House of Commons Hansard #240 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, this motion arises out of the controversy that followed various supreme court decisions and various other court decisions that were intended to extend various benefits to same sex couples.

I really believe that the controversy is an empty controversy if we as legislators apply ourselves to a few relatively easy changes.

I believe that the majority of Canadians believe in the principle, in the rightness as described in our charter of rights, of making sure all Canadians have equal access to benefits and that they should not be discriminated against because of sexual orientation.

I believe that over the last 20 years Canadians have come to more and more recognize that homosexuality is something that is given to us at birth, that it is not really an alternative lifestyle. It is something that nature or God gives us. It is a flaw, perhaps, or an abnormality. I should say there is nothing unnatural about an abnormality because every one of us is born with differences, weaknesses or strengths.

I think all of us as Canadians believe that we should not discriminate against people merely because they are different from the norm. Indeed homosexual couples and homosexual individuals I think are generally acknowledged to have contributed mightily to the creative life in any country or any community to which they belong.

That having been said, I think we can fix this situation by a few simple legislated definitions. The first should be to legislate a definition of marriage that means legally that marriage is a union between opposite sex couples. Second, we should legislate a definition of spouse.

We have no choice but to connect spouse with the idea of marriage because the dictionary defines spouse as husband and wife, and only the courts can play Samuel Johnson at their whim and redefine language whenever they please. We as legislators have to respect language in both English and French and make sure that we are using current language and using words as they are intended to be used.

Then what we should do is create a new definition and call it dependent partner. We define dependent partner as an adult who is in an emotionally dependent relationship with another person leading to material dependency. We can extend that definition to say that it involves siblings, that it involves parent and child, or that it involves people of the same sex who are in a physical relationship with one another.

Once we do that then the rest should fall in place. As long as we set aside the fear associated with defining same sex couples as being married, as having the right to adopt children or as eroding the sanctity of marriage, I think the vast majority of Canadians, whether they are very religious or not very religious, will join with this parliament in agreeing that we should make sure all people who are in an emotionally dependent relationship should have equal access to benefits. The advantage to this is that we take, for the most part, sex out of the definition.

I certainly believe, as a former Liberal prime minister once said, that parliament has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. I believe that is so. We should be talking about dependent relationships, not sexual relationships.

I think this is an easy solution. We should think about it over the summer. I am glad the Reform Party put this motion forward today because we are coming to the end of this sitting and we need to reflect on this issue so we can easily resolve it when the fall comes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments in support of the Reform motion. The more I hear of this debate and the more I hear some members speak and where they are coming from, I actually get very scared about what is an obsession with the issue.

Now we hear from the hon. member that he wants not only to define marriage as he sees it but also to define spouse as it relates to marriage. I have to question what right do I, or does the member or anyone else, have to do that.

People who live together may define themselves as or may self-identify as spouses. They may be in a common law relationship as man and woman. They may be of the same sex.

I find quite frightening the way this debate is going in terms of hearing on one hand that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, which the member has so eloquently called forward from the past. Yet the very motion and debate that is taking place would do exactly that. It would enforce the state into people's private lives and define people's relationships.

For what reason do we need to do that? Who is this threatening? Who is being threatened by people's choice and decision about how they live if it is not causing harm to other people?

I am genuinely asking that question because I have difficulty understanding for what reason the member believes the state should be making this enforcement in terms of a definition not only of marriage but now of spouse. What will be next? Will we define the family?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we have just heard an example of the rhetoric of intolerance. It is the proper place of this place to define things in law. That is our job. That is what we are here to do. It is my right. I was elected by my constituents to do exactly that.

If the member had been here when I spoke earlier, she would have heard me say that the danger, and why we have to intervene and make these definitions, is that if we do not the courts are likely to extinguish the rights of children.

I am not sure in my conscience that, all things being equal, a child should have a homosexual couple as parents. I am willing to acknowledge that homosexual parents can be good parents. I am willing to give the officials the discretion to make them parents. However I am not willing to give them the right of being parents because, in doing so, we extinguish the rights of children. I cannot do that. It is my place to define the law to make sure that the rights of children are protected.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I commend the member for Wentworth—Burlington on his eloquent remarks.

I point to the comments of the attorney general this morning who asked in this place why we should be using the already limited time of the House to debate a motion on which there will be no fundamental disagreement inside or outside the House. I raise this point because the member indicated he thought this was a worthwhile motion, as do I.

Will he not agree with me that we have heard members of the House disagree fundamentally with the principle stated in the motion? I do not raise this as a partisan point but rather to demonstrate that the governing party of Canada, and not the government, strongly urges the federal government to recognize same sex marriages in the same way as opposite marriages in its distribution of benefits.

Will the hon. member recognize that this is a live issue, that there is, contrary to what the attorney general said, fundamental disagreement about it?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe the vast majority of us agree that benefits should be extended to same sex couples. The issue here is simply the danger of allowing marriage to be defined as a same sex relationship. Not only does that go against a thousand years of tradition in law, the church, language and every other thing, but there is a serious danger to the rights of children.

That being said, on this side there is great diversity of opinion and great freedom to express opinion. If an attorney general somewhere or the solicitor general or the justice minister expresses himself or herself in the House, I still have the privilege of expressing myself in my way.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to enter into debate on the very important question of the definition of marriage, the definition of spouse, and the upholding of the family.

I will bring a perspective to the debate which is just a little different from most of those that have been expressed, although there has been a current of what I will say through many of the speeches we have heard so far today.

I think of marriage and family in a very special way. I made reference in a member's statement today to the fact that this summer my wife and I will been married for 38 years. I think that one of our friends had it right when she said at our 37th anniversary “Betty deserves a medal”. That was probably true. I try to be a loving and caring husband. However, as do all husbands and all spouses, we sometimes fall just a little short of the mark, even the one we would set for ourselves and our spouses.

We have a very solid family relationship based on marriage. To me it goes somewhat beyond the verbal definition.

One of the reasons I am so supportive of this motion is because we are talking about words. We are talking about language. Unless we use words which we understand to have a common meaning it makes communication very difficult. We all know that over time language changes. All one has to do is read a bit of Shakespeare to realize that the English usage a scant 150 or 200 years ago was somewhat different in many areas from what it is now. Even in my own lifetime I have seen some changes in the language.

When I was a young man “do not speed” meant not to go faster than the prescribed limit on the highway. The word speed had quite a different connotation when I was a young man in the hippie era. I remember in my day when “keep off the grass” meant not to go on the neighbour's lawn. Now keep off the grass may have something to do with something quite different.

I suppose I should hesitate to use this spectacular example, yet it is a real example so I will use it. We had a motto in grade eight. I still remember it well. Our teacher and the school principal were trying to teach us to make sure that we were diligent in our work. The reward for doing good work was to have enjoyment for it afterward. Our school motto was “First we work and then we play because that is the way to be happy and gay”. In my generation the word simply meant carefree, happy and without worry. Now the word gay has a fairly different connotation because it has been pre-empted by the homosexual community. Quite often when I visit high schools and I talk about that grade eight school motto it evokes a good chuckle because of the change in the meaning of the word. That happens in the English language.

What we are concerned about is not only the legality of it but the deeper meaning. The reason for this motion today is that we want to able to give the courts a very clear message of what our meaning of the word marriage is and what the definition is in terms of what the legal implications are. As I said in my preamble, to me the meaning of marriage is very deep.

On July 15, 1961 my wife and I stood in front of a minister at a church. We expressed our vows to each other. I still remember most of them. I do not know if I could still quote them verbatim; however, they had to do with being true to each other, to cling to each other and to no other until death do us part. That was the vow that we made. It was made not only to each other in the presence of witnesses, it was also made very profoundly in the presence of God.

I am here today to share this aspect of a definition of marriage. For many ions of time it has meant the union of a man and a woman. To me it is not only a relationship or that my wife and I are living under the same roof and sharing expenses, it is much more than that. It is a deeply meaningful, spiritual relationship under God, with an oath that we gave to him as well as to each other.

I remember my grandparents. They passed away a number of years ago. We celebrated their 25th when I was a little kid. I do not even remember that. However, I do remember celebrating their 50th, their 60th and their 65th. Grandfather died when he was 88, in their 67th year of marriage. That is when this part of the vow came into play for them: “Till death do us part”.

My own parents have celebrated their anniversaries over the years and I certainly remember their 25th, 50th and 60th. Lord willing, they will be celebrating their 65th next year in the millennium year. That is their millennium project. They are still very healthy and we are very grateful for that. They too have had a lifelong, deep, monogamous, faithful relationship with each other. There is a deeply held meaning in the word marriage, a union between a man and a woman for life. As I have said, my wife and I share that same meaning.

I do not know whether we are ready in this country to start fooling around with a definition that is so deeply meaningful to so many Canadians. I am quite convinced that the definition I hold, which adds that further dimension to marriage, is one that is held by the majority of Canadians; not only by those of the Christian faith, but also by those of other faiths. I think of the Sikhs, the Muslims, the Hindus. They all have a relationship of marriage which they clearly understand to be the union of a man and a woman. We err terribly by even suggesting that possibly some court could change that definition.

I am here today to declare that I am going to very solidly, proudly and out of a deep sense of duty and obligation vote in favour of the motion, and not because it is immediately a threat. The Minister of Justice has told us that. Some of my colleagues have already quoted words which she has used both verbally and in response to letters from constituents and in response to petitions. The Liberals have no intention of changing the definition of marriage from that which is currently in use, it being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. That is the current definition. I believe that they have no intention of changing it.

Why do we bring this motion? It is very simple. We want to send a loud and extremely clear message, not only to the Canadian people but also to the courts of this country, that the will of the people as expressed in this democracy is that the definition should remain unaltered.

Think of the word “spouse”. What can spouse mean other than the wife of a husband or the husband of a wife? The courts are starting to change the word “spouse”. Even in this House we have had some bills like Bill C-78, which in its obscure parts refers to anybody in a conjugal relationship.

Marriage keeps the government out of our bedrooms because it is a valid relationship which stands on its own without inspectors. We err when we go in the direction of changing the definition of spouse, the definition of marriage and, indeed, the very definition of love and lifelong commitment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened to our colleague from the Reform Party giving examples of the changing meaning of words throughout history, and he is absolutely right. His examples were very pertinent. He also said it was the role of parliament to give a legal value to words and to their profound meaning.

Listening to the hon. member, it would appear that only married heterosexual spouses forming a family with children are worthy and capable of fidelity, love, mutual support and sharing.

I have a question for him: Does he believe that words are not the only things that can evolve over time, but that attitudes could as well?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, we are really not talking about other kinds of relationships today. There is no doubt that they exist. There is no doubt that people have remained close friends and, as some would say, conjugal friends. I do not like the word in that context, but there it is. Obviously that happens. That is not what we are talking about.

I am talking about the preservation of the language, of the use of the term, what it means as a deep meaning, and this one is the union of a man and a woman in marriage. I do not really think that we are talking about the other one. That may occur and that is a subject for another day.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the day on which we are having our last debate on the expenditure of over $150 billion that we will have to vote on later tonight, much later tonight probably. I am totally mystified as to why we have a motion that is a real bogeyman before us today.

The motion makes specific reference to court decisions and is seeking to have parliament confirm the idea of marriage. I would ask the member opposite if he is aware of one court decision that has anything to do with changing, modifying, even questioning the definition of marriage, which is well established in common law, or if he is aware of any court decision that has anything to do with changing the definition of family. The only one I am aware of is a decision at the trial court level which says very specifically that section 15 of the charter cannot be used to redefine marriage.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, in answering the question of why we are using one of the last days of parliament on this issue, it is because of the fact that things roll on when parliament is not in session. I believe that it is timely for us to give a very, very strong and clear message to the courts.

It is true that many of these decisions have been coming down at lower court levels and so far the upper court has upheld them. However, all of the courts are saying to us that they want our guidance. They have said “unless the court speaks”. Even in the most recent M and H decision I believe there was an indication that the court wanted a clear indication from parliament as to the direction it should be taking.

Reform members today are using this as our opportunity to do what the government should have done a long time ago, and that is to have a debate and a vote and establish beyond all shadow of a doubt what actually is required.

We have some instances where the courts have actually asked for this. I have several examples here. They indicate, for example in the Rosenberg decision, that the words referring to the spouse, at any time, of a taxpayer, include the person of the opposite sex or the same sex. They are changing the definition of spouse. As I said in my speech, what can spouse in the context of marriage possibly mean other than the husband of the wife or the wife of the husband?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I must say that I share the mystification of the deputy whip of the government when she said it is a mystery why we have to talk about this. I never imagined when I was elected six years ago that I would ever be in the House of Commons debating this issue, the fact that we need to affirm the meaning and the cornerstone policy of marriage in our country. I think most hon. members have the same feeling yet here we are.

The Prime Minister in October 1996 said that marriage is a contract between two individuals according to the Canadian tradition of different sexes to share a life together. A spokesman for the justice department in January this year said common law says that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that is the way it will stay.

I think a lot of us had thought, hoped and believed that this kind of a debate about the meaning of marriage in Canada would be totally unnecessary. Yet as many of my colleagues and others have stated here today, there is a growing uncertainty and concern on the part of citizens of our country about this seeming bedrock concept of Canadian society.

The recent redefinition of spouse by the supreme court is one of the things causing this unease. Of course a spouse is a part of a marriage. Now the courts have said that a spouse is a part of other kinds of relationships as well. In its decision the court said that this ruling that redefines spouse “has nothing to do with marriage per se”. It also said “this appeal does not challenge traditional conceptions of marriage”.

There have been moves in other parts of the world to re-examine this issue. In 1996 the American Congress passed what is called the defence of marriage act. As the House knows, issues are very closely linked in our two countries and in other countries as well.

That act did two things. First, it allowed states not to honour same sex marriages even if such marriages were allowed in other states. Second, the law defined for the federal code that marriage “means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife”. Interestingly enough, shortly after the act was passed, the state of Hawaii had a court decision which ruled that forbidding same sex marriages violated Hawaii's constitution.

There are reasons for Canadians to feel some unease about this issue. In the interventions by some members of the New Democratic Party today there is some hostility toward this cornerstone definition of public policy.

The unease of Canadian citizens has been demonstrated in some of the petitions filed in the House. I would like to read the wording of the petitions that have been filed. Eighty-four members of parliament have stood up to present this petition:

Whereas the majority of Canadians understand the concept of marriage as only the voluntary union of a single (that is, unmarried) male and a single (that is, unmarried), female;

And whereas it is the duty of parliament to ensure that marriage, as it has always been known and understood in Canada, be preserved and protected;

Therefore your petitioners pray that parliament enact legislation...so as to define in statute that a marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

In this petition we see the anxiety of thousands of Canadians who took the time to sign and submit petitions to parliament.

We also see that the courts are requesting leadership by lawmakers on key public policy issues such as this. There is a clear precedent that the courts are prepared to fill in any blanks in respect of these kinds of issues, and sometimes even to rewrite our laws.

We have for example a quote from an article in the Financial Post where a financial planner observes:

—the law, whether by statute or judiciary, is slowly but surely transforming the notion of “family”...the Egan case said...the definition of spouse in the Old Age Security Act, which requires couples to be of the opposite sex, contravenes the Charter of Rights. But the contravention was saved by the holding...that the discrimination is acceptable in a free and democratic society.

There was one dissenting judge even on that exception. The commentator went on to say:

We don't believe that such a change is likely in the foreseeable future and we are certainly not about to embark upon a campaign for change. On the other hand, we do recognize that societal norms are changing and that even if the politicians are super cautious, a goodly part of the judiciary does not seem to be intimidated.

When there is commentary like that, our citizens are concerned. They wonder what is going to happen.

There is also the matter of Bill C-78 wherein the provisions of the public service pension act were extended to same sex couples. This provision of the bill caused real anxiety not only in the public but there was some strong reaction by members of the House.

There was the perception that the government was changing some of the notions and the definitions of relationships in our society by stealth. I do not want to be unkind but I think that was the impression a lot of members of the House got, that buried deep in these big bills were going to be the kind of changes to the whole notions and constructs of our society that would not be acceptable to many Canadians.

When we see that courts have said that a couple is a couple is a couple and that spouse is not limited to marriage partner, in the long run people ask themselves, will the distinction between a union to procreate and nurture children and all other types of relationships be lost?

This leads me to the purpose of bringing forward this motion today is to give us as members of parliament the opportunity to say that we are determined to be vigilant in regard to these very key elements of our social make-up and that we mean business about ensuring the stability of this key social construct. If there is doubt, let us clear it up. If it takes a day of debate to do that, then I think it is a very worthwhile day of debate.

There are a number of reasons the institution of marriage is important. In the book It Takes Two: The Family in Law and Finance by Allen and Richards it is stated:

Marriage is an efficient institution. Were there a more efficient means to raise children, marriage would not have lasted over the millennia as the primary form of organization for procreation and social structure. Raising children, not just providing for them physically but embodying them with what is good and productive, is a complicated business. Historically, the family has been a type of “firm” that has provided parents with proper incentives to see the job through.

Traditionally, marriage has been viewed as a relationship in which there are many stakeholders: children, parents, the church and the state. Ours may be a more secular (society) but that does not absolve us from collectively caring about the success of marriage as an institution.

I appreciate that all members of the House are prepared to show leadership on this important issue.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to take a few moments to add my voice to this debate, seeing that there is not time for me to participate in the debate because everyone wishes to speak to the motion.

The hon. member in her opening statement indicated how she thought we would never be here discussing this issue. I empathize with what she is saying, but I say to the member how fortunate we are to be able to have this debate so that we can alleviate some of this anxiety and the perceptions she also referred to.

When we are elected, constituents from our respective ridings say to us that we are here in Ottawa to be their voice. I firmly believe this and I am sure every hon. member in the House believes this.

Here we are today in this most unique situation to speak on behalf of people like Dolina and Bruce Smith from my riding, Mr. and Mrs. Guest, Roxanne James and so many others who have sent us their comments. In today's debate and the vote we can express what our constituents are saying. I thank the members who have participated.

SupplyGovernment Orders

June 8th, 1999 / 4:10 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree with the member. The intent of the motion is not to be partisan. The intent of the motion is to give all of us an opportunity to make it crystal clear what parliament means when we refer to marriage. It is to provide a means for parliamentarians from all parties to remove any doubt about our position on the value and meaning of marriage to this country and to this state. We appreciate the fact that lawmakers from all parties are participating and are making affirmations on this very important point.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Calgary—Nose Hill for her remarks and the remarks of members opposite on this subject.

I agree with the hon. member that this is not a motion brought forward in the spirit of partisanship but as the attorney general suggested, hopefully, everybody would be able to support it. I think we have seen today at least from one party and perhaps from some government members that is not the case, but it really does raise a question in my mind.

I read the motion and it simply says that parliament affirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, precisely the government's stated and ongoing policy. Then I looked at the talking points distributed to members of the Liberal caucus, prepared I think by Kevin Bosch at their research unit which among other things characterizes this motion as being “fearmongering, extremist, malicious, divisive, intolerant, meanspirited, singling out and demeaning groups” et cetera.

Could the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill comment on what she feels about partisan, hot button, extremist politics like this being employed on what should be a non-partisan issue of importance to all Canadian families?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I would hope that the injudicious characterization of this debate is confined to one researcher for the Liberals.

I have heard from many of my colleagues opposite that they feel this is an important debate. It is a debate that is meaningful and positive for Canadians. It gives an opportunity to show true leadership as we ought to as the elected representatives of the people and, as one of my colleagues just said, as the voice of the people of Canada.

It saddens me to see that grubby partisan politics have to intrude even in such a deep-seated and meaningful issue in our country, but I suppose that is the nature of politics. I do appreciate the fact that although some researchers may get carried away members of the House show more judiciousness and more good sense than that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this issue.

I should say to the member for Calgary Southeast that what he wrote out is generally a stamp that we reserve for all the Reform Party motions that come across the floor. Usually they would fit into that category. We were always writing it out in longhand and figured it was probably more appropriate that we just get a stamp to use. Today is an exception because the motion that is before us will find a lot of support on this side of the House. It will certainly find support from me, and I am sure that many of my colleagues who have already spoken and who will finish out this debate will also support it.

I take the opposite view. I do not regret or bemoan the fact that we are taking what amounts to an expensive legislative day in keeping the House going to debate this. I thank the Reform Party for giving us the opportunity to tell our constituents exactly how we feel about the issue of marriage, family and what makes the country strong. It is a great opportunity for us to do that and I truly do thank the members opposite.

I will be splitting my time with the member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia.

I want to add that the information is clear. While I believe that we have been given the opportunity to get our message across, the Reform Party knows that the government remains committed and has given no signal and no indication that there will be a change in its support of Canadian families. There are no plans to legislate a change in the definition of the term marriage.

Let us go back to where that comes from. The definition of marriage in federal law is not in a statute passed by parliament but is found in what is called the federal common law dating from an 1866 British case of Hyde and Hyde v Woodmansee, a case dealing with the legal invalidity of polygamy. This case has been applied consistently in Canada with the result that no marriage can exist between two persons of the same sex. It would be void ab initio, which means from the beginning. This is clear. No jurisdiction worldwide differs in that particular area, even though there may be some European or Scandinavian countries that do allow same sex partners to register their relationships.

I would be very interested to hear the position of the Reform Party when the province of Alberta, which seems to be leading the charge on this, comes out with a plan—and many of these members of course are from that province—that would allow same sex partners to register an interdependency on one another and thereby have access to certain benefit plans such as survivor rights or pension rights. It is actually an interesting solution to the problem for those of us who recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman and no one else.

It is a solution because I was in the province of Ontario when we had the debate over whether or not we would extend rights to same sex couples for benefits. Many major corporations in the country have already done that and are way ahead of government. We had a very acrimonious debate on the floor of the legislature in Ontario. The galleries were filled with people who were extremely upset. When the debate was over and we voted against extending same sex benefits, the place was literally taken over by a mob.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

An hon. member

How did you vote?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

I voted against it. It was an extremely emotional, high strung atmosphere and a very unsatisfactory resolution to the particular problem.

The fact remains that time moves on and what people are really concerned about is the protection of the family. We do not lose rights based on our sexuality or who we are having sex with. We also, in my view, should not gain rights in that regard. It should not be a defining principle.

As Prime Minister Trudeau said, we have no business in the bedrooms of the nation, so why would we be using that as some kind of measuring stick to determine whether or not someone has access to some particular right? What I like about the Alberta solution, although I do not know the cost of it and I am sure that is being looked at, is that it de-sexualizes the whole issue.

I heard a gay rights lawyer say that if we simply adopt this without looking at the nuances and the difficulties, we could have a grandmother declare that a three year old grandson is now economically dependent and therefore subject to the survivor benefits. The three year old would then get the survivor benefit when the grandmother passes on. This would throw pension plans so dramatically out of whack that no one would be able to afford them. We would be unable to determine the level of premium we should set. I understand that there are some problems.

I believe we should recognize that this is not about homophobia. This is about recognizing the strength of what makes the country good and what makes the country strong. It is the family. I would doubt that there are very many people, even gay members of parliament, who would disagree that family is the key to the strength of the future of the nation. My colleague for Mississauga South used the term “a line in the sand”. I would use “thin edge of the wedge”. This is ultimately what the debate is all about.

I have a quote by David Corbett of the Foundation for Equal Families. He said:

Nobody has proposed a solution that would have marriage as an institution available to same sex couples. It is not constructive contribution to the debate and it is certainly premature.

What does that tell us? It tells me that we are not going to do it at this time because it will upset the apple cart. We will move along an inch at a time until we can make more ground. Let us call it for what it is. The gay rights activists absolutely want to have same sex marriages recognized. They may say they do not, but I honestly believe they do.

Does that mean we have to get homophobic and panicky? I do not think so. I think it means that in this country, the country over which we have the domain as parliamentarians, we will only recognize, as our common law states, that a marriage is two people of the opposite sex and excludes anyone else. This is common sense to me. I do not think we have to have a knee-jerk reaction to it.

I say to those in the gay community that I have no problem with their right to not be discriminated again in terms of housing, employment, education, equal opportunity, jobs within the government, procurement or whatever. We should not discriminate against them based on their sexuality. However, they have no right to claim that they have expanded rights based on their sexuality. As far as I am concerned, it cuts both ways.

One of the things I find most fascinating about being in this place, especially when many of my esteemed colleagues prior to arriving here made their living in pursuit of the law or defence of the law in one way or another, is when the debate indicates that we should let this particular issue go through the courts because they will adjudicate and make the decision. However, on this particular issue we cannot have the courts make that decision because we are parliament, we are the ultimate and we have the right to tell them what to do.

We have a judicial system that is one of the finest in the world and supported with a parliamentary democracy that is absolutely one of the finest in the world. What we need to do in all cases is to make sure that those two systems work in balance; where parliamentarians can say what it is they want to have happen in terms of the law, but that the judicial system must be available without interference from politicians to interpret that law, be it the charter of rights or any other individual law.

I support the family. I support men and women being married. I believe they are the only two who can be spouses. The government supports that and we will stand behind that regardless of any attempts to portray us in any other light.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague has touched on many of the concerns.

I have a very brief question for him. Bill C-78 provides for benefits based on a conjugal relationship. Pierre Elliott Trudeau told us that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation and took the state out of the bedrooms of the nation back then. I believe that Bill C-78 has put us right back into the bedrooms of the nation. In order to secure the benefits as provided for by Bill C-78, we have to prove a sexual relationship. I wonder if the hon. member would like to comment on that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, as in many cases in this world of politics, there are issues and bills that have some difficulties.

The real value of Bill C-78 for this government was the fact that we were able access some $30 billion in capital funds that belonged to the taxpayers. The position of the Reform Party is that we should close our eyes, draw the wheels of government to a close and not get that money back into the hands of the taxpayer. That is why we did Bill C-78. I voted for Bill C-78 and would again.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not know if the hon. member is on the MPs' hockey team, but if he is he should get the best skating award. He knew how to skate right away from that question. I am not going to let him get away with it.

We heard him announce that the great liberal libertarian principle of the state does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation, with which I concur.

The fiscal impact of Bill C-78 aside, does he not agree—and we may be dealing with legislation of this nature that is more expanded in the fall when we reconvene—that benefits provided ought not to be provided on the basis of sexual behaviour but on some other characteristics, that is, those of dependency? Can he comment on that?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said during my speech, I do not believe that people should get rights or lose rights based on their sexuality.

What I have mentioned is that I like the balance that I see. I think our other deputy speaker, a member from Alberta, has put a paper out as well. The Alberta government is dealing with an issue that I believe we will be looking at it; that is, if they do declare dependency economically and pay a family premium. I do not think that two people can live together, declare that they want to share benefits and then continue to pay a single premium. There may be a requirement to adjust those premiums and create a third category which could be a declared an interdependency category for setting the premiums.

Clearly, pensions, survivor benefits and all of those things are based on the long range forecast by the economic professionals. They are not based on sexuality but on hard dollars and cents.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to try this question one more time.

In Bill C-78 benefits are conferred because of a conjugal relationship. The member in his speech clearly said he was against that. Would he state plainly for the record whether he was for or against that portion of Bill C-78?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have made it very clear that I believe that benefits, in any particular situation, should be based on the premiums that are paid. If we can adopt a situation where we can register dependency, and perhaps establish a new level premium, then perhaps we could do that.

The red herring that the members opposite continue to bring up with regard to Bill C-78 is nothing more than that, and they know that. They also know that there are numerous government bills that will be brought onto the floor of this place that are going to involve the same kind of issue. That is why the government is looking at it and we believe it is necessary.

Having said that, in spite of the attempts by the members opposite to throw me off, I actually, for the first time in my two years-plus in this place, support an idea put forward by the Reform Party and it frightens the heck out of me.