This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

8:15 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the member just chastized the NDP members for not following their constituents. The Conservatives were worse when it came to the votes on Iraq and missile defence. They were quite aware that a majority of their constituents were against it. When their leader was asked in the House, he specifically said that the constituents were against missile defence, that they were against the war with Iraq, but that the Conservatives had to stand on principle, they had to show leadership and go against their constituents.

I encourage the members to not bring up faults that they exemplify in themselves.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am racking my brain for one time when the Prime Minister tabled what ballistic missile defence was going to be. He dithered on that file for months. There was no vote on missile defence because the Prime Minister did not have the backbone to come into Parliament and take a position.

How can we take a vote on something that the Prime Minister dithered for months over and did not bring to this House? That is a ridiculous example. If that is the best example that member can even point to about us not voting on the wishes of our constituents, then we must be doing a great job.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his comments in the House here today. He is doing a fine job on behalf of the people of Regina—Qu'Appelle.

Originally, 34 Liberals voted against Bill C-38. One is now an independent member of Parliament in the House. We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the MInister of Justice earlier today say that cabinet had to be whipped in order to support Bill C-38 because it was a human right.

Why does the Liberal government now support 33 human rights violators in its caucus?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

That is an interesting point, Mr. Speaker. There are all types of different people in the Liberal caucus. I am not sure why the Prime Minister would speak so vociferously against those people opposed to the same sex marriage and then allow those people to stay in his caucus.

I think maybe it is because the only thing that will cause a member to be ejected from the Liberal caucus is a personal attack on the Prime Minister. We have seen Liberal MPs make all sorts of comments, some disparaging of our closest friends and allies to south and some taking extreme positions on all sorts of moral issues. Nothing will cause them to be kicked out of caucus unless they have for some reason criticized the Prime Minister. That is the only moral sin of being a Liberal.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting. Today a number of members suggested that some Liberal members should have voted against Bill C-48. That would have brought down the government down and they would not have had to deal with Bill C-38 until some other time. That does not change the common law definition that is in eight provinces and one territory already. Quite frankly, it is time to address the problem more frontally.

The problem is we have a situation of court made law. I will get into that hopefully when I speak at third reading. Since we are speaking about the report stage motions under Group No. 1, could the member name one of the amendments proposed in this group?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about common law and judge made law. The Conservative Party is talking about that whole point.

There was a common law definition in our country about the definition of marriage and one group of judges in Ontario struck it down for the entire nation. Now, in the absence of statute law, the courts made that decision. It is still entirely within the rights of Parliament to enact statute law to address that. We can keep the traditional definition of marriage by filling the vacuum and passing that statute law.

He says that if those Liberal MPs had voted against Bill C-48 to force an election, then for 36 days we would not have had a government and we would not have addressed the vacuum in the absence of a statute.

What we would do is allow Canadians to have their say on this issue, to vote for members of Parliament who represent their views. I would propose that we would have had more pro traditional definition of marriage MPs in the House. We could have enacted the statute law to preserve the traditional definition of marriage and address the very problem about which the member spoke.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

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”.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member should be very careful about attributing information that is not quite right. He mentioned that the amendments being put forward here were somehow by government members. In fact, out of the seven motions to amend at report stage, five of them are by his own party, one is by an independent and the other one is by me to withdraw a clause, not to add anything. The member should be very careful about his facts on this matter.

He further suggests that somehow people are being coerced. I have spoken out on behalf of the family and defended marriage and will vote against Bill C-38 for a third time. However in all honesty I have never heard or felt any pressure by anyone. In fact, the member well knows that it is against the rules of Parliament to try to influence a member's vote, and that would be under a matter of privilege.

The member reacted to something I said in an earlier question and I think we should let this debate go a little bit further. If Bill C-38 did not exist and the other two provinces and two territories just made their copycat decisions, the common law would be across Canada and the definition of marriage would be any two persons to the exclusion of all others. There is no difference between that and Bill C-38 passing.

The question really comes down to what the resolution is. We have the courts changing it but we know there should have been appeals. At the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Halpern decision trashed marriage. We did not appeal that and I want to know why we did not do it? How will we ensure that the line in the sand, being the protection of religious rights and freedoms, will not be subject to the same kind of attack by the courts?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, why the government did not challenge the lower court ruling is the very question we asked. This is what this is all about. If the government had done the right thing and challenged those lower court rulings, this would have been put down as it was in other jurisdictions and in other countries. When a lower jurisdiction tried to illegally push through a marriage act that was beyond its jurisdiction, the higher jurisdiction ruled on it, whether we are talking about California overruling a mayor or what happened recently in France. I talked with the ambassador about this. A city mayor tried to deliver a marriage certificate to allow this to happen and the government, based on the will of the people, told the mayor that he could not do it.

The federal government wimped out. It gave a reference to the Supreme Court hoping and praying the Supreme Court would say that the definition of marriage was unconstitutional but the Supreme Court did not say that. It did not say that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in that case said the right thing. It said that if anyone were going to decide or make a decision it would be Parliament.

The member also said that he did not feel any pressure. Why did he not feel any pressure? One only has to count how many rows back he is sitting. If he had been sitting in one of these first two row, the pressure would have been extreme.

I do not know how those members can live with themselves when they know what is right, and I do not even want to surmise their reasons. However the Prime Minister has forced all cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries to support the definition of marriage and has told all his members that if they do not support the definition of marriage they are not welcome in his cabinet. That is why he is not feeling any pressure.

Therefore, because the member supports the definition of marriage, the Prime Minister says that he is not welcome in cabinet. When it comes to marriage, the Prime Minister wants everyone to do as he says, not what their heart says nor what the people say. That is a travesty.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to represent my constituents but it is disappointing that the government has deemed this its number one piece of legislation, that it has called this emergency debate and we will be going on until midnight. We have heard from other members that their lives are on hold because this is the number one piece of legislation by the government.

We have heard from the government about a hidden agenda. We are seeing revealed to Canada right now a government that does have a hidden agenda. It is a hidden agenda that is coming to fruition, which is that the Liberals want to destroy the traditional definition. They want to do a social engineering experiment. They want to legalize marijuana. They want to legalize prostitution. Where is this taking us?

It was not long ago we heard the Prime Minister say that this is the Canada we want. This is not the Canada Canadians want. That is why we are seeing manipulation and every tactic that can be pulled on the Canadian public to ensure this happens with the hope that Canadians will forget.

Canadians will not forget and this party will ensure Canadians are reminded of what has happened in the House and the games that have been played.

I have the honour of being married to the most wonderful woman in Canada for the last 33 years.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

An hon. member

After my wife.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

I am sorry but I have the most wonderful woman. We have five children, four boys and a girl. Girls are totally different from boys. It has been a wonderful experience in how they think, what they do and how they relate to one another. What a wonderful privilege it has been for me to experience not only dealing with a wonderful wife, but also with a girl and boys and experiencing how different they are. It makes me fuller as a person. The human species is not complete unless we have the experience of both male and female relationships. I am really honoured by the experience I have had in raising my children.

My five children are grown. The youngest is my daughter who is expecting a baby any day. I am here to protect the traditional values of marriage. I would like to be with my daughter. I am hoping I will be there when she delivers her first baby, but I am here to represent my constituency and I have my daughter's blessing.

I contacted my riding of Langley and asked my constituents how they want me to vote on this. I told them that I personally believed in the traditional definition but that I would represent my constituents. I was overwhelmed with the response. We received thousands of responses from the residents of Langley and 96% of them said that they wanted me to support the traditional definition of marriage. They also wanted me to provide the same benefits to same sex relationships and to ensure that religious freedoms were protected in Canada. That is why I was honoured and gladly supported the Conservative position to do those three things.

Religious freedoms are not being protected in Bill C-38, which is why we brought forward amendments. I also want to bring to the attention of the House that I was on the marriage committee. Every party that was represented on the marriage committee acknowledged that religious freedoms would not be protected the way Bill C-38 is presented to the House. Every party, except for the NDP, provided amendments to Bill C-38 acknowledging that it would not protect Canadians' freedom of religion. Unfortunately, those amendments were ruled out of order, which is why we are here tonight debating and supporting these amendments that will try to make a horrible bill somewhat better to guarantee religious rights in Canada.

I want to go back into some history and the reason we are here today. We have heard time and time again that there has been adequate public input and adequate debate on Bill C-38. The Liberals, the NDP and the separatists got together to get it through. In the 37th Parliament we had a subcommittee of the justice committee that wanted to look into this to see how it would handle same sex relationships.

The committee did travel. It went to a number of different cities. It heard from 467 witnesses. We have heard that the report was cut short. We never received a report, but we have also heard verbally from some of the people who were involved that there was a consensus. The consensus was that the best way to deal with the same sex relationships, guaranteeing them exactly the same rights and benefits, was through a civil union. That was what the committee heard. Unfortunately, there is not a written report so we have to take the word of those who were there and witnessed that to this House.

From that, what we have is a bill from the government, its number one piece of legislation to destroy traditional marriage. The government came up with Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill. The government created a committee. Normally legislation would come to this House and would go to the justice committee, which is what was expected. But the Prime Minister created a special legislative committee after consultation with certain members of his caucus. The government created a legislative committee. It limited the travel. It limited the amount of input that could be given, and limited the number of witnesses. Why would the Prime Minister come up with this special committee that would limit debate?

It gets worse. This committee that supported the number one piece of legislation for the Liberal government was stacked with members of the Liberal Party. The number one qualification for this committee was the government's bill had to be supported. There was no member of the Liberal Party who opposed the bill on that committee. Those members had to support the government bill. It was the same for the NDP members. The only members who were permitted on that committee who were open-minded, who listened to the witnesses, were from the Conservative Party. We worked hard. There was no travel. One of the parliamentary secretaries would beat on the procedure book saying that certain things could not be done, that they were out of order. He raised points of order, and on and on with interruptions and intimidation. That committee was a fraud, a travesty, a sham. It did not give Canadians any opportunity to speak freely and the number of speakers was limited.

The Conservative justice critic, the member for Provencher, worked hard. The government limited the number of witnesses to 41 and that critic managed to add another 22 witnesses. The member for London—Fanshawe left the Liberals out of disgust. He just could not take it any more. He spoke about an hour ago about the promises made by the Prime Minister and how those promises were broken. Bishop Fred Henry, Mr. Kempling, and a number of witnesses were deliberately withheld from that committee. The justice critic is with us tonight, and I want to give him credit for the hard word that he did. Through his hard work we did get some input, but 43 witnesses were rammed through in a very short period of time.

I kept asking the witnesses where this was going to take us and what the difference is between a civil union and marriage. If same sex relationships can be given exactly the same rights and benefits, what is inferior? I heard that different is not equal. That is right. Men and women are different, but they are equal, so different can be equal. It is not inferior. Civil union can be equal, but it is different. I never heard one of the witnesses who supported the government's bill, in fact any of the witnesses, who were able to tell me what is inferior about a civil union.

Two years ago that was the consensus of the committee and that is still the consensus of Canadians. Two-thirds of Canadians want civil unions with the same rights and benefits, and to protect the traditional definition.

I want to know where this is going to take us over the next five or 10 years. I am very concerned where this is taking Canada.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of concerns about this bill myself and I hope to get up later this evening and speak to it as well.

I would like to ask the hon. member how he thinks this bill will affect the number of marriages in the country.

My understanding is that in Holland just a few years ago about 134,000 people would get married in a given year. Holland made same sex marriages about three years ago, and as a result of changes that we are about to embark on, both its homosexual and heterosexual marriages have dropped to around 30,000 per year. That is about a 75% reduction in the number of marriages. Therefore, I imagine it will also result in a drastic drop in the birth rate. Holland already has some issues on that front.

I was wondering how the hon. member feels about that. Does he think that this change to the definition of marriage will drastically affect the number of marriages and the birth rate in this country?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, that issue is one of the salient points of this debate.

I have had constituents say that they will not get married in Canada if Bill C-38 goes through, that they will go to a country that presents the traditional definition of marriage.

If this bill goes through, there are questions as to whether same sex marriages will be recognized in the rest of the world. I do not think so. Canada will be to the far left on social issues, more than any other country in the world. Will these marriages be recognized? I think the traditional definition of opposite sex will be, but I have heard from a number of Canadians who are very concerned about having a traditional marriage here in Canada and are talking seriously about going outside the country. That is a real concern.

One of those was a new Canadian from Romania. She left communist Romania a number of years ago and came to Canada and was very excited to be here. She is saying now it is frightening her because we are heading in a direction where religious freedoms, personal freedoms and freedom of speech are being curtailed and taken away. She is very concerned about the direction in which Canada is heading.

It is our responsibility to provide freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We are not getting that with Bill C-38. We are heading down the wrong path.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Langley. He has become a very passionate advocate for traditional marriage here in the House.

I was glad to hear him talk about his family. I happen to know his wife. I have not met his children yet, but it was good to hear stories about them. It brings together what he has as a marriage, that is, the defining characteristic so central to marriage, that it has a procreative capacity. Heterosexual relationships have that. Homosexual relationships do not. They are different by their nature and therefore, both cannot be a marriage.

My colleague touched on the idea of different but equal: different, recognizing that by their nature they are different, but equal in that civil unions have the same rights as marriage. I would like my colleague to expand a little more on that this is not separate but equal, but different but equal, the Conservative position.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of examples of being different but equal in Canada.

Quebec is a province that has a distinct society clause. It says that it is different, but it is very much equal. Whether they are in Quebec, Ontario or my province of British Columbia, Canadians are equal, but they can be distinct. I gave the example of men and women. They are very distinctly different but very equal. We need to respect all Canadians' freedoms. Even if we are different, we can be equal.

One of the constitutional experts who spoke to us, David Brown, said that in the coming years where this is going to take us is an attack on the freedom of speech and access to facilities. We have heard how the Knights of Columbus were set up and were under attack. Mr. Kempling was under attack. Fred Henry was under attack. We heard from some of the members. I am hearing from some of them right now with a bit of heckling from the corner.

We heard the questions,“Have you ever been forced to consummate a marriage between same sex couples? Have you ever been forced to do that and had a consequence?” The answer that Mr. Brown gave was that Bill C-38 is not law yet. He said that will happen. Faith based schools will be forced to teach a curriculum or they will lose their provincial funding. The churches will lose their charitable status.

We are going down a road that will change Canada as we know it. We need to oppose Bill C-38. We need to send it back and look at an alternative way of providing the same benefits and rights to Canadians in same sex relationships, and it cannot be marriage.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I start my talk tonight on the same sex issue, I would like to honour Mr. Fred Kent from my riding, who passed away tragically. He was a war veteran, he served our community for 30 years, he was a founding councillor in the great city of Cambridge, and he was a soft-spoken man of action. We are going to miss Fred deeply.

Unlike Fred, who was an honourable man, the government has serious problems with credibility. The Deputy Prime Minister in 1999, and a number of the Liberal members present tonight, made promises. Promises made, promises broken. Those promises were made just prior to an election, and they served their purpose: those members were re-elected. But apparently that opinion is not the opinion today.

We have seen threats against churches for their tax exemption status. We have seen people like Bishop Henry come under attack, we have seen teachers having to defend their rights to free speech, and we have seen marriage commissioners threatened with firing, and some of them have been fired. Secular schools, Christian schools, and private schools will no longer be allowed to teach what they want. The Knights of Columbus, a well-respected Catholic organization, will indeed be sued. Without a doubt, mosques and other religious organizations will also come under attack.

The Liberal government itself admitted in committee and here tonight that it cannot guarantee the protection of religious freedoms. The Prime Minister himself has put forward some weak and wishy-washy assurances. He said religious freedoms are protected in the charter, and they will do even more than that; they will protect them even better than that. So he puts forward some amendments. Who believes that? I do not believe that. Members of his own Liberal Party do not believe that. One of them was so disgusted he left the party, with honour and integrity.

This is no longer Mr. Dithers; this is Mr. Phony. I have a news flash for the 33 Liberals who bought that record. The federal government does not have the authority to implement what the Prime Minister said. Promises made, promises broken. They have been bamboozled. These are provincial jurisdictions.

I have been sitting all day in the House, since 10 o'clock this morning, and it is now 9 o'clock in the evening, and I have heard some very disconcerting conversations around the committee's approach to this issue. Four witnesses at a time were creatively selected so that three supported the government's position and only one did not. It was an interesting intimidation tactic. They had 24 hours' notice. Those who supported the Prime Minister's agenda received financial help. Those who did not support the government's agenda were penalized by having to pay their own way.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

An hon. member

You are kidding.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

No, I am not kidding. The PM assured members of his own party that that would not be the case. But in an effort to retain his own integrity, one member walked.

Another thing that I have heard tonight that strikes me as a bit odd is that the Prime Minister suggests this is a violation of human rights. We know it is not a violation of human rights, but let us assume the Prime Minister's position for a moment. My hon. colleague earlier this evening said that if the Prime Minister is correct in his assumption, how can he support 33 human rights violators in his caucus? That is not democracy; that is hypocrisy.

No internationally recognized human rights document has ever suggested that there is a right to same sex marriage. I have searched everywhere and I cannot find one. I challenge the government to produce such a document. They cannot.

As well, attempts to pursue same sex marriage as an international human right have failed. In 1998, the European court of justice held that stable relationships between two persons of the same sex are not regarded as equivalent to marriage. That does not mean they are not equal, because we have already pointed out the difference between equal and being different. My wife and I are different, and thank goodness, she looks a lot better than I do, but we are equal.

In 1996, the New Zealand court of appeal rejected the recognition of same sex marriage, and this is the important part, despite the fact that New Zealand's bill of rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. When the New Zealand decision was challenged before the United Nations human rights commission as a violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, the United Nations ruled that there was no case for discrimination simply on the basis of refusing to marry homosexual couples. In fact, to this date no international human rights body and no national supreme court has ever found that there is a human right to same sex marriage. The only courts that we talk about in the House are provincial or state level in Canada and the United States.

Why have the hours been extended for this national emergency? Surely, the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in poverty may have a different opinion of what is a crisis. The automotive industry in Ontario and the forestry industry in Ontario are in crisis, but we did not extend hours to deal with their problems. Here is the crux. This Liberal government has messed up health care so badly in Canada that a court has ruled that it is now a human rights violation because Canadians cannot get care in time. Are we talking about that tonight? Are we talking about that tomorrow? We asked for an emergency debate on some of these issues and were denied.

I am pleased, to be quite honest, to represent the vast majority of my riding of Cambridge and North Dumfries, but I do want to acknowledge and respect those who wrote to me and preferred that I vote differently. I want them to know that I have listened to everything they have said. I have read their e-mails, I have sincerely and sensitively spent hours contemplating their opinions, and I have concluded that this comes down to being about the word “marriage”. The Conservative Party has clearly said that there is no doubt that we need to extend equal rights and benefits to all Canadians. In fact, when I questioned those who were strongly against Bill C-38 and asked how they felt about equal rights for gay marriages and gay relationships, they said there was no problem. That is the Canadian way and that is the way we feel. However, the issue comes down to the word “marriage”. We have no problem extending full and equal rights to all Canadians, but forcing such a redirection of society by a political party, the social engineering that is so common in dictatorships, well, that is exactly what I am saying about Mr. Phony. Politics is the art of compromise and we need to compromise.

I would like to close by reading a letter I received from a constituent, not in my riding but from another riding whose member is not listening. She writes:

If I may, I would like to give you my opinion on C38 as well, as part of a gay couple living in Ontario. We firmly believe that you and the conservative party should vote against it and we truly hope that this will be the downfall of the federal liberals for many reasons.

...we do not, nor ever have we believed that the definition of the word marriage should be changed in any capacity. What we simply asked for is the right to have a civil union that is equal to the rights granted by civil marriage. I don't think...gay couples understand that it really doesn't matter what it's called in order to cement [the relationship]. ...that is simply semantics.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a point that a number of his colleagues have mentioned about a number of situations in the courts where people have been attacked for religious freedoms and other such reasons. A number of members mentioned the same particular cases.

I would like to ask the member what his party's suggestions are to deal with this. Bill C-38 has not passed yet, so it is not this bill that is the problem. What are the suggestions of the Conservative Party to correct those elements of those people that have been attacked unfairly, as the Conservatives are suggesting?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, but the fact remains that this is not a Pandora's box that we have opened. No one asked for this piece of legislation to be brought forth. This is a Liberal agenda. These problems are coming to light simply because the Prime Minister has this need to bring forward and redirect society's moral agenda.

I cannot say what we would do to encourage the rights of religious freedom, but I can say that in the last decade the Liberals have been in power, every time I have read that there is a challenge to religious freedoms, they were always broken down.

I am very concerned, as the hon. member's own party has admitted several times today, that there can be no guarantees for religious freedom. That is why this bill must be stopped now and given further democratic debate, in order to find out exactly how we can protect those issues.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my previous question I put to the member for Langley whether or not he thought this move would lead to the trivialization of marriage and a decrease in the birth rate. I have had a similar conversation with some members across the way who happen to disagree, I think largely on emotional grounds rather than rational grounds; they just do not agree with that point of view.

I am asking the member, is he aware of any country, any circumstance in the world, whereby this change in the definition of marriage has resulted in an increase in the number of marriages and/or an increase in the birth rate of a country? I am not aware of any such change in the definition of marriage that has resulted in an increase in marriage or an increase in the birth rate. I am wondering if he knows of an example.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we are treading on brand new ground here. Canada for some reason feels it must step out and change the direction that nobody has really asked for.

To answer the member's question, I did do a little research on one of the countries and I found there was no change in the birth rate or no effect. There did not seem to be a whole bunch of people lining up to get married. In fact, it did not seem to be that big of a deal for the socio-economic outcome, which brings me back to the issue of why we are not spending our time here debating the health care crisis in Canada, or softwood lumber, or our beef industry.

This clearly needs more study. Clearly, we have not heard enough from the experts. We do not know enough about how it is going to affect Canada. We can surmise, and I surmise we are going down the wrong road. I surmise that we will not be able to defend the next challenge, from polygamists and so on. I personally need a lot more information.

I would encourage those members of the Liberal Party who are supporting this to not do that, to show up, to not be pressured and be told that their vote is a career-altering decision. This is about Canada; it is not about the Liberal Party.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-38 at report stage.

This bill is of indisputable importance, given its nature and the interest is has generated since it was introduced in this House. The subject matter of the bill sparked an interest before the government ever presented it. First the government referred the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada for its advice, which it gave last year. The government used that advice in drafting the bill, which it then introduced in this House.

I want to take this opportunity to state my intention to vote in favour of this bill. Some who have been following this debate will recall that I have always believed in human rights and, accordingly, have always voted for human rights and always will. In fact, the issue had been raised in this House by the hon. member for Hochelaga through a private member's bill. I was one of those in this House who voted in favour of the bill. Some will also recall that votes were held on this subject in 1999. I voted in favour of civil marriage for same sex couples, believing at the time, as I do now, that it was an issue of human rights and equality. I will continue to vote that way because I sincerely believe this is about human rights and equality.

After the court handed down its ruling, the government felt that this bill should reflect a balance between rights and freedom of religion. Bill C-38 does. I am happy to see that, during consideration in committee, various amendments were proposed, one of which was adopted. Again today, there was unanimous consent to adopt another amendment in order to reinforce this issue of freedom of religion. Once this bill becomes law, we must ensure that religious officials are not forced to celebrate marriages for same sex couples. There must not be any consequences if they do not wish to recognize such marriages, if this goes against their beliefs.

We are therefore protecting freedom of religion and equality. As a matter of fact, this is what legislators do. We are, above all, legislators. We are responsible for the contractual, legal and civil aspect of marriage. We are fulfilling our responsibilities in this bill. We are ensuring that, in civil and contractual terms, the legislator is complying with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as eight or nine courts in Canada have ruled, the need to ensure equality. When this bill becomes law, the right of same sex partners to marry will be recognized throughout Canada.

We are not responsible for the spiritual or religious aspect of marriage; religious and spiritual groups bear that responsibility. By protecting the ability of religions to say yes or no and by exempting them from any negative consequences, we are respecting this freedom of religion. Thanks to this balance, most Canadians agree with what the government is proposing and what the Canadian Parliament will soon pass, we hope. If so, the Marriage Act will be amended to recognize same sex couples.

So this is what it is about. We have still had lengthy debates. In the end, the country as a whole has been involved in the debate for a while now, for more than two years, since the various courts, starting with British Columbia, then Quebec and the other provinces, gave rulings.

At this point, all the arguments had been heard over and over. We are also in a situation where Parliament has extended its sitting in order to deal with this bill. I think it was appropriate to do so.

That reflects the will of a majority of members of this House. Given that all the arguments have been heard and amendments to the bill have been made in committee or at report stage here in the House, strengthening and protecting what people wanted strengthened and protected, I think it is time to move on.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

Mr Speaker, I wish to state that an agreement has been reached under Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the deliberations at report stage and third reading of C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2), I move, seconded by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the following motion:

That, in relation to Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, not more than one further hour shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and not more than eight hours shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, at the expiry of the time provided for in this order for the consideration of the report stage and at the expiry of the time provided for in this order for the consideration for the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purposes of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.