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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was family.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.

One petition contains 60 signatures from concerned farmers in my constituency, including people from St. Albert, Morinville, Busby, Alcomdale, Rivière Qui Barre, Calahoo, Stony Plain and Spruce Grove.

The petitioners call on parliament to recognize that the family farm is one of the cornerstones of Canadian society and that the federal government must act immediately to protect the interests of Canadian farmers both at home and abroad by campaigning against foreign subsidies to agriculture.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the other petition contains 50 signatures from residents in St. Albert, Morinville and Edmonton. They call upon parliament to use the year 2000 budget to introduce a multi-year plan to improve the well-being of Canada's children and to fulfil the 1989 resolution of the House to end child poverty by the year 2000.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from over 100 of my constituents, which include members of the Pine Ridge Bible Chapel and also the Emmanuel Pentecostal Church of Port Perry. They call on parliament that Bill C-23 affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution. They request the withdrawal of Bill C-23.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my privilege and honour to bring in thousands of names from Newfoundland to Victoria supporting Bill C-232 and it happens to be my own bill on Hepatitis Awareness Month. I personally wish to thank Mr. Joey Haché of Ottawa for supporting us and getting these signatures forward in order to get that bill passed very quickly.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I am tabling several petitions.

The first two petitions are with regard to the mail route couriers. Many of the people in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap depend upon these couriers to deliver and pick up their mail. Some would like the right to form a union and bargain collectively. It is my pleasure to table these petitions today.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is also a pleasure to table several petitions from residents of my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap who express their serious opposition to Bill C-23. They are justly concerned that the government is not doing enough to protect the institution of marriage, define it as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I join them in asking the government not to base any benefits or legislation on people's private sexual activity.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 72 will be answered today. .[Text]

Question No. 72—

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

With regard to the money given by the department of Indian affairs to the Treaty Six Tribal Council for employment programs for the last three years: ( a ) what was the total amount given each year and ( b ) what is the specific breakdown of how this money has been spent?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

In so far as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is concerned the response is as follows.

There are two tribal councils in the treaty six area of Alberta. They are the Yellowhead Tribal Council west of Edmonton and the Tribal Chiefs' Association, also known as the Tribal Chiefs' Ventures Incorporated, located in the St. Paul area. A third first nation organization within the treaty six area comprising all treaty six first nations in Alberta is the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. The confederacy is not a tribal council.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has not provided employment program funding to the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations or to the tribal councils during the past three years.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2000 / 3:10 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, prior to question period I was making the point that the effects of Bill C-23 are not necessarily benign, although members opposite would lead us to believe that they are. I would like to point out that for hundreds of generations and in almost every society I am aware of there have been social proscriptions against homosexual unions.

Now we are more civilized. We do not attempt, as Mr. Trudeau would say, to interfere in the bedrooms of the nation. That is fair enough. But we should remember that all through history, heterosexual unions have been recognized as having a social purpose. They have never been considered to be purely recreational or even sentimental arrangements.

Marriage is the foundation on which civil society rests. Society extends certain benefits to strengthen and support the institution. To extend those same benefits to homosexual couples for no good reason inferentially diminishes the institution.

I frankly do not care how homosexuals choose to organize their lives, but to treat their unions as de facto marriages is downright silly. That is not just my personal opinion. In June 1994 the present government House leader wrote in a letter to a constituent, “I do not believe that homosexuals should be treated as families. My wife and I do not claim we are homosexuals. Why should homosexuals pretend that they form a family?” What happened? In six years there seems to have been a slight change of opinion over there, at least on the part of the House leader.

In 1996 when we were debating Bill C-33, we were repetitiously informed that the bill was not a Trojan horse, that it was purely a matter of protecting homosexuals in the workplace and in securing accommodation, that there was absolutely no future intent of bringing in same sex benefits.

Here we are four years later and where is that promise of the Liberals now? I guess what we have is just another indication that a Liberal's word does not count for much, because this is what they told us. They told it to us over and over and over again. Now times have changed and four years have passed. What is next? How many more years will it be before this government or another one with the same stripes decides that it wants again to do some social engineering and starts to redefine the entire institution of marriage.

This is incremental. This is the Liberal way. The Liberals have been doing it not only in the field of marriage and family, but in several other areas as well. The camel's nose goes into the tent and little by little he edges his way in and knocks the tent down.

This has got to stop. There is no sound basis, no social reason, no fiscal reason and no political reason for changing the status quo with respect to benefits. Why the government has decided to take this leap I have no idea. I am sure that Mr. Trudeau is appalled but he is no longer here. I am appalled. A lot of people are appalled.

It is not a question of moralizing. It is a question of common sense.

Not too many years ago, if anyone had suggested that homosexual couples living together under the same roof should be awarded the same social benefits as married people, they would have been laughed out of town. It would have been considered hilarious. Yet here we are. Is this progress? I doubt it.

I do wish that the government would reconsider and take another look at this hasty legislation. A lot of amendments are coming up that, although they will not fix it, could certainly improve it.

I challenge the government in the interest of common sense, if nothing else, to give very serious consideration to some of the amendments my party has laid on the table. It should look at the bill again, remember what country we live in, and think about the people in Canada who are by and large terribly offended by the legislation.

I have received more correspondence, more phone calls and more e-mails about the bill than I have ever in my seven years in parliament received about any other legislation. This tells me something and it should tell the government something.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a fair bit of the debate on this issue, especially at report stage last week and again this week. I feel there are some things I need to say which in a sense respond to comments that have come largely from the other side of the House.

This should not be necessary and this should not be relevant, but I feel I need to establish my credentials to speak on family matters. The fact is that I have been married to the same man for 37 years. I have borne and raised three children and spent a good part of that time as a full time, stay at home mother. I now have grandchildren. I now also have a somewhat older mother who needs a fair bit of family care. We are all a family.

According to some people in the Chamber, I am no longer a family because my husband and I can no longer have children. Therefore we should not be entitled to any benefits because we do not fit that old criterion of the family unit being there to raise children. We have been there and done that.

Families in Canada come in many different shapes and sizes these days. Families can be people looking after elderly parents. They can be brothers and sisters living together. They can be members of a family looking after other members of the family who are not able to care for themselves. Families are not necessarily mothers and fathers. One-third of marriages end in divorce, which is a pretty sad figure until we consider that the other two-thirds end in death.

The fact is that people establishing committed, loving relationships of long term duration is to the benefit of society at large. That is what the bill is about. The bill is about recognizing that not every family is the same.

We have a very clear law on marriage which has been recognized in common law for a century and a half. It is now also included in the preamble to this legislation, but also for nearly half a century we have recognized other kinds of relationships outside marriage.

We have recognized common law relationships for a long time now for the purposes of establishing the obligations and the benefits of those relationships. We have not considered them the same as marriage in the legal sense, but we have nonetheless recognized that these are generally committed, long term relationships that have many of the same qualities as a legal marriage.

What has bothered me in this debate is the way we have been speaking about fellow human beings. It has bothered me a great deal that we have talked about hundreds of thousands of our fellow Canadians as if they are somehow inferior human beings. I can put it no other way.

Homosexuality is a fact of life for many Canadians. It is not a choice of lifestyle. It is a fact of life. It seems to me that the comments I have heard on this topic have forgotten completely the people we are talking about are somebody's sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins or next door neighbours. For most of our history these people have had to live in secret, hiding who they are and feeling a sense of shame about who they are because of the societal attitudes I have heard expressed in the Chamber. It is hardly an attitude of inclusiveness toward our fellow Canadians.

It is this attitude which leads young people who realize in their teens that they are not heterosexual to have a whole layer of difficulty added on to growing and developing into adults, not because of who they are and what they are but because of the attitudes of society.

None of us can expect to be whole human beings if we are hit every day, as our society does, with the kinds of messages I have been hearing in the House, the message that what we are is shameful, to be hidden and despised.

I will say it again. These people are somebody's sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. In my view if what we are doing with the legislation, as we did with common law marriage nearly a half century ago, is encouraging and recognizing long term committed relationships I believe that is to the benefit of all society. I do not see how anyone could argue that this takes away from the institution of marriage. I do not see how anyone could argue that this weakens the moral fibre of society.

I must say I have been somewhat mystified by the total preoccupation with sex on the other side of the House. The bill says nothing about sex. It talks about committed, long term relationships. I am married. Whether or not I am married in law has absolutely nothing to do with whether my husband and I have sex, nor whether two people having sex has anything to do with their being recognized as a legitimate, long term relationship for the purposes of the bill.

I heard talk about the importance of having both parents as if somehow recognizing same sex relationships for the purposes of benefits and obligations would ensure that every child has two parents. As I said earlier, one-third of all marriages ends in divorce. The fact is that we as a society have to deal with that. We have to deal with the fact that communities and society are responsible for children as much as the two parents who happen to have borne them.

Today I only want to say that to the extent people live with dignity, they live full and complete lives and our whole society benefits. What we have done until now is to relegate same sex relationships to the back alleys of society and in many cases the back alleys of our cities. That is not healthy for the people involved and it is not healthy for Canadian society.

I recognize that the bill offends the sense or morality of some people but it does not deal with sin. It does not deal with our sense of morality. It deals with legal benefits and legal obligations. I am quite entitled to feel how I want about what activities I think people might be engaged in, in their homes. They are quite entitled to feel however they want about mine. The legislation has nothing to do with that. It makes no moral judgments. It simply says how people are to be treated in society and what obligations they have to each other.

I belong to a religious tradition that has in its background something called the Inquisition where for a long time people thought they could coerce others into sharing their beliefs. It was a period of some shame and for which the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church has recently apologized.

I will not sit here in the Chamber and make decisions as if everybody in Canadian society has to share my beliefs and conform to my particular moral standards. I do not think any of us has the right to do that. It harms society when we do that and it ultimately harms ourselves when we judge some people in our community and society to be less worthy and inferior.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to engage in the debate on Bill C-23 on behalf of the constituents of St. Albert who I feel are largely opposed to the content of the bill.

I was listening to the previous speaker say that it is not for any one of us to judge how anybody else in the country should live. I agree with that statement, but we are finding that the Liberal government will now impose upon Canadians or confer upon a certain category of Canadians benefits that they never had before.

Much of this conferring of benefits is very much in contradiction to the opinions of a large segment of society and a very large segment of the society in my constituency. From my perspective I certainly endorse the government's position that there should be no discrimination. We should not discriminate and deny people where they want to live, where their employment is, the types of careers they want to follow and that type of thing.

However, it is a step beyond when we recognize these types of unions and put them on the same level as marriage, saying that it does not matter what kind of relationship it is if it is a relationship that is ongoing. It is very unfortunate that the government has put in there the word conjugal. If the government is prepared to recognize any kind of a relationship then the morality of the nation has been debased.

Going back to the dawn of history and even before, society has organized its way in solid, committed unions between men and women. That is the way in which every society in the world has organized itself. There must be something in it.

I used the word committed. Unfortunately, marriages break down far too often, in this country and all around the world. However, a society of human beings should recognize that marriage, the union for the purpose of the procreation of children and for the raising of the next generation is a fundamental part of any society; not just our society, but any society. That union which provides the home to raise children, the next generation, deserves the support and the sanction of any government, including this government.

Children need our assistance. We hear often about abused, neglected and malnourished children, children who have problems. Therefore, we need to nurture that environment. That has been the focus of marriage and government support for marriage down through the ages. I do not believe that obligation has changed in any way.

In the last 20 or 30 years we have gone from recognizing that our intolerance toward other relationships should not be continued to the point where we not only insist that we shall not discriminate against, we now confer benefits upon other unions as if they were the same as marriage.

The other thing I take great exception to is the way the government is doing this. It has introduced Bill C-23, which is an omnibus bill that will amend quite a number of statutes. Each statute will be amended to indicate that where there is a conjugal relationship the benefits shall be conferred, but it says absolutely nothing about marriage.

The Minister of Justice introduced an amendment to the bill which, in essence, is a preamble to the bill that recognizes marriage as the union of men and women to the exclusion of all others. However, it is only in the preamble of the bill. She has not asked that every statute be changed. Therefore, when there are legal actions pertaining to the statutes that are being changed and the courts look at these statutes they will see entrenched in law conjugal relationships exceeding one year but nothing about marriage.

The Canadian Alliance has asked that marriage be inserted into every statute that is being changed to recognize conjugal relationships. The Minister of Justice said no. The Liberal government said no. Does this mean that conjugal relationships of any kind are now superior to marriage? The government is prepared to entrench conjugal relationships in law but refuses to put marriage in law. We have to ask that question. Is marriage now second class to any kind of conjugal relationship?

We have to ask that question too in the context of, for example, the Income Tax Act. For the last 30 or 40 years it has included in it what is now called the marriage penalty. Two people who live together have greater tax advantages than a husband and wife who live together where one parent stays at home to be with the family.

The supreme court tells us that it is eliminating discrimination. When asked to adjudicate on acts of parliament and legislation, it has struck down acts when they contravene the charter of rights and freedoms. In doing so, we now have marriage penalties in law. We now have acts of parliament that recognize conjugal relationships of any kind, but which refuse to recognize marriage. Therefore, I have to ask the questions: Where is our society going? What comes next?

While the States is the forerunner of many things, unfortunately it is also the forerunner of things which we do not always think too highly of. The whole challenge to the charter of rights and freedoms and to the legislation that has been in existence in this country is based on the fact that some people say they are discriminated against and denied benefits based on their sexual orientation. The courts have agreed. Here we are today recognizing these liaisons in legislation while we refuse to recognize marriage in the same legislation.

Without being trite or facetious, this article from the U.S. magazine went on to refer to liaisons including more than two people and how these individuals are now starting to ask about their rights. They want to know if they are entitled to benefits as well. The courts would then be asked to deliberate as to whether there was discrimination against liaisons including more than two people. Perhaps the answer would be yes. Where would it stop?

Had we not had the marriage penalty for the last 30 or 40 years, if we had raised our children in a nurturing environment of respect, the way that society has evolved over the last 5,000 to 10,000 years, perhaps we would not be debating this problem in the House today which says that we have to recognize conjugal relationships at the expense of marriage. Marriage is now second class.

I have heard from many people in my constituency of St. Albert who are opposed to this legislation. I would like to record my opposition to this legislation and I would hope that the government would listen to the people and reject this legislation.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, this debate is in some respects a strange debate. One has the impression of two different communities, two solitudes, and perhaps a good deal of the confusion stems from the fact that people have not read the bill. I would not discourage them from reading the bill. It is not a piece of poetry. It is a rather prosaic bill. It is a legislative response, as is the obligation of parliament under our system of government. With our modified, quasi separation of powers, we have a response by parliament to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in M. v H. It is a response to that decision, no more and no less.

If we read the bill looking for excitement, it will not be found. It puts together 68 existing federal statutes that are affected by the court decision. It corrects—and that is a legal word—those pieces of law by appropriate amendments in response to the supreme court decision, no more and no less. It is a compendium of 68 laws. It is not a bill on marriage. Anybody who read the bill would find that out.

The title gives it away immediately, the modernization of benefits and obligations act. It is not a bill on marriage. It is not an amendment to section 15 of the charter of rights on which the original decision in M. v H. in the Supreme Court of Canada was based. Obviously, to amend section 15 we would have to have the concurrence of the federal parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures. It is essentially a carpentering job. Someone very carefully put together what is a very dull bill with limited objectives.

In my earlier address to the House on this bill I explained that it is limited to its special mandate, a legislative response as is our constitutional obligation as parliament to the judicial ruling, that it does not alter the legal definition of marriage in any way, one way or another.

In that sense I regard the government amendment—in a legal sense—as being unnecessary. It is inserted, though, as lawyers often do, in the phrase ex abundante cautela—for greater certainty. But it does not change the definition of marriage. It does not add to the fact. The bill itself does not do that.

Any steps in the redefinition of marriage, if one were to attempt that, would require a comprehensive piece of legislation which would spell out concrete rights and obligations, conditions of a status and how one enters into it. It would be another law on another occasion. It would be something reached after a prior, necessary community consensus had been built, with some degree of interparty discussion. That is for the future if someone wishes to proceed that way.

What is interesting in terms of this debate, and the constructive and useful thing which has emerged from it, is the opportunity to ask parliament to take note of the changes in society, the general recognition that relationships can exist on bases where both parties recognize them but which have no necessary connection with a sexual relationship.

We speak of bona fide dependency relationships. This is an idea whose time, historically, has come. I am encouraged in that by the large amount of correspondence, messages, communications and personal meetings I have had in response to remarks which I and others have made on this particular situation.

What are dependency relationships? They are relationships of children and parents. We find many situations in our society where children support an aged parent, or siblings, brothers and sisters, or two sisters and two brothers support each other.

We find many situations of persons not in a familial relationship who share a life together without any sexual relationship. If it is a demonstrated, bona fide relationship, should the law not be prepared to recognize that in our society?

It does require a bit of work, and the minister promised to study this. I said “With all deliberate speed”, in the phrase of the United States supreme court, “can we not get some reasonably quick action?” I understand that will be done.

There will be tradeoffs involved which have to be understood and represented in a legal form, that is to say, a bona fide relationship with legal consequences cannot be unilaterally terminated except for cause. There would be a limitation on the power unilaterally to renege, amend or terminate; proof of registration or something else to establish the beginning of a relationship and the irrevocability of its termination.

It is not exactly tabula rasa. My colleague, the excellent member for Parkdale—High Park, who has given a good deal of thought to these problems, reminded me of the law school cases which I learned in my second month in law school, Murray and Alderson. In the 19th century, courts were being asked to recognize such relationships and give financial consequences to them, where dependency was proven and where in fact both parties recognized them adequately. This could be put in the legal form of a statute. It exists in a more rudimentary form through the common law.

When I speak of non-revocability, it would seem to me that parties could not terminate unilaterally, although there may be special circumstances. For example, a child supporting an aged parent might choose to get married. It does not terminate the obligation to the parent. One may look to some sort of comparative adjustment of the obligations.

I cite this simply to say that there are problems, but they are not difficult problems. There are no essential legal barriers that wise legislation could not take care of.

There will be claims of the survivors' in dependency relationships to estates, to immovables, but once again these are issues that can be addressed. The legal remedies for them, the legal formula to take care of them, can be established without an undue amount of work required. There are sufficient precedents in the common law to provide just that sort of base for legislative action.

The constructive thing that has come out of this debate has been a heightened community awareness that the time perhaps has come to give legal recognition and apply legal consequences to dependency relationships voluntarily entered into and established on a bona fide basis. That is the interesting challenge.

This is a modest bill, a prosaic bill that simply changes 68 federal laws in response to a supreme court decision. It is our constitutional obligation, as a co-ordinate organ of government, to respond in that fashion. It does not venture into the definition of a new code of marriage. That, if it is to be attempted, would be a subject for another time, another debate and another law if and when the sufficient consensus is built in support of it.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, it would be best to begin my speech today by taking stock of exactly where we are in Canada. I represent a riding in Saskatchewan that is currently enduring an agriculture crisis of a magnitude similar to what was experienced during the Great Depression. Saskatchewan has generations of farmers who own farms that have been in their families for generations and they face the prospect of losing their farms. The income crisis facing Saskatchewan farmers is that bleak.

For years the Canadian Alliance has laid out proposals, lists and solutions before the government of where it could immediately act to address the problems in our grain transportation system and our grain marketing system and the problems we face on the international market because of unfair trade practices of foreign nations and so on. This week we will be releasing a summary of 65 town hall meetings we held all winter long in farm communities across the prairies bringing forward solutions, most of them proposed by the farmers themselves, but the Liberal government refuses to look at that or address it in any way, shape or form.

This country is currently experiencing one of the greatest scandals in the history of our nation, which is the misappropriation and mismanagement of funds through the human resources development department. It is incompetent and deceitful and Canadians deserve better.

Our health care system is in tatters. Waiting lists are growing every day and, in many cases, people are forced to leave our country and seek health care elsewhere.

We are the highest taxed country of all industrialized nations in the world. Under this Liberal government taxes have been increased 69 times at last count over the last seven years placing families under a tremendous burden. It is such an unreasonable level of taxation that most of our well educated professionals are leaving the country. They are being forced out of their own homes to go elsewhere to earn a living because of the great disparity in taxes, the great differential between filing a tax return in Houston or in Calgary.

Our justice system completely defies logic. We cater to criminals and the victims have no rights. It is a disturbing situation that needs all kinds of repairs, from the prison system to the Young Offenders Act to this conditional sentencing that is going on, all of this judicial activism.

On Friday the Prime Minister appointed a member from Saskatchewan to the Senate. As far as I am concerned, this was a slap in the face to the residents of Saskatchewan because I know most Saskatchewan residents would like to elect our senators so we can have meaningful representation.

Where is Senate reform? What about parliamentary reform? Everyone knows how this place runs. There are no free votes. The government never resorts to the use of referendums. It is a dictatorship.

What are we doing here today? Despite all the problems facing our nation, the government has brought forward a bill to extend benefits depending on whether or not one is having gay sex. Is that the depth to which the government has to sink? What about all the urgent matters facing our nation? No, it is preoccupied with extending benefits to people who have homosexual sex.

Let us go back to June 1999. The Canadian Alliance at that time put forward a motion that read “marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada”. That motion passed but it was not a bill and had no statutory effect. What we see now, despite the expressed will of parliament last June, is a bill that will not preserve the definition of marriage but will destroy it. I submit that Bill C-23 is an insult to every member of parliament who voted last June to preserve the definition of marriage.

The government knows full well that the vast majority of Canadians are upset about this bill. They do not agree to extending the benefits that accrue to married couples to homosexual couples. I know from my own experience in my constituency and from talking to my colleagues that there has been a large public outcry. My constituency office has been deluged with phone calls, faxes, letters and e-mails demanding that the government abort this ill-thought out legislation.

In response to this public outcry, the minister put forward an amendment at the beginning of the bill that defines marriage but that has no legal effect. It is meaningless. Any judge looking at any of the acts modified by Bill C-23—and I believe there are 68 of them—will not see that interpretative clause defining marriage. Legal experts have clearly stated that in order to have the effect of retaining the current definition of marriage, the definition of spouse and marriage should be placed in each of the affected statutes modified by Bill C-23.

That is exactly what the Canadian Alliance has done. We have put forth amendments, which will be voted on tonight, that define spouse as either a man or a woman who has entered into a marriage and that define marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. That is what the legal experts say will be required to retain the current definition of marriage and that is what Canadian Alliance members are proposing, but that is not how the Liberal government will vote. I believe the reason for that is that their ultimate goal is to destroy the institution of marriage or at least make gay couples the equivalent of what currently are married couples, in other words, gay marriages.

On March 20 of this year delegates to a Liberal convention voted on a resolution to legalize same sex marriages. Although that resolution was defeated, it had a very close margin of 468 to 365. The New Democratic Party already has the policy that it wants same sex marriages.

In addition to urging all members of the House to support the Canadian Alliance amendments, which would replace the definition in each of the affected statutes, I recently submitted a private member's bill, Bill C-460, which was an act to amend the Marriage Act and to include and place the specific definition of marriage in that act.

Unfortunately, because of the undemocratic nature of this institution, that bill will probably never see the light of day. If it ever does, I would certainly hope that all members of the House would see their way clear to support it. I know that will not happen because, as I said, the NDP officially has a policy contrary to that.

At the beginning of my speech I mentioned the urgent matters facing this nation, one of which is taxation. I will briefly outline for the benefit of the House solution 17, which is the Canadian Alliance's proposal for tax reform.

When we form government, we will implement a single rate of taxation of 17%, combined with a spousal and personal deduction of $10,000 plus a $3,000 deduction per child. The net effect of that is that two million low income Canadians who currently pay some tax will pay no tax at all.

I will wrap up by saying that in addition to supporting fair family taxation, the Canadian Alliance would also address issues that the Liberals have been unwilling to tackle, such as child pornography, criminal justice reform, child custody and access issues and many other issues that affect families because we are a pro-family party as opposed to the anti-family policies of the Liberal government.

Let it be known that MPs who vote against the Canadian Alliance amendments in tonight's vote will be voting against the definition of marriage in federal law.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question?

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.