Mr. Speaker, as with a lot of my colleagues, I have addressed this issue on a couple of occasions. I have done it from the point of view of constitutional law, common law and natural law. I would like to ask a compilation questions of the Liberal MPs who are gathered here tonight, questions that have been sent to me by my constituents on this issue.
In the last poll I did, to which over 1,500 responded, 82% were in favour of leaving the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. The first question is on the will of the people. It has been consistently clear in polling that a majority of Canadians want the definition of marriage left alone as between a man and a woman, especially when they understand that homosexuals and lesbians have the right to unions and have rights associated with those unions. If a majority of Canadians do not want this legislation, where does the government get its mandate to change a definition as long held as that of marriage at the request of about 0.5% of the population? That is a Canada census statistic of people who call themselves same sex couples.
Even among the homosexual community there is not a majority view. Many homosexuals within that community have asked that we leave the definition of marriage where it is and not to get involved. Where is the mandate coming from on such a minute issue?
Second, many commentators are perpetrating a misleading nuance suggesting that the Supreme Court is requiring a change in the definition. That is not true. The court did not say the man-woman definition was unconstitutional. As a matter of simple fact, every major human rights declaration in the world, including the United Nations and the Geneva conventions, also defines marriage as the heterosexual union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.
The next question being asked is this. If the government wins this vote, will it then be consistent and go after every human rights declaration from the UN to Geneva and tell them to change it because they are violating the rights of others? Will it be intellectually honest and do that?
A number of provinces have sided with their courts that want a change, but only because the federal government has never challenged the Ontario ruling. If the higher jurisdiction of Parliament maintains the definition, then the provincial governments will be able to uphold homosexual unions, but they simply will not be able to call it marriage. The member for Mississauga South has said the whole thing is a moot point. This is a red herring and an absolute fallacy. The federal government has yet to rule on this.
Most commentators are diminishing the yet unknown legal and social implications of the change about which we are talking. It is difficult to predict the long term consequences since only two other countries in the entire world have gone down the path of social engineering. France just voted again not to do this. We have to contemplate the consequences of what we do and look at what already has happened before the laws even changed.
A religious group in B.C. is being charged because it does not want homosexual weddings on its private premises. A B.C. teacher, Mr. Chris Kempling, is paying a huge price for quoting scripture on the subject, not in school but in a newspaper article. Marriage commissioners already are being fined or fired for declining to wed against their consciences. A Catholic bishop has been dragged before a human rights court and faces serious sanctions simply for articulating the position of the church.
Various groups and religions are demanding legal status of marriage for bigamy and polygamy. Their arguments are the same as the other arguments we have heard. They claim to be oriented to caring, loving and voluntary relationships. They say, and they are right, that they will have grounds for discrimination if they are not included with the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender unions that are called marriage now. How can anybody say no to those who are already asking for bigamous and polygamous relationships to be recognized as marriage? How can we intellectually or morally say no to that once we change the difference?
The next point is that school boards are already being pressured to teach the same level of explicit sex education in elementary schools, depicting homosexual activity as it now does heterosexual activity. Are members of Parliament aware of this and are they in support of it?
The next question I have been asked relates to this. The Supreme Court has given no guarantee for religious reasons under this new change. There is no guarantee of religious protection.
It has been suggested by my constituents and others that the Liberals know very well that once the definitions have been changed, any clause that has been added to grant exemptions for religious reasons will be immediately challenged. Militant homosexuals have already served notice that they will challenge those amendments and knock them down.
Does anyone seriously believe that a court, which is now stacked with judges who are activists on this issue, would actually allow millions of Canadians, and the religious organizations to which they belong, the right to be exempt from this new law? I ask members to think about that. We would like an answer on that.
Many people suspect, with good reason, that the only reason the Liberals are trotting out these last minute cosmetic changes along these lines is to temporarily placate the large numbers of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and others who have concerns from a spiritual and a religious point of view.
The crafters of these false protections know very well that in the not too distant future today's amendments will be tomorrow's rejections in the courtrooms of our land.
The next question: Why should this supposed protection only be given to religious groups? What about the thousands upon thousands of Canadians who do not adhere to any particular faith but they want to speak out against this law and for purely secular reasons?
I have talked with many of them in my own constituency who want the freedom to say publicly that they believe that legalizing homosexual marriage is contrary to the laws of nature. Who will protect them? There is not even a fake religious protection out there for them.
I am not talking about the propagation of hate. I am talking about protecting people who want to speak freely on matters, even if it provokes debate and even if it makes others feel uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, the early record of the courts and the human rights commissions across the land have not been encouraging on this point. If this is the chilling effect on freedom of speech that we are seeing even before this change, I am not encouraged about our protections afterward.
I invite those on the other side of the debate to engage us on these concerns with intellectual honesty and not simply dismiss these very sincere concerns of our constituents as being alarmist or unfounded.
My final question goes to the core of democracy itself. We have here before us the most significant piece of policy change our Parliament has ever seen. It is an issue of breathtaking proportions which touches the very core of our society and the very pillars of our civilization.
Canadians on both sides of this issue have deep heartfelt feelings about it. There is a debate going about whether these changes will be constructive to our social order or in fact destructive. Here we are with this incredible decision before us, a matter that touches the heart, the soul and the conscience of every MP here, and we are witnessing a travesty and a tragedy of the democratic process that poisons the whole of the debate and robs MPs and their constituents of their most basic and precious parliamentary right, namely the right to honest representation in this chamber. It is not being permitted and that is a travesty.
This travesty has come upon us because of the pompous and alarming dictates of the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP who have robbed this chamber of its most vital integrity by not allowing MPs to vote freely according to their own hearts and the hearts of their constituents.
What is the pretense for this action that is pure tyranny on the part of these leaders? It is the view of the leaders that this is a matter of rights and, therefore, no other position is of value. That is the debate, whether this is a sacrosanct right or not.
Do we have to remind ourselves that almost every question we debate here touches on rights of some kind. What right in this chamber is paramount? The right to represent those who send us here. The Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP are violating that most precious right.
What is really disturbing is that if the bill passes, as it appears it might, it will pass even though a majority of the MPs, if they were allowed to vote freely, would not be supporting it.
I ask the MPs who are being gagged and stifled to please think about that for a minute. We are about to have a vote in these hallowed chambers which will affect our society in the most profound of ways imaginable. The bill will only pass because a number of MPs are allowing themselves to be democratically neutered, while their colleagues sit back and allow this atrocity to take place without a word of protest. Shame on them.
Every other vote that we have in the House after this will have a hollow ring to it. We will have the memory of colleagues being forced at political knifepoint to fulfill the abusive demand of their party overlords. Every time they rise to vote on any other issue, thinking they are voting freely, they will know in the back of their minds and their hearts the only reason they are being allowed to vote is because their leader has said they could, and it happens to line up with what the leader thinks on that particular issue.
I want members to think about something. Years after they have left this place, when their grandchildren look them in the eye and ask them how they voted on this historic legislation, will they be honest and say that they voted the way they were ordered to? Will they be honest and admit that or will they say that they voted according to their conscience and took a stand, as one member of their caucus did and was punished for it? That is a shame.
We would like to see freedom and democracy in the vote on this issue and we would like our sincere questions answered. It is about Canada.
I will close with the line out of our anthem, despite what is going on here and this travesty of justice and democracy, may “God keep our land”, and may he keep it “strong and free”.