Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to participate in the debate on Bill C-38. It may not be my only intervention. I know many members are anxious to put their views and thoughts on the record, but I want to put mine on the record in the 10 minutes that I have.
First, I would like to say that this exercise could have been and should have been constructive. Certainly it has been quite democratic up to this point, but it has not been as constructive as it could have been or should have been. In my view, the main reason for that is the House has been pushed into a box by the courts of this country. I am not pleased with that. My public statements have been somewhat tame in that regard. My remarks now might be a bit more sanguine given that I have some protection and immunities here in the House, thanks to our Constitution. The courts have made decisions which have forced the House and the government to deal with this matter with a timing and in a procedure that is not at all helpful.
The bill refers to the subject of civil marriage. It is not really civil marriage. In fact that is wishful thinking. Perhaps the government wishes that the bill did deal with something called civil marriage. In the body of the bill the words “civil marriage” do not turn up; they appear only in the title.
In fact I wish that the bill dealt with the concept of civil marriage. Unfortunately, because of what has happened over the last two or three years, the bill deals with straight simple marriage. Would that over history Canada would have evolved a format for marriage that is different from what it is now. I understand that France has a format for marriage that separates civil marriage from marriage in churches and in groups and between individuals. It seems to work there. In any event, we are stuck with the current process and calling this bill the civil marriage act cosmetically does not do the trick.
About two years ago the matter of same sex marriage was referred to the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights. It was a large task. The committee embarked on its study of the subject area hoping to craft a resolution that would be suited to our Constitution, suitable to colleagues in the House, suitable to Canadians and to all segments of Canadian society. We began that somewhat naively but in good faith. I even recall spending what I would call overtime, meeting on Monday evenings with some colleagues in an attempt to hammer out a concept which would be acceptable to the committee and the House. That concept moves toward this concept of civil union or civil marriage.
In any event, one unhappy day as I recall it, suddenly the Ontario Court of Appeal made a decision in a piece of litigation in Ontario and set us all back severely. As a result of that decision, the government was pretty much forced to accept that the legal definition of marriage was just that, only a legal matter. Having invested all of that time, I was a little bit upset by that.
However, what I call the blackboard exercise of developing a solution is still out there, possibly. It is still out there as something we might do. However, the courts have all moved ahead and the current framework in which we are operating does not allow much wiggle room, certainly in the context of this bill.
We were working on this at the committee level and certainly around the House at the time the court made its decision. The court ruled that the current laws governing traditional relationships did not accommodate equitably relationships which were not opposite sex.
We all have friends or family members who reside in non-traditional relationships, couples that are same sex. They are often good friends and almost always good people. Most of us in the House really have wanted to try and do the right thing.
As I said, the courts have viewed this as purely a legal issue, just a legal constitutional issue. I realize that the courts and the legal fraternity almost always worship at the grail of the Constitution and the charter and tend to view all of our society through the eyes of the law. I regret that because in my view in this case a fix is going to have to allow us to view this matter as sociological, as well as legal and religious, et cetera.
What happened after the court threw its grenade at us is what is happening now. The government decided it would not appeal the provincial courts of appeal decisions. Then the government decided to make a reference to the Supreme Court. While the court did not rule directly on the constitutionality of the traditional definition, it did accept that the legislation put forward, at least the main part of it, the change in the definition of marriage, was constitutional.
In my view this is not purely a legal issue. I want to put some stress on that. The many witnesses who came to the justice committee usually made that point, that there is a lot more going on here than just the law, the Constitution or the charter.
I am speaking for most of my constituents when I say that they view this as partly sociological in the sense that the merging of opposite sex relationships with same sex relationships indiscriminately will delink opposite sex marriage from its societal role. It is a dual role actually, one where it is the foundation for the survival of the species and the other where it is a framework for nurturing children produced by the marriage union.
There is also a religious perspective. While that is not everyone's cup of tea in Canada, most Canadians have some religious perspective that they bring to their life on earth. Coming with the religion is also the cultural perspective. I represent a riding where there are many different cultural perspectives.
I say that in the sense that for centuries now, cultures and societies which call Canada home have nurtured families based on opposite sex union. Culturally and religiously they just do not accept the way the courts have decided to change this framework. I will simply call it a non-fit.
Not all of my constituents feel that way and that is probably true right across the country. I have a good number of constituents who are content with the way the bill is drafted and want to see progress on this file, but I must accept and I am informing the House that the vast majority of my constituents by a country mile are not in support of the bill. I am reflecting that very clearly here today.
Are there other ways to fix this? Are there other ways to do it? I have indicated earlier that I think there are. Will we have time to do it? Will we have the ability to do it in the current constitutional framework? I am not sure that we will.
I read a letter this morning. Most of us get letters from time to time on this issue. This letter is from Nevin, a Manitoba resident. He says:
We are not against same sex-union but, from the standpoint of faith, cannot as a matter of conscience support having the definition of marriage altered.
I will close by saying that I will be voting against Bill C-38.