Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate today on the issue of marriage and its importance to society.
As we get into things such as definitions, the roles of marriages and families and so on, we should withdraw a bit from some of the debate and reflect upon the joyous state of marriage which many people enjoy and covet in a free society.
Personally speaking, I just celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary. I often say that the years I spent before I was married were the only wasted years of my life. Since then it has been pretty good. What we are debating today is:
That, in the opinion of the House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.
The reason it is a delight to have the motion before us today is that it affirms marriage. It does not say that it is against anything. It does not say that we belittle other relationships, but there is only one marriage. A marriage is the union of a man and a woman as recognized by the state. It may be a church wedding. It may be a common law wedding. It may be a justice of the peace. The fact is that a marriage is a union of a man and a woman, and a glorious union that is. Again we are affirming that today.
We are asking parliament to step up to the voting line to say where it stands on the issue. We have read a lot in the press about different court decisions and about different positions in response to petitions. We have heard comments from different parties about their reluctance to agree and so on. Now is the opportunity to step up, as we will do that later this evening, to say whether we in favour of this, yes or no. It will be my pleasure to step up to say this is the definition of marriage.
Someone earlier asked about the definition of family. Our party has defined it but not loosely. It is pretty easy to define family. Family is those people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption.
Is a single mom with some kids a family? Yes, by blood. What if she adopted a couple of kids? By all means. What about a single father? Of course. Those are families, and we recognize that. Our party recognizes that and affirms that they play an important role in society. That is another great debate. Today we are affirming that marriage is a union of one man and one woman as recognized by the state. That is what this is about.
Why should we bother with this debate? I believe the courts and society in general look to parliament to set the pace and the agenda not only for legislation and human rights tribunals but also for the courts. The courts often state that they are looking to parliament and legislatures for guidance on issues like definitions contained or not contained in legislation.
When I gave a speech about the supreme court in my home riding a while ago, I mentioned that some people were exasperated, with some justification, with how pervasive rulings had become and how much they influenced society and parliament.
While I agreed there was cause for concern, I said that the greater concern was weak-kneed, yellow-bellied legislators who do not have the courage to step up and say what needs to be said in legislation. They should step up to the batter's box and tell the supreme court not to worry about a definition in the immigration law or in the spousal benefits law or in whatever law it might be because we will give it to them. We are not afraid of it because we had a good debate on it, took a vote on it, and Canadians through their House of Commons decided and gave direction to the courts.
When people get annoyed with the supreme court I ask them to pause for a second. While they may be annoyed with the supreme court, they are also annoyed with legislatures and legislators that do not do their job in this place and in provincial legislatures across the country. That is where we should expect good, intelligent debate and where decisions should be made and carried to the courts, not the other way around.
The next point is allowing Canadians to be heard on the subject. I debated with the member for Burnaby—Douglas this morning on Canada A.M. . He was proposing that God be removed from the constitution. I took the opposing view and we had a debate back and forth about whether or not it should happen. The only thing we agreed on was the need to have and to allow good debate on a controversial topic.
He may want to remove it. More power to him, if he can convince somebody. Personally I think an overwhelming majority of Canadians would agree with my position. Whatever, the place to debate controversial subjects is not in the back rooms of a courthouse. By all means bring it here for Canadians to discuss in their House of Commons. We should not be afraid of any of that.
At one time I had an experience with the unique position of marriage as opposed to common law. It was at a funeral held for a solider, a constituent of mine who was killed during a land mine exercise in Bosnia. He married the lady of his dreams just before he went there. They had a ceremony. He went over there and he was killed in a land mine accident.
I remember his commanding officer saying to me that it was fortunate the couple had married before he went away because now they could help her. They could look after her. They could extend the open arms of friendship, which any human being would do for another human being, but because of the unique marriage relationship it would not involve a two year waiting period or a court case. There was a marriage certificate. I do not know whether it was a civil or a religious ceremony. It did not matter because the marriage ceremony brought with it a sanctity recognized by this place about the important role of marriage in that the survivor would receive survivor benefits from the Canadian Armed Forces.
It was a very emotional ceremony during which the colonel pointed out the unique role of marriage in society. We could leave that funeral and say to one another that at least she would be well looked after, at least by being married they had sent a message to Canada and in return our Canadian parliament said that it respected that and would help her in her time of loss in a material way, a small way.
I am thrilled that we can talk about something as positive as marriage today, that we can affirm it and the role of this place. There are other legitimate relationships of all kinds, but today we are talking about marriage and the need to preserve that definition. I am glad the Minister of Justice has said she also agrees with that.
Let us put aside other relationships and their importance for another debate on another day, but on this day Canadian parliamentarians will stand to be counted on the definition of marriage and talk about the positive, important role of marriage in society.