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.