Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to represent the will of my constituents and speak in opposition to Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.
I will begin by summarizing my position, the position of someone who has lived all his life in the north, someone who has actually argued constitutional and charter arguments in front of the courts in Alberta and someone who has immediate family members who are both in the homosexual community and in the treaty and Métis communities.
This is why I will not support any legislation that infringes upon the rights of any Canadian. I believe strongly that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be respected and the rights of all minorities must be protected. This is why I support the traditional definition of marriage.
The institution of marriage was created for the purpose of procreation and the nurturing of the children of the union. Our children are our future and must be protected.
While we respect the rights of others, we must also look to the future and guard our future generations. A stable home with a mother and father is the foundation of our civilization and although it may not always be attainable, I would argue that we should work toward this environment as it is the best environment for our future generations.
My logic is this. All words have three parts: first, the word itself; second, the meaning that describes the word; and third, the rights and obligations that flow from the word. The word “marriage” is no exception to this. It is simply that; a word that describes and identifies a group of individuals within our society. In this case, the group it describes is a relationship between one man and one woman in a state recognized contract.
It is my position that the rights and obligations that flow from that word need to be extended to other words to protect rights of minority groups throughout Canada.
I would submit that these other groups should receive not only the rights of married couples but also the obligations of married couples.
As the Leader of the Opposition states, we must respect all Canadians regardless of sexual orientation or other differences and all couples who apply for solemnization of their relationship should receive the respect and the rights and obligations of married couples.
I also believe that we should send a clear message of protecting minority rights to Canadians and protect not only married and same sex couples but also common law couples after a certain period of cohabitation. Some provinces even recognize this period of cohabitation now and recognize common law rights but not all provinces do and each province is different.
Each of these three groups should be defined individually because, let us face it and admit the facts, the descriptions are different between a man and a man, a woman and a woman and a man and a woman. Yes, even common law couples who have not formally solemnized their relationship before the state should also be afforded the same protections. All of these groups should have the same rights and obligations under the law and should be respected equally in all aspects of the law that flow from our natural state.
In terms of protecting rights, it is also my belief that as members of the House we must protect the rights of those who entered into marriage on their expectation of what that term means. Protecting rights is a dual obligation. Just as with every right comes a corresponding obligation, receiving a right can sometimes infringe on others' rights and expectations. Rights and respect work both ways.
If we want our beliefs respected, then we must respect the beliefs of others. With mutual respect comes the end of bigotry, hate and prejudice. That is the Utopia that I seek for all Canadians.
The Conservative Party of Canada is allowing a free vote in Parliament on this matter. We respect the supremacy of Parliament. I believe that we should respect the will of Canadians while at the same time protecting the rights of all minorities.
In my constituency of Fort McMurray--Athabasca, located in northern Alberta, I received less than 10 responses in favour of same sex marriage and over 1,000 responses asking to maintain the traditional definition of marriage.
The Leader of the Opposition has taken what I believe to be a reasonable compromise position on this issue, which is in accord with the views of the majority of Canadians. We want to recognize the traditional definition of marriage without detracting from the rights and obligations of people in same sex relationships.
The Conservative Party wants to create the status of a civil union to recognize the identical rights of all peoples. Religious institutions would be explicitly protected. We would protect public officials from reprisal if for religious reasons, as we heard from my colleague earlier, they feel they must refuse to perform same sex marriages.
The Conservative Party represents the only middle ground position on the debate from any political party. Canada's law should reflect the priorities of Canadian society, while protecting the rights of minorities. The Conservative position does this. This compromise respects all sides of the debate.
This debate is about that. This debate is about mutual respect. This Conservative Party has proven that we respect both sides of the issue and we respect all Canadians equally.
Now it is time for other members of this House to do the same and to respect our position.