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.