Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate this afternoon because I take the subject matter very seriously. Ultimately we are talking about minority rights. In a pluralist society of the kind that exists in Canada we have to take the matter very seriously and we have to tread very carefully.
While I truly question the motive of the Reform Party in putting forward the motion on the parliamentary calendar for today, I have no trouble whatsoever in supporting it. I will do exactly that later tonight and perhaps I will use some of my time to explain why.
I do not have any trouble supporting the institution of marriage. I consider it an essential part of the bedrock of society. Our society is founded upon the institution of marriage, and I cannot imagine civilization being without it as we know it.
I have some experience inside the institution of marriage. I was first married more than 39 years ago. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth. I have what I think is the perfect wife and perfect mate. I thank God every day that she came into my life many years ago.
Marriage is extremely important. We as parliamentarians have a duty to nurture and to support the institution of marriage. If we can do that in some small way through this kind of debate in the House of Commons, so much the better.
With those few words in support of the institution of marriage, I am more than happy to support the motion brought forward by the Reform Party.
Why do I question the motives of the Reform Party in bringing forward the motion? I question the motives of the official opposition because on this matter, which has to do not so much with marriage but with gays and lesbians, the Reform Party established a certain fact a long time ago, that it is very good at the business of scaremongering.
When it comes to minority rights relating to gays and lesbians, the Reform Party cannot think of anything better to do than to spread fear where very little fear exists. I think it was the member for Wentworth—Burlington who described the issue as an empty controversy. It is just that, an empty controversy.
I am not aware of anyone who is rushing around, pushing and advocating for some sweeping change in the definition of marriage. Maybe the Reform Party is. Maybe it is the only one, but I certainly do not hear it from anyone whom I would consider either credible or in large numbers.
The justice minister, speaking in the House this morning on behalf of the government, said that the government was not interested at all in changing the definition of marriage. I do not know of any significant group in the country that is demanding a change in the definition of marriage. There may be a few; there may be a few gays and lesbians around but I do not think they are in large numbers.
At this particular time in the debate I think gays and lesbians are far more interested in other issues connected with this matter, especially when it comes to equal benefits. There may be a few but I think it is an insignificant number. It certainly is not the kind of number that would warrant scaremongering, spreading fear by the Reform Party.
Are the courts in the country demanding that parliamentarians change the definition of marriage? I do not see that. I have read a number of judgments and, yes, they are pushing us with respect to providing certain benefits and to removing certain discriminatory practices. However I am not aware of any court that is saying that parliamentarians have to change the definition of marriage, that we have to change the law so that a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman. I do not see that at all.
The Reform Party is out in front leading the charge: the roof will fall in and we will face terrible changes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It reminds me of the Reform Party on the issue of a carbon tax. What is the only party in the country that talks about a carbon tax? As far as I know it is not the Liberal Party. I do not know anybody in the Liberal Party who wants a carbon tax. I cannot speak for the Conservatives, but I do not think they are leading the way in calling for a carbon tax. I do not think the New Democrats are and I do not think the Bloc is. Nobody except the Reform Party talks about a carbon tax. The reason it talks about it is that it is in its interest to spread fear. It is called fearmongering. It is the same on this issue.
There have been decisions by judges, by courts, which in effect have said that gays and lesbians are treated with less respect than they deserve and that there are discriminatory laws, rules, and regulations in the country which ought to be removed. Slowly but surely that is where we as politicians and as institutions across the country are going. Those discriminatory practices are being stopped.
I am not aware of anyone saying that in the whole process we have to change the definition of marriage. As far as I know, the definition of marriage is a couple of opposite sex living together, the union of a man and a woman, and that is the way it will be. I do not know what it will be like 100 years from now or 300 years from now. We will all be long gone. However, for the time being I do not think there will be any change whatsoever.
When I listen to Reform Party spokespeople, the one thing I always listen for is whether they have respect for minorities, particularly minorities like gays and lesbians who perhaps face discrimination on a daily basis. We are really talking about tolerance.
Most Canadians are heterosexual. I do not know what the number is. Perhaps it is 98% or 99%. Most Canadians are married. They form a huge majority. It does not take much strength or courage to defend the majority, but it does take a bit more strength to defend the minorities, especially those who may face discrimination.
Members should go through Hansard tomorrow and look for the tolerance that comes from the Reform Party and look for the respect it would afford gays and lesbians. They will find very little, if any, evidence of that, which says a lot about that party.
Canadians know that it is a party of intolerance, that it is a party that does not care about certain people. A party like that will never govern the country. Thank God for that.