Madam Speaker, I want to thank all my colleagues in the House today for their contributions to this debate. I regret that it was only one hour of debate and there will not be a second hour, as all the other private members' bills will have, and a vote.
It raises an interesting point. This week the Prime Minister introduced his version of a marriage bill. He argued it was a fundamental human right and not once in his speech did he say “I support changing the definition of marriage”. He does not want to say that because probably somewhere deep down he does not believe it, but he is going to do it anyway. I thought that was telling. He said he supported all kinds of things but he would not say that he supports changing the definition of marriage. He called it a fundamental human right.
We do not pull fundamental human rights out of a hat. They are fundamental. There is no other jurisdiction on earth that has treated this issue as a fundamental human right. It is a social policy decision that the government is embarking on.
I want to comment on something my colleague from Burnaby--Douglas mentioned. He also introduced a bill on the definition of marriage similar to the government's bill. I commend him because it showed some leadership. It showed some courage. That is something the Prime Minister completely lacks.
If the Prime Minister and the cabinet thought for one minute that this was a fundamental right, then why were they not leading the charge all along? Why did they not vote against that very definition in 1999 if they truly believed it was a fundamental right?
The member for Burnaby--Douglas introduced his legislation. The Prime Minister has been dragged kicking and screaming. He has delayed the democratic process. The Liberals have had every opportunity to allow Canadians to engage in this debate, to allow Canadians input into the democratic process, and at every turn Canadians were denied that input.
The definition of marriage is of importance to all Canadians. We have heard that today in the House. There are those who are not in favour of changing what that word marriage means. We feel that in doing so we are embarking on a course and we do not know where that will lead us.
I feel very strongly that the onus is on those who would wish to change the status quo. I commend the leadership that has been shown within my own party. What we have done is we have come up with where Canadians are at.
The Prime Minister is increasingly realizing Canadians are a tolerant people. We believe in equality for all of our citizens, equality before the law. We do not believe that involves changing what the word marriage means, a word that predates Confederation, a word that the federal government does not own. Governments do not own what the word marriage means.
I am encouraged that we are now into a debate. We are hearing all sides. If we wanted to hear what Canadians had to say, we are hearing it now because we are receiving e-mails, letters and faxes by the thousands. Canadians are finally engaged, much to the dismay of the Prime Minister, much to the dismay of some who in 1999 voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, knowing full well that they were embarking on a course to change what that institution means.
I find it ironic, and I mentioned this before, that the committee found my bill to be unconstitutional, when we know from what the Supreme Court has said that my bill is not unconstitutional.
However, and this is so important, the protection of other basic fundamental rights in Canada are threatened by changing the definition of marriage. The clause put into the government's bill is a hollow shell. It contains no force and effect. The Supreme Court of Canada has already said that this matter is not within the jurisdiction of the federal government, it is unconstitutional.
I conclude by saying that I am pleased to have had this hour of debate and I am thankful for the input from all sides. I look forward to a day when we can really slay that democratic deficit, not just in words but in actions.