Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak again to Bill C-38. We are in the dying days of a dying Parliament and we are discussing Bill C-38, same gender civil marriage. It follows on the heals of almost a preparatory motion that we passed in 1999 when a lot of the front bench of the Liberal Party said that they would never change it, that it was carved in stone, bedrocked in the country and that it would never happen.
Here we are, a short five years later, a couple of elections later and guess what is on the agenda?
Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the minority Liberal Parliament and this particular issue certainly was not a flagship of its election platform. I guess the Liberals have to look in the mirror when they start talking about hidden agendas because here we go.
A lot of legislation that has come forward in this past year of a minority Parliament has been with the help of the government's buddies in the NDP and some of the Bloc, of course, which is why we are seeing legislation like this come forward. I tend to believe this is the right place for it to be.
We are able to go out and talk to our constituents and ascertain from them what direction they want us to go. In that vane, I did a householder. It is a little hard to quantify the numbers because it goes out to the household but in a lot of cases it came back with Mr., Mrs. and so many voting children who live in that household when they really only receive one particular sheet. We received somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,500 to 3,000 responses, which goes far beyond a scientific survey. Most polling that is done in the country is on a 1,000 sample coast to coast to coast. Well I received 3,000 samples back in my riding of 73,000 to 74,000 people, so it is fairly indicative of what is happening out there.
Then I received a tremendous number of e-mails, letters, cards and so on from my own riding, as well as from other parts of the country, telling me not to back off on this and not to let this thin edge of the wedge start. I am standing here today committed to doing everything I can to see Bill C-38 hit the scrap heap.
I have gone through every piece of information I could get. I have had two responses from my riding saying that I am on the wrong side of the issue. I followed up on my householder and 12 or 15 that came in said that I should just let it go, that it was not going to affect them. I had two that followed up. One was from a United Church minister and the other was from a young law student who came at it from a little different direction. However the basic premise was that it would not change anything so I should just let it go, or the argument that somehow it is a human rights issue. I know it has been mentioned here before.
I grabbed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and printed off a copy. I will be darned if I can find any mention of marriage in here at all of any description. If we look at the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it tries to govern the world with its decrees and it does not even get into this debate. The European code that has been developed, with the whole European Union giving birth to a brand new continent of countries over there, does not even get into it, other than one of the members, Holland. Our own Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has some pertinent clauses, but we start off with the preamble which says, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” , and yet we hear this constant argument that this has nothing to do with religious marriage and so on but our own charter says that we recognize the supremacy of God.
In the church to which I belong, the Catholic church, marriage is a sacrament, as it is in most other churches. We recognize the supremacy of God, the love of God and so on, when we do a marriage. I had the tremendous privilege this weekend of attending and participating in my daughter's wedding. I arrived a little late for the dress rehearsal the night before because of things that went on here until midnight Thursday and making plane connections. While I was driving the two hours to the community where the church is and the wedding was going to be held, I was thinking that this was the only legislation left on the Liberal agenda and we were going to go back Monday. I knew I would have to cut short my revelry with relations, friends and family and everything else because we were coming back to throw into the mix Bill C-38.
I felt a tremendous amount of pride. I even shed a couple of tears at the wedding of my daughter and the gentleman with whom she has chosen to spend the rest of her life. In reflecting on it, how would I have felt if it had been two women up there or two men? Would I have felt differently? Would I have been less of a proud parent? I do not think I would have been but I cannot for the life of me understand how two people of the same gender, sharing their lives under a civil union, or however it can be done now, how that would make it any different than the religious ceremony that I attended.
We had a Catholic priest, which is my daughter's religion, and a United Church minister, which is the religion of the gentleman she married. They coordinated and both took part in that service. However, as much as I tried to concentrate on the beautiful day that was unfolding, I could not help but slip back into wondering how this bill would change anything. I really cannot understand that.
As I said, there are some things in the charter that talk to that. I will quote from section 2:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.
It is already in there so nobody can take that away from people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Section 7 says:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
Maybe this is a justice issue. Maybe somehow we are denying them the justice of being married. One member on the Liberal side talked about how we have become a divorce society. That is justice gone wild. That is a perversion of marriage, and we have, because it is now available and it is an easy out.
I read a little article in my daughter's material that she received in her marriage preparation course. It was good advice for people who were getting married. It said that people had to remember and be assured that the better often follows the worse, as it is in the wedding vows when it talks about for better or for worse. I do not understand how this could be a lack of someone receiving justice.
I have heard subsection 15(1) bandied about here quite a bit. It reads:
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 and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
We seem to have covered everybody who lives in this beautiful country. They have access to everything everyone else has. There is nothing limited in that.
Then there is subsection 24(1) regarding enforcement:
Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.
That is what really started all of this. We saw courts at the provincial level rule that they would not differentiate between people of same sex or people of opposite gender in getting married. A lot of people say that they went beyond where they needed to go. I think there was a tremendous vacuum there because this place had never really done its homework in that regard, and that came back in spades when the Prime Minister tried to hide behind an extra ruling he wanted the Supreme Court to make, an extra question he wanted asked, and they refused to answer it. They said that it was under his purview and that he should get out there and do the right thing. The courts said that they were being forced to uphold this because he had let it happen, that he had not stopped it at any of the provincial levels and that he had let it slide this far.
We are at this juncture now. We are playing catch-up and we are going about it all wrong.
Last but certainly not least, section 26 says:
The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada.
That is a bit of an open-ended section. We could add or subtract anything we want but with more addition than subtraction. I see that tossed around a lot that this is a rights thing, that somehow people are being denied their rights, but it does not show up in the charter at all. We are actually going back into the charter and, in some way, reinforcing that they are not being allowed to advance their cause. I really do not go for that argument at all.
We had a committee of the House of Commons struck under the justice committee and the Prime Minister used it as a bit of a shield for a time. I guess the shield shattered or did not stand up to the job because he lost one member of Parliament over that. The gentleman sits up here in this corner now, the member for London--Fanshawe. He did stay onside for awhile because he had a meeting with the Prime Minister who assured him that the committee would travel and that it would hear anybody who wanted to come and make a presentation before that committee in regard to this legislation because it was such a fundamental change. The member said that if he was going to do that then he would hang in. Well that did not happen. He attended the committee meetings himself and even tried to appear as a witness. They were having three or four witnesses at a time with limited timeframes and 24 hours' notice to come and make their representations to the committee. He felt that it was almost a kangaroo court.
There are some major concerns. We are pushing this through much quicker than we need to do. Year after year there have been fights. In the 30 years that I have been paying attention to politics, those in the homosexual community fought against labels. They did not want to be labelled. They knew they were different somehow. They knew they wanted to do things in their own right and they did not want any labels that the rest of society was putting on them. Now it seems they want a label that is near and dear to my heart, and the bill has gone too far.