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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was courts.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the 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 20 petitions.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I hereby wish to designate Thursday, September 18, as an allotted day.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present to the House today signed by a number of my constituents concerning religious freedom.

The petitioners are concerned that if sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code are amended the rights of their religious freedom would not be protected. The petitioners are asking that the rights of Canadians to be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution be recognized by Parliament.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present today three petitions on behalf of my constituents of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound.

The first petition is an objection to Bill C-250.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition asks that Parliament uphold the definition of marriage which is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition asks that the Government of Canada not participate in the U.S. missile defence system.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the privilege to present to the House a petition signed by concerned constituents in my riding of Cambridge.

The petitioners call on Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians to express their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution. The petitioners are very concerned that expressing moral disapproval of a sexual practice by citing the Bible or other sacred religious books could be linked to a hate crime charge under Bill C-250.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to table two petitions from citizens of the riding of Brant. In the first one, some 80 citizens urge Parliament to protect marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, some 50 citizens call on Parliament to strengthen the child pornography law.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a large number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners are concerned about Bill C-250 which proposes a change under section 318 and section 319 of the Criminal Code which could lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedom as protected under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, and to express their moral and religious doctrines without fear of criminal prosecutions.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians and not make the Bible a piece of hate literature so that Canadians can be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that is really quite timely. It asks that Parliament, having the exclusive jurisdiction over marriage, not change the definition of marriage. With some 125 signatures to go, about 4,000 individuals are represented on this issue.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition that is timely. Citizens from my constituency call on Parliament to pass legislation recognizing the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 230 and 234 could be made orders for return, the returns would be tabled immediately.

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed that the questions enumerated by the hon. parliamentary secretary be made orders for return?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed that all remaining questions be allowed to stand?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 230Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

For the 2002-2003, 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 fiscal years, what are the best estimates of funds to be disbursed (in subsidies and contributions) by each of the government's departments and quasi-or non-governmental agencies subsidized by the government to: ( a ) support the anglophone community in Quebec; ( b ) support francophone communities outside Quebec; and ( c ) in each case, to fund what needs?

Return tabled.

Question No. 234Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Concerning federal public servants, how many whose first language is a ) French, and b ) English are employed in (i) bilingual imperative positions, and (ii) bilingual non-imperative positions, for each of the following Official Language profiles: “E” (Exempt from further testing); “CCC” (Reading, Writing and Oral Interaction at Superior levels); “CBC” (Reading and Oral Interaction at Superior levels, Writing at Intermediate level); “CCB”(Reading and Writing at Superior Levels, Oral Interaction at Intermediate Level); “CBB” (Reading at Superior Level, Writing and Oral Interaction at Intermediate Levels); “BCB” (Reading and Oral Interaction at Intermediate Levels, Writing at Superior Level); “BCC” (Reading at Intermediate Level, Writing and Oral Interaction at Superior Levels); “BBB” (Reading, Writing and Oral Interaction at Intermediate Levels); “BBC” (Reading and Writing at Intermediate Levels, Oral Interaction at Superior Level); “BBA” (Reading and Writing at Intermediate Levels, Oral Interaction at Minimum Level); “BAA” (Reading at Intermediate Level, Oral Interaction and Writing at Minimum Levels); “BAB” (Reading and Oral Interaction at Intermediate Levels, Writing at Minimum Level); “ABA” (Reading and Oral Interaction at Minimum Levels, Writing at Intermediate Level); “ABB” (Reading at Minimum Level, Writing and Oral Interaction at Intermediate Levels); “AAB” (Reading and Writing at Minimum Levels, Oral Interaction at Intermediate Level); and “AAA” (Reading, Writing and Oral Interaction at Minimum Levels)?

Question No. 234Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Data on bilingualism in the federal Public Service are derived from the position and classification information system, PCIS, which is managed by the Treasury Board Secretariat but fed and updated by the departments. The PCIS contains information on all employees of federal departments and agencies for which the Treasury Board is the employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

For this inquiry, it is not possible to provide a breakdown by imperative v. non-imperative positions, since this information has more to do with staffing than with position identification. Moreover, the E level is not really a linguistic profile; rather, it is an indication that an employee is sufficiently proficient in his or her second language to be exempted.

The following table shows, for each of the linguistic profiles requested, the number of bilingual positions held by anglophones and the number held by francophones, as well as the total number of bilingual positions.

Breakdown of Bilingual Positions by Anglophones & Francophones according to the Linguistic Profiles Requested

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 43(2), I wish to inform you that in today's debate on the Opposition motion all Liberal members intend to share their time.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to debate this motion on preserving the traditional definition of marriage in Canada.

First, let me begin by recognizing that this is an emotional debate, one where views are strongly held. We should be clear on what the debate is and is not about. It is not about human rights. The rights and privileges of marriage have been extended in law across this country to gay and lesbians and to non-traditional relationships of various kinds already. That is not in contention here.

Also not in contention is the recognition of non-traditional relationships. Civil unions for gays and others exist in law at the provincial level. That jurisdiction and those arrangements are not challenged by any substantive body of opinion in the House.

What the motion is about is marriage: preserving in law an institution that is essential. It is about democracy. It is about the right of the people to make social value judgments and, more specifically, the right of judgments to be made by the representatives of the people rather than by the judges appointed by the government.

Finally, and perhaps most important, it is about honesty and political integrity, about a government that ran on one position and now doing another but, disgracefully, doing it in a way that avoids parliamentary consent and public debate.

Let me begin by commenting on marriage. I will read the following quote which summarizes my views:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of longs-standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

Interestingly, that quote comes from former Justice La Forest of the Supreme Court of Canada. I will comment on his quote and his position a little later.

The question we should really be asking today in this debate is whether this institution should be redefined in law. We on this side of the House say, no, but if the answer to that question were to be yes, the responsible thing to do would be for those who believe traditional marriage should be abolished to argue democratically and openly that it is desirable and socially necessary to do so.

However opponents of traditional marriage have refused to do that. Instead they have gone to the courts to contort this into a human rights issue. They have chosen to make change without social consensus and, in doing so, they have articulated a position which I believe is wrong in law, universally insulting, very dangerous as far as real rights are concerned and, of course, has been done so in a highly undemocratic manner.

First, this is wrong in law. Sexual orientation or, more accurately, what we are really talking about, sexual behaviour, the argument has been made by proponents of this position that this is analogous to race and ethnicity. This position was not included in the Charter of Rights when it was passed by Parliament in 1982. It was not included, not because of some kind of accident or oversight, but deliberately and explicitly by all sides of the House of Commons.

Sexual orientation was later read in to the charter. I would point out that an amendment to the constitution by the courts is not a power of the courts under our constitution. Something the House will have to address at some point in time is where its powers begin and where those of the courts end.

However, even accepting the reading in of sexual orientation, the addition of sexual orientation, unconstitutionally by the courts into the charter does not in itself mean automatically that traditional marriage should be deemed illegal and unconstitutional.

I quoted former Justice La Forest earlier. Even the Supreme Court of Canada, when it was asked to address this question, defended the traditional definition of marriage. The quote I read from Justice La Forest comes from his judgment in the Egan decision of 1995. This is one reason why, of all the court decisions, the government has been so anxious to push this issue through. It has not been anxious to go to the Supreme Court of Canada because it has doubts the Supreme Court of Canada would actually agree with it on this position.

More serious than being wrong in law, this position of declaring traditional marriage unconstitutional and illegal is, in our view, very insulting.

Would the Supreme Court of Canada which, unlike lower courts, is under increasing public scrutiny, really want to be associated with the view that the traditional marriage arrangements of millions of Canadians constitute some kind of act of discrimination? That is now, we are told, the position of the Minister of Justice, that people who happen to believe that being married is different than just being any two people and that they are somehow involved in some kind of conspiracy of inequality or, as the member for Vancouver Centre, the former multiculturalism minister, has stated, traditional marriage is equivalent basically to denying public services based on race. It is something like race-based washrooms or golf clubs which exclude members of certain ethnic groups.

That is a long way from what the justice minister was telling the House in 1999 when we addressed this issue and this motion. The then justice minister, now the health minister, said the following:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide.

She went on to say that the government would never consider making such a change to the definition of marriage.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, the view that being for traditional marriage is analogous to some kind of racist or ethnocentric agenda is, unfortunately, not just a slur in this case against political opponents, as they are all too willing to do. It is an attack on the traditional beliefs of every single culture and faith that has come to this country.

Whether we are talking about Britain, France, Europe, China, India, Asia or Africa, just name it, all of us came here to build a future that would respect the values and traditions of our ancestors and build a future for our children and families. One of those things was based on our traditional institutions like marriage. For the Liberals or anyone in the Liberal Party to equate the traditional definition of marriage with segregation and apartheid is vile and disgusting, and a position that has no place--

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Our society has come, over the decades in my lifetime, to respect and recognize in law the choices of consenting adults. It is time that traditional institutions like marriage be equally recognized and respected.

This position is also very dangerous because, no matter what the Liberals say today, the kind of mentality that would have traditional marriage declared illegal and unconstitutional would inevitably endanger actual rights that are enshrined in our constitution, not merely read in, such as freedom of religion.

The Liberals and the justice minister say today that they will not touch the ability of churches, temples, mosques and synagogues to determine their own definition of marriage but these are the same people who said in the last election that they would never consider touching the definition of marriage itself.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and members of the Liberal Party who agree with us in principle to think very carefully about this. If the Liberals and some of their front bench people now say that the traditional definition of marriage is illegal, immoral, discriminatory and racist, what will stop them? Why would they ever tolerate those who, through their religious institutions, believe otherwise?

We see before the House Bill C-250, which is, in our view, just another step down this course of criminalizing opinions on this subject that are simply not accepted by the Liberal left.

Finally, there is the notion that what is going on here is highly undemocratic. I do not think I have to explain this but let me go over the facts. In 1999 a virtually identical motion was passed through the House and supported by the Liberal Party: supported by the Prime Minister, the incoming prime minister and, in fact, I have to add, drafted in part through arrangements in the House by the then justice minister, now health minister.

How it is a trap now and was not some kind of a trap then I do not know. Actually, I do know. We were facing an election campaign where the Liberal Party would have to face its own conservative supporters who would simply not accept this categorization of their views. Therefore they adopted a position then and now they want to do something different, now that they are out of sight.

However nothing relevant to this motion has changed in the past four years. Public opinion on the motion is just as divided. If anything, it is actually slightly more in favour of traditional marriage than it was then but it is just as divided. Lower courts are ruling just as they were then, that we should go in a different direction. The bias of those courts was becoming apparent. This was all known. It was mentioned in the motion. It was precisely why the House of Commons passed that motion.

The motion said that the government would protect marriage and would use all necessary means. It did not say that it would use the notwithstanding clause as the first line of attack, that this was a chance to obliterate the charter. It never said any such thing. The Prime Minister is trying to claim that now. He did not try to claim that in 1999 when the same motion was being passed.

The motion does not say “the notwithstanding clause”. It says “what is necessary”. The government did not do what is necessary. The government did nothing to protect traditional marriage.

In fact the government did everything it could do within reason to overturn that definition of marriage. It did not, to begin with, ever introduce or pass through the House into statutory law the traditional definition of marriage. Parliament has never done that. What has been overturned in the courts has been simply a series of common law rulings.

The government then went to court and had an unblemished string of losses ending when Justice McMurtry and the Ontario Court of Appeal decided to unilaterally and instantaneously change the definition.

What the government then did was use that opportunity, not to appeal the case, not merely to refuse to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada where it feared it might lose, but is now in the courts of this country trying to block anyone else from appealing this decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Its position now is that it does not want a vote on this issue until after the next election. It does not want Parliament to look at this in the life of this Parliament. It wants the Supreme Court of Canada to approve its legislation but only to approve the questions that it asks. It does not ask the Supreme Court of Canada whether the traditional definition of marriage would be legal and constitutional in this country.

When it actually gives at some future date the Parliament of Canada the right to vote on its legislation, that vote will mean nothing because that vote will give members of Parliament two consequences: pass what the courts have already done or do not pass it and leave it the way it is. There will be absolutely no choice whatsoever.

In laying out these facts I have been accused of compiling some kind of conspiracy theory against the government. This is not conspiracy; this is dishonesty. It would be hard to be more open and transparently dishonest than this government has been on this question.

To concede this kind of ground to the courts without so much as a debate or vote Parliament, what I wonder is where is the incoming prime minister? Where is Mr. Democratic Deficit, Mr. Fix the Democratic Deficit? All of a sudden his position is whatever the courts say that is fine with him. So much for elected people. But why should we be surprised that he seems to have no particular problem with scandals over there? He had no problem writing cheques for any number of boondoggles or anything else. In any case it would be difficult for the government to be more dishonest than it is being.

The motion has been previously passed by this House. In fact it was the House's last word on it. People on all sides, particularly in the Liberal Party, had to campaign hard on this issue. In some more conservative ridings they were elected on it, and absolutely nothing has changed.

What is before us today? It is a chance for the House, for the Liberals in particular, to come clean and do what we have done. We are a conservative party. We support traditional marriage. We voted for it and we believed in it. We ran on it and we meant it. I call on the Liberal Party to do the same thing.

If this motion is to pass today, we obviously need the votes of Liberals to do that. It will tell the government to take a different course of action. If it does not pass today, it will tell the people of Canada they need a different government.