Madam Speaker, I find it rather unfortunate that we would even have to debate the motion that is before the House today, because it is a straightforward and common sense motion. It is rather bewildering that anyone would oppose it, yet that is the case.
I will begin by reading the motion we are debating in the House today. The Reform Party motion put forward for debate today reads as follows:
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 motion is very clear, unambiguous and straightforward, and although one would tend to think that support for it would be a given, and that it would be unanimous, that is not the case at all. Before I explain why that is, I would like to commend the Reform member for Calgary Centre who moved this motion.
As the House knows, the hon. member is our family values and family issues critic. He has worked tirelessly on behalf, not only of the Reform Party, but on behalf of all Canadian families to defend the rights and traditional values of families.
For example, earlier this year a court decision in British Columbia ruled that possession of child pornography was legal. It was under the leadership of the hon. member for Calgary Centre that the Reform Party led a motion in the House calling on the government to invoke the notwithstanding clause and override that decision to make it very clear that the Parliament of Canada does not accept that child pornography is something that should be legally possessed. Of course, that motion was defeated by the Liberals, unfortunately.
Also earlier this year, when the issue of tax fairness for families arose in the House, it was under the guidance of the hon. member for Calgary Centre that the Reform Party led a spirited debate urging the government to remove tax unfairness against families with children. That also was unsuccessful.
I would like to commend not only the hon. member for Calgary Centre but his staff for the excellent work they do on behalf of the Reform Party in promoting our family values agenda and on behalf of all Canadian families.
The reason we have to debate a motion which simply seeks to reaffirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, is that last summer there was a Liberal Party convention held in Ottawa. A motion was put forward, debated, voted upon and passed which read:
Be it resolved that the Liberal Party of Canada strongly urge the federal government to recognize same sex marriages in the same way that it recognizes opposite marriages—
The official policy of the Liberal Party of Canada is that same sex marriages should be recognized in the exact same manner as opposite sex marriages.
Let us now turn to the NDP. I am looking at 1997 campaign literature with a big heading that states: “Equality for Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals: Alexa McDonough and Canada's NDP”. It goes on to say that the member for Halifax and Canada's NDP will represent the concerns of gays, lesbians and bisexuals consistently. In fact, that is exactly what they are doing in the House today. They are siding with the Liberal government and promoting the view that the definition of marriage and spouse should be changed.
Again I will read directly from the official Liberal Party policy:
—to recognize same sex marriages in the same way that it recognizes opposite marriages—
That is where the NDPs and the Liberals are coming from.
I would like to read directly from the policy book of the Reform Party for the benefit of members of the House to know where the Reform Party stands on these issues. The section on equality states:
The Reform Party affirms the equality of every individual before and under the law and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
Under the heading of family it states:
The Reform Party believes a family should be defined as individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman as recognized by the state and this definition will be used in the provision of spousal benefits for any program funded or administered by the federal government. The Reform Party supports the principle that government programs, policies and legislation should serve to strengthen and protect the Canadian family.
The NDP and Liberal policies seek to change the definition of marriage and spouse as opposed to the Reform Party position, which is strongly opposed to that. I delineate the different positions of the parties for the benefit not only of the members of the House, but for all Canadians who may be watching the deliberations today. I urge all Canadians to scrutinize not only what their MPs say in the speeches as we debate this issue, but in how they vote tonight.
I also urge Canadians from coast to coast to keep in mind at the time of the next election, albeit that will probably be about two years from now, that if they vote NDP or Liberal they will be voting for the redefinition of the terms spouse and marriage. They will be voting for the recognition of same sex marriages in the same way that opposite marriages are recognized, as cited in the Liberal policy which was approved at the convention last summer.
Not only is it important to separate the Reform Party position from those of the NDP and the Liberals for the benefit of Canadians who wish to make up their minds on how they are going to vote in the next election on this, but this debate is also very important because of growing public concern over this issue.
Recent headlines in some national newspapers serve to illustrate my point. A headline in the Ottawa Citizen read “Same-sex partners declared spouses: Top court ruling expected to topple hundreds of laws”. A headline in the London Free Press was entitled “Redefining our Partnerships: This week's Supreme Court of Canada landmark ruling could send aftershocks into almost every sector of Canadian life”. A headline in the Montreal Gazette read “Top Court Rewriting Laws of Marriage”. A headline in the National Post read “Ruling Alters Way Marriage Viewed: Family Law Expert—Implications seen for adoptions, pensions, property rights”.
The source of public concern is not only recent newspaper articles and coverage, but also recent court decisions. Most notably, last year there was a decision known as the Rosenberg decision in which the Ontario Court of Appeal changed the definition of the term spouse in the Income Tax Act to include same sex relationships. The Reform Party debated this in the House of Commons and urged the government to appeal that decision, but the government refused. The reason it refused to appeal the decision is because of its official policy which was passed at the convention last summer.
The other recent court decision is that of M. v H., in which Ontario's family law act was declared unconstitutional because it violated the equality rights of homosexuals. Following that the justice minister announced that she would change the definition of spouse in federal laws in an omnibus bill to come down this fall.
The justice minister is telling everyone that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, but justice department bureaucrats continue to put together legislation that will render the definition of marriage useless and meaningless. It is typical Liberal arrogance and deception, saying one thing and doing another.
The purpose of this Reform motion is to pre-empt future supreme court decisions by providing leadership and guidance. The Reform motion instructs the court that the legal definition of marriage shall remain unchanged.