Mr. Speaker, the bill we are debating today carries the highest importance and significance for Canadian society, for aside from all the social changes that I believe that the bill would bring in, just as important is this: if the bill passes and is upheld, the state will have crossed a new frontier for government expansion.
Governments, both provincial and federal, do not even blush as they trample upon individual or local areas of responsibility. Private property rights, families, faith and religious groups, schools, and small and large businesses have all felt the effects of a far-reaching aspect of government intrusion. Now the government is expanding its reach even further, for it is attempting to alter a fundamental reality of our society.
Whatever is decided here on the bill, marriage itself will not be changed in reality. The government may force all Canadians to recognize homosexual marriages. It may force marriage commissioners to resign if they refuse to perform something that is against their conscience. The state may even threaten religious institutions and clergy who stand up against such actions.
Through it all, marriage will endure unchanged. Marriage will exist because marriage does not come from the state and does not depend on the government.
Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote, which goes something like this, “How many legs would a dog have if you counted the tail as a leg?” The answer is just four. Just because a tail is called a leg does not make it a leg. If Bill C-38 passes, governments and individual Canadians will be forced to call a tail a leg, nothing more, but that is not inconsequential, for its effect on marriage, such an integral building block of our society, would have far-reaching effects.
The ramifications of altering for legal purposes the definition of marriage, such an essential institution in our society, would be far-reaching. I believe that the onus lies on those who would change such an essential foundation to prove the necessity and prove the effects.
The Prime Minister has ignored the evidence of human history, the will of the Canadian people and recent decisions of this Parliament in bringing in the bill. His explanation has been but one line: that it is a “charter right”. I would like to discuss the legal arguments surrounding that issue.
The argument that it is somehow a charter right is perhaps the most prevalent legal argument being put forth today. I remind hon. members that the Supreme Court precisely did not rule that there is a charter right to same sex marriage. By silence, the court has upheld the status quo in law in Canada today.
Dr. Somerville, a source who has been quoted a few times by members giving speeches, put it this way:
Institutions have both inherent and collateral features. Inherent features define the institution and cannot be changed without destroying the institution.
I would also remind the House that even the United Nations, certainly no bastion of conservatism and traditional values, has categorically dismissed the claim that homosexual marriage is a right. Within Canada we have heard similar experts say the very same thing.
I know this passage has also been cited here before, but I think it should be heard again. Former Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest, speaking on behalf of the majority in the Egan decision, said the following:
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'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.
Let us note the phrase “by nature heterosexual”. He did not say “by act of Parliament heterosexual”. He did not say “by judicial decision heterosexual”. He said that it is a fundamental reality that marriage is an opposite sex institution, something, by the way, that the current Deputy Prime Minister argued for vociferously and quite passionately, and I might add quite articulately, when she was appealing a judicial case on behalf of the government.
This is the last ruling that the Supreme Court rendered on the constitutionality of traditional marriage. Justice La Forest is saying that marriage exists primarily for the procreation of human beings. It is the essence of marriage and its primary focus. There is nothing more important to society than the raising of children, for its very survival requires it.
Homosexual unions are by nature contradictory to this. There is no complementarity of the sexes. Two members of the same sex may use their God-given free will to engage in acts, to cohabit and to own property together. They may commit themselves to monogamy. They may pledge to remain in a loving relationship for life. In that sense they have many of the collateral features of marriage, but they do not have its inherent feature, as they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children. They cannot therefore be married.
I would like to add that the Prime Minister's hypocrisy on the issue of what the courts have said is really quite appalling. He tells us that we must endorse gay marriage because the courts have told us to. The Supreme Court did not tell us to. It rejected the idea that traditional marriage is against the charter. It refused to answer that reference question.
Why is the Prime Minister making this a false charter issue? Perhaps it is because he knows that this is contrary to the will of the vast majority of Canadians. Perhaps he needs an excuse to advocate this because he knows that Canadians are not behind him.
The Prime Minister then tells us not to worry because he will protect religious institutions. He has not done that with this bill. The Supreme Court did rule that only the provinces could do that.
On the one hand, he orders us to follow the rulings of the courts. On the other, he ignores the ruling of the courts. The Prime Minister's double-talk on these issues and his attempts to change the meaning of a word and an institution that are a fundamental reality of our society reminds me of a quote from Through the Looking Glass , by Lewis Carroll. It goes like this:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master--that's all.”
There are also grave concerns regarding the practical ramifications of this bill. We have seen religious organizations in British Columbia sued over their position on same sex marriage. I speak of course about the Knights of Columbus, who refused to rent out a hall for a same sex wedding reception. It was against their core religious beliefs to do so, yet they are being persecuted.
In Calgary, Bishop Fred Henry has found himself before a human rights tribunal because he dared to articulate his church's teachings on the matter. This is without a doubt one of the worst attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of religion that we have seen in this country in generations. To think that a Catholic bishop must answer to a civil authority over matters of faith is abominable.
It is abhorrent to me, to other Catholics and to every member of every faith community. It is abhorrent because the very essence of being a religious official is to teach the faith and instruct the faithful. There is an inherent right for religious officials to do so.
These developments cause me to warn the House very seriously of what will happen if this bill is passed. The provisions in this bill to protect religious officials are meaningless. These provisions touch on the only area that the Supreme Court has ruled as outside the scope of the federal government.
It is worth repeating that the last judgment on the matter of marriage by the Supreme Court was to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. That has not changed with the recent court answers to the government's reference questions. It has not changed because the Supreme Court was silent on that reference question. In our common law tradition, in the absence of a new ruling or a new statute, the previous judgments stand.
I would like to congratulate my leader for his courageous stand in defence of marriage. Throughout this entire debate, while the pro-same sex marriage lobby has resorted to personal attacks, charges of bigotry and twisted judicial arguments, my leader has remained consistently clear and has refrained from making any arguments based on personal attacks.
When this bill comes to a vote, I will be casting my ballot according to my conscience, on behalf of my constituents and for what I believe will be for the good of the nation. I can say with some authority that the vast majority of my constituents want me to vote in favour of traditional marriage. I will therefore be voting against this bill. I will be casting my vote freely, with no coercion from my leader or my party. I am proud to be able to do so. I hope that all members will vote freely on this matter.