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--