Mr. Speaker, in the 12 years that I have had the privilege of representing the people of Kootenay—Columbia as their member of Parliament, I have never had the volume of mail, email, faxes or people simply contacting me on any issue as I have had on the issue of the Prime Minister's decision to redefine marriage.
As in every constituency in Canada, of course, there are many valuable opinions on this issue, but I can report that I have never had one side of an issue so predominantly and overwhelmingly represented. They agree with the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada who has unequivocally stated, “As Prime Minister, I will bring forward legislation that, while providing the same rights, benefits, and obligations to all couples, will maintain the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
My constituents see this as middle ground. This debate is not about equality or human rights. Those issues are settled. The debate is about the most closely held values of individual Canadians. It is about the essence of what makes them human: their beliefs, convictions, and things that motivate and shape their daily existence.
The Prime Minister claims that this legislation will protect professional practitioners of religion. These are the priests, rabbis, imams, ministers and others. What about the adherents to religious beliefs? Do persons of faith not have a right to hold the same convictions as their religious leaders? Not under this law.
The federal Liberals are saying that Canadians can believe what they want to believe, they can hold the values that they want to hold, but they are just going to be prohibited from acting on those values. This legislation is nothing less than a frontal attack on Canada's freedom of religion.
The false god of tolerance is well served by this legislation. Absolute values, black and white, right and wrong are wiped out. The federal Liberal government and the Prime Minister tell us that this proposed legislation will be the end of the problem. It is only the beginning of the end of the problem.
The clash between homosexual rights and religious rights is being fuelled. In typical dithering style, the Prime Minister has been completely unclear as to what he intends to do about the inevitable collision between gay rights and religious rights.
On April 10 of this year on the editorial page of the Calgary Herald I saw a headline that read: “A hard lesson in free speech: B.C. teacher taken to task for airing same-sex marriage views”.
The editorial said:
Quesnel B.C. teacher Chris Kempling shows by the asphyxiation of his freedom to speak how this fundamental right is undermined by what Justice Minister Irwin Cotler recently called the legal system's new “organizing principle of equality”.
In January Kempling wrote to his local paper criticizing federal same sex marriage plans. It was temperate in tone. He asked for a referendum. He did not mention his employer, the Quesnel school district, but identified himself as a Christian Heritage Party candidate. The board suspended him for three months anyway.
Superintendent Ed Napier said the board reviewed Kempling's letter and felt “he had violated a previous district directive. The issue essentially was...his expression of views in a negative and discriminatory context that the board felt was resulting in potential for a poisoned and unsafe environment for students and staff”.
I note the word “potential”. He was fined $25,000 for something that could have happened, but had not because no one had even complained. He had been told to shut up. When he would not, the board used what Bishop Fred Henry in Calgary called its “coercive power”. Interesting that this district board decides only people who favour the gay agenda may speak publicly. One wonders what it teaches its students about freedom of speech or even if it is on the curriculum. The editorial continued:
Kempling is no stranger to controversy, of course. The mild-mannered counsellor was handed a one-month suspension by the B.C. College of Teachers last year for “unprofessional conduct”--six letters he wrote to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer between 1997 and 2000.
Granted, an employee's spare-time activities may prejudice his job. In Abbotsford, for instance, two married teachers were fired in 1987 after nude photographs of the wife taken by her husband appeared in a men's magazine.
However, Kempling was just commenting on a matter of immediate public interest. Furthermore, he advanced a position overwhelmingly endorsed in the House of Commons just five years ago, and strongly held by millions of Canadians--that marriage was heterosexual.
Not that his rights would have been less violated had he advocated an unpopular perspective. However, by what twisted logic could the school district, and the college before, have persuaded themselves that pro-marriage writings were “unprofessional?”
It runs thus: First, the case of New Brunswick teacher Malcolm Ross established even off-duty teachers should represent their employer's values--
Kempling, of course, feels homosexual behaviour is immoral. His problem was the B.C. Court of Appeal, ruling on the issue of homosexualist textbooks in Surrey, said “highest morality” must include non-discrimination.
Thus, the equality argument. Never mind the religious teachings of the ages; the highest morality must include non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. That was certainly what the college thought, and the school district appears to have fallen into step.
Yet, in 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada disposed of the idea a person with one set of morals cannot treat someone with equality and dignity. In a relevant case involving Trinity Western University, it ruled that “freedom of religion is not accommodated if the consequence of its exercise is the denial of the right of full participation in society”. What about that does the Quesnel district not understand?
Kempling has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Commission alleging religious discrimination.
Free speech advocates will wish him luck.
This is precisely why there must be a complete travelling public hearing of this bill. This is a public policy issue that goes far beyond any normal legislation. It is essential that Canadians be allowed to speak.
What are the federal Liberals doing? They are going to ensure that Canadians are not allowed to speak to legislation that has the potential to change human relationships. Quite the opposite. They are going to move this bill from second reading to a legislative committee. I would not blame Canadians if their eyes glazed over at this point. The question in their minds is, so what?
First, a legislative committee is restricted to technical legal consideration of the bill. There is no room for anything but legal. This would speed the bill back to the House of Commons for third and final reading.
It is in the government's interest to have this law move quickly. It believes that opponents would be able to mobilize more Canadians against the bill. The Prime Minister wants to subtly exclude Canadians from this process so he can see its speedy passage.
Second, opposition would be fuelled as Canadians start to consider the implications of the bill. This would occur as a committee hears witnesses across Canada. The publicity would cause Canadians to more deeply consider the implications of the bill. That is the last thing that the federal Liberals want. They want to bury it.
The member for London—Fanshawe has declared that the Prime Minister will encourage the committee to travel. This would require a change in the purpose of the legislative committee and an agreement among its members to travel.
He got the Prime Minister's assurance when the member was talking about leaving the Liberal caucus. The member received the Prime Minister's assurances under duress. I think the member got snookered by the Prime Minister because the justice minister claims no knowledge of the Prime Minister's commitment. Canada's justice minister is on the record distancing himself, and hence the government, from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's promises should never be taken to the bank. He changes his commitments faster than he changes his neckties.
As stated, the purpose of moving this bill to a legislative committee is to speed it up and bury debate. The Liberals have no interest in the opinions of Canadians nor do they want their legislative freight train to be derailed.
All in all, this is an intentionally deceptive process. The Liberals have tried to sell Canadians on the concept that this bill should not be in the justice and human rights committee because that committee is too busy. They intentionally forgot to mention the significant details that I have outlined.
Why did the Prime Minister force his cabinet ministers to forget their own personal commitments, personal beliefs and faith foundations?
Why is the government dunking this legislation through a legislative committee for a quick wash? I aggressively encourage all members of Parliament to do what is right and vote against the legislation.