Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today on Bill C-23, the modernization of benefits and obligations act.
I will be sharing my time with one of my colleagues.
I want the House to know why I am proud to stand and speak to this bill. I have listened to various members speak, such as the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the member for Vancouver East. They have spoken, as national parties do, about human rights.
I heard a member of the Bloc speak to the member for Burnaby—Douglas when he said that the member has been a gay member of parliament for a long time and has had the courage to stand and speak about these issues at a time when it was not popular. I salute the hon. member.
However it also takes a government with a political will when it is in power to move the agenda forward. This government since 1993 has taken steps progressively, certainly and steadily starting with Bill C-33, and Bill C-41, and the treasury board bill which dealt with the issues of benefits and pensions and moving on to the bill before us today. This is the culmination of a long series of progressive steps getting us to the point where we now have seen the last bastion of legislated discrimination in this country fall by the wayside. I am proud to belong to a government and a party which has had the courage to do this.
What concerns me more than anything is that I have sat in the House and listened to what I consider to be the spreading of hate and hateful messages by the alliance party.
This is not only about the issue of marriage. This bill, as the hon. justice minister has said many times before, is not about marriage. It is about human rights, civil rights and political rights of a group in Canada who have been barred from those rights for a long time.
What I heard from the alliance party were suggestions that concern me a great deal because it not only stereotypes but creates dangerous stereotyping. People who listen to that kind of stereotyping may actually feel there are many reasons to dislike, fear and deny that particular group, gays, lesbians and bisexual persons, their human rights.
It bothers me that the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the hon. member for Calgary Centre have given statements that they make sound like scientific fact. There are a couple of very important pieces of stereotyping which are dangerous.
The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan talked about feminism creating gays and lesbians. The hon. member talked about the fact that single parent families and divorce create gays and lesbians in this country. I would like to quote what the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan said. While it does not bear repeating, it must be repeated because it shows the extremism of that party. The hon. member said:
A gradual blurring of the sexes occurred that gave young men growing up in many female dominated, single parent homes an identity crisis. This led to a rise in militant homosexuality, a coming out of the closet of gay men and women who also demanded equality. The things that had been considered improper went looking for a desperate legitimacy.
When pressed, the hon. member was unable to explain why he believes that single mother families encourage militant homosexuality. When pressed he also said that he did not know the answer to why homosexuals who grew up with both their father and mother in the home would be less militant.
That spreads hateful messages about other people. It is about a party so set in its own need to poison people against each other that it will say anything, no matter whether it is the truth or not.
My father came from a single parent family led by his mother. My father and mother have been married for about 60 years. My father and mother brought me up in a home in which there was love and commitment. I also learned from my parents that every single individual in the world has human rights for which I must continue to fight and that is what I am doing.
As a physician I have had many gay, lesbian and bisexual patients. Despite what the hon. member for Calgary Centre would have us believe, there is not a single piece of psychological research that demonstrates that lesbians and gay men function differently as individuals from other women and men.
Since 1974 the American Psychiatric Association has been on record in holding that homosexuality is not an illness and is not curable. The American Psychological Association agrees that homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability or general social and vocational capabilities.
In July 1997 based on research and evidence the Ontario Psychological Association issued a statement supporting the general principle that all individuals in relationships should be treated equally under the law without regard to sexual orientation.
It is the kind of statements made by the hon. members for Calgary Centre and Nanaimo—Cowichan that are so disconcerting for many of us.
As a physician, a parent and a member of parliament, I am extremely concerned about the damage being done to young gays and lesbians who are beginning to understand their sexuality. The suicide rate among gay and lesbian youth is extremely high, beginning at the age of 15 when young people are beginning to understand their sexuality. Those young people are wondering if they may or may not be gay or lesbian. They are worried about whether or not they will be accepted.
They are now being further marginalized by the members of the Canadian Alliance, the former Reform Party. I cannot keep up with the name changes in that party. Those young people are being further marginalized. In a place to which a lot of Canadians look for truth and honesty, they are being told openly that they are sick. They are being told that they are some sort of abnormal creature on the face of the earth.
What does that do to the sense of self-worth of those young people? What does it do to increase the suicide rate for young people who are afraid and concerned that they will be rejected by the rest of society? It is increasing the risk for them. This is what concerns me so much about the irresponsible statements coming from the Canadian Alliance, or whatever it is that party calls itself.
Other bits of misinformation keep being circulated around here. One is that the vast majority of pedophiles are gay. Some 96% or more of acts of sexual abuse toward children are committed by heterosexual individuals.
As a physician I have not just read the newspaper from which members of the Canadian Alliance seem to get all their information but I have also read scientific information, data and research which has clearly said that homosexuality is not a disease which needs to be cured. I know very clearly the damage that is being done to homosexual youth when they are afraid and are further marginalized. They are committing suicide.
I want to make one final point. I recall the days when common law relationships were frowned upon. I recall the days when relationships between people of different religions were frowned upon. I recall the days when conjugal relationships between people of different colour were frowned upon. I am glad to see we have finally removed one other barrier that has existed for so long.
Gay and lesbian families are strong families. Gays and lesbians are parents. Gays and lesbians are children. They are sisters and brothers. They are grandparents. I am proud to stand here with my government to put forward a bill that I believe will probably be the single most important bill to come forward in this House in the 21st century.