Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. At the outset, it is my intention to cast my precious vote in favour of Bill C-38, in favour of the charter and in favour of all my constituents having all their charter rights.
I want to begin by talking about the charter. On Sunday I was in my constituency office and I had my 12 year old daughter with me. Unrelated to this bill or this debate, I had a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms there and I gave Kayla a copy of it. I said to her that every word in it was a right that she had because she was a Canadian.
I would be lying to my daughter were I to say that to her and then stand in this place and vote against Bill C-38. I am not about to do that. The fact is we have a charter. My mom would say to me, when I was facing something extremely difficult, that if it were easy, everybody would do it. One of the reasons we are so proud is because of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and because of the laws that we have put in place. When I travel and represent this great nation, I know I am proud.
If those things were so easy to come by, other nations would not have the respect that they do for Canada. When debates on issues of rights come up, when right and wrong for many of us is so clear, we vote in favour of rights. It gives us moral leverage on the international stage. When we start comparing our economic strength and economic leverage versus military leverage and strength that we might have, we are not in the game. When we start talking about moral leverage and moral strength and a moralistic society, it is not about going to religious extremes. It is about being prepared to stand up where it matters, which is in this place, to defend rights. We do that as members by casting our precious votes in favour of those rights and then by standing up and being prepared to defend those rights.
I am not a lawyer, I do not pretend to be, but the charter is pretty straightforward. Article 15(1) states:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination...
I did not say to Kayla that this clause would only apply if her life took this direction or that direction. I meant she had every right contained in the charter.
Section 28 states:
Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
Article 24(1) states:
Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances
That has taken place with regard to this issue. We have been everywhere and now it is back where it belongs, here in the people's House.
I am from Hamilton, a labour town and a steel town. I am also the labour critic. I want to put on the record that the Canadian labour movement, one of the most pioneering entities to fight for rights and justice in the country, has clearly put its strength and reputation on the line with regard to this issue and Bill C-38.
We have the United Steelworkers of America in Hamilton which represents 255,000 members. It has stated:
The Steelworkers is proud to represent its lesbian and gay members. As a matter of policy, the Steelworkers is committed to advancing the rights of lesbians and gays in both their workplaces and their communities. This extends to ensuring that they have the same right as their co-workers and fellow citizens to access the important social institution of civil marriage.
This letter was signed by Ken Neumann, national director.
CEP, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, has stated:
It is quite sobering to think that not that long ago being gay, lesbian or bisexual was a criminal offence and the federal government conducted campaigns to fire them from the public service...We would add our voices to those who advocate that gays and lesbians who wish to marry should be afforded access to the legal institutions of marriage. It is a matter of fairness and a commitment to end discrimination.
Buzz Hargrove, on behalf of the Canadian Auto Workers which represents 260,000 members, has stated:
I am proud that our union used our collective power to bring about workplace changes in winning rights for gays and lesbians. And I am proud that our country as a whole is seen as a world leader on equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender members of society. Same-sex marriage is an important step in the struggle for equality. It's time to take it.
Lastly, the Canadian Labour Congress itself, representing over 2.5 million working people from coast to coast to coast, has states:
We believe that the Government of Canada should be bound by its own equality guarantees, including the Charter of Individual Rights and Freedoms and by its stated commitments to human rights nationally and internationally. The Government also has a positive obligation to promote equality and acceptance of all people in this country including gay and lesbian citizens. Denial of access to marriage for same-sex couples contradicts these commitments and runs contrary to the promotion of equality.
Make no mistake about it. The Canadian labour movement is supportive of Bill C-38 becoming law and that all their members and our constituents receive their full rights under the Constitution.