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House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.

Topics

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to once again address Bill C-38.

Let me begin with Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest in 1995, who spoke on behalf of the majority of the judges in the Egan decision. I want to read for members what he said, because I think it sums up a lot of what we are trying to talk about today. He said:

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 [reason for being] 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.

I would like to make the point that in the 10 years since then, things have not changed. That statement is still a valid statement.

Will Rogers was a cowboy philosopher from the United States. One of his comments was, “I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts”. If he were here today, I wonder if he would be laughing or crying.

The government seems to be out of control in most of its actions. A week ago we were leaving the House and then the government decided that we were staying because we had to debate important issues such as Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. Then the government turned around and said it did not want to debate these issues; it wanted to bring in closure. It did that on Thursday night to ram through Bill C-48. There are indications that it will try that same thing with this bill. It seems as if we are in the middle of a bad joke.

Bill C-48 was a joke in many ways. We talked about that last week and about the fact that the NDP had been sucked in on the bill. If one reads the page and a half long bill, one sees clearly that it states the government “may” commit up to $4.6 billion in spending in four areas. It does not have to spend it and cannot spend it until September or October of 2006.

The bill passed, and although somebody may be stuck with it even after the next election, it really has no immediate consequences. It was a joke of a bill. It seems as though the NDP bought into that. In the end the Bloc did too, in order to carry it through and try to get Bill C-38 through.

Bill C-38 is another joke. The government has decided that it is pushing ahead with the redefinition of marriage, but in the middle of the discussion there has been a lot of debate about whether religious institutions are going to be protected. The government has assured us time and again that it will try to do that even though the Supreme Court said it could not.

Clause 3 of the bill states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

That gave no protection to anybody, which was recognized immediately, so the government has come back with another clause, clause 3.1. It certainly sounds fancy, but I understand that the justice department lawyers themselves say that this gives no more protection than the charter gives anyway. We know how useful the charter is; the judges have the opportunity to interpret it the way they will. It is frustrating. Once again we are faced with what I would say is a bad joke that is being played on Canadians.

As we know, Bill C-38 is being opposed by most Canadians. We just heard our colleague across the way, who is a Sikh, talk about his opposition to it. We know that the world Sikh leaders have opposed a change in this concept. The member for Calgary Northeast talked about his riding and the opposition from the Sikh community there.

Most of the Muslims oppose this. In my riding last year we had a summer rally with the Muslim clerics at which a scholar came to speak. His words were, “This is a non-starter for us”. I thought that was as clear a statement as one could make.

Christian leaders across Canada have been fighting to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, the traditional position, which is seen as a core tenet of their beliefs.

We have had Jewish leaders who have been working on this as well and who have been a fundamental part of the fight to maintain the traditional definition of marriage.

For many of these folks, the belief in the traditional definition of marriage goes back to their holy scriptures and goes back entirely to creation and their perception of that. The Liberals have chosen to listen not to them but to special interest groups instead. In fact, the Liberals do not even listen to their own charter. As the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster pointed out, the charter talks about us recognizing the supremacy of God in this country and the Liberals have chosen to completely ignore that.

I do not know if I have enough time tonight to even go through this, but we are faced with two irreconcilable views about what marriage is. On one hand, the prior status of marriage has been that marriage is recognized but it did not have to be created by law. It was not created by law; it was recognized by our society. Heterosexual marriage had never needed law in order to be socially recognized and accepted. It had been universally accepted that the union of a man and a woman was the appropriate definition for marriage. That view sees heterosexual marriage as a natural fact, as something that unites men and women.

It has been historically recognized down through the centuries. For many, as I have mentioned, it has also been seen as part of a granting of divine revelation to people. Others see it as observable by natural reason. For those who see marriage as a natural fact uniting men and women, the binding force would be nature itself.

As Iain Benson, the executive director for the Centre for Cultural Renewal, pointed out in his presentation to the committee dealing with Bill C-38, “To people who hold this view, the idea that two men or two women could be married makes as much sense as two men trying to become sisters, or two women trying to become brothers. It just does not compute”.

This view of marriage does not depend upon the state. The state's role and function is to recognize it, not to define it. That is why in the past there have been so few statutes defining marriage.

Marriage by definition, to the folks who believe in this, is one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. To change that definition changes marriage. It just changes the definition to where people do not recognize it as marriage.

The other view sees marriage as basically a social construct, something that is not given in nature but something that is chosen and defined by humans, something that is chosen by our will, and then because of that, it is something they insist everyone should recognize. The ones who hold this view will tend to portray this as an issue of rights rather than just a redefinition of a social institution.

The interesting part of this is for the folks who hold this second definition or the second view of marriage, it is essential for them to try to bring the state in and to bring the power of the state to bear on the definition of marriage. That is what we see happening in the House. It is what we have seen over the last few months. For them the act of redefinition requires the use of all possible available means. We see that going on.

We have also been able to see the judiciary be part of this. We know now that eight provinces and one territory have had one single judge in each of those provinces and territory step forward and make a ruling. The federal government and the provincial governments have not had the courage to appeal those definitions. We talked a little about that earlier, but they just have refused to appeal. The Supreme Court actually pointed out in its decision that this change has come about by default, that basically governments have not done what they should be doing. They have not done their due diligence and because of their neglect, they have allowed the definition to change without the proper discussion of it that should have taken place.

Obviously the resolution between these two views is not going to be easy, but the government has made it even more difficult because it has basically destroyed the forum for public debate. With the extension of the sitting this week, we expect the Liberals at some point are going to try to close down debate. We see them whipping votes across the way and we see those members barely willing to come into the House to address the issue. People who have been watching the debate this afternoon will note that very few government members are even interested in talking about this issue.

We see the government rushing to radical conclusions.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is an experienced member, and he knows he is not allowed to refer to members being in the House. I would like to say that a number of Liberals, in a democratic fashion, have spoken on both sides of this debate and should be congratulated for doing so and expressing their opinions.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I think we are all very well aware of the fact that we do not point to the attendance of members in the House. I will ask the hon. member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands to please continue debate.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I am wondering if I could have a couple of extra minutes because of the interruption by the member.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Chair will be very generous in adding two seconds to your time, so you have one minute and 19 seconds remaining.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I did not point out that there are no Liberal members in the House, although perhaps i could, but what I would point out is that there are so few of them willing to debate the issue.

The way the government has gone about this violates basically everything that has made the country what it is. It really points out the fundamental difference between the government and the people of the country. Many people believe there is a law natural to all men. Some of the people who want to speak on this issue talk about their belief in a creator who has set principles in the hearts of men and women. Other people talk about their belief in universal principles.

I think all of us agree on some fundamental principles, things like honesty, telling the truth, integrity and the importance of democracy. It has been frustrating here because the government has short-circuited those principles in so many ways.

In conclusion, I believe that the Prime Minister has betrayed himself. He has changed his position in the House on this issue. I think he has betrayed Canadians because he has forced this issue on them against their will. I would suggest that he has also betrayed his creator because he refuses to live out what he claims he believes in.

He has a chance to redeem himself. I encourage him to take the bill off the table for the summer, go home, think about this, and come back in the fall. I ask him to set aside Bill C-38 and do what is right for Canadians.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I often say that I wish the Liberals would respect us for what we are and not for what they want us to be. This comes to mind more and more when I hear issues like this one being debated in the House. I would like to ask my colleague about that particular aspect of Bill C-38.

We hear across the way, “The judges made us do this. This is something that is coming from the courts. We cannot stop it ourselves. It happens here because of this judge and that judge”. In many cases we all know it is probably politically motivated. I would like my colleague to clarify for those who are listening whether he believes this is politically motivated or foisted upon Canadian society by the courts and why.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, we need to take a look at the evidence. To examine whether or not the government is treating this issue seriously, there is no better place to look than in the special legislative committee that was set up by the government. Truly the government has let the courts do what they want without challenging them.

The committee was set up and it was supposed to study the issue. There was supposed to be a legitimate effort to study the issue. In fact, my colleague from London—Fanshawe had gone to the Prime Minister and talked to him about the fact that he wanted this to be a legitimate look at what was going on. The government set up the committee so it would have the majority on it. Then it restricted in the beginning our ability to bring witnesses forward. The government did not want to have a broad hearing of witnesses.

When it did allow us to bring witnesses forward, often it sat three of the pro-government side at the table with one person who was against the legislation, just to make sure that the witnesses were intimidated as much as possible. Witnesses were called with 24 hours or less notice and were expected to show up at committee and make their presentations.

The committee sat for four hours per night, four nights a week to run through this as quickly as possible. In fact, it was run so unfairly that in the end the member for London--Fanshawe said that it was not the agreement he had reached with the Prime Minister and it led to his actually leaving the Liberal Party and sitting on the other side.

In answer to my colleague's question, the government has not treated the issue seriously. It has not treated it seriously in the courts, in how it has dealt with the court rulings. It has not treated it seriously in the House of Commons either in the way it dealt with the committee or how it is treating us through this week of debate.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, the member concluded his speech by saying that we should put this vote off until the fall.

How many members in the Conservative Party does he believe would change their vote? If we do not vote tonight for instance and if we carry on the debate, or indeed if we carry on the debate in the fall, how many members of the Conservative Party does he think will change their vote?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, what I would like to do is address the reason we are doing this, why this is being forced. Apparently, we are having a vote tonight, from what the member said. Maybe he has let out something he should not have. We are here because members of the Liberal government and the Bloc are afraid to go into the summer and have to defend their position on this issue. They have received the same amount of mail that we have. They know full well that pressure is going to come to bear on them. They are counting on passing this legislation, forcing it through, and then counting on Canadians losing interest in this issue. They have fundamentally misread Canadians on this issue. Although they have tried to disenfranchise more than half of the Canadian population on this issue, they are not going to be successful. People will remember this and they will pay those members back at election time.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise to thank the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have exercised their belief in the democratic process by telling this Parliament how they feel about the institution of marriage and their support for the family.

More particularly, I am pleased to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of constituents in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke who took the time to personally contact me in support of the traditional definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I want the people of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke to know that I draw strength from their support in what has been a very personal and nasty campaign against those individuals who choose to defend marriage and defend the family.

I congratulate members from all parties and political stripes who have taken a principled stand on this issue and stood their ground.

It is interesting to observe that the tactic by the Liberal Party to wear out those of us who oppose its latest attempt at social engineering is not working. The Liberal Party has miscalculated the fact that while attendance at religious institutions may fluctuate, support for the family has not changed. If anything, the no compromise position of the Liberal Party to this issue has stiffened opposition to it. This is in contrast to the pro-marriage supporters who have consistently tried to seek compromise when the anti-family proponents pushed confrontation.

It is said that one can find a little good in anything. By challenging pro-traditional marriage Canadians, individuals who may have been complacent in the past about the importance of family are accepting the challenge to defend what they believe is right. I am pleased that constituents in my riding have accepted this challenge and have made sure that I am informed of where they stand on the issue of religious freedom and the institution of marriage.

I am thankful for the letters that I have received such as this one from eight year old Dominic from Pembroke:

Dear Member of Parliament,

I know that only God has the power to change marriage, and that only a man and a woman can make the place for a new baby to enter the world. This is what I mostly wrote to the Prime Minister. Thank you for standing up against him.

Here is another letter from eight year old John in Combermere:

Thank you for all you do to try to keep Canada a good country for us to live in. Society depends on families, and families depend on marriage. I will pray for you as you work to protect marriage. I hope you enjoy my essay.

God bless you.

Yours truly,

John Hanlon.

This is the essay he wrote entitled “A Person I Admire”.

A person I admire is our local Member of Parliament.

I admire her because she is willing to stand up for what's right even when she has hard decisions to make, or when all the other members disagree with her.

She supports Christian values and families. She spoke against abortion at the March for Life.

When my brother and sister wrote to her and asked if she would defend marriage, she wrote back and said that she would because marriage is a sacrament created by God.

She votes in Parliament for the things that are right. My MP proves with her actions that her words are true, and that's the sort of person we want in government.

Thanks for the letter John. I will try not to let anyone down. Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom. I received this letter from Palmer's Rapids:

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am very concerned about, and totally opposed to, the proposal to change the definition of marriage. It is very obvious to most of us that marriage is for a male and female.

Conjugal union depends upon the natural and God-given differences between a man and woman, which are ordered toward mutual self-giving and the transmission of life.

Since the future of humanity depends on the creation of children, society has a vital interest in protecting the relationship that ensures its future.

It is my wish that you support true marriage and the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

This letter came from Braeside, Ontario:

Six years ago the vast majority of Members of Parliament voted to support marriage as being between one man and one woman. History, common sense and our own experience clearly tell me what marriage is and that you were right in your vote in 1999. I expect you to stick now to what you declared then and vote for the retention of marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

A constituent in Killaloe wrote this letter:

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am very concerned about the proposal to change the definition of marriage as I am pretty sure you are also. It is so obvious to most of us that marriage is for male and female. They simply go together.

This is not discrimination. It is simply to recognize nature and common sense. Why are we questioning so much that this great nation was founded on? My grandparents must be turning in their graves. I pray they are praying for all decision makers these days that conscience and common sense will prevail.

As my representative, I expect you to support the continuance of marriage as we have known it by whatever means necessary, including the notwithstanding clause.

This note came from Victor in Petawawa:

Dear Member of Parliament,

I at this time wish to make it clear, real clear, that I'm against same sex marriage and if this becomes law the Prime Minister should be thrown out of office for sure. Please do your best to stop this bill.

And finally, this letter from a constituent in Renfrew:

The Liberal government has introduced legislation to legalize same sex marriage. I strongly oppose this. The traditional definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. To include same sex marriage in this definition is not right. The understanding of marriage is that children will be the offspring born from the love of their parents. Neither gays nor lesbians can bear children.

If same sex couples wish to be joined, there should be a separate word used to describe their union. Do not tarnish the sacredness of what marriage is meant to be. Granted, all marriages are not perfect. However, the vision of an ideal marriage is something that society should strive to preserve and all married couples should strive to achieve.

With more families splitting up from various pressures of life in the modern world, it does not help when our government tinkers with the definition of marriage. Governments who establish legislation for our society should support marriage.

I hope you and all Conservative MPs vote to uphold the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man to one woman in the same sex marriage bill.

This is just a sampling of the thousands of letters I have received from constituents on this subject.

Marriage is significantly connected to our children. For a government to redefine marriage to be that of any two persons, the message we are sending to our children is that we value adult relationships above the future generations of children. To build a strong nation, we need to have strong families. We strengthen society by investing in the family and maintaining the traditional definition of marriage.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Both she and I are members from eastern Ontario. Would a Conservative government, should there be one and should this country be so unfortunate, revoke Bill C-38 if elected, and if so, would it use the notwithstanding clause to unmarry those married already?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, as my colleague opposite well knows, after every election a caucus is comprised of different individuals, so what may be the feeling of one group of MPs for a given session may differ from the next. For certain, I cannot say one way or the other. What I can say is that the MPs here are for the traditional definition of marriage.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a supplementary question for my colleague. She indicated to us that a number of her constituents had written to her. That's fine, of course. A number of people have written to me, as well. Is it her opinion that rights should be established by way of public opinion polls or some other measurement of a simple majority of the wishes of constituents?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, as the member well knows, this is not an issue of rights. Many civil rights activists have come out and said that this has nothing to do with rights.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated her reading those letters because that is very reflective of what is happening in all the constituencies, including the constituencies of Liberal members on the opposite side. I think that at one time the Deputy Prime Minister in this House actually supported traditional marriage. Here is what she wrote in a letter:

--the definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended, and will continue to defend this concept of marriage of court… I continue to believe that it is not necessary to change well-understood concepts of spouse and marriage to deal with any fairness considerations the courts and tribunals may find.

Obviously, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, no longer believes that. Why would the member think that would be the case?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it would seem that outside influences have pressured this minister for one reason or another. I am only speculating. Everything the Liberals have done is a matter of vote buying. What concerns me is the way the government, including the Prime Minister at that time, voted to keep the institution of marriage in 1999. Now in 2005 they are saying that the right of religious freedom will be preserved and that charitable tax status will be preserved.

What is to say that the government of tomorrow, if it is Liberal, will not flip-flop on these same things that it is saying today just to get through another day without having an election? The only reason we are going through this right now is because the Liberals are too afraid to have this on the ballot when an election is called.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I appreciate her reading out some letters. I will be doing that when I speak as well. I note however that all the letters seemed to be against the bill. I am wondering if she had any constituents who either wrote or emailed or spoke to her who were in favour of the bill?

In regard to her comment that everything has been done for vote buying, given that the opposition considers a vast majority of Canadians are against this bill, why would the Liberals do this for a minority of voters?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, this issue of vote buying is of great concern. We saw the current Minister for Human Resources in what seems to have been some purchasing of influence. We have the NDP that was purchased to the tune of $4.6 billion. The cooperation of Bloc members on the budget was purchased at a price of $1.3 billion. I think this is the real concern. I am glad that my colleague from across the way pointed out the preponderance of vote buying by the Liberal government at this time.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring forward some areas about which we have not yet talked. However, the debate has been ongoing for quite some time and everything is pretty well covered.

I would like to point out though that my own personal values and beliefs in regard to this issue are very strongly faith based. I have good reasons to say that. I think most people would understand why I say it.

I am very pleased to belong to a group of individuals who saw the importance of faith based decision making, especially our forefathers who had the foresight to inscribe on our buildings that “he will have dominion from sea to sea”. I have no apologies to make for that and I will not. Many decisions that I do make are based on that very thing.

I would like to indicate though that I have found and discovered through my experiences in life, and I have a few years in now, that I have learned the importance more and more on various occasions as to what is good about a family that is defined as a mother, a father and children and why it is so essential that this unit remain strong and have the strength to carry on with daily turmoils.

It is obvious to me from my studies in history that when the family begins to crumble, society begins to crumble. In many cases whole nations and empires have crumbled due to the destruction of the family. It is essential that we work hard to keep that strong and existing.

I was in the education field for about 30 years. For a number of years, I was principal of a school of grade one to twelve. There were nearly 900 students every year in that school. I served not only as principal. Prior to that I spend some years as a guidance counsellor.

Let me assure the House that there were many times during those years that I was able to experience why it was so important and essential for a child to have access to a mother and a father. It was illustrated time and time again.

I remember one experience where I needed to pay a little more attention to what was happening in the school and in the social affairs of all the people who were involved. A young boy who was about eight was brought to my office because he was misbehaving poorly. With that many students, I was not aware of the history or the stories behind most of the students. However, I found out that this boy's father had died in an industrial accident when he was about four years old. He had been without a father for quite some time. His mother was doing an excellent job of raising a family, of caring for them as a single parent. She was one of the best as is true in many cases in a single parent situation.

On a number of occasions that eight year old was brought to my office for misbehaviour or other problems. I never knew enough about the history of his family to know that this might have some bearing on the difficulties he was having.

One day when he was sitting in the chair in my office, after having been brought in several times, I said to him that we had to do something, that he was getting into trouble all the time. I asked him what was going on with him. He looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Why do I not have a daddy like the rest of the kids?”. That made me sit in silence for a moment.

Here was a young fellow who was without a father. It was no fault of his own. It was no fault of anybody except a tragic accident had taken him away. That day it dawned on me how important it was to that young fellow to have a mom and a dad, how he could miss them and how it could play on his life.

The boy was constantly being teased and ribbed by small children, as they will without knowing the harm they are causing. They teased him for not having a dad. A lot of times they do not understand why parenthood and bringing children up in the proper way is so important. I had more and more occasion to start thinking about the situation in regard to the family unit.

I learned after 30 years that a solid family unit, with the love of a mother and a father, created the best situation possible to establish a strong family unit for the benefit and future of their kids. That is not taking away anything from single parents, single for whatever reason, who we worked with during those years and who did an excellent job.

However, I believe it is all about that. It is the children. They are entitled to be brought up in a family that has the love and care of a mother and the firm hand and understanding of a father. I think there is enough evidence. Studies have shown that those kinds of situations are good for the family unit which in turn makes it good for the community as well as for the country. It makes it strong. It is the base.

I would ask that we think about all these things when we come to legislation like this. One of the speakers from the Liberal Party, I believe from Scarborough, mentioned several times that there ought to be more debate on what the future implications of Bill C-38 could have on our children. I agree with him. It is something that has not been debated to any length and it should be carefully considered.

One of the other speakers pointed out time and again, this was not about rights. In fact, I do not know any country that mentions marriage as a right. It is about public policy and values. It is about what we as a society believe our country should be. Yes, the voice of the people should be heard. Not only do we want to listen to the debates in here and try to learn from each other, but it is essential as elected members of Parliament that we hear the voice of the constituents and that we represent them.

I am really pleased to be a member of a party that has a complete free vote on this issue instead of other parties that do not. I do not know how anyone could talk about this being about rights and equality but stifle their own members from having a free vote. That makes no sense to me. What is really puzzling is in 1999 a decision was made in regard to a motion on the definition of marriage. When the vote was taken, it passed by something like 215 to 55. A lot of the Liberals who are here today were of that group of people at that time who supported it. The now Deputy Prime Minister stated firmly:

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

I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

A huge majority of that party agreed with that and they supported it in 1999. Then suddenly it became an equality rights issue. When they all believed originally that it was not necessary to change the definition to accommodate equality, now it is a different story. What in the world happened to those people to come to that conclusion?

If they were genuinely interested in equality, they would take a look at some of the situations in our Indian reserves and the lack of equality for the spouses in terms of property rights. We have talked about that a number of times in the House. I am sure the Speaker will remember, it was not too many years back that I brought up the opportunity to adopt an ombudsman for people on an Indian reserve because they did not have an ombudsman. Every Canadian has an ombudsman, but the Indian reserves do not. That is a lack of equality. Why is that not being addressed? Yet the Liberal government, which is pushing this issue as equality, turned down that very possibility of making something equal on the reserves.

It is really a very sad day that the Liberals recognize equality in this area when the real equality is that every child should have a mother and a father. We should concentrate on strengthening that unit.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member about a matter that was raised by the Supreme Court in its response to the reference of the four questions. Paragraph 60 refers to religious freedoms. It says:

--the Court is of the opinion that, absent unique circumstances with respect to which we will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

This section concerns me because it raises almost the spectre that there could be something that might challenge religious beliefs and there will come a day when we are before the courts. Does the member share that concern?

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Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do share that concern. There is no doubt in my mind that this is not the end of a situation, that this will create the beginning of many situations we suspect could happen.

I only need to go back to 1994 when the government first brought in sexual orientation to be included in the charter. I believe the member was here when we had that debate. Time and time again we asked if we accepted the inclusion of sexual orientation into the list in regard to rights and protections and so on, would that be the end of it or would it be extended and brought on and on for other issues? Would it lead to even marriage? We were assured time and time again in the justice committee that it would never happen, that this would be the end of it.

I believe the passing of this bill is the beginning of something that we definitely do not want to see happen. It could lead to great tragedies, I fear, and I want to stop it before it happens.

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Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke a lot about equality and I would just like to touch on a few points.

The courts across Canada ruled that equal access to civil marriage by same sex couples is an issue of equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although there is no right to marriage for anyone, there is a right to equality and, therefore, equal access to civil marriage. The courts have explained that the essence of equality is ensuring the human dignity of all Canadians. In legal terms, the charter deals with human rights, the basic rights that Canadians believe should be available to all, including the right to equality.

The bill addresses two fundamental charter guarantees. In considering the bill the Supreme Court of Canada has said that it not only complies with the charter it flows from its purpose and values. Is it the member's view that equality applies only to some Canadians and not to all?

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Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, those are the kinds of questions one could expect from a lawyer who could not find a job being a lawyer so he turned out to be a politician.

Of course I believe in all rights for all individuals. The member knows that. However, this is not about rights, The definition of marriage has never been about rights. Nowhere in the world is it recognized as a right. It is about social values. It is about a society that sets the tone for the kind of a country in which we want to live.

If those courts would have been challenged, like the government should have done on the lower court's decision when that happened, we might not be here debating this whole thing today. This is not about rights and it is not about equality. This is about a social value that was established in our country and in the world a long time before we ever came. We have no right to interfere with that.

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Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question of my colleague from Wild Rose.

At the beginning of his presentation he talked about the greatness of our nation and that God should have dominion from sea to sea. Really, that strikes another kind of tone when we look at the words in our Constitution.

Many of us have sat on committees, for instance, the committee reviewing the solicitation laws. The emphasis and tone of that committee stressed legalization of prostitution. Another committee was struck and ran for two years. It travelled all over the world, as a matter of fact, wanting to legalize marijuana. There is a moral dimension to everything the party across the way is attempting to bring about.

I would like the member for Wild Rose to comment on this moral dimension.