Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address this issue today. I want to commend the member for Calgary Centre for leading the debate on this issue for the Reform Party and also the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for an excellent speech. I want to pick up where he left off and say that this is not about hot button politics. We heard that from the member for Churchill and seconded in a way by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. That is ridiculous. Every day Canadians contact their members of parliament about this issue.
Millions of Canadians currently live in the institution of marriage. We all come from the union of a man and a woman at some point. This is not something that is foreign to people. This is something that is part of everyday life. We are simply taking the time to address an extraordinarily important issue in the Parliament of Canada where it should be addressed, not necessarily only exclusively in courtrooms or in public debate in the newspapers or in human rights commissions. This should be debated in what is supposed to be of all places the most democratic chamber in the country, in the House of Commons. That is exactly what we are taking the opportunity to do today.
I commend my colleague from Calgary Centre for really pushing this issue. I think it is extraordinarily important. I want to answer some of the objections I have heard today from various members.
We heard the justice minister suggest that somehow this is a frivolous debate, that it is trivial. I point out that we have had 84 petitions delivered in this parliament on this issue alone. Thousands and thousands of Canadians have signalled to this parliament that they are very concerned about this issue and they want it addressed.
Canadians want parliament to state unequivocally that it believes the definition of marriage, the traditional definition, should be maintained and that we should affirm it. We should send a strong message to the courts that we believe in this traditional definition of marriage. It is a definition that has been passed down over the ages, a definition that I suppose goes back to the time before there were legislatures, before there were courts, back into the mists of prehistory. People around the world settled on this relationship, the union of one man and one woman as a privileged relationship. We need to affirm it. That is what we are doing today.
We ask our colleagues across the way to not be cowed by people who suggest that this is somehow hot button politics. This is an important issue. It should be dealt with in the Parliament of Canada.
I reject what the Minister of Justice was saying. I think the Minister of Justice too often hides behind the robes of the supreme court and behind the robes of provincial courts. I think it is time that she showed leadership and we are giving her a chance to do that today.
I simply want to point out that the courts are very unpredictable. Many court decisions have overturned what we thought was the common law, the common wisdom of the ages. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands pointed out that recently a court in B.C. threw out the law against child pornography in Canada. That is alarming to me and to many other Canadians.
When all kinds of debates are going on in the courts today with respect to other institutions which we thought were protected in the common law, institutions like the traditional definition of what constitutes a spouse in common law relationships, Canadians become alarmed. They start to say that they are concerned that somehow this is going to end up with the courts determining that marriage is something else other than what it has always been defined to be. That concerns them and it concerns me as somebody who represents those people. That is why we are speaking out on this issue today.
How many times have we debated things in this place that have been absolutely inane? I would argue many times. I remember the lead-up to the referendum in 1995. Over that whole period we never did debate the issue of national unity. In that whole time there was never a debate on that, but we debated whether or not Canada should have a national horse. That was worthy of debate in this place for some reason.
Here we are talking about an institution that is one of the foundations of civil society and somehow people are suggesting that it is not really that important, “Why do we want to mention that? Some people will feel badly about that”. I say that is too bad. That is the job of parliamentarians, to deal with these issues even if they are controversial so that they are not determined or settled by somebody else. We are elected to do that job. We are paid well to do it. Let us do it. That is what we are saying today.
I want to address some of the comments that came from members of the NDP. The member for Vancouver East suggested that marriage as traditionally defined discriminates against same sex couples. I have news for the member for Vancouver East. Does she realize that homosexual couples by the very definition of what that means discriminate against heterosexuals? Maybe by definition but the definition itself tells us about the very essence of what it is we are talking about. It is not discrimination. It is simply a definition that tells us what constitutes a marriage.
Gay couples can have their own relationships. They can call them what they will. There are other relationships. Friendships are called friendships. They are not the same thing. That does not mean it is discrimination. It means that they are all different and they describe different circumstances. That is all it means. It has nothing to do with discrimination. I reject that as another red herring. It is an obvious attempt to take us down a whole other path and get us embroiled in this whole debate about what constitutes discrimination.
I must address some of the comments by the member for Burnaby—Douglas which I say are laughable. They were ridiculous comments. My friend from Calgary Centre pointed out that in a same sex relationship one of the genders is missing. What did the member for Burnaby—Douglas say? He said that was an appalling attack. He went on and on and tried to raise the temperature in here. He somehow suggested this was discrimination. It is a fact. If it is a same sex relationship, one of the sexes is missing. It is pretty clear. It is by definition the case. It is not discrimination. It is a fact. Hello over there.
I say to the member for Burnaby—Douglas that it is time to quit playing this game of hot button politics, to use the rhetoric coming from the other side, and to address the issue. The issue is whether or not parliament wants to affirm the traditional definition of marriage.
There was also an objection from our friend from Sydney—Victoria who spoke rather temperately on this issue. I applaud him for his remarks. He said that this is an issue of provincial jurisdiction, that there is a lot of overlap and that really the federal government does not have as big a role to play as we might suggest.
I say right off the top that no party, with the possible exception of the Bloc, supports the upholding of provincial jurisdiction more than this party does, but it is pretty clear in the constitution that the federal government does have a very important role to play when it comes to the issue of marriage. That role is to determine who has the capacity to marry. That is determined by the federal government.
We have to weigh in on this. We cannot wait for the provinces and certainly not for the courts to decide on it. We have a constitutional obligation to be involved in this and to send a message to the courts. The courts have often asked that parliament send a clear message. That is precisely what we are proposing to do today. That is what I say to my friend from Sydney—Victoria.
I will wrap up with a comment to the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who said that this is an issue of hot button politics. He presented a petition in this place a year ago saying that we must uphold the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. He spoke on behalf of his constituents at that point. I would argue that he did a very important thing when he did that. I trust he thinks he did something important as well. If he is going to be consistent, then he has to admit and concur in the debate today because this is an important issue to all Canadians.
I encourage my friends across the way to vote in favour of the motion.