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.


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5:10 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased the member participated in the debate. He has done a lot of work in the area.

His comment on delinking children from their parents is something which has not received the intense scrutiny it should have received.

I note in his speech back on March 21 in this place he gave the example of the Netherlands where the rate of marriage declined 10% each year after changes to the definition of marriage were introduced. In 2004 it declined between 3% and 4%, to the point now where 61% of children are born outside marriage.

The question for the member is have we spent too much time talking about the implications of these changes to adults, and have we forgotten to talk about the implications of these changes to society as a whole through its children?

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5:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member raises a really interesting area of discussion. Indeed, until now it has been run by the courts. It has been basically a rights based argument. It is a disingenuous rights based argument because it starts with a conclusion, goes full circle and arrives at the conclusion it starts with.

Nevertheless, the hon. member is correct. This should be based upon social policy analysis of what is good for society. I would argue that anything that de-links children from their parents on a DNA or biological basis, as this bill purports to do in its consequential amendments, is in and of itself bad for society, is a destabilizing factor in society, and that area has not been discussed.

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5:15 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in the House to speak against this bill. It takes a lot for all members to be in the House today. In fact, as we speak, my daughter is on her way to her graduation. I feel very strongly that we as parliamentarians have to be here to stand firmly for the kinds of things that need to be addressed.

This issue should not be before Parliament today. This is something that we as parliamentarians need to deal with in our own homes because we live in a democratic society, and in a democratic society we have the freedom of choice. We are here today because we have to take care of the nation's business. The people of Kildonan--St. Paul sent me here to deal with the nation's business.

When we rise to speak, we must speak from the heart and think of our families. This issue has become too political. This is about democracy. In our great nation we have the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the freedom to live the kind of lives that we choose to live. Making a law that will cause marriage to just go away with the stroke of a pen late at night and probably some time this week is wrong. It is wrong to do that. I am baffled as to why Bill C-38 is before Parliament.

I believe in the definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Marriage does have its problems. Divorce happens. Other things happen, but it is the fundamental fabric for which we stand for in our great country.

I also believe in people's right to choose. I believe people in same sex unions or same sex relationships should have all the benefits they deserve in terms of financial benefits and charter freedoms. Bill C-38 would change the very fabric of our country. Members have come to the House to discuss this issue and have missed graduations or weddings. Our constituents elected us to stand up for what is right and to be brave and have courage.

I cannot stand in the House of Commons and not put my remarks on the record for the sake of our great nation. I represent my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul and over 85% of my constituents have told me that they want the definition of marriage retained as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

They have also told me that they do not want to be discriminatory. They do not want to tell somebody else how to live their life. How people live comes from their heart. That is what democracy is about. It is about the choices we make. When we make choices, we have to live with them.

My daughter knows that I am standing here today as a member of Parliament and as a mom, and discussing the business of our nation, so that when she graduates, she will be able to have those choices. If she decides to get married, she will know that the meaning of marriage is the union of a man and a woman. If she chooses otherwise, it will be her choice. The definition of marriage will not go away in the dark of night with the stroke of a pen.

Many things cause us to question Bill C-38. First, how in the world could a government in 1999 say it would not change the definition of marriage and then turn around today with this piece of legislation?

I will quote from the Deputy Prime Minister's letter dated April 24, 1998:

--the definition of marriage is already clear in law in Canada as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. Counsel from my department have successfully defended and will continue to defend this concept of marriage in the court...I continue to believe that it is not necessary to change well understood concepts of spouse and marriage to deal with any fairness considerations the courts and tribunals may find.

She could have written my speech today because that is exactly where I stand, defending the right of one man and one woman to marry, defending their right to propagate and have children, and defending the right for them to make a choice.

I am also here defending the right of same sex couples to make that choice, to have financial benefit and live as they choose. I am defending that right because it is called democracy. In our family we have spent our lives, generations of people, standing up for the democracy that we have here in our great nation.

My father went to war during the second world war and defended our country. He did not come back to tell people how to live. He did not come back to say that there had to be rules and regulations. I am appalled that the bill is before Parliament today because it is not a bill about equality. It is a bill about discrimination against people who are now married and have been married for years. As members of Parliament, we sign certificates congratulating our constituents for 20, 50, or 60 years of marriage. I signed one the other day for 65 years of marriage.

This is something special. That is not to say that marriage is perfect and I hope my husband is not listening now. I can say quite categorically that it is not always perfect, but it is something that I would not trade for all the world. Over and above that, I would not trade as a member of Parliament the democratic right to make those choices.

Today we have heard so many arguments. We have gone through the bill. We have stated our ground back and forth. Today I am here because I needed to speak to the bill and make my words known. It is very wrong to have this bill before Parliament and I certainly will be voting against it. I would call on all members from all sides of the House to show the courage and vote against the bill, not party against party and not person against person but to vote for democracy.

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5:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with attention to the hon. member. Although I do not share her views, I congratulate her on her speech which I know was heartfelt.

I also want to take the occasion to wish my very best to her daughter who I believe is graduating. I say that as a father and grandfather. I have had occasion to deal with lots of that through the years. I certainly share her feelings having not always been where I wanted to be on special days with my family throughout all these years.

I do, nevertheless, respectfully indicate to her that I do not share the view that she expresses that this bill should not be before the House or that it somehow will create the kinds of changes that she is expressing.

Same sex couples are being married in eight Canadian provinces now, including my own province of Ontario. I do not recall what province the hon. member is from, but the only provinces where same sex couples are not being married are the provinces of Alberta and P.E.I.

In my own province the change is almost a year and a half or perhaps two years old and a number of same sex couples are being married.

I do not want to suggest here that I was strongly in favour or jubilant of the decision of the court. That is not the issue. However once a decision is made by the courts and rights are determined I hold the view that it is my duty--

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5:25 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Those are your comments.

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June 27th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, this is questions or comments and this is my comment. Perhaps the hon. member will familiarize himself with that procedure. I welcome him to do so.

I want to ask the hon. member to react when I indicate to her that it is quite proper that this bill be before Parliament, quite proper for her to be against it and quite proper for me to be in favour of the measure and to express those views in the legislature in which we sit. No one is coercing me to vote in favour of the measure. I am not even running again in the next election. However I feel this is right because the courts have so decided and that is the view I hold.

I want her to comment, if she will, and hopefully to have her change her mind, not on the position that she holds, but on the fact that we have every right and it is our duty to be voting on issues like this. I only wish we had done it some time ago so we would not have caused some of these conditions in which we are living right now.

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5:25 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I would disagree with the hon. member. The gravity of this kind of issue should not be in this House at least until a referendum is held. The fact is that a referendum has not gone out to our nation to ask how our nation feels.

A referendum went out to my constituency to ensure I was representing my people very well. and I am, but I am also representing my own personal opinion because I believe in democracy.

This issue is fundamental to our nation and fundamental to our social fabric. We have families. People all across our nation have opinions. This is too premature to be in this House of Parliament. We are being forced to vote on this bill. Deals are being made behind closed doors and people are talking. I think this does a disservice to the Canadian public and it bothers me, which is why I am here today.

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5:30 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I have the pleasure of sitting beside the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I commend her for being here and representing her constituents as well as she does on this very important issue.

Many people on the Liberal side, the New Democrats and the Bloc say that extending marriage to include same sex unions is a human rights issue and yet so few countries accept that. The United Nations does not accept that.

Does the member believe that this is a fundamental human right or is this basically social engineering by a government that is corrupt and has lost touch?

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5:30 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I definitely think this bill is politically motivated and I think it is very harmful to our nation. It is also very divisive. It breaks my heart to see that in the House of Commons.

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5:30 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

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.

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5:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I was looking at some of the history. Back in the fall of 2001, the Supreme Court of British Columbia had a case of dealing with this matter. The Attorney General of Canada argued that the objective of limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was sufficiently important to warrant infringing on the rights of same sex couples.

This decision was different from the one that came in July 2002 in Halpern v. Canada in the Ontario Supreme Court in which the justices ruled precisely the opposite. That is when it all changed.

My question for the member, however, is this. The Supreme Court of Canada, in dealing with the reference of the questions from the government, did not opine on the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage. It has concerned me, and I do not know whether it concerns that member, whether Canadians are entitled to know what the Supreme Court of Canada believes to be the facts with regard to the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage.

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5:40 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I realize this has become a bit of a grey area. I would ask the member why we would defer to the courts in the first place. We are the supreme court of the land, in this building, in this chamber. We are the ones who answer to the people in the way that we are elected.

The Supreme Court answers basically to the laws that are made. It takes a look at them. It judges on them. It makes appeals and it makes rulings. There is not a lawyer who will not bring something to the Supreme Court if it is a juicy enough subject, the money is right and so on. That is the nature of our civil society. That is the way it is done.

However, I do not for the life of me understand why we, as the Parliament of the country, who basically write the rules and set them into play, would allow the courts to rewrite something that we really have not had a chance to work on ourselves.

I guess by ignoring it to this extent, the courts have gone ahead, moved into that vacuum and made some rulings with which the vast majority of Canadians do not agree. In fact, there is a lot of talk about judicial activism, that the judges have gone too far in certain areas and perhaps not far enough in other areas. There are loopholes and grey areas. We seem to write laws for lawyers and they will always be challenged.

Bill C-38 if and when we pass it in the form it is in will be challenged. There is no doubt in my mind. Arguments will go on for decades on either side of the issue.

Therefore, we are not really finishing anything here. This is the beginning, as I said, the thin edge of the wedge. We will see arguments go on into the next millennium over this issue. We will get into family situations. We will get into adoption. We will get into all sorts of things of which this is just the beginning.

Many people are saying that it is a rights issue, that somehow some rights are being denied. However, in our Constitution and in some decisions that were made in the late eighties any same sex couple has access to the rights and privileges of any opposite gender couple.

Really I cannot for the life of me understand what it is that they are missing out on at this point, and somehow Bill C-38 is going to be the panacea and make all of that right.

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5:45 p.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, the very nature of marriage is that it is a procreative relationship. Homosexual unions lack this defining feature. Therefore, the inability to have children for heterosexual marriages because of age or physical dysfunction are exceptions to an established norm. The inability procreate is a norm for homosexual relationships.

As a norm, homosexual relationships are different than traditional heterosexual marriages. The relationships are different, but Conservative policy calls for equal rights for homosexual relationships.

Is it not true that the Conservative Party takes a different but equal, not a separate but equal, approach to marriage? Should the Prime Minister back off his misguided approach to marriage and rights for homosexuals?

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5:45 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am not sure who does the strategy for the Prime Minister. The Liberals thought this would go through and be quite easy. They did a lot of polling with specific questions that were asked and so on which gave them the preordained conclusion for which they were looking.

However, I think they have a lot more than a tempest in a teapot that they thought they had. I think people are finally galvanized over an action. They see this as just the beginning of a lot more things that could come forward. It is almost governance by stealth would be the best way to describe it.

We have to ask ourselves on so many different levels, why this and why now in a minority Parliament? Certainly we have to respond to what the courts are doing but there are ways to do that.

There are ways to address a void if there is one in the Canadian Constitution. I cannot seem to find it. I am not a constitutional expert and I am not lawyer, but I cannot seem to find where anyone's rights are being withheld or circumvented at this point.

As I said, I do not think Bill C-38 will ever give the gay homosexual community what it is seeking.

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5:45 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario


Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I must voice an opinion I believe we all share. We have before us a bill proposing to change the definition of marriage to the union of two individuals, from the age-old definition of marriage of the union of two individuals of opposite sexes.

In my nearly 12 years as a member of Parliament I have seen a lot, certainly in terms of the evolution of this issue. After the issue of inclusion was debated in 1981-82, when I was working for a cabinet minister, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was proclaimed and the Constitution was repatriated, I do not think there was a single member in the House of Commons or a premier who could have one day imagined that we would see a definition in something as fundamental to society as what is now being debated and by some imagination or standard being suggested will pass and pass easily.

Some people will say times change and that is just a pragmatic way of doing things, it is a trend and we have to flow with changing times. Some things are intrinsically immutable. In my view, marriage is a basis and foundation which cannot be simply changed by whim, by someone's definition of what is vogue or by someone else's view of how the world must change.

Canada is the only country as far as I know, and I stand to be corrected on this, that has accepted a modicum of change in marriage based on a claim of human rights. Let us understand how that took place.

I heard members talk about the fact that it is law in 9 or 10 provinces and territories, so why not take sort of a laissez-faire attitude, let lassitude to prevail, allow this to take its course and let Parliament rubber stamp what the courts have done. To Canadians who are deeply involved with this issue but who did not see it debated in the last election, let us be very clear about this point.

A lower court ruling was made in Ontario in 2002. I will not mention the name of the justice. The justice was appointed by the then prime minister, who immediately after that decision decided not to appeal it. He abrogated the legal responsibility we had to bring this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada, threw the towel in on marriage and allowed the definition to virtually change overnight. Other courts did not come to that view instantaneously. In fact, the issue of civil unions had been strongly considered.

We know that, in Quebec, the civil union issue has been a major concern. Numerous human rights experts are in agreement, and it could easily become common practice.

However, what really took place in my view was political sleight of hand at the time by the prime minister and the justice minister. By throwing in the towel on marriage, they effectively allowed a domino effect to occur. Other provinces were not prepared to go down that route because other courts in various provinces, including British Columbia, had resisted this.

However, I am not here to point fingers, but rather to ensure that there is an establishment of the facts.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not hold the view that marriage, as it currently exists, was unconstitutional. The hon. member for Mississauga South has spoken very eloquently on this and has defended this issue, as have many of the colleagues on this side of the House.

What is important to know is that if we are to pass any bill in the House of Commons, or any motion, it has to be worth something, not just be second-guessed by the courts, which clearly was not the case here. More important, we are not second-guessed by ourselves.

I was here as a member of Parliament only three years ago when a promise was made, and it was adopted unanimously, that Bill C-78 would ensure and would see that the definition of marriage would be retained. What has changed? Fully half of the House of Commons are members who voted on that and who supported the definition of marriage. They cannot make a claim of rights because rights did not occur as a result of the fact the Supreme Court did not really look at this.

What are we really dealing with here? It is a bill that is designed to give a new definition of marriage and to provide a basis for support or protection for certain religious officials and to provide at least an assurance that those who hold those views would not be persecuted. If a motion unanimously carried in the House of Commons is worthless, then it is my view that the paper on which this is written cannot be too far away from that conclusion.

What activist group, in the next three, four or five years, would begin to countenance the idea of challenging that which we hold true, the final frontier, the last line of defence?

Rights are not boundless and they do have a responsibility, but above all, a responsibility to the truth as to what marriage really represents.

Marriage represents more than just a religious connotation and more than just simply a sociological factor. It is the ties that bind and create the basis of society. Whether we like it or not, it is one of the most important rituals that has brought societies together. It is not by accident that when explorers in previous centuries went from culture to culture and from place to place, they found they had a form of right and that right was always of opposite sexes. That is not to exclude anyone but rather to reaffirm something very unique about that relationship. Therefore, the political side of this is also very difficult.

I campaigned very clearly where I stood on this issue in the last election. It was asked many times. I am not so sure the public understood the gravity of the issue. Not everybody knew this was going to be the ultimate fallout, that we would have legislation that would be the mirror opposite, a 180° difference, from what we had stood for a few years ago. However, what I understand is that a lot of Canadians have not had an opportunity to debate this. While I commend the justice committee for having looked at it, the reality is a previous justice committee did the exact same thing but was not allowed to report.

Again, we would have to wonder why a committee that spent time criss-crossing the country, that had done so much work, that what its conclusions or findings were, were that difficult that we refused to allow those definitions and those many hours of labour by both the committee of all sides of the House and Canadians to be reported.

I do not want to use the word, and the hon. member has made an utterance of a word, but I find it unacceptable that we would somehow want to rush this through to assume that everything can just change because it is time to make those changes or because we simply believe that the time has come and that we were all tired.

I have heard it said from a number of members of Parliament who are ambivalent but who are probably will support the legislation because they really do not want to see this as part of an election. I have also had members say to me, “Wait long enough and the public will forget about it. So let's get it over with now”.

I am sure that does not apply to most members here, but I can say to those members of Parliament who make those declarations, they will get neither because this issue is so important to Canadians. It is not that it detracts or derogates from others' rights or others' privileges, it is so fundamentally important to our sense of who we are, our sense of being.

The definition of marriage, the ritual which enjoins people of opposite sex, predates society. It predates the very civilization under which we fundamentally exist. We can simply say that we believe we can have this right, notwithstanding the new civil lexicon that says that marriage must be between two people and if not, we are not with the times. Rather than marginalizing people for holding these views, we have to do a better job of recognizing what it is that the House of Commons is attempting to do.

More than any other piece of legislation that is before the House, this legislation has a priority. The House can do better than that. It can reflect and represent the truth, and it can ensure that the public record is clear. Let us not take the public for granted. Every member of Parliament, although I am not going to convince them with my comments, cannot guarantee the protection of religious officials or teachers. Being that as it is, we have a higher obligation to protect that which is right unless we have an agenda which wants to go one step further and attack the very institutions which are the foundation of this land.

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5:55 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the hon. parliamentary secretary on his speech. I agree with many of his comments. In 1999 the House passed a motion to uphold the traditional definition of marriage and use all necessary means to do that. Also in 2003, when the Ontario court ruling came down, the justice committee was holding hearings across the country and at that point had the opportunity to recommend to the government that there be an appeal of that Ontario court decision. It failed to do that.

I have a question for the hon. parliamentary secretary. In all sincerity, why does he believe that the government did not use all necessary means to uphold the traditional definition of marriage and why did the justice committee in 2003 not have the opportunity to push for an appeal on that Ontario court ruling?

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5:55 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I know how committed the member for Leeds—Grenville is to this issue and as a new member of Parliament he has taken a very strong stance on this issue. I know how important it was to take that stance. It is one of the reasons he is here.

It is fair to say that what in fact occurred was that we threw the towel in on marriage. We had an opportunity and indeed an obligation. The Prime Minister and justice minister of the day knew full well the resolution of the House of Commons. They chose to ignore and defy that and to go for a pass.

Instead, they said they would not defend marriage, they quit and they allowed a lower court ruling to now effectively permeate all the courts across the country. They would not even look at the issue of civil union. They would ensure this does not become an election issue and they would work around with the odd little word.

I can honestly say the hon. member's question is a good one, but it suggests that the ability to make decisions and make them hold is not here in this Parliament. The question as to whether or not Parliament can be effective is going to be continuously second guessed by either the executive as was the case, or by the judiciary. Let the record be very clear. We failed Parliament and we failed Parliament in 2003 on that decision by capitulating to a lower court ruling which is without precedent internationally.

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6 p.m.


Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I would also like to compliment my colleague across the way for what appeared to be a very heartfelt and sincere speech. I agree with probably everything that he said. I, too, am a new member in the House, but I have been here long enough to know how games are played. In the last couple of weeks I have seen some incredible tricky political strategies to get things through that skirt around the democracy issue and maybe deplete the democratic process here in Canada.

Knowing full well that the only way to bring this bill down, members opposite did not vote against Bill C-48 last week. I absolutely accept that the member has a heartfelt concern about this, but I question how deep that goes when knowing how to vote against the bill was not done by the members opposite.

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6 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, let the record show that I have always stood firmly, no matter what the consequences were, on any issue.

In order to ensure this issue continues to be debated the next line of defence, which I have very clearly drawn out in my debate, will be by activists across this country. I think the hon. member would want to ensure that members like myself still stand.

Fortunately, I won by a fairly comfortable margin last election, but I did not win it simply because I am who I am. I assure the hon. member that there are people who, regardless of political partisan stripe, want to opine on this issue and who are just as disappointed. There are people within the Liberal Party that I speak to, constituents and people who have been here three or four generations, new Canadians, who are very passionate about this issue.

That has also allowed me to do other things, working on this side. It has allowed me to set up the AIDS initiative in Africa. It has allowed me to work on files like saving the life of Canadians like William Sampson.

This is not a black and white issue. There are some who would like to make it that way. I am not one and I will stand firmly for what is right. I will always wear those things on the sleeve as I walk in the House of Commons.

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6 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to speak for the third time in the last few months to Bill C-38, the civil marriage act.

Despite opposition to this legislation throughout the country, the Liberal government is bound and determined to push Bill C-38 through the House before Parliament rises for the summer. The vast majority of my constituents are included in those who are opposed to Bill C-38. It is therefore worth repeating, and I have said it every time that I have spoken, that I am opposed to changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. I firmly believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

A number of my colleagues this afternoon and throughout the last number of times they have spoken have made an excellent case for the traditional definition of marriage as being the most important social institution for bringing order to society and providing the best environment for raising children.

Speaking of children, I naturally think of family. I think of my family today. I would like to focus on the family for a minute, recognizing the fact that a family is defined as people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

If the government can change the definition of marriage, if it can change social institutions, then what is to say that the government cannot redefine what a family is? If two friends want to be known as a family and take advantage of the ensuing benefits such as claiming a dependent for tax purposes, would this lead to changing the definition of family to include people who are related by friendship, or related for other reasons of convenience?

The same argument that the traditional definition of marriage discriminates against same sex couples could apply to the traditional definition of family. It could be argued that the definition of family discriminates against other kinds of close relationships like that between friends.

This point is extremely important because eventually the argument could be extended to include many other relationships. It could be enlarged to include relationships such as polygamy. The Liberal government scoffs at the idea that polygamists will one day argue that they are being discriminated against, but the reality of that happening is very real.

It is also important because it begs a question. Why would one fight for such a change? In the case I used of two friends wanting to be recognized as a family, the sole purpose would be for monetary reasons, for taking advantage of the taxable benefits of having a family member listed as a dependent.

In the case of same sex unions, we must question why these relationships should be defined by marriage. We must question why gay activists are so intent on having same sex unions defined as marriage when they are already entitled to the same rights and benefits as those involved in traditional marriage. The only thing they are not entitled to is the term marriage.

The only difference between opposite sex unions and same sex unions would be a different name or definition which would simply recognize the different makeup of the relationship. One relationship being that of two people of the opposite sex while the other relationship being two people of the same sex. Both relationships have the same benefits and both have the same rights.

Unfortunately, in my opinion this issue is not about legal rights. It is not about human rights. It is about acceptance. That is what this argument is about. For some same sex marriage advocates the issue is about acceptance and forcing Canadians, despite their religious beliefs and the values that they have held for a long period of time, to accept homosexuality as being the same as those involved in the traditional marriage.

Governments simply cannot legislate acceptance any more than they can legislate people to abandon their religious beliefs or to forget about morality or the values that they have held perhaps since childhood.

On the issue of religion, there is no absolute guarantee that our religious freedoms will not be challenged. The Liberal government has failed. Despite promises to the contrary to protect religious freedoms and to protect the rights of those to worship or to adhere to whatever religion they want, they have failed.

During the last federal election campaign, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency told church groups who opposed same sex marriage that if they spoke out they could very well risk losing their charitable status, while churches that spoke in favour of same sex marriage, oddly enough, never received the same type of threat.

Bishop Henry in Calgary is being hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission because he spoke out against same sex marriage. Time does not permit me to provide other examples of how our freedoms of speech and religion are being curbed by arguments of human rights.

Many argue that extending marriage to include same sex union is a matter of human rights, yet almost every other country around the world, and the United Nations specifically, has rejected the notion that same sex marriage is a human right. It has already been pointed out that if it is a human right, then why are we trading and dealing so much with countries that are human rights violators? I think even the government realizes it is not a human right.

Marriage is a fundamental social institution, not only recognized by law but sanctified by faith throughout the world and throughout history. The requirement that marriage partners be of opposite sex is one of the core universal features of marriage across many different cultures and many different religions around the world. In Canada and elsewhere, the identity of marriage has always been seen as a bond between a man and a woman.

A University of McGill professor of comparative religion and ethics told the special committee of justice and legal affairs--on which I served--back in 2003 that:

From our study of all world religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, and the world views of small-scale societies, we conclude that this institution is a culturally approved, opposite-sex relationship intended to encourage the births and rearing of children at least to the extent necessary for the preservation and well-being of society.

In another submission to our committee, one witness defended marriage as the union of one man and one woman on the basis of procreation, as I pointed out in my initial remarks.

Traditionally, marriage was defined as the union of one man and one woman, with the expectation that they would procreate and that they would guarantee the survival of the human race. The product of this union was children. They would create and establish a family, and that allows humanity to continue on.

While there are many purposes to the family--that is, providing lifelong relations, shelter, and food to its members--the main purpose is the means by which society can maintain its existence.

Procreation in marriage has to be considered one of the most essential functions. Civilizations of the world have come to embrace this fact in recognition of the benefits it brings to those involved in society as a whole.

As a matter of fact, there are only two countries in the world that allow same sex marriage, and it is important to note that neither of these countries has had the issue decided or defined by the courts of their country. We continue to believe, as does the Supreme Court of Canada--much to the dismay of the Liberal government--that MPs who are accountable to the citizens of the country should have the final say on this matter. We should not be limited in our debate. We should not be sitting back and limiting our debate.

On that note, I implore this government to not shut down debate on this issue, despite the rising temperature outside. Today someone said there is a humidex of 41 out there, and I can tell you that all I know is it is very hot and there are a lot of people with shirts sticking to their bodies and the sweat is pouring down. The heat is not only outside; it's inside the House also.

We have seen the measures this government has taken to ram this legislation through before the House rises. We have seen the anti-democratic ways that this government has used to push something through.

I remember back in 2001, when this House was called back early to deal with September 11 and the terrorist attacks on that day. The House came back early because of what was happening around the world. Today we are extending the hours because this government feels so compelled to push through this type of legislation.

I implore this government to allow the House to rise for the summer recess with Bill C-38 still on the table. Allow us to go out into our constituencies and listen to people, close to 10,000 from my riding--6,800--who have contacted me, asking me to support the traditional definition of marriage. We need time this summer to listen to our constituents so that when we come back in the fall we can properly represent those people who sent us here.

Thank you.

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6:15 p.m.


Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Madam Speaker, I listened with intent to the speech from the hon. member. Of course, he realizes that marriage, back with the fathers of Confederation, was a division of responsibility between both the federal and provincial governments. He seems to speak almost as if religious organizations have had a copyright on marriage, and they probably have had for a great number of generations, in fact for centuries. But could he inform the House of his vision of what might happen in this country with eight provinces, not one of whom challenged the court proceedings in those provinces to accept marriage, if we don't make a decision on this important issue?

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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6:15 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, there is an old saying back on the ranch, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. I do not believe it is broken. I do not believe this social institution that has stood the test of time or, as the Supreme Court has said, from time immemorial, is broken.

All types of academics and people recognize that the marriage issue is not something that is broken. Certainly there are times when it may appear that it is hurting. Even with some of the easy divorce laws that were pushed through, we have hurt the institution of marriage, but I do not believe for a moment that this sacred institution, which we have all recognized in many different cultures and countries, specifically in Canada, is broken. So we should not try to fix something that is not broken.

I fear that we are sowing to the wind in this piece of legislation. We are saying we are going to appease every group with some of the most traditional types of definitions of the institutions we have. We are sowing to the wind, and I believe we will reap the whirlwind.

We will not know in a year whether this has been a good experiment or a bad one. We are only now seeing the harvest when it comes to what we have done with the Divorce Act, which has allowed easy divorce. Some of the ideas we have had traditionally, that marriage is a lifelong institution, stand well for our country; they stand well for society.

I also want to say this to the hon. member. He has asked specifically about the provincial and federal jurisdictions. I had the opportunity to sit on the justice committee when it toured the country. I served on the justice committee when it brought in hundreds of witnesses speaking on both sides of the issue. Usually parliamentarians do not talk about the amount of money that is spent for travel, but it was a high cost to Canadian taxpayers.

When it came time for the vote, I can recall the government pulling two members from the committee and replacing them with members who had not heard even one minute of testimony, members of the committee who I believe would have called on the government to stand up and appeal the decision of the lower courts, to appeal what the lower courts were saying. The government pulled two people out. We came to a vote that day, and the two individuals the government whip brought in voted not to appeal. In other words, they voted for the definition of same sex marriage. The committee was tied. There was a deadlock; I believe it was eight to eight. The chairman of the committee cast his vote for not appealing the definition of marriage. Within a few minutes of the vote taking place, the Minister of Justice was standing before the cameras saying to the media and Canadians, “The committee has made a decision and I will honour the wishes of that committee”. Talk about a kangaroo court; talk about injustice.

I want to say one other thing while I am here. The member from the Liberal Party who spoke prior to me kept making reference to the former Prime Minister and the former justice minister, and how back in 1999 or 2000 they voted to preserve the definition of marriage. Let me say this. The current Prime Minister and the current justice minister--but the current Prime Minister specifically--voted to support and defend the traditional definition of marriage. He has failed and failed miserably.

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6:20 p.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton Ontario


Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Madam Speaker, I continue to oppose Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. Due to my profound concerns regarding the long term impact of Bill C-38, I plan to continue to express my opposition to this proposed legislation.

A Compass poll on February 2, 2005, indicated that 66% of the Canadian population opposes same sex marriage. Clearly, a majority of Canadians remain concerned that the common good of society will not be served by the proposed redefinition of marriage. That is because this legislation fails to recognize, protect and reaffirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

Marriage is a loving, life-giving partnership between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. It is also essential to the survival of society. Its purpose is the common good of the couple and the procreation and education of children. Marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, is a unique and irreplaceable institution that merits government protection and social recognition.

The interest of the state in the institution of marriage has always been and should always continue to be the integration of the sexes in an ideal social unit from which children are born and nurtured, not only for the benefit of the children but for society as a whole.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation eliminates this time honoured interest. It is clear to me that Bill C-38 would diminish the relevance of the most important social institution of our society.

Marriage even predates religions. Historically, the institution of marriage has always been viewed as the ideal unit for fostering a healthy environment for the development of children. Marriage is the institution which has played the greatest role in our survival and procreation.

As members of Parliament we are often called upon to deal with difficult social issues, including domestic violence and poverty. At the root of all of these debates has been the conclusion that the basic unit of society--the family, mothers and fathers, the children with their mother and father--remains the safest place for children and for women.

It is worth noting that in its final ruling the Supreme Court of Canada did not suggest that the traditional definition of marriage was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or that a redefinition of marriage was necessary to conform to the charter. In the marriage reference, the Supreme Court declined to answer the fourth question, which was whether the traditional opposite sex requirement for marriage contravened the charter.

As members know, the majority of my constituents are asking that we preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Marriage is an institution with a long and respected history and tradition. It has a clear purpose. Bill C-38 would take that tradition, that institution, and reduce it to the union of two people.

Bill C-38 essentially dismisses the relevance of marriage to any aspect of the social well-being of Canadians. However, there is no other human relationship equal to the only true marriage unit, that of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. The marriage of a man and a woman is unique, as is its contribution to society. Marriage serves a unique function in all civilized societies. The very preservation of society is dependent upon traditional marriage. As members of Parliament, it is our duty to defend the health and well-being of all Canadians, especially our children.

Marriage promotes the bonding of men and women and the creation of a stable and beautiful partnership of life and property. It recognizes the interdependence of men and women. It includes the moral, social, economic and legal dimensions. It reflects a commitment to fidelity and monogamy. It serves as an excellent social structure for the rearing of children for the perpetuation of society. It provides for mutual support between men and women, supports the birthright of children and strengthens relations between men and children.

Therefore, the potential impact of change on the parent-child bond and the overall impact on society is significant and should not be taken lightly.

Finally, I believe that the redefinition of marriage would lead to a major societal change. While it might not have immediate social consequences, over time it could have enormous implications. The potential for long term consequences is so great that we should take the time to more fully assess the broader implications of this fundamental change to families, children and religious freedoms.

The proposed legislation is about diminishing the relevance of the most important social institution of our society. Why should we rush into adopting radically new legislation when there are so many important long term consequences to consider for all society? Why should we be considering the dismantling of one of the most essential institutions in our society?

Marriage clearly plays a meaningful role in our society. Changing one of the basic foundations of this social institution will have a profound effect on the entire marriage structure as a whole. Bill C-38 proposes to change a critical feature of a key social institution. Doing so will undoubtedly have a major destabilizing impact on marriage.

In light of the above arguments, I must strongly and respectfully request that we act for the greater good of our nation by supporting the traditional definition of marriage. The stability and future of our nation are at stake here. The stakes have never been higher. We must all do what we can to support the traditional definition of marriage and to stand up for that which we truly believe to be for the good of our nation.

Marriage and the family are fundamental institutions which contribute to the common good in terms of the formation of children, loyalty, faithfulness and responsibility in our society. Marriage as we have known it cannot be allowed to slip quietly away.

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6:25 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton for his presentation. I gather that he is not in favour of this bill. I know that others in the Sikh community have expressed the very same concerns that the member has.

In fact, the president of the Sikh temple in Calgary, Jagtar Singh Sidhu, made a very strong appeal at a rally in Calgary about a month ago. I happen to have attended that rally. Bishop Henry also spoke at that particular gathering. He has some strong opinions as well. It is interesting to hear how the member is of the Sikh faith and obviously feels strongly about the importance of keeping a family unit together.

I know that the Punjabi people in my riding are very strong in their union with one another. They believe in some strong family traditions. They believe in the need to procreate, as it is sometimes called, and to raise children. I think those are virtues and creditable attitudes to bring to this country.

I am curious about the member who sits over on the Liberal side. I know that this debate has raged for some time, but what would he suggest as the best line of attack or the best approach to talk to other members who may be uncertain about which way they would like to vote? What would he do about it personally, especially looking at members from his own side?

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6:30 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot speak on behalf of other members of Parliament, but I have received thousands of emails, thousands of phone calls and thousands of letters from my constituents. I am listening to what my constituents are saying. That is why I am opposing this bill.