Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise again on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-38.
The so-called same sex marriage bill has generated considerable interest in my riding, with record numbers of people contacting my office to voice their concerns about the Liberal ploy to redefine marriage. To date, over 15,000 people have either written or called asking me to oppose Bill C-38. They want me to vote against this proposed legislation and do everything possible to maintain the traditional definition of marriage.
I happily tell each and every one of them that I listen to my constituents and that they can count on me to say no to same sex marriage.
The Liberals have attempted to frame the same sex marriage debate as a human rights issue. According to the Prime Minister, opposition to same sex unions is now, ipso facto, an example of hatred and intolerance. Public opinion surveys, however, show that a majority of Canadians are opposed to same sex marriage.
An Environics Research Group poll conducted for the CBC surveyed 1,203 Canadians between March 26 and March 30 and found that 52% of Canadians disagreed with the plan to change the definition of marriage to include couples of the same sex and that only 44% agreed with the Liberal plan. Interestingly, the disapproval jumped to 65% among Canadians born outside our borders.
Does the Prime Minister really want to suggest that the majority of Canadians are bigots?
One dictionary defines a “bigot” as a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own. I know who I think better exemplifies bigotry.
What about the rest of the world? In 2001, the Netherlands opened civil marriage to gay couples and, in 2003, Belgium followed suit. In both countries there are some areas related to adoption or marriage of non-nationals of those countries that still make them slightly different from opposite sex marriages.
By far, the vast majority of European jurisdictions have gone the route of recognizing civil unions, domestic partnerships or reciprocal beneficiaries rather than abolishing the opposite sex nature of marriage. In doing so, they are following the lead of Denmark, where such partnerships were introduced in 1989. Through 1995, less than 5% of Danish homosexuals got married.
As of February 2005, Massachusetts is the only U.S. state to recognize same sex marriages. The states of Vermont, California, Maine, Hawaii, New Jersey and even the District of Columbia, however all offer benefits to same sex couples that are similar to benefits received through marriage, such as civil union, reciprocal benefits or domestic partnership laws.
During the 2004 elections, all 11 states where the issue of same sex marriage was on the ballot, regardless of whether they were Democratic or Republican, voted overwhelmingly for constitutional amendments restricting marriage to a man and a woman.
If same sex marriage is a fundamental right, why have only two countries on Earth recognized it? Are the Liberals seriously suggesting that countries like Denmark and Sweden, which recognize civil unions for homosexuals but refuse to change the traditional definition of marriage, are bastions of bigotry and repressed sexual attitudes?
This House, including the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold that definition of marriage in 1999 and in the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000, with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was then the justice minister, leading the defence of marriage from the government side.
This was what the Deputy Prime Minister said in 1999 in her eloquent defence of the traditional definition of marriage:
We on this side [of the House] agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.
The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, academics and the courts. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of that definition. The Ontario court, general division, in Layland and Beaulne, recently upheld the definition of marriage. In that decision, a majority of the court stated the following:
--unions of persons of the same sex are not “marriages”, because of the definition of marriage. The applicants are, in effect, seeking to use s. 15 of the Charter to bring about a change in the definition of marriage.
The then justice minister said:
I do not think the Charter has that effect...Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages. Marriage has fundamental value and importance to Canadians and we do not believe on this side of the House that importance and value is in any way threatened or undermined by others seeking to have their long term relationships recognized....
I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.
That was the Deputy Prime Minister speaking as justice minister less than six years ago. Nothing she said then is out of date. All that has happened is that several provincial courts have overruled the longstanding common law definition of marriage, but the Supreme Court itself has still not addressed this issue despite a clear request to do so from the Liberal government.
We do not believe that on the basis of provincial court decisions, which the government refused to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, a fundamental, centuries old institution should be abolished or radically changed.
We believe that marriage should continue to be what it has always been, what the courts and the government accepted it to be until a very few years ago: an institution which is by nature heterosexual and has as one of its main purposes the procreation and nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.
In conclusion, marriage has been one of the fundamental organizing principles of human society since history began. It is important to the future of our society because it provides the best social structure within which to bear and raise children. There has never been a time in history when major civilizations or religions granted same sex relationships the same rights and status as they did heterosexual marriage.
We should not change these kinds of fundamental institutions lightly or easily, and I do not believe that the government has demonstrated that there are compelling reasons to alter this central social institution. I will therefore be following the wishes of my constituents and will vote against Bill C-38. I believe in the traditional, common law definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.