Mr. Speaker, today the Reform Party is showing leadership on an issue which is important to Canadians. People have become increasingly concerned that the definition of marriage in Canada needs to be strengthened and protected before the courts, by ruling on one case, tell us that the opposite sex definition of marriage is unconstitutional.
Just in the last two years alone 84 members of the House have presented petition after petition, totalling thousands of names, calling for parliament to enact legislation to define that marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.
In addition, I would like to take note of a few of the recent headlines. “Top Court Rewriting Laws of Marriage”, was recently a headline in the Montreal Gazette . “Ruling Alters Way Marriage Viewed: Family Law Expert...” appeared in the National Post . “Blurring the Line between Marriage and Singleness” also appeared in the National Post . “Redefining our Partnerships: This week's Supreme Court of Canada landmark ruling could send aftershocks into almost every sector of Canadian Life” appeared in the London Free Press . We have recently seen many more of these headlines in Canada.
Are Canadians overreacting or do they have justifiable concerns? Let us examine some of the recent events that have added to the public concern about the erosion of the definition and the concepts related to marriage.
Up until recently Canadians understood the word spouse to be either a husband or a wife in a marriage. The courts and the Liberal government are telling Canadians that they have it wrong.
Just in the last few months alone immigration Bill C-63 was introduced and it will give the minister, or in fact the bureaucracy under her, the power to define spouse as whatever she deems it to be depending on the occasion on any particular day.
Bill C-78, recently pushed through the House, the 52nd bill that the government has forced early closure on, dealt with the public service pension plan. This bill removed every reference of wife, widow and spouse and replaced them with the word survivor in order to extend benefits previously reserved for marriage to same sex relationships.
Last week the Minister of Human Resources Development went beyond the Canada Pension Plan Act to extend pension plan benefits normally reserved for married couples to same sex relationships, even though there has been no legal or legislative authorization to do so.
In addition, a number of court cases have served to erode the distinctiveness of marriage and the concepts, rights and obligations tied to it.
Many Canadians are concerned about this trend. There are two examples of recent court rulings. The Liberals refused to appeal a tax code case, known as the Rosenberg case, when a provincial court redefined spouse to mean two people of the opposite sex or the same sex, even though every dictionary, including legal dictionaries, have always and still do understand spouse to be the husband or wife.
The most recent development, perceived by many as a further undermining of the distinctiveness of marriage and the concepts surrounding it, was the supreme court's decision that the opposite sex definition of the term spouse in the M. v H. case was unconstitutional. With this ruling the complete section 29 of Ontario's Family Law Act was struck down.
Concerned Canadians are watching this trend. Some say that the last thing that remains is the full blown establishment of homosexual marriage in Canada as a normative practice. It becomes somewhat self-evident that sooner or later the opposite sex definition of marriage will be challenged in the courts. If they can rule that the way Canadians use the word spouse is unconstitutional and must include a same sex definition of spouse, why could they not rule that the current definition of marriage is unconstitutional unless it includes same sex and possibly a variety of other relationships as well?
I will be sharing my time today with the member for Surrey Central. All Reform members will be sharing their time today.
I am not intending to target the courts. I am attempting to describe the events which have been an increasing cause of concern for Canadians. The courts and Canadians have been asking for some leadership and some clarification on this issue. Reformers believe that as servants of the people who put us here we have an obligation to provide it.
Due to the lack of accountable leadership from the Liberal government, the courts end up setting social policy, often derived from a single case, using charter arguments. The Liberal government follows with legislation saying that the courts made the government do it and the people of Canada are left out of the process.
Today we have an opportunity to put the people back into the process. Let us respond to the concerns of Canadians and give the courts the direction they have been asking for. Let us start the process today with this motion.
Let me move to the second part of the motion, which states:
...that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others...
Why this wording? This is the government's own wording in response to petitions which I mentioned earlier and in recent letters from the justice minister. The response has been that the term marriage is clear in Canadian law and is defined as stated in today's motion. Therefore, let the government and the entire House affirm this position publicly and commit to proactively upholding this definition of marriage. Hopefully the Liberals will not vote against their own wording in response to private inquiries from citizens. Or will they?
Whatever the case, the vote today will allow the people whom we are supposed to serve to hold each one of us individually accountable, both today and in the future, on this issue. The Reform Party has long advocated greater accountability to the public.
Marriage, as it has been defined throughout history, is significant to people for a variety of reasons. It would be presumptuous of me to try to attempt to adequately capture all of the values and rationales that Canadians have associated with defining what marriage is in Canada.
In general, the institution of marriage has been important to Canadian society from the very beginning of our nation. In marriage, a man in a relationship with a woman gains insights, sensitivities and strengths which she brings to the relationship and vice versa. A lifelong, committed union of a man and a woman in marriage creates a unit that is stronger than the sum of the individuals because their differences complement each other.
In Corbett v Corbett the court said:
(Marriage) is the institution on which the family is built and with the capacity for natural heterosexual intercourse as an essential element.
Marriage provides a healthy biological design for procreation. Other types of relationships are technically incomplete.
What about children? Teachers, and my wife is one, have a saying. They say that more is caught than taught. Intimate, committed marriage provides the best possible learning ground for the socialization and character development of children. Boys who have a lifelong example of a father who is patient, kind, polite, calm, forgiving, truthful, trusting and protective toward his wife are more likely to be that way themselves. More is caught than taught.
The same concept applies for daughters. In fact, both genders learn from a myriad of subtle character messages that children pick up from different gender parents. These models help them to decide and to relate to their own life mate. Marriage provides children with parental fullness, versus the gender deprived parenting of same sex relationships.
This kind of positive character modelling within and across genders does not stay confined to the home but continues with children outside the home and adds to the stabilizing and strengthening component of society as a whole.
Recent Statistics Canada studies report that children in home relationships with both parents have far fewer behavioural problems and have a significantly higher percentage of children who complete high school.
It is also interesting to me that in a recent Angus Reid poll young people in Canada aspire to having strong families. Ninety-three per cent of the youth in the poll predict that their families are the most important part of their lives. Eighty per cent believe that marriage is for life.
It is reasonable to assume that some day there will be a constitutional challenge to strike down the opposite sex definition of marriage in Canada. Why wait until that happens? Why continue to let the courts lead? Why not respond to the people and lead instead of follow?
If we do not act now when the courts say the charter made us do it and the Liberals say the courts made us do it, the question of the use of the notwithstanding clause will come up again.
Would we use the notwithstanding clause to defend the current definition of marriage? Clearly the Liberals have a position that seems to say they will never use it. They will do everything in their power to make sure that no one else does either. We would not even need to enter that debate if the government protected the definition of marriage in statute now.
In summary, the Reform Party is demonstrating leadership today by bringing forward a motion that addresses three concerns: first, the public concern reflected in the media and the weekly petitions calling on the House to protect the definition of marriage; second, a motion that uses the government's own words to define marriage in Canadian law in response to private inquiries; and, third, an opportunity for us all to make a commitment to action in order to uphold and defend this definition both now and in the future.
I hope we see unanimous support for the motion before us as it is a reasonable expectation and certainly our hope.