Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Prime Minister for his decision to hold a free vote on this contentious bill. His wisdom and integrity in making this correct decision are recognized and appreciated by most Canadians.
For me Bill C-33 is legislation fraught with uncertainty and unacceptable risk. It is hardly a simple, routine and definitive amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In good conscience I cannot and will not support this bill. I am totally opposed to discrimination against or hatred toward any human being and that is why in all good conscience I supported Bill C-41. That bill extended to individual gay and lesbian Canadians the same protection in law from crimes of hate as that enjoyed by all other Canadians.
If it was absolutely clear and certain that Bill C-33 was only a matter of preventing discrimination I would support it. However, for me, as for many other Canadians, various comments from judges, other experts and the minister himself, do not bring clarity to this debate but rather confusion.
The only certainty is uncertainty. Am I certain that Bill C-33 will lead to same sex benefits, the legalization of so-called same sex marriages and same sex couples adopting wards of the state? No, I am not certain, but more to the point, I am not satisfied that this bill will not lead to these deleterious changes in our society, changes which I as a Canadian and as a member of Parliament can never accept or condone.
What is very clear is that the Canadian gay and lesbian leaders demand that these changes must occur. Well, let them not look to me nor to the majority of Canadians for support of such changes.
This is for me a moral issue and a matter of conscience. I respect the rights of others who see this issue in a different way. I respect their rights. I abhor the fact that respect is not unanimous in this House. However, I disagree with the people who take the other view.
It has been suggested to me that I set aside my own conscience and join the majority of members of Parliament in supporting Bill C-33. To that I say no, Mr. Speaker, emphatically, no.
In his famous play, "A Man For All Seasons", Robert Bolt has Thomas More say words to this effect when faced with a similar dilemma: "I think that when in the performance of his public duties, a man ignores his private conscience, he leads his country on a short route to chaos".
I reject the invitations to ignore my own conscience. No, I will not ignore what I believe in all sincerity to be true. I must and I do oppose Bill C-33. In doing so I firmly believe that I support a higher good, the traditional heterosexual family.
Much has been made of the fact that for many years several conventions of the Liberal Party have endorsed an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act such as that which we debate today. Allow me to remind the House of three relevant facts.
First, the commitment to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation was not in the Liberal red book on which our party campaigned and on which we were elected in 1993.
Second, such a commitment was not in the speech from the throne of February 1996 when the government's priorities were enunciated for Canadians.
Third, the Ontario wing of the Liberal Party of Canada at its recent convention in Windsor passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to promote and protect the traditional heterosexual family. In my view and that of many Canadians, including Liberals, Bill C-33 is not in the spirit of said resolution.
As my constituents know, I made known publicly my intention to vote against Bill C-33 early on in this important debate. The response from my constituents has been very heavy and overwhelmingly in support of my position. In fact, the ratio of favourable to unfavourable input from my constituents has been ten to one. Any individual or group claiming that Canadians support Bill C-33 could not have consulted with the people of London, Ontario and the surrounding region.
While these people oppose discrimination, as do I, they share my serious concerns that this bill could lead to a series of changes in our society which they find to be completely negative and unacceptable.