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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

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.

It just seems to me that we have learned nothing from history at all. The hon. member spoke about what is happening today and what will happen in the future, with regard to prostitution and all these other moral areas. What we are dealing with today is nothing more than pure and simple social engineering, and social engineering at its worst, I might add.

There were excellent social engineers in the past. Stalin was one. We will register your guns, we will raise your kids, and we will do all the things you parents do not need to worry about; we will take care of it. We, the government, we are the almighty. It is not the almighty. God himself is the almighty, and we had best start remembering that.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien Independent London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-38 for the third time now. Regrettably, the bill has continued to progress. Quite frankly, I believe the most democratic thing the government could do in this case would be to withdraw this legislation. It simply has no democratic mandate to proceed on this legislation.

In the last election, one year ago, we will all recall that the Supreme Court had not even rendered its judgment, had not even spoken to these very important questions. The government had no proposed legislation to lay before the electorate of Canada; therefore, the conclusion is obvious: it has no democratic mandate to proceed on this legislation. If the Prime Minister and the government had political courage and were prepared to do the democratic thing and the right thing, they would withdraw this legislation and they would put it before the people of Canada whenever next the government goes to the polls, and then Canadians could factor in this idea, this proposed redefinition of marriage, along with all the other public policy questions, and they could then render a judgment democratically. That is what ought to be done, but I do not expect that to be done.

I am opposed to Bill C-38 on two main points. First of all, I am opposed to the decision itself, and then I want to speak to and explain why I am opposed to the process.

On the decision itself, it simply boggles the mind why this government is charging ahead, determined to make a decision that flies in the face of common sense, that flies in the face of the clear majority opinion of most Canadians not to redefine marriage.

I was proud that on Monday past my wife Evelyn and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien Independent London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you to my colleagues, and to my wife, for sure, for putting up with me for 35 years.

She is just as determined as I am that this is a wrong decision, that this is an illogical decision. Quite frankly, for many Canadians, including myself and my wife, it is more than an illogical decision; it is an immoral decision, and it is not necessary to go down this road. Other countries have found a solution to this problem.

I have polled my constituents repeatedly. What have they told me? Over 90% repeatedly say do not change the definition of marriage. It is a man and a woman, full stop. But we recognize the signs of the times. We understand that people of the same sex are going to live together in intimate relationships. We understand that the courts are driving this agenda and that the courts, whether you or I like it or not, are determined to offer recognition to these people. Fine, recognize their relationship in some way, register it at city hall, call it civil union, like they do in France, call it something else, but do not call it what it is not: marriage.

I am fundamentally opposed to the decision itself, and I want to comment now and explain why I am so opposed to this incredible process that we have been put through. I see the hon. parliamentary secretary opposite. I listened to him from my riding office earlier today, in my riding of London—Fanshawe, before I flew here. I heard him and I heard other members of this House argue, including the government House leader, that there has been a full debate, all kinds of debate, a full opportunity for democratic process. That is sheer nonsense, and those of us who have been here know that is sheer nonsense.

The reality is that I sat on the justice committee from February to June 2003. Yes, we heard some 400-and-some-odd witnesses, but what happened in the end? We did not even report. That committee did not even issue a report. Our work was totally pre-empted by arrogant judges in the Ontario Court of Appeal who issued a ruling saying they instantly redefine marriage. Now what did the government of the day do? What did Minister Martin Cauchon and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien do? They rolled over and played dead on the issue. They refused to appeal that decision. Absolutely incredible. That was their agenda, and that is why the Supreme Court of Canada--and you didn't need to be a lawyer to know what they would do--refused to answer question four. They had not gone through the proper steps if they really wanted to appeal that.

The first committee, whose witnesses everybody likes to cite, did not even issue a report.

I would like to see the evidence that this latest committee referenced and how it worked those submissions into its final amendments and report.

The first committee was rendered a farce by the courts.

Then, of course, we had one of the most duplicitous situations at that time, where we were even denied quorum at the justice committee. Let us talk reality. I was there. A teaming up of the Bloc Québécois and some Liberal MPs on that committee--

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien Independent London—Fanshawe, ON

Yes, that is what really happened. I was there.

There was a teaming up of some Bloc and some Liberal MPs. To do what? To deny quorum so we could not even put a second motion to appeal that ruling.

From that day forward, I was much less proud to be a Liberal member of Parliament. I have to say that. It really was quite an incredible display of undemocratic arrogance that we saw.

Now we come to the latest legislative committee. Let us recall one thing. There was no need for this decision to be referred to a legislative committee. It could have been referred to the standing committee. It could have been referred to some other special committee. Why was it referred to a legislative committee? To try to narrow the debate as much as possible. That is what it was all about. And everybody around here who has been here for a while understands what the game was.

I was quite close some weeks ago to leaving the Liberal Party. I went to the right hon. Prime Minister and said, “Look, Prime Minister, I was through one farce of a process. I will not stand still for seeing this farcical process repeated again.” He gave me his personal assurance that there would be full and fair hearings by the legislative committee.

I want to correct the record because I have heard some members on this side today make one error that I want to correct, in fairness to the Prime Minister and myself. I did not seek a travel committee because I knew that the justice committee had travelled extensively and I knew that most committee hearings take place here in Ottawa. I understood that would be fine. And I have no problem with the number of witnesses they heard.

However, as many members on this side have correctly said, I have major problems with witnesses being given less than 24 hours' notice to appear; with them being berated and lectured to by members of both sides of the table, in some cases, when they did show up because they were not speaking to these narrow parameters; and with the imposition of a ridiculous deadline of June 14. I have major problems with those issues.

What happened with the second process where we were supposed to have public consultation? It was rendered a farce, perhaps a bigger farce than the first committee. I have major problems with the process that took place.

I was proud to support a man a few years ago to be leader of my party, the Liberal Party, the right hon. Prime Minister. He spoke about the democratic deficit. I am sorry to have to say it, but the reality is that since this government has come to office, the democratic deficit in this country has increased, it has not decreased, and that is simply not acceptable to me.

When I saw the second committee process being rendered a farce, I made a decision that I could no longer in good conscience remain a member of the Liberal Party and I took a decision to become an independent member of Parliament. That was not taken lightly or with any joy. I felt very badly that the party I had worked in and represented for a number of years was shifting way over to the left, becoming the NDP light.

When we see our friends over in the NDP, I have a word for them. It is the New Democratic Party. Is it not interesting that that is the only party that is not allowing a free vote in the House of Commons? Shame on the New Democratic Party for not allowing that.

I will finish this way. I will support the amendments to the bill. Why? Because I want to see the best possible bill if we are going to have it become law. I will support the amendments because they do improve things like religious freedom, tax status, and so on. But in the end, I will continue to oppose this legislation because it is wrong for Canada, it is immoral, it is illogical, it is unnecessary, and most Canadians reject it out of hand.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite referred to the Ontario Supreme Court judges as being arrogant because they made a decision with which he personally disagreed.

Does the member believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of British Columbia are also arrogant since they reached a similar decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Manitoba are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Quebec are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick are arrogant because they reached the same decision?

Does he believe that the judges of Nova Scotia are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of Prince Edward Island are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of Newfoundland and Labrador are arrogant because they reached the same decision? Does he believe that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada are arrogant because they reached the same decision?

Does he believe that the premiers of all those provinces are arrogant because they did not use the notwithstanding clause? In that case, does he believe, since the politicians would not do it, that perhaps our religious institutions should have the right of veto over the decisions of judges because perhaps they would not be arrogant in such decision making?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien Independent London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the hon. member, the last comment is so silly that I will just let it go for another time.

I am really glad the member gave us all the repetition about the various judges but I would invite him to sharpen his listening skills. What I indicated was that the only court, to my knowledge, in the world that instantaneously ruled that we would have a redefinition of marriage was the Ontario Court of Appeal. It was none of the other courts that he enumerated. That was the atrocity, that was the arrogance and that is what the hon. member did not pay attention to in my comments.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like preface my question for the member by saying that I sat on the defence committee with the hon. member who was the chair of that committee. He ran an unbiased and fair committee and allowed the defence committee, SCONDVA, to do some pretty darn good work. We were able to work without partisanship and we tried to do the best we could as a group for the armed forces, and I congratulate him for that. Subsequent to his leaving, I must say that we have had an incident or two to indicate that might not continue on this committee, which is unfortunate.

The member was one of the people on the government side who chose to leave, and I give him credit for his courage. I wonder what his thoughts were when he saw what happened last Thursday night when members who had stood beside him shoulder to shoulder in opposition to this bill caved in on the one bill, the one opportunity they had to stop this bill, by voting against the bill. I wonder what his thoughts were when he witnessed what happened on Thursday.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Independent

Pat O'Brien Independent London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his kind words about my work as the chair of SCONDVA. I can tell the House that the hon. member is the vice-chair and he, I and all the members of that committee had a very good professional and, I think, largely non-partisan working relationship. I regret the fact that in leaving the government party and becoming an independent, it was obvious they were not going to keep me on as chairman. That came as no shock to me. I do miss that work but I wish him and the rest of the committee well as they pursue important business for the Canadian Forces.

Last Thursday was an incredible experience. The first thing that struck me, and I am sorry because I have a couple of friends in that particular caucus, was the breathtaking hypocrisy of the New Democratic Party for one. We have a leader of the New Democratic Party up on his hind legs railing about the use of closure. I have heard member after member railing about the use of closure by the government or past governments. I heard the member for Sarnia--Lambton, the longest serving member of the NDP caucus, railing about the use of closure at the time of the free trade debate.

It saddened me to watch that particular party agreeing that closure was okay when it was on something the New Democratic Party wanted. I really was disappointed, surprised and shocked. Quite frankly, we saw the same thing from our friends in the Bloc Québécois.

To answer my colleague's question, I thought it was within the rules, technically, yes, but I thought it was a pretty dirty trick of bending the rules about as far as one could, and I was just shocked by the breathtaking arrogance of a couple of the parties in this House.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the commitment of this government to see Bill C-38 passed quickly has saddened me. I must also say that I am very frustrated at the way this legislation was handled by the government, the NDP and the Bloc, and their willingness to ram it through before summer break.

Bill C-38 promotes values that go against my most fundamental principles, beliefs and convictions, and that is why I am opposing the redefinition of marriage and reiterating my support for the motion moved on June 8, 1999:

That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.

We as legislators should consider the matter much more cautiously before changing the definition of marriage, a reality that is the foundation of our society. There are few arrangements more central to human survival than pair bonds and these unions are central to the development of human society.

Marriage varies considerably from culture to culture but the primary object of marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and the raising of children in a traditional family environment. Therefore, if we allow same sex couples to join the institution of marriage, it will violate long held societal views that are rooted in religion, history and anthropology.

I feel extremely privileged to stand today in this noble institution to voice the concerns of the majority of my constituents of Nickel Belt. Although Canadians are against redefining marriage, they also recognize the rights of persons of the same sex who wish to form a couple but it is difficult to imagine that this same concept, the concept of marriage, can apply to two such different realities, namely heterosexual and same sex couples.

I recognize the wish of homosexuals to have their union recognized by the state in one form or another in order to assert their status as a couple and give it a name. I do not believe, however, that breaking down the concept of marriage represents any kind of social progress. Would it not be advisable to continue examining this matter rather than calling into question the definition of a reality that is considered untouchable, if not sacred, and justly so, by the majority of Canadians? Such a universal definition cannot be resolved in just a few months.

Since last fall, I have received thousands of letters, postcards, e-mails, faxes and phone calls from Canadians wishing to voice their strong opposition to the redefinition of the institution of marriage.

For Canadians seeking to redefine an institution that is the foundation of society, it is a lot more than a legal issue. This complex and crucial issue will not be resolved with Bill C-38 and if the House adopts legislation in accordance with the changes proposed in the bill, millions of Canadians will feel disgraced by their religious leaders who have not considered the basic aspect of the nature and meaning of marriage.

We often hear it said that the expression “separate but equal” cannot be applied to marriage. However, that is precisely what section 15 of the charter provides. It 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—” In other words, equality makes it possible to treat certain individuals differently but not unfairly. If same sex couples enjoy a legal benefit equal to that of heterosexual couples, the requirements of the charter are met.

We must recognize that the charter came into effect to guarantee individual rights in Canada and not to serve as a tool for social change. It is hard to believe that the definition of marriage could be discriminatory, when the practice is not.

This is a matter of public social ethics and not of the charter of rights. Many believe that the charter is a red herring in the issue of the institution of marriage.

Bill C-38 does not consider the ordinary citizen who has neither the means nor the political power of the strong homosexual lobby. With the attack focussed on the traditional definition of marriage, Canadians feel that they are being handed a hot potato and that the effects of such a choice on our society will be negative and unpredictable.

We obviously cannot fully address an issue as complex as the redefinition of marriage through the strict legal approach taken by the Supreme Court of Canada and reflected in the bill. The desire to improve the social position of homosexuals and the current heated debate in fact call upon us to look for new solutions but such a process cannot change the inescapable fact of human experience.

It is essential we do not forget that marriage between a man and a woman is a natural state of affairs in accordance with human constitution and the purpose of marriage. As I said before, this does not rule out same sex unions but they are not the same thing.

The sexual difference of the human race has always been reflected and recognized in marriage which, by granting a man and woman the status of a couple, provides for the procreation of the species. The findings of ethnologists, cultural anthropologists and historians show that throughout time worldwide, with few exceptions, from the most primitive to the most modern societies, heterosexual couples have received special recognition if not nearly sacred status.

Through various rituals practised by families, religions or the state or a combination of these three, humankind has always affirmed the crucial role that a man and woman in a couple play in building society by granting the couple special status and protection. Common law unions, which reflect a crisis in society and have repercussions on the institution of marriage, are subject to the same laws that the state applies to marriage and the family. In this way the state protects the rights of spouses and children.

It is very clear to me that this debate is not about individual rights but rather the common good of our society and the spiritual and physical well-being of our children and the future of Canadian families.

If homosexual marriage is legalized it becomes a norm. I am afraid it will inevitably lead to the trivialization of the institution of marriage and eventually to the deterioration of our societal fabric. There is no denial that the institution of marriage emphasizes the interest of every child, natural or adopted, to be raised as a first choice by a mother and a father.

This is why it is most surprising to note that the bill does not mention children. Even though Bill C-38 recognizes “Whereas marriage is a fundamental institution in Canadian society...and represents the foundation of family life for many Canadians”, this silence is both suggestive and disturbing.

As children are created by a woman and a man, they need both a mother and a father during the first years of their lives in order to develop normally. Normal development for a child can better originate in a stable family situation where the mother and the father occupy their traditional roles. Studies in sociology and psychology have confirmed this evidence.

We are living in an era where nobody's rights are more infringed upon than those of our children: the right to have two parents, the right to stability and the right to live in harmony with affection. Is it not more important to protect our children's rights and should we not be more preoccupied with those rights than the question of same sex marriage?

The General Assembly of the United Nations reminded the world in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child that “The child...shall grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, in an atmosphere of affection and material security”. In this perspective, we ask ourselves how Bill C-38 would impact and what negative consequences it would have on our children.

It is our prime responsibility to defend the rights of those who do not have the ability to be part of this debate, the ones who will be most affected by these major changes on our society. It is fundamental that we protect our children who will be the first victims of this legislation.

The only positive aspect of this debate is that it forces us as individuals and collectively to reflect on an institution in crisis and on its role in society. Like it or not, heterosexual marriage, which consecrates the union of a man and a woman, is the very foundation of our society and of the family. Society owes its very existence to the family. The rapid pace of change in society today has, in a sense, blinded many people.

We must recognize that we should not play with a concept as important as marriage without more serious thought, in spite of the pressure to name the new social reality of same sex couples. It is essential for our society that the wisdom recorded by ethnologists and historians must not be tampered with lightly.

I find it very challenging to see how expanding the definition of civil marriage will benefit homosexuals. On the contrary, the public reaction to the redefinition of marriage could lead to a rejection much more profound than what this minority has experienced thus far.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, there is not too much of my colleague's speech with which I disagree.

I do not think we are at this point by accident. The legislation was not born yesterday. Surely it was discussed by the Liberal caucus. Surely the member had some input. I understand that close to half of the Liberal caucus share the same opinions on same sex marriage as do people on this side of the House. That must have been discussed at caucus meetings. That must have been discussed among Liberal members themselves.

I am wondering if part of the speech the hon. member gave does not ring somewhat hollow. Why was there not a groundswell among the members who oppose the legislation as fervently as they say they now oppose it? Why was it not brought forward to the Liberal caucus and ultimately to the Prime Minister to dissuade him?

I wonder if the member could give us his thoughts on that.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, as reflected in my speech, I am not in agreement with my party and with my government, but there is one thing I will hold to and that is I will not make this bill a partisan affair.

The hon. member asked me what went on in our caucus. He knows very well that what happens in his own caucus is strictly confidential.

Evidently there are many different views on this issue and people are able to justify their positions. It just so happens that my position is very clear, but I wish that the members opposite and the members on my own team would not make this a partisan issue. It is much too serious for that. There are too many consequences for families and for children.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that there are far too many consequences for Canadians and for families.

I want to ask him a question, because I know his constituents who are as concerned about the legislation as I am will ask him the same question. A hundred years from now, does he think Canadians would be more concerned or society would be more impacted by the changing of a definition that he rightly called a fundamental part of society, or would they be more upset if we had an election, if the hon. member had voted against Bill C-48, cancelled the NDP-Liberal coalition, ceased to be a member of Parliament, but did the right thing?

Maybe he would not have ceased to be a member of Parliament. Maybe his constituents would have rewarded him for standing on principle, for doing something that he believed in. Does he think that 100 years from now, 50 years from now or even 20 years from now there would be more repercussions from changing a fundamental aspect of society than there would have been over a federal election or the cancelling of a deal with the NDP?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member used the word “maybe” about five times in his question.

Again, I say it is much too serious to make it a partisan issue. That suggests that the member assesses the political repercussions of everything he does in the House. I do not. I made my decision when I was a teenager. When I was a child with my upbringing my position on the bill started then.

I did not stop and take a poll to determine how it will affect my re-election, if I will run again or which party I am in. That is not the way things work.

The people of my riding have asked me every question in the book. I am very open to them. We have a good dialogue. I am more concerned about what will happen in 20 years. My friend talked about 100 years.

Twenty-two years ago Parliament voted in favour of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I maintain that if someone had said then that if we voted for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we would be opening the doors to same sex marriages, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not have passed in the House. Twenty-two years is a long time.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

You are making my point.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not making the member's point. His point was how 100 years from now it would affect my re-election.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat comical to hear the members of the Conservative Party chastising Liberal members for not voting against their budget when they had the opportunity and did not have the hands on deck to do that, but that is not my question.

The member and I are on different sides of this issue; notwithstanding that, we respect one another's position. He started his comments based on the fact that this was being rammed through, or words to that effect. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe made the same point, that this is a process that is being rammed through.

My direct question is, if there was another six years of debate on this issue, what are the chances that his position would change?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, six years may not change the position based on the legislation we have before us. It would give us an opportunity to attempt other solutions. Have we asked members of the gay and lesbian community if they would accept the definition “civil union”?

I explained my position to every gay and lesbian person who called me, that what I was concerned with was the word “marriage”. I asked them whether they could live with the definition “civil union”. Every single one of them agreed they could live with that. That was not a big issue for them.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to address Bill C-38 in order to filibuster or obstruct Parliament, as some contend. I rise to speak in order to change the minds of those who would vote in favour of this bill.

I sincerely and profoundly want Bill C-38 defeated. I represent millions of Canadians who do not want this bill passed. I represent millions who believe that marriage is and should remain as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

It is undoubtedly unrealistic of me to expect that every member of Parliament will take a copy of my speech and before he or she goes to bed tonight will read and ponder what I am about to say. I probably kid myself into believing that each one will thoughtfully ask himself or herself the pertinent questions which I am going to pose.

Instead of restating the positions which I have already articulated in my previous speeches on this topic, I am going to ask a series of questions which I challenge others to answer honestly, to put aside prejudgments on these questions and to try desperately to think of these things on a deep level.

Here are the questions. They are not in any particular order. I just wrote them down as they came to mind.

Question 1: Am I ready to undo the traditions and teachings which have directed societies and nations over many millennia?

Question 2: Am I ready to contribute to a weakening of the family unit as it has come to be understood and sought after by generations of people in history?

Question 3: If I have a belief in God as taught by my religion, am I ready to go 180 degrees against the teaching of my religion?

Question 4: If I have no professed religious belief, am I ready to undo thousands of years of tradition and history?

Question 5: Why is it necessary to so profoundly offend the millions of Canadians who, from either a religious or non-religious basis, do not want to have the definition of marriage redefined?

Question 6: Have I read and studied with an open mind the hundreds of studies which show that children raised in families with their biological mother and father do best in all defined measurable categories?

Question 7: Do I really believe that it is in Canada's best interest to promote the increase of families which do not have a mother and father present for the development of the children?

Question 8: Am I ready to say to children brought into these homosexual unions that they may never know their biological roots, being denied forever the knowledge of either their biological father or mother?

Question 9: Am I ready to say to every person so raised that they do not have the right to determine their genetic heritage?

Question 10: Have I asked myself why in this debate the only questions of equality are for the equality of homosexuals, instead of the broader question of equality for all relationships, including non-sexual relationships?

Question 11: What are the actual benefits to society to have the traditional definition of marriage nullified?

Question 12: What benefit is there to the children involved in society as a whole if we transmit the message that fathers do not matter, or mothers do not matter?

Question 13: Is it really true that there are no consequences to a child being raised in a home where only one gender is represented in the parentage?

Question 14: Will this redefinition assist or hinder young people in gender identity issues?

Question 15: How will children in these relationships have any hope whatsoever of learning the roles of males and females when they are not being modelled for them?

Question 16: Why did members of the Liberal Party do a 180 degree reversal of their position of supporting the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of others, as demonstrated in their 1999 speeches and vote?

Question 17: Were the Liberals right then and wrong now, or were they wrong then and right now?

Question 18: Why would the Deputy Prime Minister, then minister of justice, speak so eloquently that the equality issues can be addressed without redefining marriage if she did not believe it?

Question 19: Is there some concern about the hidden agenda in the Liberal Party when it promised right before an election, “It is not the intention of this government to change the definition of marriage,” and then after the election do the precise opposite?

Question 20: Why will the Prime Minister not permit a free vote on this important issue for all members in his party, including cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries?

Question 21: Is it not important to hear the thousands of Canadians for whom this is a very important issue and to seek a compromise solution that avoids offending deeply so many good citizens of our country?

Question 22: Is it not a bit of a hollow promise on religious freedom if in the very vote on the issue Liberal members are not permitted to exercise their religious freedom and conviction?

Question 23: If their position on this bill is so right, then why can they not trust their members to vote correctly, without coercion?

Question 24: If this is truly a human rights issue and there are apparently some 30 or more members in cabinet or in parliamentary secretary positions in the government, why are these intolerant members permitted to continue in their positions?

Question 25: Why is the government giving false assurance of religious freedom when we already have a number of cases in which people with religious faith or leaders in religious organizations are being hauled before various tribunals and in some cases are being punished?

Question 26: Is there not a concern regarding the loss of individual religious freedom when this bill addresses only the apparent freedoms of religious organizations? I emphasize the words “individual religious freedom”.

Question 27: Is there not a concern with the fact that the Supreme Court, in its reference, ruled that religious freedom in the sense anticipated by the bill is not within the federal jurisdiction to grant?

Question 28: What about the marriage commissioners in British Columbia and Saskatchewan who have been given notice to solemnize same sex marriages or lose their credentials? What about their religious freedom?

Question 29: What about individuals like the teacher in B.C. who was suspended from his position solely on the charge of expressing his personal opinions in letters he wrote to newspapers?

Question 30: What about the individual in Saskatchewan who lost a case in which he was charged with quoting the scriptures?

Question 31: What about the Catholic school board that was forced to go against the teachings and beliefs of the church at a recent graduation ceremony?

Question 32: What about the mayor of a major Ontario city who was fined for not promoting a teaching that was against her religious beliefs?

Question 33: What about the religion based camp in Manitoba that was charged because it refused to go against the convictions and beliefs of its supporting members?

Question 34: Is it a concern that the democratic process is being trashed?

Question 35: Why are the million or so names on petitions presented in this House being ignored?

Question 36: Why are members of Parliament being bullied into voting opposite to the wishes of their constituents?

Question 37: Why was the justice committee of the last Parliament shut down before being permitted to report and the present special committee totally stacked with individuals on one side of the debate, having its work truncated in order to ram this legislation through?

Question 38: Why is this issue so urgent that it justifies an extended session of Parliament into the summer?

Question 39: Is part of the tactic to push it through quickly, using the excuse that members must get back to their commitments in their ridings and other parts of the country?

Question 40: Why is it so important to stifle the opposition to this bill?

Question 41: How come, in 1999 and previous votes, the traditional definition of marriage was clearly upheld and now, just a few years later, it is under attack?

Question 42: Why is the Prime Minister so determined to jam this bill through quickly? It is because he hopes the voters will forget by the time of the next election?

Question 43: If this approach in social policy is so defensible, why is there such fear that the voters of the country will react negatively against the Liberal government?

These are important questions and they demand honest answers. I fear that many members have been bullied or deceived into supporting this legislation. In my view, this legislation is wrong. We should do the country and its citizens a huge favour by defeating it and getting the solution to these problems right.

I urge all members to support the amendments which address these serious questions and to vote against Bill C-38. We must do what is right. We must defend the family, moms and dads and the social order which has stood the test of time and history. Let us not go down the wrong road at this time and then have to deal with the consequences in generations to come.

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8 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has had a long history of teaching at community colleges and schools. He did pose a lot of questions, but first of all he had a number of points I would like to reflect on. He should recognize that in terms of our party there is division on this issue, but he should look at the other two corners of the House. In that corner, the NDP members are all for it and the Bloc members are almost all for it. When he looks at us, he sees at least 30 members or so who have concerns with this bill.

I would like to ask him a question. As a teacher he must have some answers. In regard to questions 41 and 42, what are the correct answers?

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8 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

First of all, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the support from all members of the House, in my estimation, some 20% of eligible voters voted for the Liberal Party. It was 20% if we factor in the percentage that voted in the general election and the percentage that voted for the Liberals. The same is true for the NDP.

Based on the feedback we have had and the literal outpouring of concern by citizens right across the country through emails, petitions, phone calls, faxes and meetings, I contend that this is a big issue--I have been invited to a number of meetings and rallies--and it is an offence to the Canadian people to so ruin the democratic process that they are not listened to.

Furthermore, I venture to guess that the proportion of people in the Liberal Party who support this would be much closer to the proportion in the general population if they were actually able to represent the wishes of their constituents. I cannot believe that those who are ready to vote in favour of Bill C-38 are totally immune from these presentations.

I was asked about questions 41 and 42. First, why was the definition of marriage clearly upheld in 1999 but now is under attack? To me the answer is very simple, that is, the Liberals, and especially the Deputy Prime Minister, who is famous for that speech she made in 1999, did not speak from conviction at that time or else they would not have changed their convictions. I think that is basically the answer.

Why is the Prime Minister so determined to jam this bill through? I think it is simply because the Liberals know they are going to be punished at the polls if it is still on the books. They want to get it out of the way and hope that voters will forget. I trust, however, that the voters will remember and will say that they are going to turf these Liberals because they are doing the wrong thing here.

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8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Ontario Court of Appeal decision came down and instantaneously changed the common law definition of marriage, at the same time there was no statutory definition of marriage in any statute of Canada. We actually went from 1999 on without a definition of marriage in federal law because it is in the common law.

The argument was made that we need to have Bill C-38 so we can normalize it right across the country, but while we have been working on this process, interestingly enough, now we have eight provinces and one territory doing this. The vast majority of the country is already there. It seems to me, and maybe the member wishes to comment, that Bill C-38 no longer serves a useful purpose. It probably should be withdrawn and we should let the courts continue to make the law.

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8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that until 1999 and in the years immediately preceding, we were covered in our definition of marriage by the common law. In fact, superior court decisions at that time were upholding that definition. I do not have them here and I do not have time to quote them, but there were decisions such as the heterosexual definition of marriage being upheld.

In my view, both the courts of the country and the government were in contempt of Parliament, because in 1999, the party of which I was a member at that time, proposed its motion which said that marriage is and shall continue to be defined as “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” and that Parliament should take “all necessary steps” to preserve that definition.

When the courts ruled opposite to that, somebody should have said, “Whoops, the court cannot do that”. Yet the government--and I say it did so in contempt of Parliament--failed to carry through on a vote that carried with a huge majority in Parliament by failing to challenge those court decisions. It should have, it could have and it chose not to. The Liberals were sitting on their duffs and they failed the country. That is why we are in this morass now.

The member suggests that the bill should be withdrawn. I agree with that. He said the courts should continue to make the law. I disagree with that. I believe very strongly that this place, right here, where the people are represented by members of Parliament, should have the ultimate say in the law of the land and the courts should have the role of enforcing the laws made here.

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8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question. Does anyone here remember what Richard Rich accomplished as Attorney-General for Wales? Probably not. Father Raymond de Souza asked that question in his most recent article.

Many people remember Richard Rich not for what he did as attorney general, but rather as a stark contrast to the life of St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More stood by his principles, acted according to his conscience and paid the ultimate price for choosing his conscience before his political master. For choosing his political master before his conscience, Richard Rich was rewarded with the 16th century equivalent of a cabinet position.

Father Raymond de Souza relates a story about the film on the life of St. Thomas More. As St. Thomas is led up to the gallows, he turns to Rich and, seeing the insignia for Wales on his neck, says the following, “It does not profit a man if he gain the entire world but loses his soul. But for Wales, Richard?”

Today we can ask ourselves, “But for a cabinet spot in the Liberal government?”

We cannot discuss Bill C-38 without discussing the Liberals' aversion to democracy. We are sitting here today, a week after the House was supposed to rise, debating this issue due to the heavy-handedness on the part of the Liberal government. The Liberals trampled over parliamentary democracy last week by extending the sittings of this House to ram through their radical position on marriage. They had to ram it through, because they know that the vast majority of Canadians do not want to see the definition of marriage changed.

I sat in on a committee hearing for Bill C-38. I saw at first hand how the Prime Minister's idea of a fair and open committee operates.

We heard dozens of groups opposed to homosexual marriage complain that they were given little to no notice. They were even unable to get their documents translated in time and therefore were often prevented from tabling their evidence in time for the hearing. I also saw government members badgering witnesses and berating them, in the words of a former Liberal MP, for being opposed to the legislation.

The nature of the committee itself was also manipulated to ensure speedy passage. The committee was struck only to look at the technical aspects of the bill. Its members were not even allowed to hear evidence regarding the substance of the bill or how the bill might impact society.

There were also many reports that those groups opposed to Bill C-38 were not given funding for their travel expenses and other expenses incurred in coming to testify before the committee, but many groups who were in favour of the government's position were provided that funding. There is a clear imbalance there.

Upwards of 30 Liberal MPs are currently stating their opposition to this legislation. Logic would dictate that the Liberal whip would allow even just one pro-traditional marriage member to sit on that committee, but again, we know that there was not.

Another example of how the Liberals hate democracy is the fact that the entire Liberal cabinet is being whipped on this issue. Cabinet ministers have wrestled with their consciences and their consciences have lost. The lure of the cabinet car and the fierce stick of the Prime Minister's Office pounded their consciences into submission. I hope they put up a good fight.

Canadians have already seen the rights of religious groups and others being infringed. Religious institutions are already under attack. Individual Canadians have already been attacked for their own views on this subject. I can give members a few examples.

First, there is the case of a British Columbia teacher. Exercising his freedom of speech, he wrote several letters to the editor about this subject. In return, his teaching licence was suspended. This is an example of freedom of speech being infringed. Bill C-38 does nothing to protect individuals like this one in the example I cite.

Second, there is a move in Ontario to remove the biological information of parents from birth certifications. Can members imagine children not knowing who their biological parents are?

I would like to quote Dr. Margaret Somerville, because the central question we are talking about here is whether marriage is still connected to the potential to have and raise children and to provide a stable environment for those children, or whether it is simply connected with the personal needs of two adults in a close relationship.

Dr. Somerville states:

The crucial question is: should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one? The answer will decide who takes priority when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a child and the claims of adults. Those who believe that children need and have a right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents, oppose same-sex marriage because...it would mean that marriage could not continue to institutionalize and symbolize the inherently procreative capacity between the partners; that is, it could not be primarily child-centred.

In short, accepting same-sex marriage necessarily means...abolishing the norm that children...have a prima facie right to know and be raised within their own biological family by their mother and father. Carefully restricted, governed and justified exceptions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the norm would have far-reaching impact.

We also know of the case of the Knights of Columbus also in British Columbia. It is being harassed because it refuses to compromise its own conscience and rent a hall out to a homosexual couple. Its religious beliefs do not allow them to rent it out and it is being persecuted for following their faith.

There is also the case of Bishop Fred Henry. He dared to speak out against homosexual marriage and was rewarded by having the charitable status of his church threatened. Here is Bishop Henry's assessment of the so-called protection of religious institutions portion of the bill:

The recent Supreme Court decision bows in the direction of religious freedom. However, it adds a disturbing qualifier to its decision, namely, the statement that, “Absent unique circumstances with respect to which the Court will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials...

When you read this carefully, you don't have to be a lawyer to recognize an open door. Particular circumstances might lead to some future court legitimately trying to force religious officials to perform these ceremonies against their conscience, though the justice system declined to speculate on what those circumstances might be. It's disquieting that the court would even raise the possibility.

Bill C-38 not only does not close the door; as a matter of fact, it fails in a number of particular ways to support religious freedom.

He lists them:

One, it fails to recognize, protect, and reaffirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which the Supreme Court of Canada did not suggest was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor did it suggest that a redefinition of marriage was necessary to conform to the charter.

Two, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to enact the necessary legislation and regulations to ensure full protection for freedom of conscience and religion so Canadians are not compelled to act contrary to their conscience and religion.

Three, it fails to affirm cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments to ensure all leaders and members of faith groups are free everywhere in Canada to teach and preach on marriage and also on homosexuality, as is consistent with their conscience and religion.

Four, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that in addition to sacred places, all facilities owned or rented by an organization that is identified with a particular faith group are protected from compulsory use and preparations for or celebrations related to marriage ceremonies contrary to that faith.

Five, it fails to affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure all civil as well as religious officials who witness marriages in Canada in every province and territory are protected from being compelled to assist when these are contrary to their conscience and religion.

Six, it fails to safeguard faith groups that do not accept the proposed redefinition of marriage from being penalized with respect to their charitable status.

Bishop Henry put it quite well. Those are major problems with the bill.

Now let us talk about the issue of human rights and the courts. Many people in the Liberal Party contend that this is a matter of human rights. Let us read what Justices McLachlin and Iaccobucci in the Supreme Court decision in 1996 mentioned about the idea that it was a human rights issue and that Parliament could not legislate statute law in violation of what the court said. The justices said:

It does not follow from the fact that a law passed by Parliament differs from a regime envisaged by the Court in the absence of a statutory scheme, that Parliament’s law is unconstitutional. Parliament may build on the Court’s decision, and develop a different scheme as long as it remains constitutional. Just as Parliament must respect the Court’s rulings, so the Court must respect Parliament’s determination that the judicial scheme can be improved. To insist on slavish conformity would belie the mutual respect that underpins the relationship between the courts and legislature that is so essential to our constitutional democracy.

That is what the justices said, that Parliament does not have an obligation to do whatever the courts say in the absence of statute law. Parliament can in fact enact that statute law. Yet we have still seen a growing number of Canadians being attacked for their religious beliefs.

In my home province of Saskatchewan marriage commissioners are being fired for their personal beliefs. The anti-democratic behaviour of the government, along with the failure to protect religious officials and ordinary Canadians from persecution from expressing their own personal beliefs is appalling.

I want voters to know that if they had elected an NDP member of Parliament, their MP would not vote according to his own conscience or according to the wishes of his constituents. He would vote the way his leader told him to. Anything the Liberals can do to be undemocratic, the NDP can do better. The leader of the NDP is forcing his MPs to toe the party line and endorse homosexual marriage.

Thankfully, the voters in my riding rejected that kind of heavy-handedness. I will vote according to the wishes of my constituents and according to my own conscience.