Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central in support of the official opposition's motion. The hon. member for Calgary Centre made an excellent speech and I congratulate him on it.
For the benefit of those who do not understand the motion, I will read it again:
That, in the opinion of this 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 we have caused this motion to be brought forward is simply that the courts and others are asking the House for clear instructions with respect to this matter.
Canadians are concerned about the possible erosion of the traditional definition of the institution of marriage. Our federal government, through the elected representatives in this place, provide our courts with legislation, the laws of our land, for the courts to interpret.
With respect to the sanctity of the traditional definition of marriage, the courts have been left to defining it themselves or calling on the government for direction. Today the official opposition is exercising its responsibility to ensure that the definition of marriage is reaffirmed in our federal legislature.
Marriage should be affirmed. The motion is not about being against anyone or anything but is about being for marriage. The official opposition believes that the term marriage is a cornerstone of public policy and ought not to be unilaterally changed by the courts, by bureaucrats or by cabinet behind closed doors as is usually done. There should be the full light of public input, parliamentary debate and free votes in the House.
Our courts take guidance from parliament on important social policies and other matters. Today's motion is intended to give expression to the will of the parliament on marriage, a cornerstone of our public policy.
It is legitimate for parliament to give guidance on important social policy matters. Parliamentarians can reform the current status of the law, especially given debates surrounding recent court decisions relating to the definition of spouse, et cetera. Today the official opposition motion provides that opportunity.
There have been, there are and likely there will be future court challenges to the definition of marriage. It would be inappropriate for parliament to remain silent about this important social policy term in the midst of great public debate on the matter.
The courts often indicate that they are looking for guidance from parliament on different issues. The motion is an opportunity to clearly express the will of parliament. The motion allows parliament to better engage in a dialogue with the courts with respect to the definition of marriage.
By having a debate and a vote on the matter in parliament we are allowing the elected representatives of the Canadian people to reflect the views of Canadians on what they feel about the definition of marriage, an important Canadian institution. This is properly the role of parliament as such input is not able to take place in court litigation.
The opinion of the Canadian people is very clearly in favour of the current definition of marriage. In the 36th parliament 84 members stood in the House and tabled petitions from constituents calling for parliament to enact legislation to define that a marriage can be entered into between a single male and a single female.
People should not be shut up. They are the ones we came here to represent. We should listen to these people when they send petitions to the House. The supply day motion is an opportunity for members and parliament as a whole to stand by their constituents and communicate so that their voices are heard.
Being a relatively new immigrant and new Canadian, I can share with the House that many people around the world choose to immigrate to Canada because of what they know about our country. When they come they believe they will find the traditional definition of marriage, a union between a man and a woman. They trust that the federal government supports that definition. If we did not, these immigrants might have immigrated elsewhere in the world.
Canada's demographics have changed significantly since Confederation. People immigrating to Canada now come mostly from Asia. They share the social values that include the definition of marriage we are debating today. They believe the family is an institution, a cornerstone or a pillar of society. This strong belief in the traditional family values is another reason they often have joint families.
During the election campaign a young man came to my office and asked for my views on the definition of marriage. I told him I believed that marriage was a union of a man and a woman. He said that he did not agree and that two men or two women could marry. I asked him if he would like to have his own children. He said he did not care, that having children was not important. I told him that if his father or mother had thought the same way he would not be talking to me. There was silence for a moment and then he said he had never thought of that.
Later he told me that originally he would not vote for me, but he was sorry now. He thanked me for making him realize that. He not only voted for me, as he told me afterward, but he became one of my volunteers.
Recently the House dealt with Bill C-78, changes to the pension fund of federal government employees that will allow the Liberals to make a one time $30 billion grab. One effect of the bill was to expand the benefits of the pension plan. It extended survivors benefits outside of marriage to marriage dependent on private sexuality regardless of gender.
When a contributor to a pension plan dies, the benefits go to the surviving husband or wife. The bill maintains that provision, which is good. It also extends the benefits beyond this point in a new way. The government said its intent was to extend the benefits to same sex relationships as well.
The issue here today is not of same sex benefits for couples; the issue is the definition of marriage. No sex means no benefits. This is not the right policy. It has added a new legal expression, a relationship of a conjugal nature with absolutely no definition of what it means.
In conclusion, the official opposition in our leadership role is asking the government and all sides of the House to affirm support for the definition of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman.
I would like to move an amendment to the main motion. I move:
That the motion be amended by replacing the words “in Canada” with the words “within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada”.