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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

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1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, those are all good points that have been raised and I thank the member for bringing them forward.

These are exactly the kinds of discussions that we should have in Parliament. It should not be up to the courts to dictate this issue for us. I take issue not with the member's comments as much as I do with the appropriation by the courts of this entire social policy issue, effectively stifling debate in the House. This is a complex matter.

I refer the courts and the member to some of the earlier charter decisions where the courts said that they did not create these rights in a vacuum, that they looked at the historical, cultural, social and all aspects of our society in arriving at a definition of what these principles include. What we increasingly have seen is the courts simply substituting their own political decision for that of elected representatives.

There should be deference by the courts in respect of defining this kind of an issue when they knew that this was an area of the law that was specifically reserved to Parliament, not only under the BNA Act of 1867 or the Constitution Act, 1867, but through the votes that led up to the debate of the final drafting of the charter.

The comments that the member makes are worthy of debate and the place to debate them is here. I would like to hear the Supreme Court of Canada say that those lower courts were wrong in appropriating that jurisdiction, that the hot potato should be sent back to Parliament and let parliamentarians stand, earn their money and make the decisions.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is important that parliamentarians stand and tell the truth about what has happened, both in Parliament and in the courts. The fact of the matter is that this member should know that in 1981, while a motion to explicitly include sexual orientation in section 15 of the Charter of Rights was rejected, the minister of justice at the time explicitly stated as well that he was leaving section 15 open-ended to allow for the possibility that the courts might in future include new grounds, including sexual orientation.

In fact in 1985 a parliamentary committee made up of five Conservatives, one Liberal and one New Democrat, myself, travelled across the country to hear the views of Canadians about what section 15 should in fact encompass. Should it include sexual orientation and other grounds? That parliamentary committee made up of elected representatives unanimously said yes, that section 15 should in fact prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation. It was in March of 1986 that the then minister of justice, John Crosbie, accepted that.

When the member stands and says that the courts are taking on jurisdiction, that they are not listening to Parliament, the fact of the matter is Parliament almost a decade before the Supreme Court included sexual orientation in Egan and Nesbit. Parliament spoke then.

Finally, I would point out that Parliament spoke through the justice committee earlier in saying “Accept this resolution”. Tell the truth.

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1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Out of order, Mr. Speaker, out of order. Throw him out.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know this issue, as with others from time to time, raises some very strong views and strong emotions to express those views, but ultimately Canadians look to us to debate, to express our views, as differing as they might be from time to time, as is quite often the case from one side to the other and quite appropriately, and to conduct ourselves and our business in a fashion that is respectful of one another and of the matter being debated on the floor of the House. I would simply appeal to everyone to be mindful of the tremendous importance of the subject matter and the attention that it is being given.

The hon. member for Provencher.

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it does not surprise me that member, who puts the jackboot of fascism on the necks of our people with Bill C-250, would say things like that. I expect it of him, but I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing the member in line. It will not do any good because his ideology is fascism and not free speech.

In respect of the specific issue that has been raised by this individual and the comments of the Prime Minister, I believe somewhere in the range of January 29, 1981, the Prime Minister who was then minister of justice stated that he did not want sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights. He was remarkably clear for that individual that it had no place in the Charter of Rights. Perhaps at another time he said something else and it does not surprise me if he did because he likes to be on many sides of every issue.

In 1985 after the Constitution was drafted, the committee members went around and came up with a resolution saying that they should include sexual orientation. I am taking the member's word for that. I will have to check that out but I will take his word for it.

The proper response then is to bring an amendment to the Charter. It is not to say, “We five committee members we would like it changed, so maybe the judges will do the work for us”. If one wants to change the Constitution there is a process and it does not simply involve passing a resolution of a committee. It involves passing a resolution of this House, the other place and the proper representation from the provinces.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I have great agreement with much of what the member opposite has said. To me this struggle is not so much an issue of the definition even of marriage as it is a struggle about the supremacy of Parliament and the life of the charter. If we have a situation where unelected judges can overtake the decisions of Parliament, how can we expect Canadians, particularly new Canadians, to have confidence in Parliament and have confidence in the charter when the charter is used to destroy revered institutions?

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1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think that is the point exactly. I want to commend the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot for some of the other work that he has done in respect of trying to open up the institution of Parliament.

Parliament, with all of its defects, is not reason enough to simply say there are shortcomings in our democratic process. That member and other members have worked hard to make this a more democratic process. Certainly for members of the Canadian Alliance and Preston Manning, the former leader of my party, that was the raison d'être to come here. Yes, this is not only about the institution of marriage. This is about the institution of Parliament, and I thank the member for bringing that up.

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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before calling for the resumption of debate, let me inform the House that the amendment provided by the hon. member for Provencher, seconded by the member for Crowfoot, is in order and reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “others”.

Just for everyone's benefit, let me read the motion now as it stands with the amendment:

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.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for London--Fanshawe.

Since this is a debate that is taking place across the country right now I would caution that we take it easy on the rhetoric. Referring to people as jackboots of fascisms is totally inappropriate. As a matter of fact it trivializes the sufferings of millions and millions of victims who have actually suffered the jackboots of fascism under Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and other dictators.

Having said that, I certainly want to pay tribute to my parents: my stepfather, who survived the Holocaust as well as a Communist dictatorship; my mother, who was a Catholic and who actually had the guts to marry a Jew.

I also pay tribute to Buddy Recalma who died around the end of last year in Qualicum, British Columbia. Buddy Recalma was an hereditary chief who he gave me a gift which I try to wear at times when we are dealing with issues of human rights. That gift is my lapel pin, which was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. Buddy Recalma was a survivor of the residential schools. He was a victim of policy by the government and the churches to commit cultural genocide against our first nations.

We are also talking about things like religious freedom. Let me say that I had two wonderful examples in my life. One was Joseph Mindszenty who was a Catholic bishop when he was imprisoned by the Germans. He was made an archbishop and was jailed by the Communists. It was not until the Hungarian revolution that he was freed. Eventually he was made a cardinal.

The second was Bishop Laszlo Tokes who stood up against the tyranny of the Ceausescu regime in Romania and he helped to make that dictatorship fall.

We are talking about an evolving society that changes. Back in 1692 we had the Salem witch hunts. Looking at Canada's history, we had the cultural genocide against the first nations. We also had the Asian Exclusion Act, the Chinese head tax and the internment of Ukrainians and Japanese. We also had a policy of non-immigration for the Jews. We had an Immigration Act that was not repealed until 1976 when we removed the colour barrier to immigration to this country.

I mention those things because I think it is that history that resulted in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms being enacted in Canada on April 17, 1982. I think what is so critically important for members of the House to understand is that by passing the constitution we have a constitutional democracy instead of a parliamentary democracy, notwithstanding the fact that we have the notwithstanding clause in the constitution. Under fundamental freedoms it talks about the freedom of conscience and religion. Under section 15, the equality rights section of the charter, it is critical for people to understand what it says.

Section 15 states:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Given the history of this country, it is important to understand that we have matured. We recognize that when we are dealing with the issue of rights, the determination of human rights and civil liberties is left with the courts.

I want to read subsection 52.1 of the Constitution Act. It states:

The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.

That is critical because we are saying that instead of having rights determined by the popular will at the time, it is determined by our laws in our courts. I can tell members that the Chinese head tax was very popular in its time. The internment of Japanese members was very popular in its time. There were all sorts of politicians who made a career out of fostering hatred and were very successful at it.

When I say that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the document that rules on this question, it is important that we all understand it because it is one of the foundations of Canadian society.

It is amazing that young people do not have the same kind of problem as older people have with this concept. As a matter of fact, they look to the charter and they look to our courts. In some ways they look upon us in Parliament as being irrelevant, and that is very sad.

Tomorrow we will be dealing with another piece of legislation, the hate propaganda bill. Tomorrow we will be voting to lend the protection of the legislation that we have on hate crimes and put it into the Criminal Code so that the people who are now victimized, a very vulnerable group, will be afforded the protection of the law that we afford to other areas, such as ethnic origins, religion, colour and nationality.

It is interesting that some of the same debates are taking place in the United States of America. It was not until just recently that the supreme court struck down Texas sodomy laws. It is amazing because 17 years before that, the supreme court ruled the other way; 17 years later, the supreme court saw the need to strike down that law.

When we talk about discrimination and hate crimes against gays, we have to understand that we are dealing with a vulnerable group in our society. Maybe the member for Burnaby--Douglas does not look that vulnerable but there are people in this country and on this continent who are killed for no other reason than their sexual orientation, and this is no joking matter.

I will conclude in a very real way. We are dealing with an issue that is causing us some discomfort, but if we think back about 40 years ago when we were dealing with the segregation in the United States of America, the courts had the courage to stand and strike down segregation. We had police dogs attacking blacks. We had the Ku Klux Klan attacking blacks. I am sure all of us, especially in my age group, remember that, but let us not forget that it was on September 15, 1963 that the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four pre-teen girls. America was in flames. Within months the President of the United States was assassinated.

In our Canadian way, yes, we have strong words, yes, we have strong feelings but we have to understand that discrimination has no place in a country that is so very proud of its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the previous speaker, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, for his very strong condemnation of the invoking by the previous Alliance speaker the image of the jackboot of fascism in the context of this debate and directed at those who would advocate the full right of same sex couples to marry in a civil ceremony in our society.

Not only is it profoundly disrespectful of the six million Jews and many hundreds of thousands of others who were murdered in cold blood in the Holocaust, but it displays a profound ignorance by that member of the lessons of history, particularly the lessons of the Holocaust. It is a matter of fact that tens of thousands, we do not know for sure the number, possibly hundreds of thousands, of gay citizens of Germany were exterminated in the Holocaust. I cannot believe for a moment that the Alliance member does not know that fact.

I think the member for Kitchener—Waterloo is to be commended for he has set out a very clear argument that anything in law that renders a citizen less than equal to all other citizens is an appropriate matter for human rights struggles and human rights concerns.

We have heard the argument again and again from Alliance members that somehow allowing the courts to dictate the definition of marriage is completely unacceptable.

I would like to ask the member whether he sees any evidence in the kinds of arguments that we have heard today from the official opposition members who have spoken or leading up to this debate today that if the Parliament of Canada does redefine marriage as between two persons, including same sex couples, that they will accept that as a just and fair definition of marriage and stop railing and ranting against the judiciary as if this were not a matter of concern to Canadians.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that when we are dealing with rights and equality we cannot pick and choose. As soon as we get into that game we do not have equality and we do not have an end to discrimination.

I am not sure at what point the Alliance will embrace the charter but I can say that I strongly believe Canadians have embraced the charter. Let us make no mistake, the courts and the charter are under attack. Some people do not like it but I think there are a lot more Canadians ready to stand and defend it than there are to tear it down. However at some point in time I think they will embrace the charter because their constituents will have embraced the charter. I think that is the direction that we are heading.

It is important to remember that we cannot pick and choose who gets equality. Canada is a collection of minorities. At any one particular time we might be on the majority side in terms of opinion but the next day we could be in a minority position that we represent. It is the courts that will create that fairness and interpret rights, not the politicians. The politicians are not judges.

If we were to look at the segregation in the United States we would see that all sorts of politicians made a career on the basis of discrimination, such as George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and the list goes on and on.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that all persons, including homosexuals, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. However, that does not require us as a nation to redefine marriage so as to include persons in a same sex relationship. To do so would be illogical and, in the minds of millions of Canadians, immoral.

On August 29, 2003, I wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister. I would like to quote from that letter now. It states:

Dear Prime Minister,

At our National Liberal Caucus in North Bay you gave a public speech with which I strongly disagree and to which I feel compelled to respond publicly. You cautioned the many Liberal M.P.s who oppose redefining marriage to include same sex unions, not to fall into the “trap” of the Canadian Alliance. Your advice in this matter is politically simplistic and dismissive of the serious concerns of many members of our caucus.

Your advice misses the point completely: that this divisive debate transcends partisan politics because of the enormity of the issue. For me, preserving and protecting the traditional definition of marriage is a core moral belief on which I cannot compromise in good conscience. I made my view abundantly clear in a letter to then Justice Minister Anne McLellan in November, 1999, in which I stated “Same sex marriage is an oxymoron. No Court can make it otherwise”.

Tens of thousands of real Liberals share this view and none of us are being duped by anybody, least of all the Canadian Alliance, with whom we will continue to disagree on most issues of public policy.

You also stated that the demand for so-called same sex marriage “is not about weakening the Canadian social fabric.” With all due respect, Prime Minister, on that point, you are as wrong as you could possibly be.

Listen to the words of John McKellar, executive director of H.O.P.E., Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism, who said it is “selfish and rude for the gay community to push same sex marriage legislation and redefine society's traditions and conventions for our own self-indulgence. Federal and provincial laws are being changed and the traditional values are being compromised just to appease a tiny, self-anointed clique”, who represent only a fraction of the gay community which McKellar estimates to be, in total, only two to four per cent of the Canadian population.

During seven months of hearings at the Justice Committee of the House of Commons, we heard compelling evidence from experts in the fields of anthropology, physiology, psychology, sociology, history, law and religion. These experts argued convincingly that to redefine marriage so as to include gay and lesbian unions would pose several serious threats to the stability of Canadian society.

I implore you, Prime Minister, to familiarize yourself with this evidence and think again about the potential deleterious effects to the Canadian social fabric if you continue to follow those who would so cavalierly and illogically threaten the institution of marriage as Canadians have defined it for the entire history of our nation.

Prime Minister, you stated further that you “have learned over forty years in public life that society evolves”, and you offer this observation as a sort of rationale for your acquiescence in the attempt to redefine marriage, as if this change is somehow inevitable and thereby, transformed into a right which must be defended. Well, Sir, I beg to differ. Consider the evolution of Quebec's society resulting in the separatist movement. Does the change the separatists want make it inevitable and even a right to be defended? I think not, and so must you, based on your courageous fight against the separatists throughout your entire career.

Obviously I do not equate the demand for same sex marriage to the separatist movement, however, I do challenge the specious logic, which says that because both demands represent change, they are somehow inevitable and even desirable. Based on my twenty-three years in public life, I would argue that not all changes that occur in society are either positive or inexorable. Simply because society evolves is not sufficient argument for discarding the traditional definition of marriage and redefining it in a way which is totally illogical, and, to millions of Canadians, immoral.

Finally, Prime Minister, you advise, “at the end of the day, we have to live up to our responsibilities”. On that at least I agree, and that is why, as long as I am a Member of Parliament, I will vote against any and every attempt to redefine marriage.

As leader of the Liberal Party, I would argue that you should follow the clearly expressed will of the party at the Biennial Meeting in March, 2000, when the members of the Liberal Party defeated a motion to endorse recognizing same sex marriage.

Previously, in June, 1999, you were one of 216 M.P.s who voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage as “one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. You further voted to take “all necessary steps” to defend that definition. What has changed since that time? Three Ontario Judges in an arrogant, activist ruling instantly redefined marriage thereby deliberately overruling the repeated statements of Parliament in defence of the traditional definition. Now that very judgement and others similar are being used as justification for redefining marriage, as if it was not only inevitable but also somehow just and good. Sadly, you failed to act when called on by many Canadians to appeal that arrogant judicial decision. To millions of Canadians that is unacceptable! To me that was an enormous mistake!

Prime Minister, I call on you now to show real leadership and keep your word to Canadians. You alone have the power to lead. In speaking of the notwithstanding clause--

And I note, Mr. Speaker, that this possibility is now removed from this motion, but it is part of the larger debate.

--in the past you have said that, “there are some situations where it is absolutely needed... without it you leave all decisions in the hands of the courts”. Marriage is the issue and now is the the time to follow your own advice and use the notwithstanding clause to defend marriage.

And I stress: if necessary.

I know my time is short. Tomorrow in the House of Commons I will present petitions from thousands of Canadian citizens who live in southern Ontario. These petitioners will be calling on the Government of Canada to defend the traditional definition of marriage, which is thousands of years old and predates any known state in the history of the world.

The heterosexual understanding of marriage is endorsed overwhelmingly by the five major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. As well, the two officially atheistic giants, the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China have both supported heterosexual marriage.

Surely there are very sound historical and societal reasons for this common understanding of what marriage is. In my view, it would be both foolish and dangerous to discard the traditional definition of marriage. I cannot in good conscience and I will not support any attempt to redefine marriage.

Like all who have spoken, I could use another 10 minutes, but I know I only have probably about one. I will wrap up with three major arguments. There is the bogus human rights argument. I dealt with that earlier in a question.

There is the question, “Where is the harm?” The member for Burnaby—Douglas puts this question all the time. I do not have time to explain the harm, but we can review the evidence from the experts, some of them even gay and lesbian people themselves who honestly admit that there are very serious consequences for what this government is proposing to do.

Finally, there is the question of following the people under 25 or 30, who are all for doing this, for changing the definition of marriage. As a teacher and student of history, I know that most societies, if not all in the world, have traditionally followed the wisdom of their elders. And the elders in Canada are opposed. I am opposed, and I will vote against redefining marriage.

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1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my hon. colleague from London—Fanshawe.

My first question is: In debate with my hon. colleague from Vancouver East, he spoke of moral law, saying that we must follow moral law. I would like to know what moral law he was referring to? His own? Mine? That of the Catholic Church? Of the United Church? Of the Evangelical Church? Was he alluding to Liberal Judaism? What moral law was he referring to, or is there just one universal one?

My second question is: How can he contend that the five major world religions are in favour of maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, when the United Church, which is the main Protestant denomination in Canada, wants the definition changed? And so do the Unitarian Church and Liberal Judaism.

Yesterday, at a press conference, Rabbi Garter, of the Temple Israel Synagogue of Ottawa, told us how much he would like this definition to be changed and that, in his opinion, this change was essential. On what basis can he make such a statement then? He was there, like me, yesterday at the Standing Committee on Justice, when several religious leaders came and told us they were prepared to see the definition changed. How can he make such a statement?

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say there are those who are crying “let us have respect in this debate and let us have tolerance” and then show precious little. My colleague opposite has shown both respect and tolerance in the debate and I applaud him for that even though he and I strongly disagree on this issue and will continue to.

I will respectfully answer his two questions which were respectfully put. In my view, yes, there is a creator, called by various names, that started this world. There are different views of how it was started. The key principle of that creator is that all human life is sacred, and that is the natural moral law which I think is endorsed by the overwhelming percentage of the population of the universe and has been over time.

Yes, there is one natural moral law in my view, which descends from the creator. I am not getting into the denominational invitation the member gave me. That is not the point. It is the natural moral law that all human life is sacred. I would argue that to try to take something, a same sex relationship, and try to call that marriage, goes against and transcends that natural moral law. This is the moral belief of millions of Canadians and billions of people around the world, of various religions.

The second question my colleague put speaks to the fact that not all of the great religions are unanimous. I never used the word unanimous. I used the word overwhelming. Indeed, in my own particular denomination there are a few voices who are on the opposite side of this, even in the clergy, but precious few, I note. It is the same in most of the great religions. They are certainly the exception.

A number of my constituents are Muslims of the Islamic faith and they are overwhelmingly opposed to changing the definition of marriage. I do not share their religious views, but I share their views on the natural moral law my colleague spoke about.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for London—Fanshawe was a member of the justice committee when it was travelling and he did touch on the overwhelming evidence that was presented to the justice committee on this issue of same sex marriage.

For the benefit of Canadians who were not privy to those discussions, could he summarize the justice committee and the information it got and might he speculate on why that justice committee was shut down?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the justice committee process I was part of was perhaps the most disrespectful and undemocratic process I have been through in 23 years of elected office. The committee was stacked to achieve a vote that it looks like was wanted by the upper echelons of the government. Three Liberal members, colleagues of mine, refused to come out of the hall to give us quorum along with some other opposition members so that we could even discuss another view opposite to theirs. It was an incredibly disrespectful process. I was very disappointed. It was a sad day to be a member of Parliament, let alone a member of that committee.

One colleague on the committee said there were more witnesses who supported same sex marriage than not. That is not the point and my colleague has referred to it. The preponderance of evidence, particularly the expert evidence from various fields, overwhelmingly argues for leaving the definition of marriage exactly as it is. It has served this country and this world quite well.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to share my time today with the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

The issue that has brought us here is our shared concern over the court decision that has ordered Parliament to redefine the institution of marriage to include same sex couples.

Most Canadians believe that the institution of marriage is an important part of our society. The legal definition of marriage, the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, has existed in Canada since Confederation and the Canadian courts have consistently applied this definition until very recently. Let me say in no uncertain terms, I support the traditional definition of marriage.

Lower court rulings this summer in Ontario and Quebec ruled that same sex couples are entitled to be legally married and ordered Parliament to change the laws accordingly.

Initially the justice minister appealed the trial court decision and referred the matter to the House of Commons justice committee to get input from Canadians. Hearings were conducted across Canada for several months and thousands of Canadians submitted their views through written briefs or oral presentations.The overwhelming response that committee members received through mail and telephone calls reflected a strong desire in retaining the traditional definition of marriage.

Although the justice minister asked the justice committee to travel across the country and hear representations on same sex marriages from all walks of life, he did not wait for the committee to produce its report before making a final decision on this matter. He simply accepted the decision of unelected judges. This undemocratic process has effectively silenced the voices of thousands of Canadians who submitted briefs and made oral presentations to the committee.

Let me make one other point clear at this time. The jurisdiction to review and strike down laws that violated the Constitution that was given to the courts by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 did not include jurisdiction for the courts to rule on the issue of sexual orientation. During the debates and numerous votes that led to the final draft of the charter, Parliament was very clear in holding that the issue of sexual orientation did not fall within the scope of the text of the charter. This issue was to remain within the scope of Parliament's jurisdiction to consider and legislate.

Notwithstanding the clear direction of Parliament, the courts have simply ignored Parliament's decision and improperly amended the Constitution themselves by reading in the term “sexual orientation” into our Constitution. It is on that erroneous basis that our courts continue to act.

In 1999 members of Parliament voted 216 to 55 in favour of a motion brought forward by the Reform Party, now the Canadian Alliance, holding that marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman and to take all necessary steps to protect that definition.

The Prime Minister, the current justice minister and the future Liberal leader all voted in favour of the motion at that time, although all three now have changed their position to agree with same sex marriage. In fact, the then justice minister, the member of Parliament for Edmonton West, speaking for the Liberal government, assured Canadians of the government's intentions when she stated:

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, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.

She went on to assure Canadians:

Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages. I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

Why did the Liberal government mislead Canadians? Why have the Liberals broken their promise from barely four years ago?

The Liberals promised to take all necessary steps to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. They have now broken that promise.

Their new promise is to protect the rights of religious organizations to refuse to marry same sex couples. This does not in any way comfort us. In recent years we have seen a Catholic school forced to allow a same sex date at a school prom, despite constitutional guarantees of religious independence. We have seen a teacher and guidance counsellor suspended without pay for expressing an opinion on teaching material. We have seen a printer fined for refusing to print in his own shop materials that conflicted with his religious views.

The Liberals have so far failed miserably in protecting religious freedom and there is no reason to believe that they will now begin to do so effectively. In an attempt to leave the impression that Parliament will in fact determine the definition of marriage, the Prime Minister has announced that there will be a free vote on the legislation that he has referred to the Supreme Court on the issue of same sex marriage. This legislation is without legislative or constitutional significance if the present charter does not protect existing religious freedoms. The proposed legislation will do nothing of the sort.

Furthermore, the free vote offered by the Prime Minister to members of Parliament on same sex marriages is meaningless. The proposed legislation will simply spell out the procedural basis by which these marriages will be implemented. Even if Parliament rejects the proposed legislation, same sex marriages are now legally valid in Canada. This so-called free vote is simply a cynical communications exercise by the Liberals to try to hide the fact that they have let unelected judges make the laws of our country.

Such a fundamental change to an important social, legal and religious institution as marriage should not even be contemplated without the input of Canadians and elected parliamentarians. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened and this issue has been forced on Canadians by an unelected and unaccountable judiciary.

Canadians must continue to call for the Liberals to live up to their promise to Canadians to defend marriage. The Canadian Alliance has consistently maintained that we will live up to the commitments that Parliament made on this issue in 1999. The Canadian Alliance will continue to call on the Liberal government to keep its promise to Canadians. I would encourage each and every person watching to contact the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister and the prime minister in waiting to remind them of the commitment they made on the issue in 1999.

The Canadian Alliance firmly believes that this is an issue that should be decided by Parliament after MPs have heard from all Canadians, not the courts. This issue relates not only to the institution of marriage, but deals fundamentally with the institution of Parliament and our future as a democratic nation.

Democracy was not a gift that came easily to the western world. Let us be very vigilant before we entrust its future to those who are not accountable to the people, or those who, like our Liberal government, take the voice of the people for granted.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the Halpern case in 2001 before the Ontario Superior Court, the court then cited the modernization of benefits act, C-23, and the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union that was put into that legislation in the year 2000. The court dismissed that definition as the preamble of the legislation, which incidentally it was not, it was part of the body of the legislation. Nevertheless it dismissed that definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others on the justification that it was not really meant to be a legislative definition, it was merely a clarification.

Had that judge read the debates in Hansard he would surely have come to another conclusion.

The question for the member is, if the courts can change the law without paying any attention to the debates of Parliament, is there any point in Parliament having debates at all?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, not being a lawyer I cannot give a legal opinion, but I agree totally with the member that there is no place for Parliament at all if the courts can come forward and make these kinds of decisions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the comments of the member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar. I want to admit at the outset that I do not even like in my own response the kind of intolerance that I find rushing to the surface in response to some of the arguments that I find so offensive that are offered in this debate. I work hard at trying to curb that reaction.

I listened very carefully to the member. She is not the only member on both sides of the House who has invoked the argument that the institution of marriage is so important to our society that we have to protect it. She talked about it being central to the lives of many Canadians. I find myself struggling to try to understand that if that is the weight of the argument, what is it that makes it impossible for such members of Parliament to extend the full benefits of traditional marriage to same sex couples?

I want to ask a question of the member quite sincerely. If she were the mother of a daughter who was involved in a same sex relationship and who wanted to commit to all of the aspects of a traditional marriage and take on the responsibilities and the obligations that go with that and engage in the joyful expression of that in a public way as we celebrate other marriages, would she not have a problem denying that opportunity to her own daughter?

If I could go one step further and ask the member to try to imagine if she had a daughter who was involved in a same sex relationship and her daughter bore and was raising a child, would she not have difficulty in saying to her grandchild that his or her parents had no right to celebrate their marriage as an institution equal to the marriage relationship that is available to all other citizens? I ask that question in all sincerity because I think that is something that every member of Parliament should be prepared to recognize as being at the heart of this debate.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am the mother of three children and the grandmother of five granddaughters. I love every one of them dearly. I believe that Parliament, and not the courts, should make the decisions for my children on social issues.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not for a moment doubt that the member loves her children and her grandchildren. Of course she loves them.

I want to beg her again to address the questions I raised. If one of those children that she loves wanted to participate in the full aspect of marriage as an equal to other citizens who enjoy the full benefits of marriage, could she deny it? To go further, would she address the question of whether she could deny her grandchildren the opportunity for the parents of those grandchildren who happen to be a same sex couple to enjoy the full benefits of marriage in our society?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, other than the label of marriage, my children can enjoy everything else.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday I raised a point of privilege in the House and Hansard made an error that I would like to see corrected on the record.

In citing a justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the audio record will reveal that I cited it as Mr. Justice LaForme. In Hansard it is the wrong name. I hope the record will be corrected. It is a pity because I thought it was an important point of privilege and I would certainly want the record to be exact.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

September 16th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day of the Ozone Layer. Canada was a principal architect of the 1987 Montreal protocol, which phased out substances that damage the earth's ozone layer. This year's theme, “Save Our Sky: There is a Hole Lot More to Do for Our Children”, emphasizes the need to remain vigilant about this important issue.

The Canadian government continues to work in cooperation with other countries to research the state of the ozone layer and fulfill our international obligations to protect the global commons.

Preservation of the earth's ozone layer continues to be equally as important today as it was 16 years ago. We have had much success thanks to the efforts of Canadian citizens, scientists and corporations.

I ask all members to join me in promoting these efforts to Canadians, especially to students and young people.