House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was murray.


The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Avalon Newfoundland & Labrador


R. John Efford LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the House that the Sierra Club came out today with a news release in support of the voluntary agreement that the Minister of the Environment and myself signed this morning.

The reduction of 5.3 million tonnes is good for the economy and good for the environment. The agreement we signed with the auto industry is good for the economy as well as the environment.

Air-IndiaOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, all the Prime Minister offered to distraught family members of the Air-India tragedy were words of condolence. Not a word was uttered about the necessity of establishing a public inquiry to unearth the truth. Even the Deputy Prime Minister could not see any benefit to holding a public inquiry.

When is the Prime Minister going to return to his election commitment of transparency and accountability in this government and promptly agree to convene a public inquiry?

Air-IndiaOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House before in relation to similar questions, the next step in this process is for me to meet with the families, along with senior government officials, the head of CSIS and the head of the RCMP. Those meetings will take place in the very near future. I hope to talk to the families about the questions they believe remain unanswered and then we will move forward from there.

Air-IndiaOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is not an answer. The question is, why has the Prime Minister failed to convene a public inquiry to help relieve the pain and suffering of the families of the victims of the Air-India tragedy?

Air-IndiaOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the next step in this process is for me to meet with the families and I certainly look forward to doing that in the near future.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Having benefited considerably from the sponsorship money, the Liberals want to play innocent and are claiming to be the victims of a plot.

I again ask the Prime Minister, for the third time, if he can guarantee that no member of his previous or present cabinet took part in meetings with advertising agencies to divert sponsorship money to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia


Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again the opposition continues to talk about allegations, not facts.

We have appointed Justice Gomery. Justice Gomery is doing his work and his work is actually proceeding very well. We support Justice Gomery. We will look forward to his report and both the government and the party will respond thoroughly to Justice Gomery's recommendations.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Question Period

April 5th, 2005 / 3 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada-U.S. relations are vital not simply to trade but also if we are to work together on safeguarding North America. Communities along the border depend significantly on the success of our efforts.

My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. We have invested significantly in security initiatives here at home, but how are we working with the United States to preserve our cooperation and ensure its understanding of our partnership?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good and constructive question. Let me reassure the hon. member, who comes from an area that contains one of our busiest border crossings, that we are working very closely with the Department of Homeland Security in relation to ensuring that we are better able to identify high risk goods and high risk people and keep the borders open.

For example, the area from which he comes, Fort Erie and Buffalo, will be the location of our very first pre-clearance pilot project. In fact, we are investing enormous amounts of money, over $9 billion since the tragedy of 9/11, in different areas to ensure that our border continues not only to facilitate trade but to be safe and secure. I want everyone to--

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery from the Northwest Territories of the Honourable Speaker Paul Delorey, the Honourable Premier Joseph Handley, and the following members of the Northwest Territories Cabinet: the Honourable Floyd Roland, the Honourable Charles Dent, the Honourable Brendan Bell, the Honourable Michael McLeod, the Honourable Michael Miltenberger and the Honourable David Krutko.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.


Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, before statements by members and oral questions, we were discussing and debating this important question, the definition of marriage.

I was discussing the need to find a compromise position, a position that rejects the heavy-handed manner in which the Liberal Party has approached this issue and a position that rejects the dogmatic anti-democratic manner of the leader of the NDP, who will not even allow his own members to vote their conscience or to vote according to the will of their constituents on this issue.

It is incumbent on us in Parliament to find a compromise position and balance the interests of Canadians.

The courts have been ruling on this issue for a number of years. Following several provincial rulings on the definition of marriage, the Liberal government drafted legislation that would allow same sex marriages. However, instead of allowing the House of Commons to vote on the legislation, the Liberals referred it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Fortunately for us and for Canadians, the Supreme Court indicated that it was up to Parliament to define what marriage means.

Without a doubt, marriage must be defined in the future as it has always been defined, as the union between a man and a woman, but that does not preclude the protection of equal rights for same sex couples and the recognition of same sex relationships.

In December, the Leader of the Opposition articulated a position which achieves the balance that Canadians and the people of Palliser have been looking for. The Conservative Party position, first, retains the traditional definition of marriage, second, ensures that same sex couples are afforded equal rights and benefits, and third, includes substantive provisions to protect religious organizations and religious freedoms.

This is a position that expresses the will of Canadians and is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Conservative Party's position also balances the needs of same sex couples with the rights of religious organizations who hold a traditional view of marriage.

Not only is this moderate and thoughtful position on such an important issue consistent with the will of the majority of Canadians, it is consistent with the solution favoured by most countries that have engaged in similar debate on this issue.

Registered domestic partnerships are available in Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland and parts of Italy. Civil pacts are available in France. Other countries are considering introducing legislation to provide protections, rights and benefits to individuals in committed same sex relationships.

This is an important point. Canadians are not the only ones who are hesitant about altering the definition of marriage. This is a position held by millions around the world who agree not only on the definition of marriage but on the importance of traditional marriage to society.

There is also a consensus in the countries I mentioned earlier that we need to recognize the status and legal rights of same sex couples.

As speakers before me have noted, the question is not about rights or equality. It is about marriage and whether Canadians want to change the definition of marriage. It is about how Canadians want to recognize committed same sex relationships. That is the choice before Parliament.

The position of the Conservative Party is that we should recognize same sex committed relationships as civil unions while continuing to retain the traditional definition of marriage. As I have stated before, this is also the position of the vast majority of my constituents in Palliser.

In closing, I would urge the members here today to listen to the will of their constituents. Not only are Canadians looking for clear thinking and a middle ground on this contentious issue, they are looking for leadership. Most of all, they want their voices to be heard.

I am proud to say that I have listened to the people in my riding of Palliser and represented their wishes on this important issue. I am proud to be a member of a political party that is willing to allow its members to vote freely on this issue so that the voices of their constituents can be heard.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of State (Public Health)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the government's bill on civil marriage and the legal recognition of same sex unions.

In tabling this bill, the government is acting responsibly in order to reaffirm its commitment to three important principles: equality, freedom of religion and full and transparent democratic debate. The government recognizes that this is a matter of equality and fundamental human dignity and that partners of the same sex must not be denied the ability to enjoy and formalize one of life's most significant relationships.

It is very interesting that in this past week when we have been travelling across the country talking about the public health goals for this country, the number one word that came up time and time again was “belonging”. It became extraordinarily important to Canadians that people would feel secure in a personal and cultural identity which made them feel that they belonged. The words “equity” and “dignity” and the idea of social inclusion are now fundamentally accepted as a determinant of health.

It is interesting as we discuss this extending of civil marriage how many speakers will speak about the rights. Many speakers, including our justice minister and our Prime Minister, and the eloquent decision of the Supreme Court have talked about this as an issue of rights. Today I want to talk about why it is the right thing to do to extend the opportunity for all couples in this country to commit to one another and to formalize their relationship.

It was 25 years ago when I first attended a civil ceremony at city hall in Toronto. The eloquent justice of the peace talked about this country as being only as strong as its individual family units, that a chain is only ever as strong as its individual links. In the bill we are talking about making each link in this country as strong as it can possibly be. It helps individuals to be stronger by being part of a unit. It helps families to be stronger because of the commitment of the parents. It helps groups in the provinces and in the country to benefit from this fundamental link in our country which is the family.

We formalize our relationships with one another as we sign contracts and other documents and pledge allegiance. It clarifies our expectations and it strengthens our relationships. For me this debate has served us well as Canadians to really examine what marriage means to each of us.

Earlier this year United Church Moderator Peter Short hosted the breakfast on the Hill. It was impressive when he eloquently articulated some of the issues, which were beautifully written in his article. He said:

How, then, shall we be faithful to marriage? Not by forbidding change. Change is the only medium in which faithfulness can really be faithfulness. Faithfulness is to an unchanging environment as autopilot is to flying.

So let me express my hope and my prayer for all who are married and for all who stand at the gate of the honourable estate. Love is always a risk. So is life. But we believe in marriage as a good house that shelters the presence of the greatest of gifts. It is a good house for all the people and an honourable estate from which no one should be turned away.

It was interesting as Dr. Short spoke with us, that he explained the struggle that had taken place in the United Church of Canada over 20 years ago in terms of the ordination of gay ministers. The continued progressive leadership on this difficult issue has been an amazing strength for this country to have an institution such as the United Church of Canada way out ahead on this.

It was his explanation of how two people who had committed to one another are really saying that they could do more together than each of them could do apart. As a family physician, I felt it was the same as two and two make five. It is the commitment together that actually means there is a little pressure to get through those tough times.

I was very impressed by the order of service for the same gender covenant by the United Church which was compiled and edited by Fred Graham and Louise Mangan-Harding. They were talking about developing a covenant service. They said that when a local congregation becomes aware that a couple wishes to share a life of equality, of mutual love, of care, respect, forgiveness, comfort, joy, hospitality and faithfulness and if no previous commitment is violated, the congregation may wish to develop with the couple a liturgical celebration of a committed relationship. I think we all know that a covenant is a voluntary bond by which the parties make certain pledges to one another.

In looking at this I was thinking of how frightened I was at my own marriage 26 years ago about what actually I was committing to. It was very impressive to read these vows again, as Moderator Short has said, that we would not want to exclude anyone from.

The statement of purpose indicates that marriage in the United Church is “a timeless and holy moment, a moment of hope and expectation. To share their lives, to encourage creativity, to inspire each other to reach beyond the limits of the ordinary--not at the expense of a partner's individuality but inspired by the strength of the common bond....We witness the making of a covenant, as two persons publicly declare their intent to enter into an intimate relationship of enduring love, of deep fidelity and trust, expressing the highest aspirations. May those gathered here who live in intimate and loving relationships find that relationship renewed and strengthened, as we offer the prayers for these two people who are about to begin a united life together”.

It is always helpful to remember those promises and to wonder why anyone would not feel that any two people in this country who want to make this serious promise to one another should be prohibited from doing so. To think that two people would say “to be my beloved partner, to be no other than yourself, I promise to respect you, trust you, cherish you and help you; I promise to be faithful to you and honest with you; I promise to share my life with you in abundance and in need; I promise to forgive us as we have been forgiven and try with you to love ever more dearly ourselves, our word and our God, that we may serve together”. In a society that is ever growing, in a society that needs to figure out ways of being stronger, it seems odd that we would deny a couple this opportunity.

If standing together before their friends to pledge their lives to a future together, why would a God of love deny a couple this opportunity is what Moderator Short has asked.

On the plane last week I watched the movie Shall We Dance? There was a wonderful scene where Susan Sarandon asked why she needed a marriage and was worried that hers was breaking down. I was truly touched by the admission that being married actually has a witness on one's life. The wonderful screenplay by Audrey Welles puts that into something which touches each of us personally.

We need to remind ourselves that this is not only for religious people. A number of the gay and lesbian people in my riding want to remind us that being gay and lesbian does not mean that one is not religious. There are gay people and lesbian people who are religious and others who are not, in the same way that there are heterosexual people who are religious and others who are not.

It is the heterosexual people and non-religious people in my riding who have been very concerned that if marriage was only left to churches they would not be allowed to get married at city hall. They would be allowed to go to city hall for a civil union and that is unacceptable to them. They are challenging us to say that option would only be there because we are afraid to give full rights of marriage to the homosexual and lesbian community.

We cannot have two tiered marriage in the same way as we fight every day against two tiered medicine. This is about equality. It is about civil rights but it mainly is about the right thing to do.

My parents were florists. I remember as a little girl the first time that one of the gay members of the staff had enough nerve to bring his same sex partner to the Christmas party. I remember thinking it was wonderful. I remember as a resident having to redefine the next of kin. I remember our fight in the House on same sex benefits. Now we must take this final step to full equality.

This is about people feeling included. It is about security. It is that this country will only be as strong as its individual units.

Members of my staff refer to themselves as post-charter kids. They grew up knowing only the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They know that this is the right thing to do. They know the Canada that they will inherit will be stronger as a result of our acting in the House now, not waiting for them to do it later.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to take members back to the dawn of the last century which was one of tremendous social change in the western world. A young, modern generation challenged the social mores that had prevailed. No longer were many willing to seek the approval of the traditional pillars of society to validate their behaviour or thoughts. The only approval they sought was that of their own intellect. Accordingly, a cultural conflict between different belief systems emerged. Traditional belief systems were challenged, often justly so, and new ones were born.

One of the more pronounced manifestations of this cultural conflict played out in a Tennessee courtroom in the summer of 1925. A high school biology teacher, John Scopes, was charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution in breach of that jurisdiction's then anti-evolution statute. The trial represented the conflict between traditional belief systems and the new social and intellectual or secular values that challenged them. Secular values and religious values collided in a public sphere.

A dramatized account of the trial was published 30 years later by playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The play was entitled Inherit the Wind. While fictionalized and using artistic liberty, the play's account of the trial provides important social commentary on the collision of secular and religious values in a public arena and it remains relevant to this day.

The protagonist of the story, Henry Drummond, loosely based on celebrated American lawyer Clarence Darrow, challenged those who would hide behind and distort traditional religious beliefs to deny the emergence of new secular values. Yet, while defending and advancing these new values, Drummond's character did not dismiss traditional religious beliefs.

Indeed, the final scene of the play has Drummond in an empty courthouse with a copy of Darwin, representing secular values, and a copy of the Bible, representing religious values, in each hand. Holding them both in his upturned palms he stares from one value to the other, balancing them thoughtfully as if his hands were scales and they teetered with equal weight.

Balancing these values is not an easy task, but it is one we all intrinsically know that we as a society must strive to achieve. The undeniable truth of the ages is that no society can exist and prosper without such a balance.

In the House today we are confronted with a similar cultural conflict as that of the earlier age, as another traditional belief system is faced with the challenge of new social values. Religious and secular values once again collide in the public sphere as the House considers legislation that will dramatically change the institution of marriage, an institution that has remained constant across both history and cultures.

The institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is deeply rooted in the religious belief systems of the Jewish, Sikh, Muslim and Christian faiths, faiths that represent the vast majority of Canadians. That such wide swaths of religious belief systems with their many significant disagreements are united in their common defence of marriage is a significant point for public policy consideration.

Yet we can recognize that the teachings of the various religions cannot and should not be our only consideration if we are to achieve a proper balance on this matter. Secular values have evolved. We now realize that it is unacceptable for the state to prevent any two people who love one another and are willing to make a lifelong commitment from entering into a union. Consequently, equality is not the issue.

Same sex couples are entitled to all the benefits and responsibilities accorded to opposite sex couples. The issue has been settled. Subsequently, this debate becomes a debate about the institution of marriage and its definition. How the state will settle this cultural conflict between the religious and secular systems is our charge as legislators.

Like the Henry Drummond character, we must seek a balance that is both thoughtful and gives equal weight to each belief system. We should not underplay the magnitude of the proposed change.

Consider the words of John McKellar, the openly gay executive director of Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism. He said:

Marriage is not an arbitrary convention and is not meant to change with the times. We're not talking about music, fashion or art. We're talking about an institution whose 4 prohibitions--you can only marry one person at a time, only someone of the opposite sex, never someone beneath a certain age, and not a close blood relative.

He said these “have been grounded in morality and in law for millennia”.

For the federal government to give official sanction to a redefinition of this institution, relying exclusively on the secular values, would not achieve a proper balance. It would impose upon this country a solution that is completely devoid of any consideration of religious belief systems held by the vast majority of Canadians. We must accommodate and be tolerant of both.

We have been vigilant in Canada, as a country of tolerance and cultural diversity, to ensure that no one religious belief system dominates our public policy. However, it is equally imperative that we ensure that religious values are not completely discounted.

Deeming the enlightened and progressive secular values of here and now as the only ones worthy of public policy consideration, while casting off those traditional religious beliefs that preceded them as simply outmoded and irrelevant, is an unsound practice. As John McKellar has stated, “we cannot and must not ignore the lessons of history and natural law”.

Accordingly, neither secular nor religious values should have a monopoly on the formulation on public policy in Canada. The only appropriate approach is one that seeks, like Drummond's character, one that accommodates and balances the values of both. On this account, the legislation identified is deficient. Furthermore, another deficiency identified in this legislation is the lack of genuine protection for religious freedoms.

The lone clause included to protect these freedoms, a clause which states that religious officials will not be forced to perform marriages, has already been ruled as falling within provincial responsibility, thus beyond the federal government's power by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Moreover, the legislation does nothing to accommodate or even grandfather those civil officials throughout the country who serve as marriage commissioners, even though the justice minister himself has suggested the religious freedoms of these officials should and would be protected.

Remarking in a recent interview, the minister said:

No one should be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage contrary to their religion or belief. We believe we can reach accommodations so that those who do not want to perform that same-sex marriage, religious officials or civic officials, by reason of religion or conscience, will not be required to do so.

Presently, some provinces are forcing marriage commissioners to perform same sex marriage, even when doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. This has led to a wave of resignations and human rights complaints from civil officials who have refused to perform ceremonies on religious grounds.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, provincial officials have taken one of the hardest stands with regard to civil officials. Marriage commissioners, regardless of deeply held religious beliefs or tenure of service, were informed that they must perform same sex marriages or be stripped of their responsibility.

Yet the justice minister, who once stated protecting the religious freedoms of such officials was desirable, now bizarrely dismisses this as a provincial matter, no longer a concern of the federal government. Bizarre, because the government has included a clause, as mentioned earlier, stating religious officials will not be forced to perform marriages, clearly a provincial matter. Indeed, instead of taking a rigged line, like my home province, Ontario sought to achieve a balance.

On Drummond's symbolic scales, the legislation teeters too far in one direction. Traditional religious belief systems and secular values must be recognized in an equitable and thoughtful manner. As a result, I would like to pause and reflect.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

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.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

You're a dreamer.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I am a dreamer. I take pride in that. I am a dreamer in terms of what the country can be. Following that member is not my kind of dream.

I want to also make reference to the fact that religious freedoms have been protected. The Supreme Court has stated:

...the guarantee of religious freedom in section 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

Concerning the debate about whether the feds have the jurisdiction to do that, in my home province of Ontario the government has already taken action and it is law at that level. That protection is clearly there 100% in Ontario. I know other legislation is being looked at across the country as provinces adhere to their Supreme Court rulings.

Let me also talk a bit about the notion of separate but equal, a compromise, which is often put by the members of the official opposition. We have seen this before. We know what happened with our neighbours to the south when they tried separate but equal with the school systems as a compromise approach to having to deal with their federal court, which ordered that separation discontinue. It made the case that separate was not equal.

One of our own courts, the British Columbia Court of Appeal, has said: the only road to true equality for same-sex couples. Any other form of recognition of same-sex relationships, including the...falls short of true equality.

There is no compromise on these rights. There is no nice, safe little political ground to go to where we can appease everyone. This is one of those where we have to stand up and state where we are. The notion that there is a compromise is not upheld in law. From a practical point of view, I do not see how one can say there are two tiers of rights in the country. We either have rights or we do not. Bill C-38 will allow all Canadians to say, “I have my rights”.

In closing, the young people of Canada will ask, what is the big deal? The big deal is that we are not passing this as easily and quickly as we should. Fellow members of this place believe Bill C-38 deserves to be law because all our constituents deserve their rights. We not only have that opportunity; we have that responsibility. I intend to cast my precious vote in favour of my constituents and their rights.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments of the NDP member who spoke eloquently about his position and intentions in the vote on Bill C-38.

I am flabbergasted in the sense that this whole issue of the charter argument keeps coming up time and time again. If we sit back and look at it and analyze what is happening with the use of the charter in this country, the Liberals, the NDP and whoever else supports this kind of initiative, it is being used by them to cover up a myriad of sins. When I say a myriad of sins, look at it: decriminalization of marijuana, decriminalization of prostitution, and same sex marriage. It is all in the same basket, and the Liberals and NDP love to use the charter to that end. It is to the detriment of this country.

It is 37 years ago that I stood before an altar before God and declared my vows in my marriage. It was before God that I was united in holy matrimony. The gravity of that moment was not lost to me because it was for one man and one woman to be joined together as it has been over the centuries, since the beginning of creation. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that we would be here today on the verge of redefining an institution that has stood as the union of one man and one woman since the beginning of time. But here we are.

I can remember this debate taking place 10 years ago in the House when a private member's initiative was brought forward to have the union of same sex individuals under that legislation. I spoke to that bill at that time. Twice the member that introduced the bill stood up on a point of order to object to my comments about the marriage of same sex people. Twice the Speaker told him to sit down because if the Speaker were to tell me to shut up, he would be doing an injustice to the House. He said that this is a place for strong opinions and we had better have strong opinions on this issue because a whole generation to come and beyond are going to be affected by what we do and what we decide in the House.

Needless to say, that bill was defeated, but here we are again today, 10 years later, with the same initiative coming forward, this time from the government of the day. The very titles of marriage are gender specific, husband and wife. The Supreme Court itself remarked in Egan v Canada decision that marriage is by nature heterosexual. Who has the right to define an institution that exists in all cultures in all corners of the world? It predates the existence of our own country by millennia, in fact since creation, had that been the case.

My personal feeling is that we must put this to the people in a national referendum. On this matter I am representing my own views and not necessarily the views of my party. If we are to have a free vote on this subject, we must also have free speech. I encourage all members of the House to do the same. The family is the foundation of our society and marriage is the cornerstone of that foundation. The preamble of the Canadian Bill of Rights recognizes this and expressly affirms:

--that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions.

The proposed redefinition of marriage is the most important social issue that has ever faced our country. Capital punishment and even abortion really do not equal it.

The Prime Minister, and this goes back to my colleague from the NDP, says religious institutions will not be compelled to perform same sex marriages should this legislation pass.

Who is he kidding? When a Christian printer from Toronto is fined for refusing to do business with a gay and lesbian advocacy group, how can he say religious institutions will not be next and be compelled to perform same sex marriages?

When mayors across the country are hauled up in front of human rights commissions for refusing to issue gay pride proclamations, how can he say now religious institutions will not be compelled to perform same sex marriages?

When charitable tax status of a Catholic diocese is threatened by a Canada Revenue Agency official for a pastoral letter opposing gay marriage, how can he say religious institutions will not be compelled to perform same sex marriages?

When this government orders padres in the military to perform same sex marriages, how can he say religious institutions will not be compelled to do the same?

Any politician who says religious institutions will be protected from having to perform same sex marriages is either disingenuous or naive. Should this legislation pass, what will happen next?

Even if we were to believe the falsehood that religious institutions would not be compelled to perform same sex marriages, there are other forms of religious persecution that would occur should this legislation pass.

For example, would religious institutions be required to recognize same sex unions? If two people are married in accordance with the new legislation and then present themselves to their local church, synagogue or mosque to request membership, is that religious institution required to recognize them and accept them in its organization as married or to commune them?

If the religious institution declines to accept them as members because of its adherence to the traditional definition of marriage, how will this legislation protect the church and its members from attack under the human rights legislation?

Would a religious institution risk losing its status as a charitable institution, if it were to continue to refuse to recognize same sex marriage or if it were to teach its members, and prospective members, that such a relationship is the perversion of what marriage ought to be, according to God?

It is plainly visible what this legislation will lead to. Just ask Bishop Henry of Calgary. The charitable tax status of his diocese was threatened by a Canada Revenue Agency official after he wrote a pastoral letter stating that the Prime Minister's views on abortion and gay marriage contravene the Catholic faith. It was the bishop's responsibility. He was compelled to deliver that message.

Passage of this legislation will only accelerate the religious persecution that is already under way in this country. Since that particular time, guess what has happened to Bishop Henry? He has been called up before the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the complaints about his opposition to homosexuality and same sex marriage are being questioned. He is under threat to freedom of speech, and so is the rest of the country.

Who has the right to say what marriage is? The courts? The politicians? I suggest neither. The Constitution says Parliament can legally define marriage, but that legal recognition reflects what marriage is, not what some social engineers want it to be. The Supreme Court of Canada backs up this assertion.

Allow me to quote from the Egan v. Canada decision, upon which I will conclude. It states:

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. It would be possible to legally define marriage to include homosexual couples, but this would not change the biological and social realities that underlie the traditional marriage.

On that note, I urge all members in the House to vote against this bill.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise proudly in support of Bill C-38. It addresses the issue of equality of gay and lesbian Canadians in our country by entrenching the right to civil marriage.

The courts have consistently and repeatedly found that laws which excluded same sex marriage were in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For this reason seven Canadian provinces and one Canadian territory have already legislated same sex marriages for gay and lesbian Canadians. The provinces of British Columbia, my native province; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario; Quebec; Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Yukon Territory have already addressed this issue through the courts. Now it is up to our country's highest political body, the House of Commons, to end discrimination in marriage against gay and lesbian Canadians.

There are those in the House who will not support this legislation. I was shocked to hear that the Leader of the Opposition will not only oppose the bill, but is also eager to repeal Bill C-38 should he form the next government. In this way he intends to perpetuate discrimination against gay and lesbian Canadians.

By the same token, despite the refusal to accept equality by the Leader of the Opposition, I see a small glimmer of hope for that party, as a small number of moderates such as the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, the member for Calgary Centre-North and the member for Newmarket—Aurora have all indicated with great courage that they will stand up for equality of gay and lesbian Canadians. Those few Conservative members are showing great courage and deserve our recognition.

I also want to recognize the many members of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois who are supporting this important step for equality.

The Leader of the Opposition will end the protection and equality afforded by this bill if he comes to power. Just how will he do that? How will he make invalid that fundamental right? What other fundamental rights will he withdraw from Canadians? He speaks of separate but equal being the tenet of his party in this case.

I would like to talk about the proposal of separate but equal that those members of the House are talking about in an effort to shield the fundamental discriminatory stand that they are taking.

We have not heard much about this doctrine since the days of the great civil rights struggles for the African-American community in the United States. The appalling segregation of the Black community in the southern United States was based on that same doctrine which somehow purports that separate treatment allows for a measure of equality.

I would like to paraphrase Martin Luther King when he talked to an end of the doctrine of separate but equal. He said that now was the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of separation to the sunlit path of justice.

I believe in uncompromised equality. It is important to remember that the courts in the United States progressively demolished this fundamentally flawed doctrine of separate but equal in the case of segregation.

Now similar court decisions in Canada have brought us to the debate that we are having today, to ratify an end to discrimination against gay and lesbian Canadians in marriage. Separate but equal is not going to address this fundamental notion of equality.

We in the New Democratic Party have taken a clear stand to end discrimination against gay and lesbian Canadians. It is a stand based on our fundamental belief that discrimination is not to be tolerated. The NDP will not perpetuate or condone discrimination. That has been the courageous history of our party.

As our leader, the member for Toronto--Danforth, said so eloquently earlier today, the New Democratic Party has stood up in the past for equality for Canadians of Chinese origin, first nations peoples, women, and all Canadians. We have stood up for equality in all those areas and we have also been committed throughout the history of our existence to preserving religious freedoms.

I would like to say a few words on the balance that this bill affords to religious freedoms. It is important I believe that religious freedoms be protected while we end discrimination against gay and lesbian Canadians in civil marriage legislation. We believe that this bill achieves that protection.

When Bill C-38 becomes law, will the status of marriage be any less? Will people in heterosexual marriages lose any of the financial, legal or social benefits of marriage? Will people who are already married feel less married? Will various religious institutions be forced to perform same sex marriages? The answer to all of these questions is unequivocally no.

I have a very clear answer for hon. members who are opposed to the bill and who fear that the bill, although it is not clear how, would somehow hurt Canadian families.

We will help Canadian families, not by opposing Bill C-38 but by fighting for the dignity and respect of all Canadians. We will help Canadian families, not by opposing Bill C-38 but by creating opportunities and good jobs. We will help Canadian families to preserve and protect our environment.

We will help Canadian families, not by opposing Bill C-38 but by improving public health care, by making life more affordable and secure for Canadian families, by ensuring access to affordable education, and by restoring integrity and accountability in government that has been sorely impacted by the ongoing revelations of gross financial misconduct by the Liberal government, as has been revealed by the Gomery commission.

We will help Canadian families most of all by taking firm and decisive action to fight the growing child poverty, the growing insecurity and the growing homelessness that is a national disgrace for all Canadians. Homelessness and child poverty is coming at a time of record corporate profits, record bank profits and record corporate tax gifts for the wealthy, as we saw in the budget.

We will help Canadian families and families the world over by strengthening Canada's independent voice for peace, for human rights and for fair trade on the world stage.

Those are the issues that matter most to Canadian families and those are the issues on which we will continue to fight in the House of Commons.

During last year's election campaign I knocked on over 6,000 doors in Burnaby and New Westminster and spoke to Canadians throughout my community. On doorsteps, in public meetings, in media interviews, any time the issue came up, I pledged to support marriage legislation that would bring equality to gay and lesbian Canadians. I will keep my commitment to my constituents and to all Canadians.

For all those reasons I will be supporting the bill and the many gay and lesbian Canadians who are striving for equality and an end to discrimination.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is ungrateful with regard to the amendment proposed by the Conservative Party on marriage is that I have been reading through a lot of what I think are seminal works on this subject.

I know that some of my colleagues in this place have quoted philosophers. I know one of them relied on John Stuart Mill and took his great treatise On Liberty to go ahead and talk about freedoms.

I want to quickly touch on this philosopher in particular because I think he is sometimes being used and abused by some of my colleagues in this place. With regard to marriage, John Stuart Mill said:

A person is bound to take all these circumstances into account, before resolving on a step which may affect such important interests of others; and if he does not allow proper weight to those interests, he is morally responsible for the wrong.

What Mill is saying is that we have to take into account the interests of children in this debate because they are third parties that are called into existence by marriage.

Mill goes on to say, “liberty is often granted where it should be withheld”, even though his treatise is called On Liberty .

He adds:

--but he ought not to be free to do as he likes in acting for another under the pretext that the affairs of another are his own affairs. The State, while it respects the liberty of each in what specially regards himself, is bound to maintain a vigilant control over his exercise of any power which it allows him to possess over others.

In other words, family relations have a direct influence on human happiness, more important than all others taken together.

Mill adds:

--forbid marriage unless the parties can show that they have the means of supporting a family, do not exceed the legitimate powers of the State...not objectionable as violations of liberty.

What he is basically saying is that we can prohibit a mischievous act if it is injurious to others and that such an act should be subject to reprobation and social stigma.

He talks about putting “restraints upon the inclinations when the consequence of their indulgence is a life or lives of wretchedness and depravity to the offspring, with manifold evils to those sufficiently within reach to be in any way affected by their actions”.

I wanted it to be clearly understood that John Stuart Mill would never have advocated for civil unions. He would have adamantly opposed them and I think I have given the reasons.

I will now switch from talking about philosophers to talking about history. Luckily, we have 60 centuries, 6,000 years of written human history to which we can refer when we talk about the issue of marriage. I think they shed great light.

H.W.F. Saggs, in his book The Babylonians , records that in the third millennium B.C. sacred marriage involved a ritual bath, love songs, magnificent ceremonial robes, gifts including outer garments of linen, and feast celebrations. It is interesting how we see some of those same things today nearly 5,000 years later.

Arnold Toynbee wrote a seminal work on history called A Study of History . Book five of that is entitled “Disintegration of Civilization“ or what he also refers to as the “Schism in the Soul”.

He recognizes that as societies begin to disintegrate we lose our sense of self-control and our sense of discipline, and that in order to be a leader in such times people must go beyond the demands of duty. They must fortify morale, secure safety and give strength. It requires them to step forward to inspire, to vindicate ideals and to enoble their civilizations.

To do that people need to respect traditions, religious beliefs and rituals. They need to stand for what is universal and eternal, to do what is good. They must be servants with conscience and ability to have their civilization realize its highest potentialities.

Edward Gibbon goes on in his work, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , to cite several things that made for the decline of the Roman Empire. One of those, the first that he cites, was the immorality that destroyed the integrity of family life.

It is important to note that before the Punic Wars against Carthage, polygamy was unknown among Romans, Athenians and the Jews, but in the later stages of the empire, a loose marriage contract made religious and civil rights nonessential.

In three centuries of prosperity and corruption, this principle was enlarged to frequent practice and pernicious abuse. Passion, interest or caprice suggested daily motives for the dissolution of marriage, a word, a sign, a message, a letter, even the mandate of a freed man, declared the separation of a marriage. It no longer had any bearing.

The second thing that Gibbon talks about is gender confusion and the problems that had in the Roman Empire. The third is disregard for religion. I think we can see some parallels today.

I would like to go further into the details of the Roman Empire because there were some people who understood its fragility. Had these people not come about, the Roman Empire would never have been the pax Romana of 800 years that we know today. Instead, it would merely have been a flash in the pan. It would have died a quick death.

Julius Caesar in 59 BC offered rewards to Romans who had many children. He forbade childless women to ride in litters or wear jewellery. It sounds pretty stark in today's climate but, nonetheless, he understood the importance of family.

I would also like to talk about what would be my favourite Roman emperor, Octavian, after the battle of Actium known as Augustus, and the Roman Empire, had Augustus Caesar not been around in his roughly 50 year reign. The Roman Empire had 200 years of peace and, in a sense, a continuation of its golden age as a result of Augustus Caesar.

I would like to read into the record some of the things Augustus did. He interfered as little as possible in the running of the constitution. He preferred to govern through his moral authority. He inaugurated a religious, moral and social reform of the Roman people. He rebuilt derelict temples, restored neglected ceremonies and priesthoods. He revived the old state religion with all its patriotic associations and he restored the sanctity of marriage. Once again, Augustus Caesar, to elongate the Roman Empire, restored the sanctity of marriage.

Those guilty of initiating divorce lost three-quarters of their property to their spouse. They did not get 50%. A woman would be stripped of her wealth and ornaments, and if the man introduced a new bride into his bed, his fortune would be lawfully seized by the vengeance of the exiled wife. We should think about that in terms of divorce rates. Offenders were even disabled from the repetition of nuptials. In other words, if people had a divorce they could not get remarried.

He stimulated the birth rate. He rewarded the parents of large families. As a matter of fact, if parents had as many as five children under the Emperor Augustus, they no longer paid any tax. One can imagine what not having to pay tax would do for a Canadian family with five children.

Augustus was also a patron of poets. He encouraged those poets to devote their talents to propagating ideals. Horace, therefore, preached religious and moral reform. Ovid popularized religious revival. The system that Augustus established endured with no essential change for three centuries. That is how successful it was.

Then we come to Marcus Aurelius. His writings are still available to us, his own biography and his meditations. He was somebody who believed in being faithful to the gods and the traditions of the ancestors. In his time, outwardly Rome still stood, more resplendent and apparently more unshakeable than ever. Inwardly, however, she was in a state of mental and spiritual flux. The old order was losing its hold on men's minds and the new order was yet far off.

The old pattern of Roman civilization was showing signs of disintegration. Internal corruptions were part of the problem. He was somebody who wanted to show scrupulous respect because the state religion no longer had that and mere lip service was paid on the part of the educated to religion. To the educated man who no longer believed in the official religion, another recourse was philosophy, but here, unfortunately, there were many winds of doctrine.

I would go on to talk about Diocletian, for I think I would wrap up with him, but I have only a minute left.

There are things we can learn from history. I only wish that my colleagues across the way, rather than referring to modernity and some of the modern philosophies, would instead refer to 6,000 years of written human history and observe closely what ramifications changes to law have had.

If they did that, if they read Toynbee, Durant and Gibbon, if they read some of these people who were the saviours of those civilizations, they would understand that this type of action undermines civilization and disintegrates it.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's North, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate today and to voice my concern regarding this issue.

First of all, I want to say that I will not be voting for the bill.

I will not be voting for it. I believe we do a grave injustice to marriage by changing its definition. I believe firmly that we would do well to pause reflectively before we alter social structures like marriage and the family because these institutions lie at the core of our society. They represent the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages.

As we are all aware, traditional marriage predates European civilization. It is a physical union, yes, but it is also considered to be a spiritual union. This is why so many of our mainstream churches are against this move.

We hear many of the churches say that government is involving itself in a piece of social engineering that may prove to be very dangerous to society. Can we say with certainty what the social outcome of a redefinition of marriage will be? I am reminded of what Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto, recently said:

If same sex marriage receives the approval of Parliament, then what?

He went on to say:

The law is a teacher. Does Canadian society as a whole and do parents in particular understand what the law will be teaching in this instance? It will be teaching that homosexual activity and heterosexual activity in marriage are morally equivalent. Public schools will be required to provide education in that light.

He continued:

Many parents would not agree, so is it fair to put children in the position of having to reconcile the values and beliefs of their parents with a novel state-sponsored understanding of marriage that may not be truly supported by the majority of Canadians?

These are valid concerns that the government has not yet addressed in the debate.

The churches are very concerned about their own protection. The government cannot say beyond a shadow of a doubt that churches will not at some point in the future be prosecuted by the courts for refusing to sanction and perform same sex marriages, which have, after all, received the approval of Parliament.

Has this government received assurances yet from provincial premiers that they are going to pass legislation giving protection to religious officials and organizations that decline to celebrate same sex marriages that are contrary to their faith? I do not think so.

I believe that, regardless of what the federal government says, churches will eventually be forced to perform these ceremonies or else they will lose their tax free status.

When the government offers assurances that the churches will not be put in that situation, I say they have no credibility to make that statement.

Just a few short years ago, the justice minister of the day, who is now Deputy Prime Minister, said when we were debating the same sex benefit bill that we could put our fears to rest, our fears that the same sex benefits bill would lead to same sex marriage. She said that the government would insert a clause saying that marriage is the “union of one man and one woman”, to the exclusion of all others.

That did not stand up. Today, this same minister is part of an administration that threw that clause out the window and placed a bill before Parliament changing the definition of an institution that has for centuries been considered the cornerstone of society.

The same government is saying to us today, “Trust me when I say the churches will not be forced by courts to perform same sex marriages”. This government is being deceptive when it states that.

Adding a new category, a same sex category, to the institution of marriage alters substantially the nature and definition of marriage. It changes to recognize the legal concept of marriage for the whole of society. Marriages cease to be solely the union of a man and a woman. As the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop O'Brien, stated:

Marriage as we now know it will become but one variety of a new reality.

He cautioned that the word itself would ultimately lose its sanctity throughout society. He went on to say, and I agree:

We need to be able to speak of, and support, the importance of marriage as the committed...relationship of man and woman, which produces and nurtures the next generation.

This is a step in the wrong direction for our society. This government continues to hide behind the Supreme Court as if the court is forcing government to act. The Supreme Court simply said that same sex marriage was consistent with the charter. It did not say the state was compelled to legalize it.

At the height of this debate, a column in The National Post by Barbara Kay recently caught my eye. The headline on the column reads, “It's time to think about the children”. Ms. Kay made this point:

Canadian researchers have made no effort to harvest the views of those who have the most invested in the gay marriage debate--children. Nobody has asked children if they “strongly prefer, strongly reject or don't care” whether they have: a single mom, single dad, mother and father, two moms or two dads.

She says that children are, by nature, “social conservatives” and will by nature respond that they prefer a mom and a dad. She concludes by saying:

Canada is one of only three places on Earth poised to endorse the use of children as social guinea pigs without their consent. And all because our intellectual and political elites “haven't ever really thought about it.”

Ms. Kay makes a good and valid point. Researchers or government, nobody knows what the outcome of this reckless piece of social engineering will lead to. Does it not make sense to answer these vitally important questions before embarking on this course of action?

This is probably one of the reasons an Ekos poll taken on February 17 among the people of Ontario showed that 48% of Ontarians oppose same sex marriage while only 35% support it.

In conclusion, let me say that this is a terrible time for our country. Anyone who is tracking the social workings of government over the last 10 year period is painfully aware that the assault on marriage continues. One newspaper column put it this way:

Some conservatives argue that same-sex marriage is just another broken window. First make divorce easier. Smash. Then give common-law couples most of the same rights and benefits as married people. Smash. Now give men the right to marry other men and women other women. Smash. Marriage becomes just another lifestyle option, one in a long list of possible choices that a couple can make, with no special status or privilege. As the once-hallowed institution loses its lustre, even fewer people will want to be part of it.

A few years ago, back in 1995, Judge Gérard La Forest of the Supreme Court said that the ultimate reason for marriage:

--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.

If the government is so convinced that it is travelling down a road that Canadians want it to go, then the very least it can do is allow the people of Canada to be fully represented by extending to all members a free vote. To do otherwise is a grave violation of conscience and a grave disservice to generations yet to come.

As I have indicated, Mr. Speaker, I have grave concerns as to the outcome of the social experiment that we call same sex marriage. In all conscience, therefore, I will be compelled to vote against the bill when Your Honour calls the vote.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked many times by my constituents where I stand on the issue of same sex marriage. I have always been up front about where I stand. Same sex marriage is contrary to my personal beliefs and to my religious faith. However, I understand that not everyone shares those beliefs and I recognize that I am bound by my responsibility to my constituents.

During the election campaign I promised the people of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry that I would do my very best to represent their views in Ottawa. Because of that, in the month of January I sent a booklet on this issue to every household in Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry. The booklet contained a survey on same sex marriage. I asked the people I represent to indicate whether or not they agreed with each of five statements. I received literally thousands of replies.

Ninety-one per cent disagreed with the statement, “I support expanding the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples”.

Ninety per cent agreed with the statement, “I support preserving the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”.

Sixty-five per cent disagreed with the statement, “Same sex couples should be entitled to join in a legal union and receive benefits equivalent to those for married couples”.

Ninety-one per cent agreed with the statement, “Religious institutions should not be required to perform ceremonies to unite same sex couples if it is against their faith”.

Finally, 81% agreed with the statement, “Public officials should not have to perform ceremonies to unite same sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs”.

I made every effort to ensure that the statements in the survey were neutral so that they would not lead the respondent toward a particular answer. Members will also notice that some of the statements support same sex marriage and some oppose it. I did my very best to ensure that the survey was fair.

The results are very clear. The people of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry, the people I represent, overwhelmingly oppose same sex marriage. A smaller but still very strong majority would oppose giving legal status to same sex unions even if they were not called marriage. A huge majority do not think anyone, whether a member of the clergy or a public official, should be required to perform ceremonies that go against their religious beliefs.

The first two statements in the survey concern the definition of marriage. Their aim was not to determine whether same sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as married couples. They sought solely to determine whether the word “marriage” or another word should be used for same sex couples. Human rights have no bearing on the meaning we give to the word “marriage”. Same sex couples can benefit from the same rights as other couples without being described as “married”.

In February, three members of the House wrote an open letter to all party leaders, laying out their case for same sex marriage. The letter says that their position “is not about seeking a change in marriage”, but that is exactly what they are doing when they use the word “marriage” to describe something that has never fallen within the meaning of that word.

The Oxford dictionary defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Webster's dictionary says the same thing. In fact, so does every single dictionary that I could find. Legislating that the word “marriage” include same sex couples is like legislating that the word “dog” include cats. It is just plain silly to tell anyone that a word means whatever we wish it to mean in spite of what everyone has always understood it to mean.

The letter also said that all gays and lesbians should have the right to decide whether to marry or not. This is like saying that all men should have the right to be mothers. These are incompatible realities. Refusing to apply the word “marriage” to the union of persons of the same sex is not a legal issue. It is moral and common sense one.

We can give same sex couples exactly the same rights and benefits as married couples without trying to legislate the definition of the word “marriage”. That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition proposes to do.

The government pretends that it is bound by decisions of provincial appeal courts to enact this legislation exactly as is and authorize same sex marriages. In fact, the government goes even further. It even pretends that once a provincial appeal court has ruled on an issue, the only way for Parliament to override that ruling would be to invoke the notwithstanding clause. The Liberals pretend to be great defenders of our court system and of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, this is sheer nonsense. The truth is that the Liberal government can and does ignore and override provincial court decisions all the time.

As the Conservative treasury board critic, I am deeply involved in the issue of whistleblower protection and the rights of public servants.

Joanna Gualtieri is a very noble and courageous lady who refused to join a conspiracy of silence that allowed the Department of Foreign Affairs to waste countless millions, or even billions, of taxpayer dollars on obscenely lavish accommodations for diplomats. She recently told the government operations committee of a case in which the government enacted a law that was contrary to the court of appeal rulings in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Ontario. These provincial courts all ruled that public servants should have the right to go to court to resolve employment related issues.

The federal government never appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. Instead, it simply added an obscure clause to the Public Service Modernization Act which says that public servants, unlike private sector employees, have no right to access the courts to deal with employment related matters. The government simply swept aside four provincial appeal court rulings and denied one group of Canadians access to legal rights that are enjoyed by other Canadians.

In 2000 the government passed changes to the Elections Act which flew in the face of four previous court decisions relating to third party advertising during the elections. The National Citizens Coalition, then led by our present Leader of the Opposition, challenged the government's restriction to free speech on two previous occasions and won both of them. A similar gag law was struck down in British Columbia. The Supreme Court struck down spending limits for the referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

Provincial and federal courts clearly and repeatedly stated that third party spending limits were contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the Liberal government kept appealing, using its unlimited supply of taxpayer money to litigate the same issue time after time until it got the answer it wanted. The government pulled out all stops to force through a law that had already been ruled contrary to the charter.

Consequently, when the government claims that provincial court rulings govern such acts, no one is fooled by the tales it is telling.

The government has decided not to appeal the provincial court rulings on same sex marriage. It has decided to legislate a new definition of the word “marriage”, even though the Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the traditional definition.

The Liberals pretend that anyone who opposes this bill opposes basic human rights and freedoms. This is mindless fearmongering. It is an affront to 9 out of 10 of my constituents. It is an insult and an outrage to Canadians and parliamentarians who oppose this bill. It is a testament to the monumental hypocrisy of the government.

I want to make one more point. In the open letter I referred to earlier, my hon. colleagues said, “This discussion is about love and commitment”. They said that same sex couples, “need the support of...the state to live out faithful, loving commitments”.

I disagree. Nobody needs the support of the state to live in a loving, committed relationship. The state must never get into the business of validating people's affections for one another. Love is, and must remain, between two people, their families and their God. The legal status of marriage between a man and a woman is not about validating love. It is about supporting an institution that is perceived to serve the interests of society as a whole.

If Canadians do not believe that giving legal status and benefits to same sex unions serves some higher interests to society, then they should not be compelled to grant such status and benefits. In any event, such unions cannot reasonably be called marriage.

If the government decides to press ahead with this unnecessary and divisive legislation, then it should have the courage to take responsibility for that choice instead of hiding behind the robes of judges and demonizing those who take a different view.

I will definitely be voting against this flawed bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all chief whips and there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to have the recorded divisions on Bill C-278 and the motion of the member for Red Deer concerning the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, scheduled on Wednesday, April 6, to take place at 3 p.m. rather than at the end of government orders.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in such a fashion?