliamentarians proposed including sexual orientation with the nine other prohibited grounds for discrimination. For a whole lot of reasons that do not warrant going over this morning, it was not possible. What we are doing today as parliamentarians-a little later in the day, at 5.30 p.m., if my information is correct-is changing the Canadian Human Rights Act to include an 11th item in the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
Now, let us have a closer look. What is discrimination, under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which applies to businesses under federal jurisdiction and to people receiving services from the federal government? Discrimination is defined as follows, and I think we should bear the definition in mind during the debate. To discriminate against someone is to treat that person in a different,
negative or unfavourable manner, for no valid reason. When the courts have had to interpret discrimination they, of course, stumbled over two elements of the definition: "to treat" and "no valid reason".
As we are speaking, there are prohibited grounds of discrimination and I want to mention them. There is of course discrimination based on race. As we know, an extreme form of such discrimination can lead to tragic cases of intolerance, as we have seen all too often during this century. Then there is national or ethnic origin. No one can be deprived of services or discriminated against regarding employment, based on his or her race, national or ethnic origin, or colour. This reminds me of comments made by some members which were, and I know you will agree, absolutely unacceptable in Parliament and in society in general. Then there is religion. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is prohibited to discriminate against someone on the basis of religion.
Then there is age. As we know, it is because this is in the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination that the government cannot, for example, force an individual to retire at age 65. Madam Speaker, you could, if it is the voters' wish and yours as well, remain in the Chair beyond the age of 65.
Then there is sex, including the fact that one is pregnant. Other prohibited grounds are marital status, family status and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted. Indeed, all those who were found guilty by the courts and who served a jail sentence, but were then granted a pardon under the established practice in our legal system, cannot be discriminated against because they have been granted such a pardon. Physical or mental disability is of course another important item on the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
What the bill seeks to do is to add sexual orientation to this list. The parliamentary secretary mentioned it earlier. I think we have to say it, and I agree with the government. There are certain issues regarding which I fully endorse the government's views. Then, of course, there are others regarding which I do not want to be associated with it. However, this time, it would have been a serious mistake on the government's part to try to define sexual orientation.
Why not define sexual orientation? First, because between 1977 and 1993, out of the seven provinces and one territory that sought to provide such protection regarding sexual orientation in their human rights code, none defined sexual orientation. They did not include a definition because, given existing legal precedents, this expression clearly refers to three possibilities: homosexuality, heterosexuality and, of course, bisexuality.
The saddest thing that has gone on in this debate, where certain members, which the most elementary courtesy prevents me from naming, have unforgivably overstepped the bounds, is of course the absolutely ridiculous, idiotic, confused and unfounded connections made between the protection we want given on the basis of sexual orientation, and pedophilia.
I rely on all the strength of my convictions in telling members and listeners that there is no possible connection between what we are now discussing and pedophilia. And do you know why? For two reasons. First, because it is very clear, as both the parliamentary secretary and the justice minister have said, that what is prohibited under the Criminal Code will, in all circumstances, continue to be prohibited.
It is very clear, under the Criminal Code, under conventions, in the case law, that pedophilia is an offence. There is not a living soul, and certainly not the one now speaking to you, who, however liberal he might be, is going to tell us today that protecting people against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the work place or in the delivery of services by the federal government will lead to the recognition of pedophilia.
Pedophilia is a criminal offence. Not only is it a criminal offence, but I challenge-I do not know if I may do so through you, but I challenge-any member of the Reform Party to rise in this House, with statistics to back him up, and to put his seat on the line and table studies or rulings showing that either administrative or legal tribunals have, in the past, offered protection on the basis of sexual orientation to pedophiles. It has never happened, and it cannot happen, because pedophilia is a criminal offence and must continue to be one.
It must continue to be a criminal offence because it depends on the exploitation of a child by an adult. Once there is exploitation, non-consent, and this is true for rape, it is very clear that the provisions of the Criminal Code come into play. I find it utterly dishonest, and I am being polite, to make the sorts of comparisons that have been made by certain members of the Reform Party.
It is not only dishonest, but irresponsible. It is irresponsible because it suggests that all homosexuals are pedophiles. Furthermore, according to the rigorous studies that have been conducted, 98 per cent of all pedophilia charges laid in the last 20 years-not last year, not two years ago, but in the last 20 years-were laid against heterosexuals. Make no mistake: 9.8 out of 10 people who commit the crime of pedophilia are heterosexuals.
I am not saying that our society must not try to rehabilitate pedophiles. It is clear that it is a deviant behavior, that it is truly
pathological in the etymological sense of the word, but, for pity's sake, let us be responsible and stop drawing parallels that are not supported by jurisprudence, psychology or criminal law.
Although the government should probably have acted earlier, I am happy that it has finally done so. What matters is the outcome. The government knows it could not find a better ally in this debate than me, but why did it have to introduce a bill like Bill C-33? Because people forget-I do not want to alarm you with this, because I know you have many other concerns-that the Canadian Human Rights Act is unconstitutional. That is a fact.
In 1992, the Court of Appeal of Ontario ruled that some of the provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act were unconstitutional.
Let me remind the House of the events that led to that point. In 1990, an officer in the Canadian Forces-"there's no life like it"-went to see his commanding officer and told him he was homosexual. The year was 1990, and the commanding officer applied a directive. He did his duty in applying the directive then in force in the Canadian Forces. Although it is no longer in force, that 1990 directive provided for the demobilization-that is the word used in the directive-of those members of the Canadian Forces who declared themselves or were presumed to be homosexual.
The officer in question, Mr. Haig, brought the case before the courts. Officer Haig was demobilized. He tried to avail himself of a provision and filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The commission was unable to hear his case because there were no grounds for filing grievances based on sexual orientation.
Officer Haig tried to avail himself of the protection based on marital status but his complaint was rejected. The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is in fact an administrative tribunal, suggested that Mr. Haig, who was demobilized because he had admitted being homosexual, take his grievance to an ordinary court of law.
So the legal saga from an administrative tribunal to the Court of Appeal of Ontario led to some of the provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act being ruled unconstitutional.
I do not remember whether the decision was unanimous or not, but the fact remains that the Court of Appeal of Ontario ruled that, under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms-which the parliamentary secretary was referring to earlier and which, as you may recall, came into force in 1985 and is part of the Constitution-every individual is equal before the law.
That is why, since 1992, not only has the Canadian Human Rights Act been declared unconstitutional, but also it has become common practice to construe that the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act should be read as including sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
In 1992, Kim Campbell was the Minister of Justice. This may be a good or a bad memory for this House, but the historical fact remains that Ms. Campbell was the Minister of Justice at the time. Kim Campbell, as the Minister of Justice, decided-and we should be grateful to her for this-not to appeal the case. As a result, not only did the Ontario court's decision become binding in Ontario, but Ms. Campbell decided to make it binding across Canada.
That is why the government decided, in its generosity, to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act. In fact, legally speaking, and I know that the hon. parliamentary secretary's many qualifications include a law degree, we had no choice but to make this change.
I have followed the debates on Bill C-33 assiduously, as you know. I was here the whole time, but not once did Reform members rise to call attention to this obligation. Not once did they take the logical line of reasoning of saying that, parliamentarians' wishes aside, what we are about to do a few hours from now-and there is no doubt that we will win this battle-is to bring the legislation in line with a decision made by a court, a court of appeal, an ordinary court of law, namely the Court of Appeal of Ontario.
I think that our viewers, anyone who is concerned with human rights must be reminded of these historical facts.
We started down the slippery slope of confusion and dismay the moment you and those before you gave the floor to the Reform Party. Then we heard about everything but the kitchen sink. We were threatened with just about everything except being prohibited from eating our Corn Flakes with milk, if this bill went through. Canada was going to turn into some kind of Liberia and was facing potential anarchy.
Fortunately, this debate is an opportunity to get our facts straight. First, let their be no mistake. I think it must be out of some freudian obsession that every member of the Reform Party told us the definition of marriage would be altered if this bill were passed. I bet you a quart of beer of your choice, Madam Speaker, that the next Reformer to speak after me will make the same point.
We must bear two things in mind. First, the solemnization of marriage comes under provincial jurisdiction. Second, nothing in this bill-it is merely three clauses long; it cannot be all that
difficult to read-will in any way, shape or form, directly or indirectly, change the definition of marriage.
In fact, if the government had wanted, which is doubtful, to make any change to the concept of marriage, its decision would most likely have been invalidated. Do you know why? Because, in 1995, last year then, a judgment was handed down under common law. I wish to dedicate this judgment to my Reformer friends.
In the matter of Layland and Beaulne versus the Province of Ontario, the claimants challenged under section 15 of the charter, to which I referred earlier-it provides for equality for all and therefore protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation-the requirement under common law that marriage be the joining of a man and a woman in matrimony.
The charter, which is enshrined in the Constitution, takes precedence over any other act. In essence, the Layland and Beaulne judgment said the following: "The restriction imposed by common law in that marriage must be entered into by persons of different sexes does not constitute discrimination against the claimants in violation of section 15 of the act".
Until now, no court of justice has ever sought to change the definition of marriage under section 15, and it is unlikely that we should ever see such a ruling. Of course, other countries in the world, such as Denmark and Norway, while not allowing same sex marriages, do authorize declarations of civil union. This is not a sacrament: it is a declaration of civil union allowing spouses to enter into a mutually benefitting contract.
I tried to be as clear as possible in making this clarification. I hope that those who are listening, including Reform Party members, will understand that this bill does not change the notion of marriage. There are legal precedents in these countries and, without predicting the future, I think that if a fellow Canadian, whether from Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan or anywhere else, were to attempt, under the Canadian legislation or the charter, to change the notion of marriage, there are firm guarantees that, under the common law, a marriage can only take place between two people of opposite sex.
This is not to say that I am not personally in favour of giving some guarantees to same sex spouses. I even tabled a bill to this effect. However, this is another issue, and it definitely does not involve marriage. These clarifications had to be made regarding the case law and the justice system.
Another often heard misconception is that, should the legislation go through, the family will suddenly, as if by magic, be undermined in our country.
First of all, this bill concerns individuals. Those who file complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission involving possible challenges relating to sexual orientation are definitely individuals. In recent years, such complaints accounted for 4 to 10 per cent of the total number.
Second, there is no reason to believe that a bill such as this one will allow us to redefine or to undermine the family. The justice minister, unnecessarily in my view, played it safe and added a preamble stating that the family remains the basis, the foundation of Canadian society.
I am not necessarily any happier that this preamble is there, because I do not think it is necessary. But it is there, so be it, and we are not going to amend it, we will live with it.
So, there is confusion between couples and families. It is true that, in the past, the Canadian Human Rights Act-in fact, not just the Canadian Human Rights Act, but various administrative tribunals, including certain labour relations boards-has forced employers to give certain benefits to same sex partners.
You are indicating that I have only ten minutes left, Madam Speaker. How time flies. I wonder if there would be consent to let me have more time. I would guess not. I will therefore try to wrap up my remarks, but ten minutes is more than I need.
The fact is that certain rulings have been made under the Canadian Human Rights Act by tribunals throughout the country, particularly administrative tribunals, allowing certain benefits to same sex partners, in the case of dental or health insurance for example. That is true, it would be dishonest not to mention it, but that in no way changes the definition of the family.
A couple is a couple. It is true that I myself think that a couple can consist of a man and a woman, two men, or two women, but this does not constitute a family.
However much of an activist I may be, recognition of same sex partners will not lead me to say that two lesbians or two homosexuals constitute a family. It is not true, and it is not what we are talking about in this bill.
I think another distinction should be made. You will remember that in 1985 a parliamentary committee toured Canada. It included the member for Mount Royal, whom I would like to salute, because of her strong commitment in recent years to promoting human rights. The year 1985, you will remember, was the year section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. It identified various discrimination scenarios, scenarios that continue to exist today.
Still, in 1995 and 1996, there are people who are not promoted because they are gay. There are people who are deprived of federal services because they are gay. There are people who are deprived of services. Not so long ago a group that was at my house reminded me that a priest of a parish, a parish I will not name, had refused to
rent them a hall, because the group was openly identified with promoting homosexual rights.
We are, today, not only updating legislation, we are sending a very clear message to all elements of Canadian society that we as legislators cannot allow discrimination to continue.
Most important is the fact that we are able to work so that, in ten years, should we find ourselves again in the midst of a debate, things will have changed and people who are 14, 15 or 16 and discover they are homosexual may know that there are guarantees under the law and also that legislators, those who have a public voice, out of respect for the family and the constituent majority, will ensure that we may tell homosexuals they have their rightful place in society, like all taxpayers. They have a rightful place as producers, creators and citizens.
This is the most important aspect of the bill. Today as legislators, we will say on both sides of the House that we assume our responsibilities, that we disapprove of discrimination and that we want their rights and the services they receive protected under the federal system. We will not tolerate discrimination.
Allow me to close with one point. We had one day where we heard witnesses in parliamentary committee. There was a pediatrician from Calgary, a city represented by the Reform Party. I am going to talk to the Reformers and thus be out of order. The pediatrician in question is a university professor. He had done a longitudinal study, that is, one over several years. He reminded us that, in Canada, two million young people die by their own hand each year, for various reasons of course. Of these, 60 per cent, according to the professor from Calgary, are unable to cope with the discovery of their homosexuality.
This is what Bill C-33 is about. It, with a number of other measures, because the problem is not solved, will allow us to say to young people who are homosexual-Because do not think for an instant that it is a matter of choice, that you wake up one day and say: "Today I am homosexual, tomorrow I will be heterosexual, and on the weekend, who knows?"
But that is not the case. When one discovers one is homosexual-and, as you are aware, I know what I am talking about-one knows it is not a choice but a matter of predetermination. That is why Bill C-33 is important, because it will tell young people across the country-whether they live in rural or urban areas, whether they are students or workers, whether they want to become professionals or technicians-that we recognize their rights as first class citizens.
Not only do we recognize their rights as first class citizens, but we will not tolerate discrimination. Not only will we not tolerate discrimination, but we want them to succeed on the basis of what they are in their professional environments. I sincerely believe that all those in this House who will rise in a few hours to vote against this bill are committing a serious, an irreparable violation of human rights for which they will have to account some day.
I will say in closing that both the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice were very eloquent in this regard, and I hope that I too made some impression. What we are discussing today is legislative protection. Nothing in this bill will change the family. Nothing in this bill will prevent someone who is proud to be heterosexual but who is tolerant deep down inside from receiving services from the federal government or having the sex life he wants for himself.
May I make a final appeal to Reformers; I know there are generous people among them. I know that, like us all, they too were elected and that all of us in this House share the same mandate. To them I make a final appeal to review their position and vote in favour of this bill.
We may well disagree on economic policies or on the national issue. I, for one, will continue to defend my ideas on economic matters-which may sometimes go against those of the government-and I will remain a sovereignist. However, when we as parliamentarians witness open discrimination, we have a duty to help end these practices. To Reformers I make a final appeal to review their position and find it in their hearts to vote in favour of this bill.