House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.


Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you may have noticed, the debate on this bill to change the definition of marriage is having a polarizing effect.

Such is often the case when an ethical issue is at the heart of a process of reflecting.

I use the expression “process of reflecting” intentionally because I presume that no one, not in this House nor in the general public, has taken a position on this major social issue without giving it a great deal of thought.

This is an ethical issue because it has meaning for everyone. It is an ethical issue because it concerns the collective meaning and values that drive us all as humans.

Those who support changing the definition of marriage and those who wish to uphold the traditional definition of marriage have wasted no time presenting arguments that have polarized opinions, indeed speaking in terms that are moralizing, to say the least.

This often has the perverse effect of making some appear open, progressive, advanced, defenders of rights and others bigoted, reactionary, backward, not to say obtuse and almost half-witted.

This might be because many people turn this into an emotional debate, when they focus on the notion of discrimination by asking, for example, if love between same sex partners is not equal to love between opposite sex partners, or by talking about the real suffering of same sex couples who are victims of discrimination and homophobic behaviour.

As a result, the groups are put into opposing camps, and the attempt was made early on to show that there are only two possible options with regard to such discrimination: if we agree with the bill, we oppose discrimination; if we oppose the bill, we support such discrimination. However, there is a third option, which is to oppose the bill and discrimination.

I decided to use a Cartesian approach to analyze the redefinition of marriage. I have discussed this issue with colleagues, former parliamentarians, voters and experts in law, ethics and education. I want to take this opportunity to thank these people for their frank discussions with me.

This bill aims to redefine marriage; in other words, to change or amend the definition of marriage and, consequently, to change a social reality.

The definition of the social institution is central to this issue. So we must question what we are defining and, logically, ask ourselves some questions. Here are a few of them. What is marriage? What are the goals of marriage? What is the purpose behind this social institution? What, therefore, is its ultimate purpose?

To answer these questions by saying the ultimate purpose of marriage is solely to give expression to the love and commitment of two individuals, without involving procreation implicitly, is very different than to answer that marriage is a genealogical institution.

When defined as a genealogical institution, marriage is a social reality that defines family and, among other things, enables children born from such a marriage to know their biological parents.

If we eliminate the notion of generational renewal and the survival of the human race as the implicit goal of marriage, we are giving precedence to individual rights and changing a societal norm.

The definition of marriage under natural law as the union between a man and a woman is not the result of a moral or ethical value imposed by mankind, but simply a biological fact that only a man and a woman may procreate and perpetuate life.

The traditional definition of marriage does not discriminate, it reflects a biological reality. Neither assisted reproduction nor adoption changes that natural rule.

We all know that there are people who get married but do not wish to have children, and that there are couples who cannot have children for a number of reasons. There is no doubt that their love and commitment are just as noble and deep as those of couples that start a family. As far as I am concerned, that is not the issue. There are always exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule.

The issue for me is whether we are discriminating when we view differently realities and goals that are different. It is perfectly legitimate for same sex couples to wish to formalize their union and enjoy related social benefits. However, it seems to me that this wish can hardly be reconciled with the genealogical nature of marriage.

Another issue is the protection of religious freedom. A number of people are concerned by the protection of religious freedom in the context of the celebration of marriage and given the fact that the Supreme Court used caution in its response to the reference's third question. First, as regards question No. 1, the Supreme Court said the following:

Although the right to same-sex marriage conferred by the proposed legislation may potentially conflict with the right to freedom of religion if the legislation becomes law, conflicts of rights do not imply conflict with the Charter—

As regards question No. 3, the Court said:

—the Court is of the opinion that, absent unique circumstances with respect to which we will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials—

The Court showed caution. Therefore, it is legitimate that some people would be concerned. These people are expressing a serious doubt and wondering if, following the redefinition of marriage as proposed in the bill, the next request by same sex couples might be to ask for equal rights regarding religion in the context of this new definition.

As a member of Parliament and legislator, I will have to vote on this bill. It will be a free vote and I will vote freely. I will do so according to my conscience, after careful consideration. My conscience reflects my own views and also those of other individuals, because it takes into consideration the best interests not only of today's society, but of tomorrow's.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is with great anticipation that I have awaited this opportunity to speak to Bill C-38. Like members on all sides of the House, I know my constituents in Prince George—Peace River not only expect, they deserve to have their member of Parliament stand in this chamber and clearly state not only my position but their position on the definition of marriage.

Most of my constituents, as well as many Canadians, are already aware that I do not support Bill C-38. I do support the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I vehemently oppose the discrimination of same sex couples and homosexual Canadians. I am disappointed by the misleading assertion made by the government that opposition to same sex marriage equates to discrimination. It does not.

Of utmost importance to this debate is that both sides of the issue maintain respectful and responsible arguments. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has shown a preference to dismiss opposing views in the debate by dismissing those who disagree with it as proponents of discrimination. Sadly, that means millions of Canadians who oppose this legislation for legitimate reasons are being ignored by their federal government.

We also have a responsibility to maintain accurate arguments throughout the debate. Anything less is a disservice to Canadians. Let me clarify one of the most significant inaccuracies in the government's justification for extending the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. It is the springboard of the Liberal government's argument for introducing the legislation, which has been, “the Supreme Court made us do it”.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not rule against maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. The Supreme Court told Canada's Parliament that deciding whether to include same sex couples under marriage legislation was our job as the people's democratic representatives. In fact, the Supreme Court refused to even rule on whether the traditional definition of marriage was a violation of the equality provision under the charter of rights and freedoms.

We in this Parliament were told in no uncertain terms that we had to do the job we were elected to do, and make a decision on this important social policy matter. If it is the decision of the Liberal government to turn away from the traditional definition of marriage, it should come clean and stop hiding behind the Supreme Court.

The Conservative Party of Canada and our leader have made it clear that same sex relationships should be entitled to the same legal rights, privileges and benefits as marriage. However, marriage for many reasons, some of which I will outline, should be reserved solely as the institution between a man and a woman. I support other legal means for recognizing relationships, whether they include heterosexual or homosexual couples or whether they are called civil unions or partnerships. What is important is that those couples, that all couples, are provided full recognition and possess equivalent rights and privileges under the law.

By choosing the path advocated by the Conservative Party, the government could ensure the rights of its citizens while recognizing the fundamental importance of traditional marriage to our society. If we proceed as a nation down the path that the federal Liberal government has chosen, the consequences are unforeseen and far-reaching. We do not know what erasing the traditional definition of marriage will mean for our society 50 or 100 years from now. Yet how do we correct the damage after the ideal of a loving mother and father raising their children has been erased from our social psyche?

I believe it should remain the ideal. This would not result in discrimination against other relationships, including same sex couples. This does not mean marriages without children, or common law relationships or civil unions are any less deserving of our due respect and appreciation. It means we must recognize that society requires ideals or standards by which to set our ethical compass. Without these ideals, we have no guidelines to mark our way. To my mind, and in the minds of millions of other Canadians, marriage between a man and a woman with the ultimate goal of procreation is the ideal relationship.

So much of the legislation and issues that I have advocated in my eleven and a half years as a member of Parliament have boiled down to one main theme: children and doing what is in their best interest. Bill C-38 is no different for me. In my view, marriage is about children.

McGill University medical and legal ethicist Margaret Somerville has raised the excellent question, “Should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one?”

Is it about what kids need and deserve or is it about what two adults want? I believe we must reserve this one institution, the institution of marriage, as being about the best interests of a chid.

The ideal is that whenever possible children have a right to be raised by both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents. Fortunately, we have wonderful alternatives when this is not possible, particularly adoption which provides a valuable contribution to our society in providing a loving home to children who would otherwise be left without one.

Divorce is a fact of life in our society and it is something that many parents and children continue to struggle through. There are many types of families in the 21st century and we must do everything we can to protect and nurture the children within them. However, to actually change the definition of marriage to include same sex couples and to legitimize same sex marriage as a perfectly acceptable option means abolishing the norm or the ideal of a child being raised by their biological mother and father.

I would again like to refer to Dr. Somerville's arguments as she successfully explains how marriage and civil unions or partnerships can co-exist as two distinct institutions without being discriminatory. She states:

--there's a difference between separate-but-equal and different-but-equal. Separate-but-equal means that two entities are inherently the same, but are treated as separate. That's discrimination...Different-but-equal means that two entities are not inherently the same, but are treated equally. That's the antithesis of discrimination.

Same sex relationships and traditional marriage are not the same. The first is based upon individuals' commitment to each other and public recognition of that commitment. In other words, what adults want. The second is based upon the societal ideal of a man and a woman and procreation. It is about children.

I firmly believe we should recognize same sex relationships and legally protect them and any children involved, but that does not require expanding the definition of marriage to include same sex couples.

I have already stated on several occasions that my constituents have indicated overwhelmingly to me that they oppose Bill C-38 and have demanded that the traditional definition of marriage be maintained. Throughout this debate I have sought to gauge their views and opinions on this very important social issue through informal surveys and mailouts in my riding. I aggressively requested feedback and input on this matter. I did not have to try too hard.

In the past several months I have received literally thousands of letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls from my constituents asking me to oppose any legislation that would alter the traditional definition of marriage. Those letters as well as my own questionnaires made it evident where most of my constituents stood. However, I felt it was my responsibility to seek all the facts, leaving no room for doubt on how my constituents wished me to vote on this important legislation. Therefore, two weeks ago, I commissioned a scientific poll in my riding, conducted by a reputable independent polling firm. The poll surveyed 500 residents of Prince George--Peace River.

When asked the question if they supported or opposed allowing Canadians to marry people of the same sex, 48% of the respondents said they were opposed to same sex marriage, 36% said they supported it and 16% were either undecided or had no opinion.

When asked if they supported or opposed allowing Canadians to enter into a civil union with people of the same sex if the relationship was not called “a marriage”, 45% of those polled said they would support that, 38% said they were opposed and 18% offered no opinion.

When asked if they supported or opposed allowing same sex couples the equivalent rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, 45% said they supported it, 41% said they were opposed and 14% were undecided.

I believe it is no small coincidence that the response to those three questions mirrors the amendments put forward by the leader of the official opposition, the amendments which we will soon be called upon to vote on, the amendments which I believe not only reflect the opinion of the majority of my constituents in Prince George--Peace River but the views of the majority of Canadians as well. That is why I will support the amendments, and I will remain opposed to Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, recently I had an opportunity to give a tour of this place to a group of visiting constituents. They marvelled at the architecture and the history in the surrounding area. What is truly amazing is how the historical character is so well integrated with new technology.

Over the years we have amended the Standings Orders to improve the efficiency of our procedures, while retaining the traditions that form the basis of our democracy. We have preserved and strengthened our foundation, while keeping pace with 21st century developments.

Marriage is also a time honoured institution that has stood the test of time and is one of the key foundations on which our society is built. For thousands of years marriage has been recognized as the union of one man and one woman.

Since Confederation, marriage in Canadian law has been defined as “the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. I believe this definition of marriage has served society well and should be retained.

Since I was first elected here in 1993, Parliament has passed legislation to provide benefits formerly available only to heterosexual married spouses, to common law partnerships and same sex couples. These initiatives were designed to bring equality into the system and we were assured time and again by the Liberal government that these changes would not affect the definition of marriage.

Canadian Alliance MPs were concerned our constituents wanted assurances, so in June 1999 we proposed a motion that said:

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 a 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.

Liberal MP after Liberal MP, cabinet minister after cabinet minister, including the former prime minister Jean Chrétien and the current Prime Minister, the former justice minister and current Deputy Prime Minister, voted to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage.

Here is what the Deputy Prime Minister said on that day:

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.

She also went on to say:

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.

She also said:

I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

With the full support of the current Prime Minister and key players on the government frontbench, I am pleased to say that the motion passed 215 to 55, and there I thought the issue would end.

In September 2003, however, we proposed a motion to reaffirm that marriage was and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. This time the Liberals did an about face and the Prime Minister and his deputy voted against reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage.

It appears that when the Prime Minister and his Deputy Prime Minister are not dithering, that they are flip-flopping. If Canadians cannot trust the Prime Minister's word on this, I submit that they have every right to be unable to trust him on anything.

Conservatives believe that the vast majority of Canadians believe that marriage is a fundamental distinct institution, but that same sex couples can have equivalent rights or benefits. The leader of the official opposition has tabled reasonable and thoughtful amendments to the bill.

We believe that the law should continue to recognize the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. At the same time, we would propose that other forms of union, however structured, by appropriate provincial legislation, whether called registered partnerships, domestic partnerships, civil unions or whatever, should be entitled to the same legal rights, privileges and obligations as marriage.

Where there are issues affecting rights and benefits within the federal domain, our party would ensure that for all federal purposes these Canadians living in other forms of unions would be recognized as having equal rights and benefits under federal law as well.

We believe that is what most Canadians want.

Recent public opinion polls, and apparently even Liberal polls, show that nationally two out of every three Canadians is opposed to changing the definition of marriage.

The issue of same sex marriage has divided many Canadians but not in my constituency where there is overwhelming support for the traditional definition of marriage. The following is what some of them have had to say in the hundreds of letters that I have received on this subject.

One resident from the town of Lacombe, who was concerned that “our nation was being steered in the wrong direction”, said:

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This definition was not created by the courts or by Parliament. The union of a man and woman has served as the foundation of societies throughout time.

From Wetaskiwin, another constituent writes:

Same sex marriage has been represented by the government and the media as a human rights issue. It is not a matter of rights; it is a matter of definition and the important purposes marriage serves in society. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

A husband and wife from Gwynne wrote:

Marriage between a man and a woman is a unique relationship that simply cannot be replicated by any other relationship.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, a Winfield man wrote:

Like those in the trenches of old, we do not find it becomes us to build a nation by appealing to our rights. We are instead instructed by the common good. We confess to being “born” with tendencies and primal urges that would put individual above order. But it is character not legislation that helps us rise above them.

This legislation is not just the assertion of a new right. It is potentially the reduction of an older one.

It is troubling that this Liberal bill provides little in the way of assurances that religious freedoms will be protected if the legal definition of marriage is changed.

The Liberals keep talking about how they are protecting religious freedoms but the reality is that the solemnization of marriage is a provincial responsibility, so Bill C-38 does not do what they say it will do. What they do not want Canadians to know, apparently, is that the government cannot adequately protect religious freedoms in federal legislation.

There is only one clause in the bill that states that religious officials will not be forced to solemnize same sex marriages. The problem is that the Supreme Court has already ruled that this clause is beyond the federal government's authority because provinces are responsible for performing marriage ceremonies. It has not provided any specific statutory protection of religious freedoms in the areas of its own jurisdiction.

Our party believes that religious institutions need to be explicitly protected in such areas as charitable tax status. In addition, public officials who, for religious reasons, feel they cannot perform same sex marriages must also be explicitly protected from reprisal if they refuse to perform such marriages.

I recently came across a leaflet prepared by the Catholic Organization for Life and the Family. I think it has pretty much been summed up in their leaflet, which states:

As an institution, marriage has enormous significance, and has existed for thousands of years. The word we use for this institution--marriage--is full of history, meaning and symbolism, and should be kept for this unique reality.

I could not agree more, which is why I have always been a strong supporter of the traditional definition of marriage. I will continue to vote against any legislation to change it, including Bill C-38 as it now stands.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add my thoughts to this important debate. At the outset I would like to thank all the sources I may quote in these remarks, since time will not permit full attribution.

Marriage is the most fundamental social institution, which is why the outcome of this debate will have a profound impact on Canadians and on our country. Those who say that what the Liberal government is proposing will have no significant consequences are very much mistaken.

Until recently, most Canadians considered it unthinkable that any government would seriously propose that marriage would mean anything other than the union of one man and one women, yet the unthinkable is now happening, overriding the wishes of a majority of Canadians. That is why an amendment was moved by the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, the leader of the official opposition, and we are debating that amendment today.

I will be voting in support of this amendment for five reasons.

First, marriage by definition has always been between one man and one women. The fundamental meaning of the term marriage has always been understood to embody the concept of an opposite sex couple. The institution is universal across time, culture and religion. It is not merely the passing whim of a majority, but derives its legitimacy from biological reality, the way nature works.

This being so, same sex couples cannot be given the right to marriage without redefining the term. Changing its definition would inevitably change the effectiveness of marriage as the fundamental foundational underpinning of society that it has been over the ages. Redefining marriage would hollow out its meaning and cultural significance.

It is an historical fact that all civilizations throughout history have given marriage a special status because of its inherent relationship to procreation. Since same sex couples cannot procreate without going outside the relationship, calling same sex unions marriages implies that procreation is no longer regarded as an intrinsic aspect of marriage. There then is no longer a legitimate reason to limit the relationship to two unrelated persons as is currently the case.

Margaret Somerville, an ethicist in the faculties of law and medicine at McGill, writes:

Marriage, as it stands, is a societal institution that represents, symbolizes, and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship for the sake of children born of such relationships. Society needs such an institution and marriage is unique in this regard; there is no other alternative.

Second, the preservation of marriage is in the best interest of children. It is of paramount interest to the state whether children are born and grow up within or without the marital bounds because children that live in alternative family structures may incur multifarious disadvantages economically, socially, emotionally and physically. Even though many children raised in such alternative families do well, psychological and sociological studies indicate that children generally do best when raised by their biological parents in a stable marriage.

Children require more than love from their parents. Every child raised in a same sex home is raised in a home without either a father or a mother and therefore misses out on experiencing the inherent differences, unique sexual relationship and bonding of men and women that are at the heart of the institution of marriage as a cornerstone of a stable society. It is unacceptable that Bill C-38 intentionally causes this situation.

The evidence that children do best when raised by both their married biological parents provides a compelling interest for the state to continue recognizing marriage as the union of a man and a women. Marriage for life is still the family model that 88% of Canadian youths aspire to for their futures.

Third, this amendment is the only way to ensure protection of the charter right to freedom of religion, thought and belief. The Liberal government protests that no religious institution will be forced to perform same sex marriages but changing the definition of marriage would inevitably create a regime that will trump any protection of religious freedom.

This is because the meaning of marriage is not dependent upon what any religion says it is, but has been established for thousands of years in a universal cultural context much broader than that of any religious faith. In fact, a relationship is not a legal marriage unless it complies with civil law and, once it does, it cannot be invalidated for religious reasons.

In addition, religious belief is not recognized as a valid reason for disrespecting the law of the land. This being so, Bill C-38 would, unquestionably, have significant impact on those who refuse to recognize same sex partnerships as marriages for religious reasons.

In order to get around the valid concerns, some suggest there can be a difference between civil and religious marriages, but that is demonstrably false. In the long term, no religious community would be able to withstand the charge of violating human rights by refusing to solemnize same sex marriages.

Human rights tribunals and the courts will inevitably be filled with related grievances resulting in claims for damages and injunctions against discrimination. In fact, even though Bill C-38 has yet to be passed, cases are already multiplying against those who demonstrate disapproval of same sex marriages. Attempts to muzzle a respected religious leader like Bishop Henry are a case in point.

Should we believe government promises that its bill fully protects charter rights respecting freedom of religion? Not for a moment. The same government pledged only a short time ago that it had no intention of changing the definition of marriage. The record shows that the government's word cannot be trusted.

Fourth, the argument that marriage is a fundamental right is not valid. A fundamental characteristic of a human right is that it is something of which no one may be deprived without a grave affront to justice. Same sex marriage has not been recognized as a fundamental human right anywhere in the world, even though two countries have legislated it as a political decision.

With respect to equality before the law, marriage as it stands is not based on discrimination against homosexuals, but instead recognizes the inherent and natural differences between men and women, and confers on both the same benefits and restrictions in the context of marriage. Likewise, all Canadians are treated the same when it comes to marriage laws.

The question of whether same sex partnerships ought to be called marriage is clearly not one of human rights at all. No one ought to be fooled into thinking that it is. It is simply a public policy choice of the Liberal government to change and age old and proven societal institution. It is a policy choice imposed on a majority of Canadians who would prefer to retain the status of marriage as it has been throughout history.

While most Canadians support equality of economic rights for same sex partners, they would prefer that it be achieved through another form of union, not marriage.

The Prime Minister's claim that equality rights in the charter must be protected without exception is nonsensical. All government policies are forms of redistributive justice through which, for the common good, the state discriminates in favour of some people and some relationships and not others.

Same sex partnerships will always be different from heterosexual marriages because they do not contain the inherent connection to procreation. Calling them marriage does not give them equal significance but instead diminishes the importance of marriage as more than simply a love commitment between two people.

Fifth, one can hold a genuine respect for and acceptance of homosexual friends and family members while also supporting and preserving marriage in our society.

As others have emphasized, opposition to the bill is not because of any desire to prevent gay people from loving each other and living together in a committed relationship recognized by the state. The only question is whether this should be done by making marriage into something radically different.

Affirming various loving relationships is far different from deciding to refer to all of them as marriages. Fundamental characteristics necessarily define, differentiate and order our world, especially the institutions of our society. Those who support loving, committed relationships between homosexual couples can, at the same time, affirm that the institution of marriage does not exist just to promote individual interest.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

April 4th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-38, a bill of extreme gravity, a bill which only a few years ago would have been difficult for most Canadians to fathom, and a bill which launches two major attacks on cherished Canadian traditions.

First, the bill is a direct attack on the basic institution of marriage, the heart of family. Second, it is completely clear that a secondary purpose of the legislation is to malign the religious freedoms of millions of Canadians.

How does a simple piece of legislation do this? To understand my reasoning, let me first briefly lay out my political philosophy, so that all who hear or read these words may fully understand the context of my statements.

I believe and emphatically advocate the form freedom system of government. This is the philosophy from which we derive the basic forms of western governance. Whether it is in the form of a constitutional monarchy, as in most of the Commonwealth, or in the form of a republic, as with our neighbours to the south, it is the basic principle that has historically forged our system of governance.

This is a system which allows for liberty without anarchy and freedom without chaos. This is a system which promotes the rule of law and yet has permitted representative and responsible government. It is a view which is antithetical to libertarianism, the Marxism of the right, and socialism, the Marxism of the left. It argues emphatically for inalienable rights, but only grants these rights with inalienable responsibility.

How does this relate to marriage? How do these grand principles that have served our society apply to the situation at hand? Specifically, the rights of marriage can and must be given only with the responsibilities of marriage. To give one element of the equation without the other only invites chaos for civil society. With responsibility and no rights, there is no motivation to enter into marriage, but for the rights of marriage to be granted without responsibility would deprive society of the benefits of the institution. It would be an open invitation to societal chaos. If society derives no benefit from marriage, why should society seek to promote and protect marriage? In effect, marriage would diminish to the point of irrelevance.

What are the fundamental responsibilities of marriage? What are the incumbent rights? The advocates for the legislation argue that marriage is the expression of intimacy for two adults. They say that the legislation is necessary because of the need for acceptance of homosexual unions, and the need for public expression of intimacy. However, acceptance cannot be achieved through coercive powers of the state. Acceptance can only be given through free will, and if the public expression of adult intimacy is the basis of marriage, then marriage has become so trivial a matter that no basis for it is necessary in law. For if marriage is already defined for the purpose of acceptance and dignity as an intimate, adult, publicly acknowledged relationship, we no longer have marriage in the historic sense.

The underlying presumptives of acceptance and intimacy form the basis for the “rights” argument promulgated by the advocates of the legislation. They lay the groundwork for the spurious and circular reasoning of the bill. The argument is made that we must redefine marriage to protect rights, but redefinition of marriage is argued as the basis of these rights. What we have is a perfect tautology, a talented bit of sophistry by the advocates of the legislation. There is no true logic to support the legislation. The basis of the legislation is pure subjective emotionalism.

So in the positive sense, what are the fundamental responsibilities of marriage? What new accountability is acquired by entering into the state of matrimony?

The first attendant responsibility of marriage is children. No amount of social engineering will change the biological fact that heterosexual marriage can and often does produce children. It is the exceptions which prove the rule.

In fact, one of the central purposes of marriage is to procreate future generations, in a safe environment. This is something that should be emphasized. It is a responsibility of marriage to be a child centered institution. It is through marriage that we connect children with their biological parents, provide for future generations, and build society in a responsible and organized fashion.

Repeated academic studies have noted that where marriage has been redefined in the way this legislation proposes, or even under the guise of civil unions, the entire society understands the message. Marriage is for adults only.

In our sound bite area we would say that marriage then becomes about “recreation, not procreation”, much to the detriment of all society. Procreation is of course not the only reason why society supports marriage. A detailed explanation of even this specific reason would more than use up my allotted time.

There are other reasons why marriage is a necessary good for society and possibly, if I have the ability to re-enter the debate on Bill C-38, I will be able to elaborate on these reasons. I will say however that many other members of the House have delivered many good and similar reasons why marriage must be retained.

I believe I have made my general point. All of these reasons are for the good of society and all relate to the uniquely heterosexual nature of marriage. There is however a secondary purpose to this legislation, a purpose which has been alluded to by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the government's deputy House leader. That purpose is to attack religious freedom in Canada.

The government has insisted that this is a matter of human rights, thus it is implying that everyone who does not agree with it is a bigot. This is a powerful weapon because it implies that the state will later on use its coercive force to crack down on the dissenters who do not share its view of rights. Why is the government taking such a drastic approach? It is for one basic reason: the faith communities of the country have been the government's most effective critics of the bill. If the government can intimidate the churches of the country into silence, it will.

While I deliberately chose not to use religious arguments in this debate, the theological arguments against same sex unions are powerful and legitimate arguments. We must not exclude religion from our public dialogue. Do we forget that this is what has motivated great societal change? It was the religious convictions of British parliamentarian William Wilberforce which drove him to lead the fight against slavery. What better argument against slavery is there than that all mankind is created in the image of God?

It was a theological impetus that caused the 14th century English priest, John Wycliffe, who long before Abraham Lincoln, wrote in his Bible, “This book shall make possible a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. The arguments and explanations of William Blackstone, Henry de Bracton and other great legal commentaries on English common law reiterate this point.

In our modern era, the struggle against apartheid only further illustrates what I already stated. While I firmly disagreed with both their theology and politics, most of the leaders of the CCF also used their faith as a primary basis to call for political and social change.

I am not saying that theological arguments are innately moral or even superior to other lines of reasoning. My point is just this. By calling them illegitimate and implying that they are bigoted, the government is seeking to suppress one of the most important and positive forces in the history of western civilization. The government is attempting to suppress dissent, an action which no democratic government should engage in.

In summary, let me restate the two basic issues that I have raised in regard to the bill. It is clear that the rights of marriage should only be granted with the responsibilities of marriage. It is a simple point but one that the bill has seen fit to miss. It is clear that communities and arguments based on theology have contributed much good to Canadian society, yet the government is determined to target them.

There is great irony in the debate. The government calls for its actions to promote rights. Marriage however is really the voluntary revocation of rights. When two become as one they yield their rights to each other.

I for one will choose to stand for what is right for all Canadians. I will vote against the bill. I will vote with and for the people of Saskatoon—Humboldt. Here I stand; I can do no other.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill C-38 on behalf of my constituents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. To say that this debate has garnered a lot of attention would be an understatement. It is contentious and divisive on both sides of the House, as well as within society and even within families.

My office has processed thousands of e-mails, letters, faxes and phone calls from across my riding. I commend my constituents for making their voices heard. More than 95% of the people I have heard from are united in their message and in their convictions. Traditional marriage must be preserved and protected. I will be speaking to that more specifically today.

While I am pleased that the decision has been placed in the hands of parliamentarians, many people across my riding have displayed their displeasure at this issue even coming forth at this time. I agree with my constituents when they continue to tell me that there are many more important issues we should be spending our time on such as health care and the high taxes Canadians are forced to pay.

Having said that, I do not believe a decision such as this should be made by a handful of hand-picked, biased, and backroom Supreme Court justices. We were elected by the people and we are here to represent them. This is not a debate about human rights. This is a debate about fundamental social values. In my opinion, there are two issues that have to be addressed in any bill on same sex. The rights of gays as determined by the courts must be adhered to including their right to unite in some form and traditional marriage defined as one man and one woman must be enshrined. That can be done very simply by allowing civil unions or similar and suitable terminology.

I have met with a number from the gay community and with parents who have gay children to discuss the issues surrounding the legislation. Most of the people I met with were in favour of my views and my stance. As I said, most told me that as long as their rights are protected as stated in the courts, and they are able to be with their partners, they agree that calling it a civil union is acceptable.

We have been forced to address the subject, but while I realize there is no perfect answer that will satisfy everyone, I believe we can offer a compromise that would win the support of the vast majority of Canadians who are looking for some middle ground. On the one hand, there are people who believe the equality of rights of gays and lesbians should rule over rights to religious free faith, religious expression or multicultural diversity. On the other hand, there are people who think that marriage is a fundamental institution, but that same sex couples can have equivalent rights and benefits, and should be protected.

My position is not unlike that of my colleagues and our leader in that it is based on a very solid foundation and time tested values. We believe that if the government presented the option of preserving marriage while recognizing equal rights of same sex couples through civil unions or other means, this is the option that the vast majority of Canadians would choose and would probably garner overwhelming support in Parliament. But then again, the government does not care about the majority of Canadians.

Marriage and the family based on marriage are the basic institutions of society. We should not change these kinds of fundamental institutions lightly or easily. I do not believe that the government has demonstrated that there are compelling reasons to alter this central social institution.

At least one of the major purposes of marriage historically has been to provide a stable environment for the procreation and raising of children. This does not mean that other kinds of relationships are not loving and valuable. Nor does it mean that heterosexual married couples who cannot or do not have children are any less married than anyone else. What it does mean is that marriage as a social institution has as one of its goals the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.

If we change the definition of marriage to end the opposite sex requirement, we will be saying that this goal of marriage is no longer important. Those of us who support traditional marriage have been told that to amend the bill to reflect traditional definition of marriage would be a violation of human rights and an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is nothing more than an attempt by the government to shift the grounds of this debate. If the rights of gays and lesbians are adhered to as I stated earlier, this debate is not about human rights. It becomes simply a political, social policy decision, and should be treated as such.

There are those who would deceivingly suggest that Stephen Harper will use the notwithstanding clause. However, this again is also an irrelevant distraction to the debate because Mr. Harper has made it very clear that he will not--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Excuse me. The member is well aware that the names of members cannot be used. Please refer to his title or his riding.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

My apologies, Madam Speaker.

There is no reason to discuss the use of the notwithstanding clause in the absence of a Supreme Court decision which indicates that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has not done so.

I would like to thank my leader for allowing our party, including the members of the shadow cabinet, to have a free vote. On this side of the House a free vote means everyone, not just backbenchers, can vote the way their constituents want them to.

The Prime Minister has said that his backbenchers can vote their conscience, but cabinet ministers have to vote with the government. Does this mean that cabinet ministers do not have a conscience? I say to those cabinet ministers who do not vote according to the wishes of their constituents or who do not listen to their own conscience that they are a disgrace to the profession of a parliamentarian.

I ask the Prime Minister to make this important issue a free vote for all his MPs, including his cabinet ministers. If this is not a purely free vote, Canadians will never be truly satisfied that the democratic process has prevailed.

While I am on the topic of the Liberal government, it is funny but not surprising that in 1999 the then justice minister said:

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.

What a difference six years makes. This is just another in a long line of Liberal deceptions.

I believe that the legislation the government has introduced will increase intolerance in our society. Examples of this have already occurred in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

In Manitoba 11 commissioners have been told that they will no longer be welcome to work as marriage commissioners if they refuse to also marry same sex couples. Two more commissioners have refused to quit and are taking the issue to the Human Rights Commission to defend their freedoms and their rights from being imposed upon by the state. They were sent a letter on September 16 last year telling them to either perform same sex marriages or to turn in their licences.

In Bill C-38 only clergy from religious institutions are recognized as requiring religious freedom protection. While I agree that churches should have the right to that choice, I also believe that this will be challenged in court and that clergy will be forced to perform same sex marriages.

There is a clear solution that would guarantee all individuals freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The solution is for the government to continue to allow these individuals to have government licences to perform marriages that do not violate their conscience or religious faith. At the same time, the government could licence more of those who are willing to perform same sex civil unions. This would be the tolerant approach.

The government has taken a very narrow view of the freedoms of conscience and religion and is allowing individual freedoms to be trampled upon.

In closing, making my decision to stand up for traditional marriage goes back to my being raised with Christian values and to my dedication to family values. I am not ashamed to stand up for these values. I owe it to my country, to my wife of almost 30 years, to my children, and to my first granddaughter who is less than two weeks old.

I believe that marriage should continue to be what it has always been, between a man and a woman, and 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.

I encourage all members of Parliament to support the amendment proposed by the leader of the official opposition.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.

In my eight years as a member of Parliament, there has never been an issue that has so inflamed and divided Canadians as the current debate over same sex marriage.

Unlike the Prime Minister and other members of his party, I have been consistent on this issue from day one. I oppose changing the definition of marriage and will vote against Bill C-38.

In 1999 I spoke in favour of reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage. In fact I led off the debate on the Reform Party motion which passed on a vote of 216 to 55. In 2003 I rose in this chamber to speak in support of another opposition motion seeking to preserve traditional marriage. By that time however, government members, including the current Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, who had voted to support the traditional definition of marriage had backed down from their commitment to marriage and traditional Canadian family values.

I have consulted widely with my constituents on the issue of marriage. I have had several well-attended town hall meetings on the issue and have conducted surveys. I have heard from more than 14,000 people through letters, e-mails, phone calls and meetings.

During the 2004 election, voters knew exactly where I stood on the same sex marriage issue.

I think most Canadians would agree that gays and lesbians should be free to pursue whatever type of relationship they wish. I see no problem in legally recognizing homosexual relationships, but this should not be done by changing marriage. In 1999 homosexual couples were given pension, property and other rights by changing 68 federal statutes through Bill C-23. If there are any pending rights, they should be allowed.

Marriage is something more than a public recognition of a couple's mutual love and commitment. It is intimately connected to procreation. The procreative potential of marriage is a basic element of what marriage is, just as swimming is a basic element of being a lifeguard, and playing music is a basic element of being a musician.

Marriage provides the structure which protects the procreation and nurturing of children in our society. That is why it is self-evident to most people in history that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. A homosexual couple does not meet the qualifications for the title of “married”.

Abraham Lincoln, when debating an individual, sought to resolve the issue with a question, “Sir, if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” “Five”, responded the gentleman. Lincoln corrected the man, “Four, sir. Just because you call a tail a leg doesn't make it so”.

The Liberals are committing the same folly. Just because one calls it a marriage does not make it so. It is an exercise in self-deceit, a denial of reality.

During my years in elected office I have been involved in a number of debates involving measures that deal with discrimination. I have supported legislation in this House and have spoken repeatedly to prohibit inappropriately unequal treatment of individuals based on race, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation. I have been outspoken on the need to protect the human rights of all people, whether they be Falun Gong practitioners in China, Muslims in Gambia, South Asians living in Canada, or people in labour camps in Tibet. I have spoken with Chinese officials on their human rights record. I have been an advocate of the Human Rights Commission in B.C.

The Liberals are attempting to frame the issue of same sex marriage in the context of justice and human rights. In doing so they are insulting all those people in the world who suffer from human rights abuses on a daily basis.

How could the Liberals equate the denial of marriage to homosexuals to unlawful imprisonment, abuse, torture, denying voting rights or freedom of speech?

The Prime Minister is playing crass politics when he paints gay marriage as a human rights issue. He knows that Canadians will not accept same sex marriage on its own merits, so he is attempting to tie it to human rights and charter issues dear to the hearts of Canadians. While this may be politically opportunistic, manipulative and beneficial, morally it is dishonest.

In fact, no national or international court or human rights tribunal at the national or international level has ever ruled that same sex marriage is a human rights issue. After New Zealand's court of appeal ruled in 1997 that the opposite sex definition of marriage was not discriminatory and that it did not violate the country's bill of rights, the plaintiffs took their case to the UN Commission on Human Rights. The commission rejected the complaint in 2002.

The Prime Minister and his justice minister claim that the Supreme Court has forced their hand knowing full well it did nothing of the sort. The Supreme Court delivered its opinion on the non-binding marriage reference on December 9. The court refused to answer the fourth question, whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that marriage be redefined. While the Supreme Court has said that Parliament may redefine marriage, it has not said that it must redefine marriage to include same sex couples.

It is not unjust nor a limitation of anyone's legitimate rights and freedoms to insist that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. The definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others does not discriminate against homosexuals any more than someone getting the child tax credit discriminates against people who do not have kids. The Prime Minister and his colleagues knew this in 1999. To suggest now that opponents of gay marriage are un-Canadian bigots is disingenuous to the extreme.

This legislation has many Canadians in an uproar, including those in ethnic communities who have moral, cultural and religious beliefs that lead them to oppose same sex marriage. The Liberals argue that those people must abandon their deeply held beliefs so they can be considered Canadians. Linking same sex marriage to what it means to be a Canadian by Liberals is dishonest and shameful.

The Sikh community is struggling with the same sex issue thanks largely to the Liberal government. Our religion does not recognize same sex unions, yet the Canadian government wants us to give up something that is very traditional and very religious. Most Sikhs, like other immigrant groups, are supportive of the Charter of Rights because it helps to protect from discrimination. However, that does not mean they support every Liberal policy put forward in the name of the charter.

It strikes me as inevitable that one day soon churches, temples and synagogues in the country will be compelled to sanctify same sex unions. Soon the protections given to religious officials will be challenged. It will probably begin with the removal of tax exemptions for religious organizations that refuse to solemnize same sex marriages.

There are already divisions within protestant denominations over same sex marriage. The United Church of Canada sanctifies gay marriage, as do some Anglican churches in Canada.

It is a losing battle. Already the morality of homosexuality is a discussion controlled by political correctness. People who say anything in the negative are automatically labelled as homophobic and their arguments are dismissed without further consideration.

The government has assured Canadians that this legislation will have no bearing on the conduct of marriages in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and gurdwaras, but the Supreme Court has already ruled that this issue falls beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government.

In conclusion, the Liberals have brought forward anti-family policies since 1993. They fail to realize that the family is the foundation of our society. The government should not dare to engineer society. Its flip-flop since 1999 indicates that the government has a hidden agenda.

Same sex partners should be permitted to legally register their relationships if they wish to do so, but as a civil union and not as a marriage. This is a practical solution that would satisfy the vast majority of Canadians. The same privileges and laws would apply to both types of formal relationships. This is a middle way on this issue.

Bill C-38 is bad for Canada. If passed it would undermine the family and strike against a cornerstone of our society. Therefore, I will oppose this bill.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise to speak in the House today on the subject of the definition of marriage. I care very deeply about family, my family as well as others' families, and I am very concerned that the direction the government is taking on this important matter is the wrong one.

My dad's parents were married for 66 years. My wife's parents were married for 62 years, ending when my beloved father-in-law passed away. My parents were married for 67 and a half years, again ending with the passing away of my dear father just over two years ago. My wife Betty and I will have been married for 44 years this summer. We expect that this marriage, too, will last until death do us part.

All of the families I have mentioned are near and dear to me and they all saw the benefits of a caring mother and father and the enjoyment of children, parents and grandparents with each other. How privileged and blessed I have been to have been surrounded by families with integrity, trust, fidelity and deep and caring love.

There are so many important facets to this debate that I could speak for several hours to cover them all. I think of issues like the democratic process, the assumptions that are made about the nature of homosexuality, the ways in which a man and a woman complement each other, the so-called rights or equality issue, the implications for children, the religious freedom aspect, the history of marriage, and more. I will just barely get started in the 10 minutes allotted to me.

Let us start with the issue of democracy. It is no wonder to me that Canadians have become cynical and disillusioned about government, democracy and elections. That is because this Liberal government does not listen to the people and it does not even feel embarrassed about breaking promises.

On June 8, 1999--and this has been mentioned a number of times but I have it in my speech and it needs to be repeated over and over again--recognizing that the institution of marriage was being attacked, our party put forward a supply day motion. It has been read before, but I want to repeat it:

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.

On that day the Deputy Prime Minister, then as minister of justice, spoke and voted in favour of that bill. The prime minister of the day, Mr. Chrétien, and the current Prime Minister also voted in favour.

My leader, in responding to this current legislation introduced a couple of weeks ago, quoted extensively from the Deputy Prime Minister's speech. I will not repeat all of it here. She was unequivocal, saying things like this:

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.

That is a direct quote.

She said again:

I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

She referred to the legal precedent for the traditional definition of marriage and said:

That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics, and by the courts. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of that definition...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 is a quote directly from our Deputy Prime Minister. All of this is in Hansard . I actually distributed her speech to a number of my constituents when they asked about this issue, but now we find that she and her colleagues in the Liberal government are untrustworthy. Their words meant nothing.

In my view, both the lower courts of this country and this Liberal government were in contempt of Parliament when they acted precisely opposite to the motion that was debated, voted on and passed in Parliament on June 8, 1999.

When the courts ruled that homosexuals had the right to marry, this spineless government did not even take the trouble to appeal the decision, notwithstanding the motion that had been passed: that Parliament would do everything necessary to preserve that definition. This lack of action was cited in this recent Supreme Court response in the reference case as a tacit approval of the government for what the lower courts did. Shame on the government .

Let us add to that the spectacle we have in the House here day after day of members presenting petitions on retaining the present definition of marriage. Hundreds of petitions with thousands of names have been sent in. Are we just going to ignore the wishes of our constituents, the voters and the citizens of this country, and thereby make a total mockery of democracy?

No wonder Canadians are turned off and are staying away from the polls on voting day. They are saying, with increasing validity, that it does not make any difference. Shame on this government for allowing this to happen.

In addition, all of us have had many personal contacts, letters, emails, faxes and phone calls from constituents who are opposed to changing the definition of marriage. In my case, about 95% of these communications are urging me to vote against this bill. I am going to do that. I am going to stand for the definition of family as we have known it for millennia, for moms and dads and their mutual complementary caring for their children.

On another topic, I take strong exception to the use the government is making of the apparent religious freedom guaranteed by this bill. This is nothing more than deception. How can we trust the government to guarantee religious freedoms when we have numerous cases already where human rights tribunals have trumped religious freedoms in favour of so-called homosexual rights?

We even have no religious freedom from the government side in this debate, with cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries being told to vote against their conscience and against their religious beliefs or lose their positions. Marriage commissioners in B.C. and Saskatchewan were given notice to agree to marry same sex partners or lose their credentials.

The Supreme Court in its reference response said explicitly that this guarantee was not in the federal government's realm to grant, yet the government has included it in the legislation anyway even though it has already been ruled ultra vires. Why? Why did the government do it?

I think the answer is clear. The government wants to use this as an argument to justify its flawed legislation and hopefully put to sleep those who realize the danger that we are getting into. The Liberals want people to believe that their religious freedoms are being protected when in fact they are not. They want people and members of Parliament to support this bill based on this empty promise.

Let me briefly comment on the equality issue. I find it curious that the government is using the equality argument so forcefully when in fact there is still no equality. According to this government, these new rights and equalities are accorded to those living in a conjugal relationship.

Where is the equality for those who are not engaging in some sort of sexual activity?

I think of two sisters I know who never married. They lived with their mother, their father having passed away when they were young. All three of them mutually looked after each other. Eventually their mother got old and died. The two sisters still live together. Why can they not name each other as beneficiaries for CPP or health care coverage? It is because they are not conjugating. What sense does that make? Since when do we base eligibility for government programs on sexual activity?

Many years ago when I first became involved in politics, I read a statement that has always stayed with me. That statement said in effect that politics is the art of reconciling competing interests.

In my view, this Prime Minister, the justice minister and the government have done an exceptionally poor job of that in this case. Instead of reconciling the various sides of this debate, the government has chosen to pit Canadian against Canadian and to divide families, co-workers and neighbours.

Why did the government not search for and find a solution to this dilemma along the lines suggested by the Deputy Prime Minister in 1999? Why could the government not have found a way of making sure that rights were protected on both sides?

The Conservative proposal is the compromise that is needed and that Canadians support. The traditional definition of marriage between one woman and one man is upheld and the rights of others are supported. Religious freedoms are upheld.

My time has expired. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important bill. I urge all members of the House, whether under the Prime Minister's heavy hand or not, to be true to their conscience, to the will of the people in their riding, to Canadians from coast to coast, and to our future generations, and support the amendment supported by our party. Let us work together on behalf of all Canadians--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-38, perhaps the most contentious piece of legislation that I have debated since coming to this House in 2000.

Debates on moral issues are always contentious and intense because arguments for or against these issues are based on values. It is extremely difficult, and rightfully so, for most people to abandon their values, especially if those values have been ingrained and nurtured over many years within the home, school and the church.

The most important aspect of today's debate, in my opinion, will be respecting the views and values of those on either side of this issue, respecting that regardless of what others say, many Canadians will refuse to accept the fact that marriage is anything but the union of one man and one woman.

That refusal is based on long held values that no one can or should deny. That refusal is based on the principal premise that the union of one man and one woman is a very unique and sacred relationship and that it is at the root of all humanity.

As Justice La Forest pointed out in Egan v. Canada in 1995:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing philosophical and religious traditions, but its ultimate raison d'etre transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological...realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate....

As John H. Redecop, professor emeritus of political science, wrote on March 5, 2005:

--[La Forest's] perspective has been affirmed, since time immemorial, by all societies, all major cultures and all major religions. The state did not invent the institution of marriage and our government, which has the constitutional responsibility to regulate it, should not fundamentally redefine it.

Like many other academics, this professor also reinforces a point that has been raised numerous times in the House during the debate on Bill C-38, which is that same sex marriage is not essentially a rights issue and that not every rights claim is a valid claim. Need I remind the House that article 1 of the charter states:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I would strongly suggest, especially in recognition of Justice La Forest's learned remarks, that marriage is by nature heterosexual and that limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman is a reasonable limit. To emphasize this point, I refer to observations made in a letter to me:

It must be stressed that homosexuals need to be treated fairly and homophobia must be rejected vigorously. But a commitment to fairness and justice does not require the government or private citizens to mete out identical treatment. Not all differentiation is unwarranted or evil. Nor is every restriction of perceived rights a denial of justice. The crucial issue is whether any given restriction is reasonable...Good public policy must incorporate the making of informed and reasonable distinctions. Further, an insistence to call different entities by the same name is itself an inconsistency; it creates confusion and weakens credibility.

What is being said here, a sentiment I strongly agree with, is that the procreative or unique relationship that exists only between a man and a woman should be recognized and it should be recognized by allowing only this relationship to be defined by the word “marriage”. This is not to say that same sex couples should not enjoy the same benefits and protection under the law and be legally recognized couples within civil unions.

I will oppose this legislation and I will do so with the overwhelming support of the people of my riding of Crowfoot.

Unlike some of those opposite, I am speaking on behalf of my constituents. Based on the numerous town hall meetings I have hosted and on thousands of letters, emails, faxes and telephone calls, I am honestly and accurately reflecting the majority opinion within my constituency.

I ask how many on the opposite side can say the same. If the most recent poll, which shows that 66% of Canadians support the traditional definition of marriage, is any indication, then the answer is that not very many on the other side are representing their constituents.

I stand in the House to oppose Bill C-38, with the support of the leader of the Conservative Party. Unlike the Liberal leader, our leader believes in free votes. He believes that members of Parliament must vote according to the majority views in their riding. The Conservative Party believes in democracy.

The Liberal government has, and I quote from the February 3 National Post , “spent the last two months trying to convince Canadians that the Supreme Court said something it didn't: that the current definition of marriage in unconstitutional”.

Appealing to the vague emotional attachments many Canadians have to the charter, the Prime Minister and the justice minister have falsely declared that implementing gay marriage is necessary to protect the document and suggests that--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

The Speaker

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have four and a half minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks when debate resumes. As he knows, the rules require that the Speaker interrupt at 2 o'clock.

I understand there have been discussions among the parties in the House and there has been agreement that a representative of each of the parties will make a short statement with respect to the recent death of Pope John Paul II.

The right hon. Prime Minister.

Pope John Paul IIGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec


Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Pope John Paul II not only embodied and served a religious ideal, he transcended it. He broke barriers. He built bridges. He reached out to all who walk on this earth. He stood up for people regardless of age, of race or faith. He was a beacon of spiritual guidance and a champion of human freedom. During the course of his 26 years as head of the Roman Catholic Church, he was a tireless and influential apostle of peace.

His wide-ranging travels, despite ill health, were an expression of his determination to use every opportunity to promote international reconciliation and respect for democratic values and human rights.

History will also record that John Paul II made a vital contribution to the democratic transformation of central and eastern Europe, and to the end of the cold war.

The Pope's global vision included Canada. His empathy with the aspirations of aboriginal Canadians, symbolized by his special trip to the north in 1987 to meet aboriginal communities, was particularly noteworthy and indelible.

Unforgettable were his visits throughout our country as well as his participation in World Youth Day in Toronto in July 2002 during which he inspired hundreds of thousands of young people with the strength and the clarity of his moral vision.

For Catholics and indeed for all the people of the world, it was truly moving to bear witness to the grace, the courage and the dignity that the Pope displayed during his life of service and during his final days among us.

Today, in churches and in coffee shops, around the dinner table and around the world, we mourn the death of John Paul II. We celebrate his achievements. We marvel at a single human life that touched so many of us, guided so many of us, and inspired and comforted so many of us.

Pope John Paul IIGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Stephen Harper ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I wish to join with the Prime Minister. Since Saturday, the world has witnessed and has, indeed, felt an outpouring of affection and respect for a world figure as has rarely been seen in history.

John Paul II was both a man of God and a man of the people. His teachings and his examples touched all humanity around the world for more than a quarter century. His life was extraordinarily full and was dedicated to truth, faith and moral principles.

Canadians in particular will never forget his three pilgrimages to this country. We will remember with special gratitude and affection his decision to come back to visit the aboriginal communities in the Canadian north, which he had been unable to reach during his first visit.

A whole new generation was also touched profoundly when he gave special meaning and radiance to World Youth Day in Toronto.

Pope John Paul II was one of the most revered Roman Catholic leaders of the modern era, bringing powerful direction and a clear vision to the Catholic Church, and spreading his message of love, truth and hope around the world.

Since his ascension to the papacy in 1978, Pope John Paul II made over 100 foreign trips, and endeared himself to millions with his courage, charisma, warmth and integrity. In our country, he unforgettably touched the lives of thousands of people with his direct and warm style and with his luminous faith.

Pope John Paul II has left a mark in history that will not diminish. He was an unwavering defender of human rights everywhere and of all peoples. He challenged the two great evils that threatened civilization in the 20th century. He denounced the anti-Semitism that underlay fascism and he played a key role in the fall of communism with his unwavering moral support for the Solidarity movement in his native Poland.

No matter the political ideology, John Paul II brought leaders and common men and women together with his strength of spirit, even in his final, difficult days, days in which his infirmities and suffering were witness to the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of all human life, which was so central to his message.

When celebrating his 20th anniversary in 1998, he asked for prayers to fulfill his mission “until the end”. Looking back on the legacy of Pope John Paul II, I would say those prayers were answered. Today, it is the wish of all people of goodwill that John Paul II rest in peace for eternity and that his message of peace, love and fraternity continue to illuminate the world.

On behalf of the official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, I do wish to join with the Prime Minister, with all members of the House and with all Canadians to extend our condolences to the Vatican, to Catholics and to people the world over whose lives were touched by John Paul II's remarkable papacy.

Pope John Paul IIGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the death of John Paul II, we have seen the outpouring of goodwill for this Pope.

The members of the Bloc Québécois and I want to offer our condolences to the Roman Catholic Church and all Catholics in Quebec, Canada and throughout the world. We also offer condolences to the people of Poland and all those touched in one way or another by this man.

The message of peace he delivered throughout his life is a universal one, which transcended conflicts, religious or otherwise, between peoples.

Karol Wojtyla embodied strong values, such as resistance to tyranny. He played a key role the modern history of Poland and the countries of Eastern Europe, which not so long ago were still suffering under totalitarian regimes.

Solely on the strength of his convictions and promotion of peace, he made a notable contribution to transforming, in concrete terms, the lives of millions of women and men. Early in his pontificate, he contributed to the downfall of these Communist dictatorships, which were based on fear, with his famous “Be not afraid”.

Karol Wojtyla also demanded greater social justice in the world. During his many travels to every continent, he never stopped encouraging greater solidarity and sharing. He worked tirelessly for peace and open dialogue among faiths and countries. In these difficult times marked by war and terrorism, this message must live on, because it is more relevant now than ever.

John Paul II was also known for his simplicity and his generosity. He sowed the seeds of peace. His legacy will live for many years to come. We owe him a great deal. Today, we salute him one last time.

Thank you, Karol Wojtyla. i dowidzenia !

Pope John Paul IIGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with abiding sadness that I join with all members of the House in expressing the sense of loss that is felt by Canadian Catholics, the faithful everywhere and by all people touched by the extraordinary life of His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II led an inspirational life. He was a soaring figure with an incredible common touch.

During his three visits to Canada, he was met by huge crowds from all walks of life and from many faiths.

During his three visits he was met by huge crowds from all walks of life and from many faiths. I had the honour to meet with His Holiness, and the memory of those moments, of his hand on mine, of his smile and of his immense spiritual presence will always remain with me and with so many Canadians.

It is fitting that his last trip to Canada was to attend World Youth Day in Toronto. The Pontiff seemed most alive when he was with the young. He drew a renewed vitality from the world's youth who seemed to inspire him right to the end.

Pope John Paul II was a man of peace. From his earliest days, he advocated the peaceful resolution of conflict above all other means. He was a vocal opponent of the wars in Iraq.

In his homeland of Poland, Pope John Paul II bravely defended the shipyard workers in Gdansk during their 1980 strike. He challenged the dictators of Eastern Europe with his powerful words, “Be Not Afraid”.

His commitment to bolster the Solidarity struggle has been credited with beginning the process of democratization of eastern Europe and precipitating the end of the cold war.

In the year 2000 his historic apology for the past misdeeds of the Catholic church was an important and powerful step forward. Though today he lay in state, the enduring image in our memories is that of a strong, healthy Pontiff who bounded off planes and knelt to kiss the Canadian soil.

In Canada and the world over, we have seen an outpouring of emotion for a man who reached beyond the scope of religion, and touched so many. The New Democratic Party of Canada joins with them in mourning his passing.

Pope John Paul IIGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I invite all members to rise for a moment of silence.

Huguette BurroughsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 31, a great Franco-Ontarian journalist has left us.

Huguette Burroughs was born in L'Orignal, in my riding, in 1950. While still very young, she developed a passion for journalism writing for the Hawkesbury Le Carillon .

But she made her name at the Journal de Cornwall during her 30 years there as a municipal affairs reporter. What made her exceptional is her refusal to be held back by the loss of her sight at the age of 32.

In addition to her career in journalism, she was a staunch defender of rights, those of francophones and women, among others. She inspired a number of journalists in my region and will definitely continue to be felt.

JusticeStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, a psychopath charged with 164 crimes, convicted of 34, one for shooting a policeman in the back of the head, was released by the judiciary into the public.

This psychopath subhumanly brutalized 64 year old Dougald Miller of Edmonton, rendering him incapable of ever caring for himself again. The trial cost $1 million, including the testimony of 12 doctors, all to be certain that the psychopath's rights were respected.

In a lengthy judgment now being appealed, every avenue was explored on the criminal's behalf before declaring him a dangerous offender.

Meanwhile, Dougald's wife, Lesley, pays $1,500 per month for therapy not covered by health care. Dougald still has mind and eye movement that could be helped by new technology to allow him to speak again.

We have much to learn from the experiences of Dougald but first we must help him with the $25,000 cost to enable his eyes to speak for him again.

Cancer Awareness MonthStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, April is Cancer Awareness Month.

Every year cancer kills millions of people worldwide and over 65,000 people here in Canada. It is estimated that a third of Canadians will develop cancer at some point in their lives. The disease has many faces, causes and is a challenge to treat and control. Therefore it is critical that cancer research continues.

Health Canada joins the Canadian Cancer Society in kick-starting this month with daffodil days. This is a time for Canadians to display our spirit of generosity.

I encourage people to give of their time and money in order to fund the fight against this deadly adversary. Money raised from this initiative will go toward cancer awareness, research, treatment and support for those affected.

I applaud all the volunteers and donors who strive to make a difference.

François GérinStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were greatly saddened to hear of the death yesterday of François Gérin.

After making a name for himself throughout Quebec as a criminal lawyer, he came upon the federal political scene in 1984 under the Progressive Conservative banner, as the member for Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead.

On May 18, 1990, with the Meech Lake agreement's failure looming, he made the announcement in this House that he had decided to sit as an independent.

Realizing sovereignty was the only possibility for the future of Quebec, he joined with Lucien Bouchard in founding the Bloc Québécois.

This ardent defender of funding by the people, this man of conviction and principle, was also a man of flexibility, one who respected his adversaries and was respected by them.

His deeds will forever remain part of Quebec's history and the progress of its people toward full sovereignty.

The Bloc Québécois wishes to extend its sincere condolences to the family and friends of François Gérin.

PeterboroughStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, last summer, Peterborough and surrounding municipalities were hit by disastrous floods. Thousands of homes, businesses and not for profit groups were devastated.

The community's response to this disaster was extraordinary. Neighbours helped neighbours. The county-city emergency measures organization, led by Mayor Sylvia Sutherland, swung into action in a remarkable fashion. It coordinated the work of volunteers and professionals, of firefighters, police and a variety of other local groups.

The national emergency measures protocol, through which first the province and then the federal government back up municipalities, worked well and is still working.

I thank the Government of Ontario, the federal emergency measures organization, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and others who helped us. I thank all the volunteers who came to help us. I thank the federal departments, notably HRSDC, Industry Canada and the national museums, which gave us aid outside of the disaster protocol.

Our community is still recovering from this tragedy but I am proud to say that we have grown as a result of it and we are fully open for business.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, now that we have the first person account of Zahra Kazemi's murder from the very doctor who examined her remains, Canadians have proof positive of the inhumane treatment of a Canadian citizen.

It is time for Canada to get tough with the odious Iranian regime that stole the revolution in Iran. The Liberal soft diplomacy approach is simply no longer acceptable.

Canada has one of Iran's largest expat communities in the world. Two hundred and fifty thousand former Iranians reside here and they are asking Canada to defend their interests and that of their families.

It is time Canada reaches out to Iran's dissident community worldwide, finding ways to promote democracy and offering real assistance to communicate Canadian values.

The government should get past babbling about how horrified we are over the Kazemi case and get moving on positive fronts to support those Canadians now working for democracy in Iran. On this count, Canada should lead the world rather than follow.

Pope John Paul IIStatements By Members

2:20 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the passing of Pope John Paul II, the world has lost a religious leader who earned the respect of many people of all faiths. He was an inspiration and a man of extraordinary faith, strength and courage. He never wavered in the struggle for what he thought was good and right.

In January 2004, the Pope said that “government cannot be an arbiter in any religious matter. Governments should respect the dignity of the human person whose right to adhere, practice and propagate his religion is fundamental”.

He was not afraid to say what was on his mind and to speak out in support of global peace.

He will be remembered with profound respect and admiration by millions of people across the globe.

On behalf of the Sikh community across Canada and my constituents, I extend my deepest sympathy to the Catholic people of Canada and around the world on the death of a remarkable man, Pope John Paul II.