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.