Mr. Speaker, we just heard a most unenlightening diatribe of information. It was a total misconception of the context within which the motion was written and a total misunderstanding of the actual words that were written. I am very surprised that the lady has left, but really not because she does not want to be learned, I do not think, about the issue.
The issue before us is a serious one. We should take this issue on the basis of what is right and wrong about it rather than whether it is a Liberal interpretation, a Reform interpretation or any other interpretation. What is being dealt with here is the fundamental question of who shall be supreme: parliament or the judiciary.
The crux of the issue is who determines the law, who interprets that law and who applies that law? That is the point being made by the particular motion before the House this afternoon.
That is the question we need to address. The issue in this case specifically centres around a particular word and its definition. The word is spouse and the definition of that word.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that all Reform speakers will be sharing their time.
The issue centres around the word spouse. The Ontario Court of Appeal has decided that the definition of spouse shall be a person of the same sex who cohabits at that time with the taxpayer in a conjugal relationship. That is the definition that has now been given by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that parliament does not share that definition of the court of appeal in Ontario. I dare suggest that not only does it not share the definition but the Minister of Justice presented to the House in Bill C-37 a definition that is rather different.
The definition she used when she presented the bill was as follows. It referred to a surviving spouse but the key word is spouse. What is the definition? In relation to a judge, it includes a person of the opposite sex who has cohabited with a judge in a conjugal relationship for at least one year immediately prior to the judge's death.
The question then becomes a rather interesting one. How is it possible that parliament has clearly stated as recently as last week its definition and the court of appeal of Ontario has come forth with a different definition?
There is a fundamental cross current, shoving and pushing, that does not make much sense. It seems to me the equivocation about the definition of spouse in this case is what? Is it different for a judge than it is for other people? How could that possibly be? We heard the hon. member opposite talk about equality. That would suggest that judges are not to be treated differently than other citizens in Canada.
We need to recognize that the minister of the crown in this case does not have her thinking in order. If the minister is to be known as a minister of integrity, and I think she wants to be and is, I believe she has no other option but to appeal the decision in the Rosenberg case. She must do so.
I want to raise another issue which is as significant and perhaps even more significant. It has to do with leadership. Underlying all legislation and our Constitution is a system of beliefs and values. We believe in democracy as the best form of government. We believe democracy, government of the people for the people by the people, is the best. For that kind of government to succeed it requires a particular sense of beliefs.
First there is the belief that is the best form of government. I cannot help but think about the late prime minister of Britain, Mr. Churchill, when he said “Democracy is a clumsy form of government but it is better than anything else”.
We begin to wonder exactly what these hon. members are saying when they disagree with this point. Not only do we need to have an understanding of the underlying principles of democracy. There is also the need for a system of values that we all agree on to develop a consensus of opinion about anything at all. In order for that consensus to be consistent, those values must be shared among a large group of people. It is true that requires at least a semblance of recognizing we have a common purpose, a common set of directions. This is where I have appealed to the minister to go in a new direction.
I refer to a philosopher down across the line who has described the North American continent, in particular the United States but also Canada, that we live in a cognitive, moral, confused situation. There really does not seem to be any particular belief or recognition that there is a right or a wrong.
Recently a group of students were asked what they would do if they had to choose between saving the life of a pet and a human being. The choice was the pet. What does this say? It tells us that we have a very interesting set of values that has changed rather dramatically.
What that also suggests is that we have a moral deregulation. What is right is what works for us. In fact, we have changed a large part of our vocabulary. Looters, for example, are now non-traditional shoppers. Killers are morally challenged. We must recognize that there is such a thing as an objective moral truth.
How do I dare say such a thing? I quote from philosopher Dr. Christina Hoff Summers, a W.H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.:
While it is true that we must debate controversial issues, we must not forget there exists a core of noncontroversial ethical issues that were settled a long time ago. We must make students aware that there is a standard of ethical ideals that all civilizations worthy of the name have discovered. We must encourage them to read the Bible, Aristotle's Ethics , Shakespeare's King Lear , the Koran, and the Analects of Confucius. When they read almost any great work, they will encounter these basic moral values: integrity, respect for human life, self-control, honesty, courage, and self-sacrifice. All the world's major religions proffer some version of the golden rule, if only in its negative form: Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.
These are not my words. These are the words of a scholar who has studied broadly, widely and deeply. These are the values that we agree on, courage, integrity and self-control. We like these things.
If the minister in this case allows the appeal court's decision to stand because she fails to act, which is all she has to do for it to go ahead, she will not only be internally inconsistent with herself through her definition of spouse in Bill C-37, but she will also be inconsistent with the legislation of parliament.
Even more significant is that if she does not act she will also lose her integrity. That in my opinion is the worst criticism I could offer. By her inaction she will tell the people of Canada that she is an advocate of moral deregulation which, in its simplest form, simply means morality is whatever works for us. This is not good enough.
That is a betrayal of all the great literature and of all civilizations that have found that there are basic and objective moral values which are integrity, respect for human life and things of this sort.
Will she do it? I implore her to.