Mr. Speaker, again it is a pleasure to stand in the House in opposition to Bill C-38. It is a pleasure not just to speak against the bill but also to speak knowing that the majority of my constituents support me in this stand against this legislation.
It is worth repeating for the sake of my constituents that, for the record, I am opposed to changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. I firmly believe that marriage is exclusive to the union of one man and one woman. It is only through the coupling of the opposite sexes that children can be produced, children who are the past, present and future of this country, and no form of social engineering and no form of trying to change that can. It takes a man and a woman to have a child.
Furthermore, I strongly believe that marriage is fundamental. It is a fundamental social institution not only recognized by law but sanctified by faith throughout the world and throughout history. The requirement that marriage partners be of the opposite sex is one of the core universal features of marriage across cultures and religions around the world. In Canada and elsewhere, the identity of marriage has always been seen as a bond between man and woman.
This was the opinion expressed by Katherine Young, a University of McGill professor of comparative religious studies and ethics. As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I had the benefit of hearing at first hand Professor Young's testimony. On February 20, 2003, Professor Young told the committee:
From our study of all world religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, and the world views of small scale societies, we conclude that this institution is a culturally approved, opposite-sex relationship intended to encourage the births and rearing of children at least to the extent necessary for the preservation and well-being of society.
In another submission to our committee, one witness defended marriage as the union of one man and one woman on the basis of procreation, as I have already pointed out earlier in my remarks.
Traditionally, marriage was defined as the union of one man with one woman with the expectation that they would procreate and guarantee the survival of society. The product of this union, children, creates or establishes a family. While there are many purposes to the family, that is, providing lifelong relationships, shelter and food to the members of the family, the main purpose is the means by which society maintains its existence.
Procreation in marriage has to be considered its most essential function. Civilizations of the world have come to embrace this fact in recognition of the benefits it brings to all those involved and to society as a whole. As a matter of fact, there are only two countries in the world that allow same sex marriage, and it is important to note that neither of these countries had the issue decided by the courts.
We continue to believe, as does the Supreme Court of Canada, much to the dismay of the Liberal government, that MPs, who are accountable to the citizens of the country--or I should say MPs who should be accountable to the citizens of this country--should have the final say on the matter of defining marriage.
We should not be limited in our debate. The government's attempt to shut down debate is an affront to the principles of democracy. That is exactly what the government is trying to do. It is trying to shut down debate on Bill C-38. As I said, it is an affront to the principles of democracy that should be governing the House. It is an affront to the members of the House, who have been sent here by their constituents to support or to oppose the legislation that we debate today.
I can tell the House that I am not surprised by the Liberal government's tactic. I have been a member of the House for close to five years now. As stated earlier, I was a member of the justice committee, which was tasked in 2003 to review the issue. We travelled across the country at great expense to the taxpayers of the nation.
We listened to those expressing views on both sides of the issue. We heard from church ministers. We heard from university professors. We heard from constitutional lawyers. We heard from the gay community. We heard from same sex couples. We heard from REAL Women. We heard from average Canadian citizens who expressed both opposition and support for changing the definition of marriage.
On June 17, 2003, while the House was in recess, the former prime minister stated that, despite all of our committee work, findings and recommendations, his government fully intended to make same sex marriage legal in this country. In the process, he completely negated the opinion of literally thousands of Canadians and rendered inadmissible the well reasoned and well researched findings of academics, clergy and those within the profession who made their presentations to our committee.
He did so despite the current Prime Minister and the current Deputy Prime Minister's support for the following motion that was passed in the House in 1999:
That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.
Further, as pointed out repeatedly in the last few weeks, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, our Deputy Prime Minister, stated on not only one occasion but a number of occasions that it was:
--not necessary to change well-understood concepts of spouse and marriage and deal with any fairness considerations the courts and tribunals may find.
Those were her words just a few short years ago. The Deputy Prime Minister, when justice minister, said:
--that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages.
Those were her words. That was her promise. That was her pledge here in this House. We all know just how true to her word she is and how true to its word this government is: promise made, promise broken.
As I pointed out in this House late last month when I last stood to debate Bill C-38, the Conservative Party has brought forward proposed amendments to the legislation to provide full recognition of same sex relationships as possessing equivalent rights and privileges. We have also proposed amendments to protect religious freedoms in the recognition that currently Bill C-38 is not adequate.
In a discussion paper issued by the Department of Justice in November 2002, it was recognized that Parliament could choose to underscore the division of church and state in Canada by making a clearer distinction between the role of Parliament and that of religion in the area of marriage. I want to quote directly from that discussion paper. It states:
To accomplish this...all legal effect could be removed from marriage, leaving marriage exclusively to the religions.
For the record, I am not advocating this measure. I raise this point of discussion to demonstrate how narrow we have been in our debate on this issue. I raise it also to demonstrate how, if the government really wants to, it can better protect religious freedoms in regard to marriage.
I would refer all members of this House to the particular discussion paper that was issued by the Department of Justice two and a half years ago. I recommend that members read pages 19 and 20 regarding questions that need to be decided in Canada.
The committee did a lot of work. The committee came forward and it did a lot of work. We believed at that time that the government did everything it could to shut down the committee.
I see that my time is up, so I would implore all members on all sides of this House to listen to their constituents, and not only to the person who sits in the leader's chair, but to all their constituents.
If members would do this, and if party leaders would not force their members to vote party lines by making this a free vote as our leader of the Conservative Party has done, I am confident that the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, would be retained.