Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this debate in another direction, in a direction that I hope members opposite, indeed all members, will be interested to hear.
I begin by saying that I support this bill. I support this bill because it does what needs to be done, and what needs to be done and why this bill exists in the first place is that it defines same sex relationships as outside marriage and it defines marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman. I support it. It is there.
The question I bring forward is that while the opposition, obviously being the opposition it must oppose the bill, this is right and proper and it has to find all the means to oppose the bill, I would like to concentrate my remarks on the fact that 19 members of my own party voted against the report stage motion yesterday. There is a good chance those same 19 Liberals—maybe more, maybe less—will vote against this legislation when it comes before the House tonight.
I have great respect for my colleagues. I think it may be of great interest to you, Mr. Speaker, to comprehend why some of us who share exactly the same values, the same Liberal values if you will, the same values about family, and the same concerns about protecting the traditional definition of marriage and so on and so forth, would vote against this legislation, which I believe is very good legislation, and some would vote for it on this side exclusively.
We have to go back a bit to understand where this bill comes from. I am one of the ones who promoted it originally. The reason I promoted it was because it was becoming very clear that unless parliament acted the courts were going to define marriage and spouse as a same sex relationship. It was coming. It was occurring at the Ontario Court of Appeal level and in various other court cases. This has been a fear of mine for a very long time.
The first time I voted against my own government was when I voted against Bill C-33 when it came up in 1995. I voted against my government because it failed in that legislation to define marriage and to define a same sex relationship in the context of a legally married relationship. I voted against that legislation precisely because it left it to the courts. Finally, this bill produces the definitions.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with a colleague.
Let me examine what happened yesterday. The 19 Liberals who voted against the government voted on Motion No. 5, moved by the member for Scarborough Southwest. The member's motion, which was echoed by other motions from the opposition, would have had the definition of marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman, which is in the bill, repeated in every piece of legislation that the bill affects. In other words, this is an omnibus bill and it affects 68 other statutes. It defines in those statutes that same sex partnerships, for the purposes of benefits or anything else, are to be seen in the same sense as a common law partnership. That should have been sufficient, but the member for Scarborough Southwest felt that this should be repeated in every bit of legislation.
I take the position that to have marriage defined in law when it was only defined in common law is a huge step forward. In fact, by all analyses, that should be sufficient to guarantee that marriage legally is only a heterosexual relationship. So why did the member for Scarborough Southwest feel it was so important to repeat this in every statute affected by Bill C-23?
I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, he did it because he does not trust the courts to interpret or to see this definition of marriage that exists in Bill C-23. He does not trust the courts in future arbitrations that will involve the definition of marriage to pay due attention to the piece of legislation that we have passed.
Why does he take that position? This is the bad news, and it is very unfortunate. I hope the justice minister and all Canadians are listening. The reality is that members on this side of the House no longer trust our own justice department. The problem is that on this side of the House there is a sense that people in the justice department are resisting common sense measures to define issues like this because they have some kind of secret agenda. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have heard time and time again on this side of the House, on all kinds of legislation, the observation that we cannot trust the impartiality of justice department officials.
I really hesitate to say that because a great many of the justice department officials are very competent and very sincere in what they do. But there is no question that an element of suspicion has been created among parliamentarians and the justice department.
There are many examples. It goes back to the original gun control bill. It was one thing to have legislation creating a scheme for controlling firearms, but what we found on this side of the House was that it was very difficult to get even the most common sense amendments to that legislation. Then, there are countless other examples since I have been a parliamentarian since 1993.
There was a bill on electronic monitoring that would have enabled the authorities to affix a transmitter to a person who was never even charged with a crime. There were bills that limited the rights of the accused to get the documents of his accusers when it was a case of a sexual assault charge.
Even in this very same bill that we have before us, in my original speech at second reading I suggested that we change the word “conjugal” to “sexual intimacy”, because “conjugal” was used by error in the wrong sense by a judge who did not know language sufficiently well. Yet the justice department, which could have made the change and could have made everyone feel better, opted to carry on with the word “conjugal”, which in fact implies a heterosexual relationship.
The unfortunate thing that we have before us is legislation that is good. It does do what needs to be done. It does define marriage and it does give benefits to same sex couples in a way that does not conflict with traditional values. But we have this feeling on this side of the House that this bill is not as perfect, is not as complete, is not as polished and as well aimed as it could be because we believe, or some believe on this side of the House, that there is some kind of hidden agenda which means that later on the justice department may take this to court. Because the justice department creates laws in the House, it also defends them.
So we have this very uneasy situation that worries a lot of us around here, that we are not entirely certain that the people who produce the legislation for the government, who advise the government on its legislation, are indeed as impartial as they should be.
I hope that the justice minister thinks about this, and that the justice department officials themselves think about this, because this criticism is long overdue. I am sorry it has to appear on a piece of legislation that, in my mind, is excellent legislation. It brings back to parliament the definition of marriage and the definition of same sex relationships. It is exactly what parliament should have done long ago, but unfortunately the optics are not what they should be because perhaps the legislation is not as thoroughly aimed as it could have been. In that sense, the 19 members on this side of the House who are not willing to support this legislation do have a point, and I regret that is the situation.