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House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-23.

Topics

Order In Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments recently made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1) these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 11th, 2000 / 10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's response to 16 petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Liberal Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Industry entitled “Productivity and Innovation: A Competitive and Prosperous Canada”.

The Standing Committee on Industry met with over 70 witnesses to discuss productivity, innovation and competitiveness. I would like to thank everyone who participated in our extensive hearings and for sharing their insights with us. I am confident that the public will agree that this report reflects both their concerns and common Canadian values and priorities in our ever evolving and productive economy.

On behalf of the committee I would also like to thank our clerk Richard Rumas, our researchers Daniel Shaw and Daniel Brassard and the interpreters and parliamentary staff for their assistance.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to comment on the standing committee's report on productivity and innovation.

I suggest that the committee did a good job in providing a 30 year history of the decline in productivity and documenting our current situation in terms of our productivity fall. However it failed to identify the underlying reasons for Canada's deteriorating productivity.

The official opposition believes that the role played by public policy during this period is a significant factor that needed to be examined. We suggest that the fundamental shift in government policy in the late 1960s and 1970s created the conditions that led to Canada's decline in productivity and therefore we offered a dissenting opinion to that effect.

Species At Risk ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-474, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (percentage of gifts that may be deducted from tax).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to introduce in the House today my private member's bill to amend the Income Tax Act. It pertains specifically to the percentage of gifts that may be deducted from tax.

In federal law registered charities do not receive equal treatment with federal political parties. The majority of Canadians contribute an average of $239 annually. If those dollars go to charities, the donors receive a reduced rate of tax credit compared to federal political parties. This bill is about taking away political advantage for political donations.

To date I have received over 30,000 signatures in support of this and a strong contingent of support from thousands of charitable organizations across Canada. I urge all members to consider supporting this very worthy piece of legislation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-475, an act respecting the creation of sanctuaries for endangered species of wildlife.

Mr. Speaker, the situation right now with respect to endangered species in Canada is deplorable. More than 300 endangered species exist in our country but there has been a decline in habitat which is critically important for the existence of these species for future generations.

This bill provides for the species to be defined by a scientific group under the auspices of COSEWIC. It provides for habitat protection by obligating the federal government to engage in negotiations with private land owners and provinces. In the case that negotiations are unable to proceed further, the land can be taken over as a sanctuary, as long as the groups are compensated for the land at fair market value. Finally, it provides that people who own lands that contain sensitive habitats for species can receive benefits under the Income Tax Act.

This bill will go a long way in protecting our endangered species for future generations to enjoy.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table in the House today a petition signed by approximately 700 Canadians, most of them from my riding but some from other parts of the country.

The petitioners remind the government of its commitment to work with all parliamentarians to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. They express great concern about the dramatic and alarming increase in child poverty and call upon the government to fulfil that promise by introducing a multi-year plan to eliminate child poverty in the country.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition which like other petitions is on behalf of thousands and thousands of Canadians.

The petitioners indicate that there has been empirical evidence of the value of marriage as a cornerstone of public policy which produces tangible public benefits and that parliament has reaffirmed that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. However, the government has brought forth Bill C-23 which extends marriage-like benefits to same sex couples. Therefore the petitioners pray that parliament withdraw Bill C-23 before it is passed today.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Victoria—Haliburton, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure to present a petition from people of Haliburton—Victoria—Brock. The petitioners pray that parliament act immediately to extend protection to the unborn child by amending the criminal code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, it is my pleasure to table a petition bearing 128 signatures. The petitioners call upon parliament to move quickly to pass legislation requiring the labelling of all foods that are genetically modified, in whole or in part.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from over 400 Canadians mostly from the province of Alberta.

The petitioners are asking and demanding that the Prime Minister keep his promise regarding ministerial accountability. They are demanding the resignation of the Minister of Human Resources Development and are asking the auditor general to oversee a full and independent inquiry into HRDC management and accounting practices.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to present a petition. These petitioners are joining with about 4,000 petitioners as of a week ago. We have had petitions every day on this particular topic.

They call upon parliament to withdraw Bill C-23 to affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and to ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today on two different subjects. The first petition is three separate ones.

The petitioners, who are my constituents, are calling for parliament to withdraw Bill C-23. They say that a bill which fails to define marriage in legislation as a union of one man and woman, a definition which was affirmed by the House on June 8, 1999, is an inappropriate intrusion into the personal lives of Canadians and extends benefits only to a relationship of a sexual nature. They would like the bill withdrawn.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the another petition, pursuant to Standing Order 36.

These petitioners feel that Canadians are overtaxed. They are demanding that the federal government account for the gross mismanagement of their tax dollars in the HRDC department. They are also requesting the immediate resignation of the HRDC minister and that the auditor general conduct a full and independent inquiry into HRDC management and accounting practices.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise in parliament to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadians from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

Once again they join with thousands of other Canadians across the country in asking that the government withdraw Bill C-23, affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too have the privilege of standing in the House today to present a petition.

This one is interesting because in this one package we have petitioners from New Brunswick, Quebec, the Ottawa region, Manitoba and Calgary. They are from right across the country.

These petitioners, as some of the others who have already presented petitions, are asking and urging parliament to withdraw Bill C-23. It goes against everything they believe in.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise as well to table about 100 signatures from Alberta and Ontario objecting to Bill C-23, adding to the tens of thousands of others that have been tabled which ask that the government withdraw the legislation and protect the institution of marriage.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

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

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, be read the third time and passed.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be here today to speak to Bill C-23, the modernization of benefits and obligations act.

First let me thank my colleagues, the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for their excellent work. I would also like to thank all the witnesses, the individuals and organizations that took the time to thoughtfully consider the bill and to either appear before the committee or to send in a brief on Bill C-23. Their work is very important in this process and I want to thank them for their time and helpful contributions.

Bill C-23 will amend 68 statutes to ensure that committed common law couples of the opposite sex and the same sex receive equal treatment under the law with regard to benefits and obligations. As the Minister of Justice has repeatedly said, the legislation is about tolerance and fairness.

Through the bill we are achieving respect for the fundamental values inherent in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government and the majority of Canadians believe that all common law couples in committed relationships should be treated in the same way. Bill C-23 reflects this reality.

Let me take a minute to review some of the more complex issues and misinformation that have arisen surrounding Bill C-23. Some members of the House and some witnesses before the standing committee have suggested that Bill C-23 does not go far enough and that the benefits and obligations should be extended not to just same sex couples but to all people in relationships of dependency. I would stress, however, that Bill C-23 does not preclude discussion which has already started on whether or how to acknowledge the nature and reality of the many types of dependent relationships.

The government agrees that this is an important issue which deserves further attention. It is for this reason that the Minister of Justice has already announced that the issue will be referred to a parliamentary subcommittee.

The mandate of the parliamentary subcommittee will be to examine four broad categories of questions. First, should the Government of Canada reconsider the basis on which benefits and obligations are determined at present? Second, what overall policy objectives for Canadian society should benefits and obligations support? Third, if either economic dependency or economic emotional interdependency is the most appropriate basis on which to distribute benefits and impose obligations on Canadian society, how would it be defined and measured? Fourth, should all benefits and obligations be distributed on this basis or only some where appropriate?

These questions are highly conceptual and represent the first stage of this study which will set the framework and principles on which further study of the issue of dependency will be based.

As was mentioned in the committee hearings, the Law Commission of Canada has been studying the issue of dependency and interdependency for some time and expects to release a public issues paper on these questions in the early summer of this year. Work on these broader, important questions is real and is progressing.

The broader issue of dependency is complex and separate from the issue dealt with in Bill C-23. I realize that many are frustrated with what they see as further delay on this related but separate question. However the government firmly believes that it is premature and irresponsible to extend benefits and, more particularly, to impose obligations on these broader dependent relationships without careful consideration of all the implications for society.

Although some federal statutes already extend benefits and obligations to people in dependent relationships, we need to know more. We need to know about the financial cost, any possible downsides for elderly and disabled individuals and whether Canadians would even be prepared to take on legal obligations for their relatives and others before we could determine whether it would be appropriate to include such relationships in all laws.

A number of adult Canadians currently reside with elderly parents, siblings or other relatives. Extending benefits and obligations to people involved in all these forms of relationships would have far-reaching consequences for individuals and society as a whole. While benefits which reflect dependency would likely be welcomed, it is unclear whether the accompanying legal obligations should be imposed on individuals or those relatives with whom they reside.

For example, eligibility for the guaranteed income supplement under the Old Age Security Act is determined on the basis of combining the income of both persons, which might result in reducing benefits for some elderly persons who live with adult children or other relatives. As another example, if an adult lives with his or her elderly parent for many years and then leaves to marry, this extension might result in a situation where the Canada pension plan credit would be split between the parent and the child as it would now following a divorce.

Premature changes may have unexpected results. Government must be careful and responsible with any changes so that the system encourages rather than discourages people taking care of each other. We must be careful to ensure that any legal changes would not impose obligations which accidentally act as barriers to people supporting each other.

While the more complex issues surrounding the broader questions of dependent relationships need to be worked out, this work cannot be allowed to delay further the issues dealt with in Bill C-23. The Law Commission of Canada stated before the committee:

However much we believe the need for parliament ultimately to strive for its legislative “best”, we also believe that there are times, and this is one of them, when it should proceed to enact what is, constitutionally, a legislative “good”.

Members opposite have also claimed that Bill C-23 will destroy the institution of marriage or result in adoption by same sex couples. The Minister of Justice has repeatedly stated that the bill is not about marriage. It is about equal treatment under federal law for all common law couples, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex.

Nevertheless, the government has been responsive to the concerns of many Canadians, including some in my riding who needed reassurance that the fundamental institution of marriage would not be altered in any way by the bill. I proposed an amendment at committee stage to give this reassurance to Canadians. Subclause 1.1 of Bill C-23 now states:

For greater certainty, the amendments made by this act do not affect the meaning of the word marriage, that is, the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

This answers the many questions which have been presented here today in the petitions. Although some have claimed this does not have any legal effect, I and others on this side disagree. The amendment to the bill is a clear statement of the intention of the government that the legal meaning of marriage remain the same as it always has been in the history of Canada.

With regard to the claims that the bill will result in adoption by same sex partners, I wish to point out again that adoption is decided under the laws of the provinces. It is provincial law. The references to adoption in Bill C-23 are there to ensure that children adopted in accordance with provincial law will be included in federal law.

This is one aspect of Bill C-23 which has not received much attention in the debates but which I believe is important. Bill C-23 amends several federal statutes to ensure that children are not discriminated against, both by including references to adopted children in those few statutes which do not already do so and by removing the last remaining reference to illegitimacy to ensure that all children are included in the federal law.

There has also been a series of conflicting remarks from the other side: first, that the government is only putting the bill forward because the courts have forced the government's hand over the objections of Canadians and, second, that the bill is unnecessary as it goes beyond what the Supreme Court of Canada has required. Let me respond by saying that the government brought forward the bill at this time because it is the right thing to do.

Governments have a duty to represent the interests of all its citizens whether they belong to the mainstream or, perhaps even more important, when they represent a minority group. I am pleased to represent a political party which believes as one of its central policies that governments have a duty to safeguard the interests of both the majority and the minorities which make up the face of Canada.

In May 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada in its ruling in M. v H. said that governments could not continue to discriminate against same sex common law couples by denying them the benefits and obligations granted to opposite sex common law couples. All unmarried common law couples, both opposite sex and same sex, must have access to the same benefits and obligations.

However, although the decision of the supreme court set out the road map by identifying that same sex common law couples must be included, which is its proper role under the constitution, it remains up to parliament to decide how the law must be changed to provide that equal treatment. That is why the approach in Bill C-23 is both a responsible and a balanced one which deliberately maintains a clear legal distinction between married and common law relationships.

What the courts have told us and what the bill addresses is that common law relationships should be given equal treatment in the law, whether they are opposite sex common law couples or same sex common law couples. The bill uses clear language to maintain the term spouse for married couples and to introduce the new term common law partner for both opposite sex and same sex unmarried relationships. By doing so it preserves the legal distinction between married relationships and unmarried conjugal relationships.

In the absence of a legislative action such as the bill the courts will continue to address cases in a piecemeal fashion, focusing on the very narrow issues brought before them. The status quo is not an option. It promises confusion, unfairness, and continuing and costly litigation. Equally important, it runs the unacceptable risk of making the courts the arbiters of social policy.

I have on final issue. The proposed amendments to the Judges Act contained in Bill C-23 were referred to the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission for consideration and recommendation pursuant to the Judges Act. I am pleased to advise that this independent and constitutionally mandated commission has now informed the government that it supports the Judges Act amendments which are consistent with the amendments to the other statutes included in the bill.

In its reporting letter, which was tabled in the House on March 30, the commission observed that the proposed amendments to the Judges Act represent an appropriate response to the issues surrounding survivor annuity benefits. It is noted in particular that the apportionment rules provide a satisfactory basis for resolving any conflicts in those few instances where there may be more than one survivor, a legally married separated spouse and subsequent common law partner.

Perhaps most significant is the commission's observation that the proposed amendments are important and timely to ensure compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its recommendations that the amendments be passed without delay. We are grateful to the commission for its careful consideration of these issues and for the timely delivery of its report.

In conclusion, the bill is about equality and respect. Bill C-23 provides a responsible and balanced approach to correct longstanding discrimination against same sex couples and to ensure equal treatment for common law couples of the same sex and opposite sex while preserving the fundamental importance of marriage.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join in the debate on third reading of Bill C-23.

I have had the opportunity, as the bill has moved through the House and through committee, to speak to the bill four times. I do not think it would serve the House or yourself, Mr. Speaker, to go over too much of the ground that has already been covered at some length.

Yesterday's Hansard shows in some detail the 10 very strong reasons why the official opposition felt, and made strong arguments in fact, that Bill C-23 should be withdrawn. We laid that out for the House and we put forward amendments to improve the bill. Unfortunately last night, with the exception of a few on the other side, those amendments to improve the bill were jettisoned.

I noticed that the member opposite talked about the definition of marriage that is in Bill C-23 which has been added due to public pressure by the justice minister. Yes, we are thankful that that amendment was put in there.

What troubles us is that the definition of common law partners, which this bill now defines as any two people, same sex or otherwise, who live together for one year in a conjugal relationship, is continually defined in every statute throughout Bill C-23 repeatedly. Yet, to place a definition of marriage and spouse in those same statutes is something the Liberals have refused to do. They put it at the front end of a bill where it will not appear in any statute anywhere. When someone pulls the Income Tax Act off the shelf or the Pension Beneficiaries Act or any of these acts, there is no definition of marriage there, but there definitely is a definition of common law partners.

In our amendments we asked that the government actually make this definition of marriage substantive and have legal effect because there are court cases coming that will challenge the definition of marriage. It is our position that if we are going to put it in law, let us put it in law. That was our argument, to put it right in the statutes.

Unfortunately, the Liberals have elected to leave it out of the statutes and put it in a place whereby, in the expert legal opinion of Mr. David Brown, a lawyer from Toronto with the firm of Stikeman Elliott who reviewed legal precedents and textbooks on this very matter, the way the government did it would have little to no legal effect when these cases come forward as opposed to the approach that the Canadian Alliance put forward, which would substantively place the definition of marriage in Canadian law.

Why is that so important? It is important because it would send a clear signal to the courts on behalf of the Canadian people that marriage should remain the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all other definitions.

It is troubling that the government would put forward an amendment to appease the concerns of Canadians. We have heard here in this House from the petitions, thousands of them now, probably over the 10,000 mark that have come forward in a short period of time on this bill. It is of concern to us that the government would attempt to appease those concerned Canadians with an amendment to Bill C-23 that really is for show only. As the member for Scarborough East referred to it, the Liberal member in fact, it is a ghost amendment, a ghost bill which is going to float out there but will not have any real effect. Canadians are thinking that it will, but they have been misled by this Liberal government.

It would have been more sincere for the government to actually have adopted the amendments that the Canadian Alliance put forward to have the definition of marriage put in the statutes. It is troubling that it has misled the Canadian people and those petitioners to think that something substantive has been done when in fact it has not.

There is a number of significant problems with this bill that are going to cause it to be very troublesome in its implementation and to which I have made reference before. One of the key areas is this term that the government has added in the definition of common law partners. In fact, it is the criterion for qualifying for all these benefits that we currently apply to marriage and family. The single criterion for same sex couples now is that they live in a conjugal relationship.

Well, it is a term. There are all kinds of terms in legislation but, normally, when that occurs, there is some definition of the term so that it is made clear to those looking at the statutes or the legislation passed by this House who qualifies or who does not.

We have repeatedly asked for a definition to be included in Bill C-23. The government has refused to do that. In committee and otherwise, it has answered by saying the courts know what a conjugal relationship is. What kind of answer is that? That answer says that the courtroom is going to be the determining place for people to to get a ruling whether or not they actually are in a relationship that qualifies for all these benefits.

Just think how inappropriate that is. Here we have two individuals who are living together, assuming they are in a conjugal relationship and later finding out that they are not or vice versa, assuming they are not and later finding out that they are. The confusion, the court cases, the challenges, what happens to the benefits, the obligations upon death, all these questions are left unclear by this piece of legislation.

What troubles me the most is that members opposite, good members, members that have children of their own and families, or that are married, know that this is a fundamental flaw in this bill. They know it. Yet, last night we saw that on the report stage amendments, in spite of knowing that there are these fundamental weaknesses with this bill, the members are going to follow the edict of the Prime Minister and the cabinet and vote for a bill that is so tragically flawed. That is what troubles me more, that good men and women would not stand up for what they know is right, stand against what they know is wrong and fulfill the obligations they made to their constituents a few years ago when they were elected to this House.

It is not the first time we have seen the Liberal government move in a direction that is directed to them by either the courts or lobby groups. There has been a litany of decisions that have been made by this Liberal government that have impacted the Canadian family in a detrimental way. I cannot use any other word, except that the policies of the Liberal government are actually working against the Canadian family.

Let me review some of those. I think it is in keeping with Bill C-23 because it points out that there is a trend here that is consistent in this current Liberal government.

Let us take, for example, a statement made in the House a year or so ago by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance that parents who stay at home do not work as hard as those in the workplace. That caused a big kerfuffle across the nation. Families from across the nation and those who care for children at home spoke out. There were retractions resulting in all kinds of activity, and then questions about that.

In fact, because of the public pressure and because of motions that were brought forward by the Canadian Alliance that addressed the inequity and the tax treatment of stay at home parents or single income families, the finance minister was forced to launch a special committee to look at tax fairness.

The special committee sat for a number of months, had witnesses appear, as is the normal committee process, and produced a report that said there were some fundamental inequities in the way that tax treatment is applied to families that actually made it more difficult for parents to spend time with their children. It actually provided incentives for just the opposite, for parents to put their children in institutionalized care and enter into the workplace. It made recommendations that that should change.

A few weeks ago we saw the budget. The recommendations in that report were not included. We went through the whole report process. We went through recommendations from the special committee to address the anti-family tax policies of the Liberals. There were some good recommendations, but nothing was implemented.

Let us talk about another situation. This issue is by far the number one issue for petitions that the House has seen in the whole 36th Parliament, far greater than any other issue that has hit the floor of the House. Many people who have never been involved in the political process were motivated to get involved on the one issue. We are approaching over half a million signatures. I think we may see one million on this before it is over. Petitions are still coming in to my office in stacks. People listening may recognize the fact that this was the grievous ruling of a court in B.C. that struck down the illegality of possession of child pornography. Just the term turns your stomach. Petitioners across the country are crying out to have this reversed and the law upheld to make it illegal to possess this material.

The Canadian Alliance brought a motion to the floor of the House which was initially supported by some 70 members opposite. It asked the government to use the notwithstanding clause to uphold the law and not let the court strike down a law that protected children and made this kind of grievous material illegal. Unfortunately, only four of the members opposite stuck to their convictions. The rest reneged on their commitment and voted with the whip vote pressured on them by the Prime Minister. The motion we put forward to uphold the law to protect children was struck down again by the Liberals. They deferred it and said “Let us leave this to the courts. We will appeal it. It will all be solved in a month or two”.

Do members know how long ago that was? It is almost a year and a half since the court struck down the law that made the possession of child pornography illegal in B.C. What has happened in that time? Cases have been delayed. Prosecutions have not proceeded. The B.C. case is being referenced in other provinces and has impacted prosecutions on this issue. It is a year and a half later and still nothing has been resolved.

We had the tool in the House to resolve that. We had the tool in the notwithstanding clause. It is part of the charter, not separate. It is there to be used. But, rather than use a tool that they had, a legal, legislative, charter tool, they chose not to do it, to defer to the courts, to put children at risk and make this grievous material legal.

That is not the end. Bill C-23 is part of a consistent trend we see from the Liberal government. Here is another one.

I sat on a joint Senate and Commons committee that was struck after great public pressure and concern about the issue of family law, the divorce act and custody and access because the approach taken by the courts and the guidelines put in place by the Liberal government are not working. They are not working for people when it comes to issues of custody, access and support when there is marital breakdown.

Largely through the pressure of one senator in particular the committee was launched and I had the privilege of sitting on it. The government spent about $600,000 to finance the committee.

We travelled the country and heard from Canadians from coast to coast. They shared painful stories about how their relationships had broken down and they had been driven into the courtrooms. Sometimes it seemed as if the legal profession had actually made the situation worse. Both sides in some disputes were spending all their money and going into debt trying to resolve their family conflicts. Children were caught in the middle. Sometimes the testimony was painful. A couple of times the interpreters who travelled with us had to leave the interpretation booth because they were in tears. They could not interpret any more.

Lots of money was spent and lots of testimony was heard. It was a year of hard work by a large committee. The final result was a report with some good and implementable recommendations, many with which the official opposition agreed. Our dissenting report was very short.

What was the response of the Liberal government when it got the report? Was it going to implement the report? Was it a priority for the government? The response of the justice minister of the day was to say the government wanted to look at it further and it would probably take another three years before any action was taken. That tells Canadians it is not a priority to solve that issue.

With Bill C-23 what is the government communicating to Canadians as its number one priority? Bill C-23 has seen closure at second reading after four hours of debate. It had three and a half days in committee and many people who wanted to appear before the committee were excluded. There is closure at third reading now. The bill is being been rushed through the House and it affects 68 statutes and fundamentally changes some of our social norms and structures.

The government did not act on the custody and access report and it still has not. I still get letters from people who are concerned about when they will see family law reform that was recommended in the report generated by the joint Senate and Commons committee on custody and access. What can I tell them? I tell them to continue to write to the justice minister and let her know their concerns.

Ultimately I do not hold out much hope because the party opposite gives lip service to children. Once in a while it mentions the word family. There was a lot of reference to family and children in the throne speech but when it comes to implementing things that help families retain the money they earn, to protect children, that help marriages succeed, the government is not there. It does not deliver.

On justice issues, there is the Young Offenders Act. Who has been the voice pressuring for changes to the YOA? The official opposition. A member of our party from B.C. brought forward a number of significant amendments and pressured the government to move. Finally we see some movement although there is some concern that again a lot of it is window dressing and substantive changes are not there.

We see cases where the government allows parole to be given to known sex offenders. They are being released into our communities. Families and communities are not aware of the potential danger on their streets.

I can continue with more items from my list but the message I want to get across to the House is that there is a litany of—

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lou Sekora Liberal Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening to the member and he seems to be drifting off the issue that is before us. He is drifting all over the map and I hope that he will get to the issue that is before us.