House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.


Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak on behalf of my constituents in Langley, British Columbia, to this important issue facing all Canadians.

I told my constituents that I would listen to their positions on the same sex marriage debate and that I would represent them here in Ottawa. Langley residents have been loud and clear. The vast majority believe that the traditional definition of marriage should not be changed.

The people of Langley have had plenty to say about marriage. I have received thousands of letters, e-mails and cards and I will read one of them. It states, “We personally are opposed to the idea of amending the definition of marriage based on God's direction in his word. Marriage is not just a commitment between two loving people. We thank you for at least hearing from and being accountable to your constituents”.

Over 3,000 Langley residents responded to my request for their input and 96% said that they wanted me to vote to uphold the traditional definition of marriage being between one man and one woman excluding all others.

Canadians want a free vote on this legislation. Why are the Liberals so afraid of a free vote? Parliament voted twice on the definition of marriage in the past five years. In 1999 the Prime Minister and many of the current cabinet ministers supported a motion that defended marriage as the union of one man and one woman excluding all others. It passed 216 to 55.

Two years ago the Prime Minister promised Canadian religious leaders that he would never permit the definition of marriage to be changed. Then, in 2003, the Prime Minister and many of those same cabinet ministers voted against traditional marriage causing it to be defeated. During the last election, only months ago, many of his cabinet ministers were again promising Canadians that they would defend traditional marriage. Promises made, promises broken.

The Liberal government does not want a free vote on this issue. It is also misleading Canadians in three major ways. First, it said that redefining marriage was a human rights issue. That is wrong. Second, it said that redefining marriage would erode equality rights under the charter. That is also wrong. Third, it said that the Civil Marriage Act would protect religious freedoms. That is also wrong.

Let us start with the human rights issues. Same sex marriage is not a fundamental human right. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights upheld a New Zealand court decision that same sex marriage was not a basic universal human right. No national or international court or human rights tribunal has ever ruled that same sex marriage is a human right.

If the Prime Minister really believed that same sex marriage was a human rights issue he would have to force his entire caucus to vote for the bill. However the Prime Minister is only whipping his cabinet, not the entire caucus, to support the bill. The Prime Minister is aware that the decision of the United Nations does not support what he has been saying. Why is the Prime Minister whipping his cabinet? It because without manipulated support the bill would fail and that would be embarrassing.

The second way the Liberal government is misleading Canadians is regarding equity rights. The Liberal governments says that only equal access to civil marriage will fully comply with charter equity guarantees. It has also said that any institution other than marriage is less than equal. That is utter nonsense. Same sex unions have equal rights.

The Liberals would also mislead Canadians by saying that the Conservative Party is against equality rights. To the contrary. Let me be absolutely clear that the Conservative Party supports equal rights and benefits for same sex couples. We are the only party that believes in the Charter of Rights for all Canadians, not just a select few.

Many gay and lesbian Canadians have long term relationships. They contribute to our communities and pay taxes. Gay and lesbian couples have equal access to central social institutions, such as legal unions, and have equal rights.

The justice committee began studying the same sex marriage issue in November 2002. Many members and witnesses at that committee thought that the civil union option for same sex couples should have been explored further. We need to openly debate the potential for creating a civil union that could provide equal rights and benefits in accordance with the will of millions of Canadians.

Equal rights are not same rights. Canada has many instances where Canadians have equal rights but not the same rights. For example, child tax benefit cheques normally go to the mother and not the father.

Quebec says it is equal but not the same; therefore suggesting its distinct society clause. Men and women are equal but not the same.

The Supreme Court has not ruled that marriage must be redefined. The Supreme Court has not ruled that the definition of marriage must be changed to allow civil unions. The Supreme Court said that Parliament has the authority to redefine marriage if it so wishes. Canadians do not want the definition of marriage to change, but the government does, and it is ignoring the wishes of the majority of Canadians. By legislating changes to marriage to include same sex unions, is the government aware of the unintended consequences?

The government is misleading Canadians and is forging ahead with its social experiment, changing the Canada that we all know and love. It is changing historical religious definitions such as marriage without any thought of the consequences. The government wants to legalize marijuana, legalize prostitution, and take away charitable status from faith based organizations. Who knows what will be next.

The third way the government is misleading us is with respect to the protection of religious freedoms. Bill C-38 would not protect religious freedoms. The third clause is merely a recognition and has no teeth whatsoever. Saying that the civil marriage act would protect religious freedoms is dishonest and misleading.

The solemnization of marriage is a provincial jurisdiction. That is very clear, and the Liberals had their hands slapped by the Supreme Court. They were reminded of this in the draft legislation. If the Prime Minister really wanted to protect religious freedoms, instead of hiding behind the charter, he would have drafted amendments to the Income Tax Act and charitable status act. Before tabling Bill C-38, he had the time to draft amendments, but he chose not to. Instead, he has included a gutless clause hoping that Canadians would take the word of his scandal-ridden government.

The Liberal government is insulting the intelligence of Canadians. Canadians do understand the difference between provincial and federal jurisdictions. They do understand that the Constitution creates divided jurisdiction over marriage. To ensure consistency across Canada, the founders of Confederation gave Parliament the responsibility for the definition of marriage and for laws governing divorce. The federal government has traditionally relied on the legal definition of marriage, which until recently applied exclusively to opposite sex couples. The provinces are responsible for the solemnization of marriage, which includes licensing and registration.

Bill C-38 is not about human rights. It is about the Liberal government attacking religious rights. Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and other faith based organizations are all vulnerable to activist attacks in the courts and human rights tribunals.

Canada's judicial courts and human rights tribunals have a near perfect record of finding against religious freedom rights, that are under attack by activists. We saw this in Oshawa where the civil courts ruled that a Catholic school had discriminated against the rights of Marc Hall by not allowing his boyfriend to the graduation dance. In Vancouver the Knights of Columbus were hauled before the B.C. human rights tribunal for cancelling a booking for a same sex wedding reception. More than 50 marriage commissioners have resigned or been fired because of their religious beliefs. They are not protected. What does this say? It says that religious freedoms are not being protected.

That is just the start. Marriage commissioners are giving up their livelihood because their religious beliefs are not being protected. Will teachers in faith based schools have to resign because they will be forced to lecture against their religious beliefs?

Already members of the Liberal government are describing religious institutions as being discriminatory and have argued that their charitable tax exempt status should be revoked. Shame on them. The attacks on religious freedoms by this intolerant, biased government have already begun.

Marriage vows are a bond with God. Marriage is more than just two couples uniting. God is part of it, and joining the union according to His will. God is present and part of the marriage. Marriage is a religious institution. That is what I am standing here to protect. I will be voting against Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to address the House with regard to the civil marriage act, which represents a new frontier in equality and respect for all Canadians. In the life of parliamentarians, there are times when we are called upon to strive for higher ideals and to embrace change that often challenges long held and deeply entrenched beliefs.

Throughout history many of the greatest achievements in the cause of advancing human rights have had to contend with the most intense resistance. This is not necessarily because those who oppose are of poor character or choose to act out less than noble motives. Indeed, I believe that most people are at their core good and honourable.

Change can be difficult at times to embrace and there is a temptation to choose to do nothing in the face of the call to embrace a new way of thinking. Some may even react contemptuously to change of any kind and work to counter progress already achieved. The debate on this issue of civil marriage will be peppered with reference to freedom, equality and tradition.

However, at the heart of this debate is the reality that we are dealing with the lives of people who have for so long heard the message that they are different or even unworthy of equal treatment before the law. This debate is about the very foundation of our civil society, not about religious beliefs or the freedom to part with traditions as any citizen chooses.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms extends to religious persons the freedom to refuse any action that is inconsistent with their conscience or beliefs. As a parliamentarian and a proud Canadian, I would sacrifice everything to preserve these inalienable rights. However, as a representative of all my constituents, I am also compelled to support measures that bestow equal treatment under the law to everyone.

Freedom and equality are not the exclusive purview of the few, but the cherished gifts of all citizens. One cannot be equal and unequal at the same time. Either we are all free and equal or none of us are. Let us ensure that freedom's call is answered once again and that we are not only the guardians of our nation's legacy of tolerance, but also that we count ourselves among the daring who have chosen not the easy path but the just road.

As the debate continues we are asked to remember that in the long struggle for greater human dignity and equality we are called upon to defy fear and to confront confidently those who obstruct our path. The road ahead is indeed challenging, but the greatness comes not when we are certain of the path but when the journey allows us the choice between fear of change and the hope of daring to begin anew.

As a young man I recall the sense of accomplishment that Canadians experienced over 20 years ago when we watched the Charter of Rights and Freedoms become the foundation upon which our collective individual rights were enshrined. It was a great step forward for us as a nation and it showed that we had come of age.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become part of the fabric of our nation and we all ought to abstain from attacks on this profound statement of hope and tolerance. The bill before the House extends to same sex couples the rights to have their unions recognized by civil authorities as valid relationships. In so doing, our civil society bestows recognition on these people, which they are entitled to as equal citizens under the law.

This bill by no means diminishes the value and worth of traditional marriage. The civil marriage act does in fact extend choices to all Canadians that until now have been exclusionary. Who among us would deny human beings the right to express their love and commitment to each other? I invite everyone to consider realistically the current status of same sex marriage legislation in Canada.

In jurisdictions across the country the right of same sex couples to marry already exists as a result of long fought court challenges. In Ontario, for example, we have seen the provincial attorney general already move to change laws to reflect this new reality. I ask all parliamentarians to consider the implications of refuting this legislation currently before us.

Are we suggesting that thousands of marriage licences already issued by municipal and provincial authorities be rescinded? Do we now maintain that these unions already acknowledged by legal jurisdictions are no longer recognized? Are we prepared to take away rights that have already been extended to gays and lesbians? Indeed, neither option is possible and we must accept that failure to pass this bill would ensure that the existing patchwork of legal approaches would continue to confuse the issue, and no doubt with further court challenges and more years of discord.

The civil marriage act creates an environment where British Columbians are treated with equality to the same degree as an Albertan or an Ontarian or Nova Scotian. Surely the role of a national government is to protect and ensure that all citizens are treated equally regardless of where they live in this great country.

During the national debate on this issue there have been expressions of rhetoric that have been divisive, sometimes less than forthright. It has been suggested this is not a matter for the courts and that their will is being cast arbitrarily on an unreceptive nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mere fact that we in this House are debating this matter underscores the supremacy of Parliament.

The courts have shown us that it is patently unfair to deny the full rights of participation to any citizen of Canada. These judicial decisions are not limited to one jurisdiction, but should apply to court rooms across the country.

We have sought the advice of the highest court in the land in order that we might benefit from its wisdom. The ultimate choice remains ours and history is asking us to render a verdict which upholds the virtue of equal treatment for all.

There have been suggestions that Parliament invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn the decision of the courts. Imagine future generations looking back on these times and wondering how well meaning people would have ever used this mechanism to deny the rights of full citizenship to any Canadian.

My colleagues in the House are being asked to take a giant leap forward on the road to equality. This is not a time to evade our responsibility, now or for future generations. I call upon members to be bold in spirit and in action as we confront this challenge.

When the House votes on this bill, we will do more than record our decision on this matter. We will redress generations of Canadians who have felt the pain of inequality. What we say to them on that day will be supported by how we vote. Will we be inclusive? Will we invite all Canadians to the table as equal partners? The decision is ours. The hour will soon approach when what this country strives to achieve will be reflected in a single vote.

I ask all members to ponder the importance of this decision, to search deeply within ourselves, so that we may move forward with commitment and understanding, secure in the knowledge that we are being called to convey to the world all that this great nation can be now and in the years to come.

In many parts of the world gays and lesbians have to contend with repressive measures that range from mild to the most extreme. Let Canada be an example of equality and tolerance that demonstrates to all nations our commitment to fairness and equality. Let us be the voice of equality, that example of tolerance that is the highest order of leadership. Who among us cannot comprehend what it has been like for those forced to travel the road of inequality and isolation, who have for so long been denied acceptance?

As we move nearer to a vote on this issue, I ask only that members reflect on the essence of this debate. It is about fellow Canadians who wish to take their rightful place as equals. History will remember those who follow their conscience during this debate, but we may be assured that generations to come will hold us to account as we forge ahead.

I express sincere gratitude to my colleagues for their abiding commitment to do what they feel is right. We all know that these are courageous personal decisions. In the final analysis I intend to vote in favour of the bill, not because the choice is easy but because it is just.

We are a nation of people who can demonstrate to the world that we can shine as the example of tolerance and compassion. I intend to vote yes because I owe it to those who have fought for this so valiantly, to those who await our verdict on the equal value of their citizenship and most importantly for generations of Canadians to come.

The world sees Canada as a nation of unimaginable beauty with endless flowing rivers and mountains that reach to the sky. We are also a nation that instills hope for the world that so desperately needs it. This is the hope of those who seek tolerance, understanding and fairness. Let us be the Canada that we have always known we can be.

Let the light of Canada's soul cast its glow across a troubled world and be the beacon of freedom and equality that all nations will dare to compare themselves to as they too strive for higher ideals. I intend to support the civil marriage act not because the decision is easy but because it is the right thing to do.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-38. This issue has generated a great deal of interest in my riding and across Canada. In fact, I have received more correspondence and more e-mails on this topic than almost all of the others I have spoken about in the House combined.

Canadians are now looking to us in the House to make choices and decisions that reflect their beliefs, their religions and their rights.

From the outset, I wish to say that my personal view is in support of the traditional definition of marriage, that being exclusively between a man and a woman.

Just as quickly, I wish to also state unequivocally that I believe two persons of the same gender can and should be able to live in a legal, committed, loving and recognized relationship. I have heard from my gay and lesbian constituents and I can honestly say I realize how personal this debate has become for them. I have heard devastating tales of workplace discrimination, social discrimination and most tragically, discrimination from within their own families. All of these are unacceptable and must not be tolerated, ignored or excused.

Having heard the arguments and comments from both sides of the debate, I believe we can all be equal under the law without having the definition of marriage altered. I firmly believe that so long as equal rights, obligations and responsibilities are conferred on all registered couples, there lies no discrimination. I also believe marriage, the “m” word if you will, should remain as a reference for heterosexual couples only. This I believe is in keeping with our charter which does provide guarantees for religious freedom and in turn, respect.

Nonetheless, I have also maintained that on issues of conscience such as this, I will refer to the direction of my constituents. This is not an abdication of my responsibility; it is my duty. I am elected to represent my constituents and I have promised to do so.

To ascertain their opinions I have used my household mailings for a survey, have tallied telephone calls from all constituents, correspondence and also the many conversations I have heard around the riding. Overwhelmingly, over 90% have demanded that I vote against redefining marriage. I made a promise to represent them in the House and I will. I will be voting against Bill C-38.

On a final note specifically to my gay, lesbian, transgendered and two-spirited community, I would like to assure them that I will continue to ensure that their registered relationships enjoy the same legal rights, responsibilities and obligations as other registered relationships. They play an important part in my community and they deserve the same respect as their neighbours. Any less is unacceptable.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario


Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-38. There have been a number of very important interventions by colleagues from all sides of the House. I wish to state right from the outset that I will not be supporting Bill C-38. I emphatically oppose a notion which in my view is not based on good legislation, let alone judicial interpretation, to change something which I believe is at the foundation of society as we understand it today.

The decision to bring about the legislation today, defined as a change in the common law definition of marriage, took place over the years and, I would suspect, is as a result of several various challenges which have taken place under the charter. Certainly this is setting aside some pretty important fundamental principles about who we are as a people and how we have come here as a people.

The institution of marriage in my view is not something on which one can make a claimed right. It is unique and is deserving of respect and dignity, dignity because it is not designed to be offensive. No more than I could ask to receive veterans benefits because I have not participated or donned a soldier's uniform for this country, could I make a claim of opposite sex to enter into that relationship.

It is very clear to us over the years that what we have seen in terms of decisions by various courts at a lower level may have been arrived at obviously by someone finding a right. In 1981 I sat here in the galleries working for Liberal cabinet ministers. I recall very well the debate which led to the ratification of the Constitution. It became very clear that the authors and architects of that Constitution, of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, never intended to have the kind of effect that we see today.

In some debates I have heard some suggest that the previous prime minister, the right hon. Jean Chrétien, referred to it as the living tree, our charter and Constitution. In fact it had nothing to do with the charter. That was a commentary that was made during the 1932 aeronautics decision by Lord Sankey. He was referring in one way or another to the Persons case. The Persons case had to be tried at the judicial privy council in England in order to get resolution.

I am very concerned that we have seen an evolution of belief in the country that somehow a claim for rights suddenly means the expunging, expelling or diminution of other rights. The rights of others who have and who hold true according to their faith and belief, which is not necessarily always religious, is something that is extremely important and one which cannot be diminished and in my view cannot be negated.

I have seen several decisions in which Canada, as was suggested by the member for Scarborough Southwest earlier this month, has become the first nation to recognize marriage and the claim to marriage of opposite sexes as being a right. This is without precedent around the world. It fundamentally erodes what has been for millennia a definition which most people in the world understand universally today. It was not by accident when cultures and various peoples came together and discovered each other, that of all the things that may have been different about them, the affirmation of marriage through a ritual of a right was common in almost every single interchange between societies.

There are those who hold true to the marriage issue as being simply religious. While that is true, and it is certainly true for me as a practising Roman Catholic, it is not necessarily and uniquely a matter that is strictly a religious practice. It has sociological and anthropological implications. I recall that the former editor of Xtra magazine was very clear as to what her views were on marriage. She believed that the community should not be pushing this. I believe her name is Eleanor Brown. She wrote in 2002 after the first decisions:

I would prefer that gay men and lesbians not get married because it's a heterosexual institution. We have our own culture and we need to keep it strong and healthy in this day of increasing assimilation.

There is something very important about the evolution that I have seen as a member of Parliament in the last 11 or 12 years. This is the same time, Madam Speaker, that you and I have been members of Parliament.

There has been the decision to bring in the controversial words “sexual orientation” which led to the change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, notwithstanding the fact that guarantees would be given that it would not take place. We then saw from Bill C-41 to Bill C-33 changes in terms of the modernization of benefits. We heard from the justice minister in 1999 that notwithstanding those changes, which were promised never to happen, there would at least be the protection of marriage.

It became very clear to me that despite the guarantees that are given on paper and by this House as to what the next level of protection is going to be, frankly, it is not worth the paper it is written on. A court down the road cannot be precluded by this Parliament from making decisions that will ultimately affect for all intents and purposes and for the reasons suggested by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, and will not even guarantee, as it cannot guarantee, the practice of those who are prelates and who seek religious protection.

We know that is a charter matter. It is a matter that can certainly be discussed by Parliament, but it is a decision nevertheless that takes all considerations to be put aside. We need to ensure that there is above all a modicum of understanding and respect, and that issues of tolerance and pluralism are not based on issues of moral relativism.

We must ensure that this Parliament remain ever true to the rights and protections and notions of all Canadians. It means that wading into this debate of suggesting that we are going to somehow right a wrong may in itself be the wrong direction and wrong-headed.

I ask Parliament to look at issues based on common sense and the virtue and value of this very fragile institution. Though there is new wisdom from the Ontario court and from new courts as to what a human right may constitute, new wisdom that upends tens of thousands of years of practice and right, regardless of religion, I think we have an obligation to be sincere, direct, open and honest about what the institution of marriage and its capacity is.

It is a capacity that cannot be replicated in any other form. That is not discrimination. That is reality. No more that I could wish that the sun rose in the west and settled in the east, or that I would want the earth to be flat, I cannot accept for a moment that the institution of marriage is changeable to someone's demand for a right.

I believe very strongly in the issues that are of concern to our world, whether it is my work in terms of challenging my own government on hepatitis C when it was very unpopular to do so, or when I was one of the first members of Parliament to bring together the need for anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS to remedy the situation in Africa. On this issue, I believe as far as marriage is concerned that we must be prepared to say there cannot be a one size fits all. Despite those who believe that the charter is a living document that can change rights at will, I would respectfully submit from time to time that the tree needs to be pruned.

In this case, rights do have with them responsibilities and obligations to the truth and to ensure that above all we present legislation that is important, that addresses the true needs in this country, for instance, the needs of the aboriginal people. There are issues such as poverty and housing. There is the problem of racism. Those are issues where we need to work together as a model for Canada.

The institution of marriage is one that deserves dignity and respect. For all those who have been married in the past, we must accept the consequences of now seeing the potential through this Parliament of changing our ideas.

What is it in the past five years, what new wisdom is there today to suggest that what this Parliament decided by a five to one margin should now be suddenly different?

It seems to me that while there may be a willingness to be generous and to accommodate and to have an opportunity to bring in everyone, we may be doing so at the risk of offending not just people, but that we are also affecting the truth. The institution of marriage guarantees society. It is the main vehicle by which we will continue in the future, by which this Parliament is relevant.

I am one who champions the issues of rights. I fundamentally believe this is not an issue of rights. Regardless of why a superior court judge or an appeal court judge in Ontario, appointed by the previous prime minister, would suddenly decide otherwise is beyond me. However, I would also suggest that it is Parliament's opportunity to say no to what I believe is bad legislation and to send a message that we do have indeed, as the justice minister suggested, a constitutional democracy. It is time to put democracy, common sense and truth back into that equation.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, the issue of redefining marriage is one of the most significant matters that this Parliament is and will be facing for some time. Its significance lies in the fact that the definition of marriage also defines a social institution that is one of the foundations of our society. It is the institution designed to achieve the conjugal goals of sex bridging, generativity, caregiving and connecting children to their mothers and fathers. The bill before us channels marriage away from these goals. Hence, the redefinition of the word, significant as it is in its own right as a means of clear communication, also contains within it the reorganization of our society.

Given the significance of the matter before us, it is incumbent upon us to apply maximum due diligence in the consideration of the issue at hand. The due diligence requires a careful study of the facts of the matter, seeking knowledge, understanding that knowledge and applying wisdom in deciding the best application of that knowledge.

Wisdom must be sought; it is not achieved automatically. It requires much thought and study and includes the integration of one's beliefs and values into the making of major decisions. For us lawmakers, it also requires the integration of the culture and beliefs of our society. As lawmakers for this land, any decision that involves the redefinition and reorganization of one of our society's fundamental institutions requires the knowledge, understanding and application of the primary source of wisdom for Canada.

What is the primary source of wisdom for Canada? No, it is not the Liberals. It is not the Conservatives. It is not any political organization or person.

In the search for the source of wisdom, I discovered that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 provides the answer.

The charter begins:

Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Following these words, the charter specifies the “guarantee of rights and freedoms”.

Consistent with this provision in the Constitution, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker on every day that Parliament is in session reads at 11 a.m. on Mondays, 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays these words:

Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.

The prayer does not specify any particular law or decision that members are called upon to make. It recognizes that members need knowledge, understanding and wisdom from God. The prayer is not just a ritual. It has meaning, particularly because it is followed by a moment of silence for personal reflection.

I expressed my personal need for wisdom from God in ultimately deciding the substance of Bill C-38. For me, the particular significance of the redefinition of marriage and exercising due diligence is the need to try to recognize and evaluate the implications and possible consequences of such a redefinition.

There is little doubt that it would change the role and function of the institution of marriage in our society. It is not obvious what those changes would be. Among the matters to be considered are answers to questions like this.

First, how will Canadian society fare when it is no longer able to offer any special recognition in law or public to a form of life so central to human experience and, indeed, to human reproduction?

Second, will a transformation of marriage into a close relationship regime continue to erode its social significance for future generations?

Third, will marriage continue to decline as the centre of gravity for men and women seeking to form a stable life together?

Fourth, will these men and women have the social and cultural supports they need to help bring children into this world and to rear a family?

Fifth, will a reconstitution of marriage ratify a reproductive revolution that will kill any public commitment to maintaining relationships between children and their natural parents?

Sixth, will it set in motion new developments that will open the way for further deregulation of marriage and parenthood?

These are some of the questions that Daniel Cere, director, Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law and Culture in Montreal, asks.

There are those who argue, and in fact in the House, that such questions merely complicate an already thorny issue and should not be asked. To not at least debate and try to find answers to these questions and other questions that the redefinition of marriage evokes really means that debate on the matter should be neutered. Such an argument suggests that one should simply take a position without even considering possible consequences of the position taken either for oneself or for society. Such an argument is intellectually dishonest and at best a contradiction and at worst a denial of the very foundation on which the Constitution of Canada rests.

A law that has the potential of eroding one of the foundations of our society must be considered with the utmost gravity and demands that the best thinking of which we are capable coupled with the realization that the wisdom of God must be sought in humility and sincerity.

I believe that seeking wisdom from God with all our hearts will be rewarded. Let us all seek it.

I quote from Jeremiah 29:13: “ will seek and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, today I want to talk about alternative approaches proposed in response to the government's approach in Bill C-38. Even if many things have been said and written about this subject, there still appear to be some misconceptions about approaches with regard to granting equal access to civil marriage for same sex couples wishing to demonstrate the same level of commitment.

Many people, including members of this House, would like to think that there are a number of approaches. This is not true. Our approach is based on Canada's federal constitutional framework and its framework of parliamentary democracy, as governed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These two aspects of our governance structure provide a legal and constitutional framework that determine what those approaches may be.

I will illustrate this point by examining the three major approaches initially proposed in the November 2002 discussion paper, tabled by the then Minister of Justice. The first approach, which, by the way, remains popular, is to preserve the word “marriage” for opposite sex couples and use a term other than “marriage” to recognize the relationship between same sex couples wishing to make the same kind of commitment. The expression “civil union” is the most popular.

All the rights and responsibilities associated with this civil status are identical and the only distinction would be the word used to describe that relationship. Many people find this approach extremely attractive. For example, those who consider marriage a religious ceremony, and the union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, could support this approach. They could not necessarily support the legal recognition of same sex unions, but a balance could be achieved since sex couples, with parallel rights and responsibilities, would receive recognition. However, marriage would be reserved for opposite sex couples only. So, same sex couples would be treated differently but equally.

Other countries, including a number of Scandinavian countries and France, have adopted such a parallel system, which is considered a reasonable compromise for such a controversial issue. Why not learn from their experience and create such a system in Canada? The answer is that this approach is no longer possible, given Canada's legal and constitutional framework. The discussion paper was published before the numerous rulings by courts in eight provinces and territories, which have interpreted the meaning of equality in this context, even in 2002.

The working document, however, indicated that this approach would likely not be possible without recourse to the notwithstanding clause. The courts have now confirmed that the heterosexual definition of marriage is unconstitutional and clearly infringes on the Charter guarantees of equality. Although the Supreme Court has not stated its opinion on this matter, the question nevertheless still requires an answer.

The Supreme Court of Canada did, however, make it clear that the decisions reached in eight provinces or territories are binding. Consequently, the only way of restoring the heterosexual definition of marriage to the law, a definition that is no longer legally in force in those eight provinces or territories, would be to reverse these decisions, which would require use of the notwithstanding clause.

The British Columbia and Ontario courts of appeal have both examined the possibility of a civil union as an alternative, and have found it to be less than equal and therefore unconstitutional. The Ontario Court of Appeal declared that allowing people to choose a same sex partner and solemnize their union is not an adequate replacement for the legal recognition of that union.

The second option proposed by the document would be for the federal and provincial governments to withdraw totally from marriage and leave it wholly in the hands of the religious authorities. Instead of having a legal or civil marriage, there would be only the legal status of a civil union, available on request for couples of the opposite sex or the same sex desirous of having the civil rights and responsibilities of marriage.

Should these couples wish to be considered married and not just living in a civil union, they could then choose to go to their church, synagogue or mosque to be married in a religious ceremony. The religious authorities would then have to decide whether the couple met all the criteria for a religious marriage before marrying them. The marriage itself would be valid for all the purposes of the requirements of that religion, but with no legal effect whatsoever.

This option may seem quite attractive at first. It appears to offer the same treatment to all couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and would therefore comply with the principles of equality contained in the charter. What is more, many would see this as reinforcing marriage as a purely religious institution. If looked at more closely, however, the problems will be seen to greatly outweigh the advantages.

First of all, no one in the world has adopted this model. Is it because no one else thought it would be a good idea? No, not really. This option was rejected by all major religions when their representatives appeared before the standing committee in 2003. None of them were prepared for religious marriage no longer to be legally binding.

It is easy to see why. What would happen if a person decided to marry someone while living in a union with someone else? The law would no longer have any jurisdiction to protect vulnerable spouses or children from religious marriages, since it would have no jurisdiction over religious marriage.

In Canada, through the Constitution, only the provinces and territories have jurisdiction over civil unions, as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. To get out of the business of marriage, Parliament would have to pass a bill declaring that no is legally able to get married for civil purposes in Canada. Can you imagine such legislation? How would we explain to Canadians, to our own parents and grandparents, that they are no longer married in the eyes of the law?

The other countries that have adopted a parallel civil union system for same sex couples are unitary states, not federal states like Canada. In those countries, complete responsibility for marriage, the celebration of marriage and civil unions is in the hands of the national government.

In Canada, the federal government is limited to only the substantive aspects of marriage, that is, the capacity to marry. The procedure and celebration of marriage and civil union are in provincial hands. Thus, any system to replace civil marriage would have to be established through a coordinated response of all 13 provinces and territories. History tells us that such a coordinated response is so rare as to be virtually impossible.

What would this mean for the Canadian people? Perhaps more access to survivor benefits, but certainly not more protection in the Divorce Act concerning support payments for children, custody and visiting rights. If marriage no longer existed, there would no longer be any federal jurisdiction if such new civil unions break down, which could lead to a patchwork of disparate laws, varying with province of residence, and probably no recognition of these new civil unions outside Canada, in a different country of residence or where holidays are taken.

Denying all opposite sex couples the opportunity to marry in order to refuse it to a few same sex couples would be an extreme way to resolve the problem of equality. That would be replacing one injustice with a greater one to opposite sex couples. Thus, it is not at all surprising that no other country in the world has taken a step down that path.

I return to the very beginning. We have before us two possibilities: we can move forward and provide uniform legislation in this field, by adopting the government's bill, or we can go backwards, reversing the decisions of the courts and restoring the traditional definition to its position as the law of Canada by using the notwithstanding clause. This would make it possible for the government to declare specifically that an act of Parliament would be in force even though it violated one or more fundamental freedoms, one or more fundamental rights to equality provided in the Charter.

To do that, Parliament would first have to admit that it is prepared to discriminate against same sex couples who want to demonstrate the same degree of commitment as other married couples. That is how it works.

Those members who vote to use the notwithstanding clause must realize they will be recognizing publicly the discriminatory nature of the legislation, but insist it be enacted, despite its impact on the rights of minorities protected by the Constitution. This will not end here. Parliament will then have to review the legislation every five years to determine if it will continue such deliberate discrimination.

Consequently, this approach will not lead to a final solution to this problem, but rather will serve as a temporary measure only. Every five years, perhaps indefinitely, the members of this House will have to pass legislation supporting discrimination, until a Parliament finally rejects this backward approach and re-establishes the equal rights conferred by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I find this aspect very troubling. The government believes that using the notwithstanding clause to overturn charter rights is not in keeping with responsible leadership. It puts all minorities at the mercy of potential and deliberate discrimination, via legislation.

Today, we are talking about civil marriage for same sex couples, tomorrow, who knows, it could be persons with a handicap. Canada has a long history of tolerance and respect for diversity. Many countries envy our pluralist society.

That is why adopting this bill is the right thing to do. Bill C-38 establishes a fair balance by ensuring that a minority group in our society, which has long been marginalized and historically excluded, can finally have equal access to civil marriage, while protecting the longstanding freedom of religious authorities to marry only—and I repeat, only—those who meet their requirements. In my opinion, no other approach in the Canadian context will do.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, on the issue of same sex marriage it seems to me that the Liberal government, first under the leadership of Jean Chrétien and now under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is pushing ahead to change the definition of marriage, which is the most fundamental and historic of all institutions in our society, and define marriage not as a union between a man and a woman but as a union between two persons. This new definition, of course, would allow couples of the same sex as well as couples of the opposite sex to claim the status of marriage.

My position on same sex marriage is clear and consistent. I will not support any change to the definition of marriage. I believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

To support my position, we can all agree that since time immemorial in every part of the world and at all times in recorded history every society has recognized and celebrated the public commitment by one man and one woman to each other and called it marriage. It is not for me as a member of Parliament to respond to some temporal pressures and overturn the judgment of history in all parts of the world, in all cultures and at all times.

If we are to be governed by the rule of law, concepts and words that define these concepts, the definition must be consistent within society. We have always taken marriage to be the public commitment by a man and a woman to each other.

There are many kinds of sexual relationships today: married relationships, common law relationships, casual relationships, same sex relationships, premarital relationships and extramarital relationships. Each one of these describes a different kind of conjugal relationship, but only one is marriage.

I will use the analogy of professionals. There are many kinds of professionals in our society. There are lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, architects and so on. Each one is a professional, but a lawyer is not a doctor and an engineer is not an accountant.

While there are many different kinds of conjugal relationships, marriage covers only one definition. Marriage defines a relationship of two people of the opposite sex who have made a public commitment to support each other to the exclusion of all others. Every other sexual relationship is defined by its own words. For that reason, a public commitment to a same sex relationship should be defined in another way.

Society now recognizes that these relationships exist and has extended the same benefits to committed same sex relationships that it has extended to committed heterosexual relationships. There is the equality that they have been demanding.

There are those who say that it is a human right to be able to marry a partner of one's choice, but marriage is not a human right. A human right is an inalienable right, enforceable by law for anyone at any time under any circumstances, from the day we are born to the day we die. Marriage is a commitment and an obligation that men and women enter into on a voluntary basis; it does actually require, before we can get married, that we find somebody who will say yes.

There are many people who would want to marry yet have no recourse in law to do so. We do not allow our children to marry. In fact, I believe that this bill should list a minimum age, because we do not want and will not tolerate nor allow children to marry. In addition, we do not allow close relatives to marry. Therefore, marriage is not an inalienable right enforceable by anyone at any time under any circumstances. Therefore, marriage is not a human right. It is a commitment of choice.

Let us clearly understand the response by the Supreme Court. The first question posed by Mr. Chrétien to the court was, “Can the Parliament of Canada enact the proposed legislation containing two clauses?” The Supreme Court said yes to clause 1, because that is clearly within section 91 of the Constitution Act of 1867, and it said no to clause 2, because it falls within section 92 of the Constitution Act of 1867, which is provincial jurisdiction.

On the second question posed by Mr. Chrétien to the court, “Is this proposed legislation consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?” , the Supreme Court said that if the federal government wants to enact this legislation--and note that I say if the government wants to enact this legislation, not that it must enact this proposed legislation--it is giving more rights to more people. Therefore, using the court's language, it “flows” from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: giving more people more rights cannot contravene the charter. I want to emphasize the statement by the court to the government that if it wants to enact the legislation, it may do so. There is no compulsion. There is no requirement.

The Supreme Court responded ambiguously to the third question regarding the guarantee of religious freedom and the protection of religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two people of the same sex. The court said:

Absent unique circumstances with respect to which the Court will not speculate...religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled to perform...marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

I underline the words “absent unique circumstances with respect to which the Court will not speculate”. The court would not give an ironclad guarantee on religious freedom for officials of religious organizations. I would like members to note that it was absolutely silent on any protection for people who have religious convictions, who are employed as justices of the peace and who could be asked to perform same sex marriages.

As we continue to more broadly define issues regarding morality, we must, by definition, constrain the freedom of those who believe in upholding the current morality. We cannot expand one without constraining the other. It appears that the Supreme Court is saying that secular rights trump religious rights when it comes to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Jean Chrétien gave us an assurance that if the Liberal government enacted the proposed legislation to allow marriage for same sex couples, he would also guarantee religious freedom and not require religious officials to perform same sex marriages. Based on the reference reply by the Supreme Court, the federal government cannot provide this assurance for religious freedom. Therefore, in my opinion, the federal government should not proceed with the introduction of this legislation.

So where are we today? By virtue of inaction and lack of leadership by the Liberal government, same sex marriages are the law of the land in half the country and not the law of the land in the other half of the country. The right of Canadians to express their religious opinion that marriage is only between a man and a woman is being constrained.

From the reply of the Supreme Court to the reference, Parliament has the right to define marriage any way it wants since that falls within its authority, and the government may use that authority to define marriage as a union between two persons. The Supreme Court said that was okay.

Let me say again that based on the response by the Supreme Court the government cannot deliver on its commitment to freedom of religion. For that reason, I believe that the government should refrain from proceeding with legislation to change the definition of marriage at this time. However, if the government does proceed with the legislation to change the definition of marriage, Parliament should defeat the proposed legislation.

Royce FrithStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, my colleagues will rise today to commemorate International Francophonie Day, but I would like to pay my respects to a former parliamentarian who played a critical role in the development of the vibrant bilingual and multicultural country in which we now live.

The Hon. Royce Frith, who passed away last Thursday, is best remembered by most of us as a member of the Senate from 1977 to 1994 and as Canadian High Commissioner to Britain from 1994 to 1996.

However, well before these days, the Hon. Royce Frith, who was born in Montreal, made a name for himself in the 1960s as a member of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which laid the foundation for the functional bilingualism we now appreciate in Canada.

That is why I think that it is so important to highlight the outstanding contribution made by the late Royce Frith to Parliament and Canada. This remarkable man will be sorely missed.

CurlingStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, over the years I have had the pleasure of being a fan at a number of Canadian curling championships, known to all as the Brier.

It is always a show of great skill and sportsmanship where every game starts and ends with the teams shaking hands, where all good shots, regardless of which team makes them, are cheered, and anyone, either fan or competitor, who shows poor sportsmanship is chastised. The mascot, Brier Bear, is loved by all, including my two year old granddaughter Kaitlyn.

This year's Brier in Edmonton was the first hosted by Tim Hortons and set an all-time attendance record of 282,000 fans. The televised final between Randy Ferbey of Alberta and Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia was watched by 1.3 million Canadians.

Congratulations to the Ferbey rink, that great team from Alberta, for the fourth Brier victory as a team, and to Randy Ferbey for his sixth win as a player.

I know everyone in the House and fans across Canada wish them luck representing Canada at the World in Victoria in April. By the way, my money is also on Randy, Dave, Scott and Marcel to bring home Olympic gold from Italy in 2006.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

March 21st, 2005 / 2 p.m.


David Smith Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, every year on March 20 we are reminded of the reality of the Francophonie, a language-based community spread over five continents. It represents an original and voluntary effort to bring together countries which share the use of the French language.

A variety of tools have made it possible for member states to enjoy important exchanges in everyday life, starting with interactions between populations so far apart geographically.

Thanks to a variety of francophone institutions, many exchanges have been possible in such areas as education, agriculture, energy, credit cooperatives, song, film, literature and sports.

Powerful communications tools, such as TV5, now relay the actuality of these exchanges.

In addition to the cultural connections, francophone exchanges have resulted in Canada's setting up a number of development cooperation initiatives francophone countries.

Long live the international Francophonie.

Semaine des travailleuses et des travailleurs sociaux du QuébecStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, last week was dedicated to the social workers of Quebec. There are more than 6,000 social workers in every region of Quebec working with individuals, families, groups and communities to provide them with the tools to achieve their maximum potential in their day to day lives.

They work at solving relationship difficulties and personal crises. Social workers clarify the needs of their clientele, identify the source of their problems and find solutions, or provide referrals to the appropriate resources.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for the family and caregivers, I would like to thank the social workers, who improve the quality of life for thousands of families and individuals.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, on this international day of La Francophonie, I want to point out that Canada's efforts with La Francophonie aim above all to affirm the political, cultural and economic values dear to Canadians.

Some 40 member countries of La Francophonie are developing nations. Of these, 22 are among the 28 least developed countries. We want to accelerate their integration into the global marketplace.

Development aid and debt relief alone cannot solve all development problems.

We must also take into consideration the interests and concerns of developing nations and reinforce their bargaining power within the global economy, and these are values that Canada promotes with the international Francophonie.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I attended two very different events which took place in Montreal over the past four days.

The first was the Gomery inquiry into Liberal corruption and the other was the exciting Conservative Party of Canada founding policy convention; same city, two entirely different visions of how this great country should be governed.

The Gomery inquiry demonstrates the Liberal government's view that it is okay to use hard earned taxpayer money to pay off friends who will then funnel some of that money back to the Liberal Party who then will use it during election campaigns to make promises to Canadians which it will break.

The Conservative Party convention on the other hand was all about lowering taxes and treating every dollar like it is money held in trust to be carefully spent only if it will make life better for all Canadians, not just Liberals and their political friends.

The obvious choice for Canadians is the Leader of the Opposition's exciting new Conservative vision, not Mr. Dithers and his corrupt Liberal regime.

La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, on this 35th anniversary of Canada's membership in the international Francophonie, I want to pay tribute to the leadership our country demonstrated at the 10th summit of La Francophonie, held in Burkina Faso in November 2004.

Canada helped develop La Francophonie's first strategic framework, which was adopted at this summit. This framework provides this organization with means to exert greater influence over international affairs and to help meet the challenges of globalization.

From now on, La Francophonie will focus on four major missions, which are consistent with the aim and objectives of Canadian foreign policy: to promote the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity; to promote peace, democracy and human rights; to support education, training, higher education and research; and to develop cooperation to ensure sustainable development and solidarity.

May the efforts of La Francophonie continue to enrich our international affairs.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 20 was international day of La Francophonie. It gave us a chance to reaffirm our attachment to the French language.

Richard Desjardins was presented with the Mérite du français dans la culture award by the Union des artistes, the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma, and the Office québécois de la langue français.

Impératif français awarded a booby prize to the Government of Canada for naming its tsunami intervention group unilingually the Disaster Assistance Response Team, as though Canada becomes an English only country when it comes to providing disaster assistance to other countries.

This day also urges Quebec, specifically, to fulfil its duty to protect and promote our francophone personality among sovereign states.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, as mentioned, yesterday we celebrated international day of La Francophonie and the 35th anniversary of this forum. I am proud to say that Canada has earned pride of place in the Francophonie and has played a lead role in establishing this important international organization consisting in 63 member countries and governments sharing a common language, French.

Over the years, Canada, the second highest financial contributor after France, has actively participated in creating and developing the numerous institutions of the Francophonie. Canada has hosted two summits, one in Quebec City, in 1987, and one in Moncton, in 1999. The Gatineau-Ottawa region also hosted the Jeux de la Francophonie in the summer of 2001. These events have contributed to promoting the international Francophonie to Canadians and Canada's cultural diversity to the world.

Canada's window on the world remains open with the first ministerial conference of La Francophonie on the mandate to protect and with the 12th Francophonie summit in 2008, the year of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas.

Wellington—Halton HillsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of the House the 2004 Georgetown Citizen of the Year, Mr. Tom Schenk. His involvement with Branch 120 of the Royal Canadian Legion has been instrumental in maintaining the memory of the sacrifice made by veterans.

As well, he has been an exceptional supporter of the Georgetown Choral Society and the Georgetown Children's Chorus that will pay tribute to Canadian veterans in the Netherlands this coming May along with the Minister of Veterans Affairs. I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing the contributions of this remarkable Canadian.

I draw to the attention of the House also the three festivals that take place within the Township of Centre Wellington that were recently named top 50 festivals in Ontario.

The Fergus Truck Show, Reminessence Festival and the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games all received this significant honour at the 2005 Conference of Festivals and Events Ontario.

I ask all members of the House to join with me in recognizing the contribution of these important festivals to Wellington--Halton Hills.

Sustainable DevelopmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's influence was apparent during discussions at the 10th Francophonie summit, held in Burkina Faso.

Sustainable development extends beyond the environment. It takes a broader meaning in connection with underdevelopment, and sustainability requires equitable bases and interdependence of the sound management of natural resources and the fight against poverty.

Canada's vision is focussed on issues of social justice, cultural diversity, basic human rights and good governance.

At the Ouagadougou summit, Canada encouraged La Francophonie to influence international dialogue on sustainable development and to position itself as a good, or even a key strategic partner for various international and multilateral organizations concerned with sustainable development, in Africa in particular.

This is one more source of pride for Canada.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I draw attention to the international day of La Francophonie , which was celebrated yesterday, March 20.

This important day promotes the French language and the cultural and linguistic diversity of francophone countries across the five continents. This day brings together 175 million people worldwide who all have one thing in common: the French language.

Over the weekend, several organizations and communities in my riding held activities celebrating this international day of La Francophonie. In our part of the country, in Acadie, pride in the French language and francophone identity is important to its communities. That is why it should be acknowledged and celebrated.

As a matter of fact, Acadie is commemorating this year the 250th anniversary of the Acadian deportation. Through their perseverance, the Acadian people remain a strong presence in Canada and continue to enrich the Canadian culture.

To all francophones and francophiles in this country and abroad, happy international day of La Francophonie!

Racial DiscriminationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racism. Canadians can be proud of their achievements in fighting racism.

When I first came to Canada in 1977, I encountered racism in every aspect of our society. It was tough going. We can tell numerous stories about racism.

Over the years tremendous progress has been achieved thanks to efforts by all Canadians. However, a new national study states that one in six Canadian adults have become victims of racism. This study shows that a lot of distance still needs to be covered to make this a truly just society. It is incumbent upon all Canadians to join in this fight against racism.

The Conservative Party, at its convention this weekend, strongly endorsed the multicultural nature of our nation. Together with all Canadians, we will stand strongly against racism and bigotry.

Métrostar GalaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, last night the Métrostar Gala paid tribute to the artists of Quebec television.

While people pretty well around the world are hooked on American television series, it is fascinating to see how faithful the Quebec audience is to its own TV serials. In Quebec, the actors and actresses are part of our families. This is yet another expression of Quebec's difference.

To mark the 20th edition of this event, the audience was asked to choose the television personality who had made the greatest mark in the past 20 years. The person selected was Dominique Michel. Who can forget her brilliant comedy in the series, Moi et l'autre , or her performances in the Bye Bye reviews?

The Bloc Québécois salutes the dazzling artist nominees and expresses its pride in the winners in every category. In particular, we congratulate the winners of the Métrostar awards, Guylaine Tremblay and Rémy Girard.

Thank you and bravo to the entire artistic community of Quebec. We are proud of you.

Conservative Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great day to be a Conservative.

This past weekend the Conservative Party held the most successful national gathering of Conservatives in two decades. Three thousand Conservatives from coast to coast to coast gathered in the beautiful city of Montreal to debate policies and prepare for the next federal election at the founding policy convention of the Conservative Party of Canada.

It is clear that the policies endorsed by Conservative grassroots firmly reflect the mainstream opinions held by Canadians. The Conservative Party's membership is vivacious and its financial situation is sound. If I may gush for a moment, the leader received a resounding endorsement from the party that will no doubt lead him and the Conservative Party to power in the next election.

I would like to congratulate the delegates and staff at the convention who worked so hard together, not just as proud Conservatives but as principled Canadians.

Our caucus is united and energized. We will promote Conservative policies, we still stand against a tired and corrupt Liberal government and we will strive to earn all the support we need to win the next election.

International Day of La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year francophones on five continents celebrate the international day of La Francophonie. March 20 is the day millions of people get together to promote the French language.

This date was chosen to commemorate the founding of the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie, which aims to develop cooperation programs that put the spotlight on cultural and linguistic diversity.

Just days away from the 35th anniversary of the founding of the international Francophonie, I would like to add my voice to those of my colleagues in this House and pay tribute to the initiatives taken by our Prime Minister, Mr. Paul Martin, to establish and maintain democracy and respect for human rights around the world.

Racial DiscriminationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on this National Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I draw the attention of Parliament to the escalation and use of racial profiling in Canada.

The Deputy Prime Minister denies racial profiling exists but those who are targeted know differently.

On March 9 the Minister of Transport told us that his department was developing a no-fly list in Canada and yet there are no provisions to deal with incidents of racial profiling, no procedures for follow up and we do not know the criteria nor the basis for such a list. The Liberal government cannot hide behind denials.

We call on the government to support Bill C-296, a bill to ban racial profiling and to enact policies and procedures to compel law enforcement and federal departments to eliminate racial profiling. We must not allow racial profiling to exist in the name of security. We must not allow people to be targeted on the basis of their colour, ethnicity or religion.

A new website,, has launched a campaign, including an incident report form. We in the NDP support this campaign and will do everything we can to make racial profiling illegal in Canada.

Canada PostStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post has announced that the Cap-de-la-Madeleine sector postal station in Trois-Rivières will close on April 15. This decision by Canada Post was taken without consulting the public. They were presented with a fait accompli and they felt this was an affront to them and their right to quality service.

It is all the more difficult to understand this decision when Canada Post uses administrative reasons to explain the closure, yet in 2003 it declared record earnings. Furthermore, the postal station being closed has above average profitability.

I want to acknowledge the courage of all the individuals who joined me in braving the icy cold on February 25 to take part in a public demonstration to indicate loud and clear our disagreement with this Canada Post decision.