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.