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.