Mr. Speaker, the commitment of this government to see Bill C-38 passed quickly has saddened me. I must also say that I am very frustrated at the way this legislation was handled by the government, the NDP and the Bloc, and their willingness to ram it through before summer break.
Bill C-38 promotes values that go against my most fundamental principles, beliefs and convictions, and that is why I am opposing the redefinition of marriage and reiterating my support for the motion moved on June 8, 1999:
That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.
We as legislators should consider the matter much more cautiously before changing the definition of marriage, a reality that is the foundation of our society. There are few arrangements more central to human survival than pair bonds and these unions are central to the development of human society.
Marriage varies considerably from culture to culture but the primary object of marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and the raising of children in a traditional family environment. Therefore, if we allow same sex couples to join the institution of marriage, it will violate long held societal views that are rooted in religion, history and anthropology.
I feel extremely privileged to stand today in this noble institution to voice the concerns of the majority of my constituents of Nickel Belt. Although Canadians are against redefining marriage, they also recognize the rights of persons of the same sex who wish to form a couple but it is difficult to imagine that this same concept, the concept of marriage, can apply to two such different realities, namely heterosexual and same sex couples.
I recognize the wish of homosexuals to have their union recognized by the state in one form or another in order to assert their status as a couple and give it a name. I do not believe, however, that breaking down the concept of marriage represents any kind of social progress. Would it not be advisable to continue examining this matter rather than calling into question the definition of a reality that is considered untouchable, if not sacred, and justly so, by the majority of Canadians? Such a universal definition cannot be resolved in just a few months.
Since last fall, I have received thousands of letters, postcards, e-mails, faxes and phone calls from Canadians wishing to voice their strong opposition to the redefinition of the institution of marriage.
For Canadians seeking to redefine an institution that is the foundation of society, it is a lot more than a legal issue. This complex and crucial issue will not be resolved with Bill C-38 and if the House adopts legislation in accordance with the changes proposed in the bill, millions of Canadians will feel disgraced by their religious leaders who have not considered the basic aspect of the nature and meaning of marriage.
We often hear it said that the expression “separate but equal” cannot be applied to marriage. However, that is precisely what section 15 of the charter provides. It states, “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—” In other words, equality makes it possible to treat certain individuals differently but not unfairly. If same sex couples enjoy a legal benefit equal to that of heterosexual couples, the requirements of the charter are met.
We must recognize that the charter came into effect to guarantee individual rights in Canada and not to serve as a tool for social change. It is hard to believe that the definition of marriage could be discriminatory, when the practice is not.
This is a matter of public social ethics and not of the charter of rights. Many believe that the charter is a red herring in the issue of the institution of marriage.
Bill C-38 does not consider the ordinary citizen who has neither the means nor the political power of the strong homosexual lobby. With the attack focussed on the traditional definition of marriage, Canadians feel that they are being handed a hot potato and that the effects of such a choice on our society will be negative and unpredictable.
We obviously cannot fully address an issue as complex as the redefinition of marriage through the strict legal approach taken by the Supreme Court of Canada and reflected in the bill. The desire to improve the social position of homosexuals and the current heated debate in fact call upon us to look for new solutions but such a process cannot change the inescapable fact of human experience.
It is essential we do not forget that marriage between a man and a woman is a natural state of affairs in accordance with human constitution and the purpose of marriage. As I said before, this does not rule out same sex unions but they are not the same thing.
The sexual difference of the human race has always been reflected and recognized in marriage which, by granting a man and woman the status of a couple, provides for the procreation of the species. The findings of ethnologists, cultural anthropologists and historians show that throughout time worldwide, with few exceptions, from the most primitive to the most modern societies, heterosexual couples have received special recognition if not nearly sacred status.
Through various rituals practised by families, religions or the state or a combination of these three, humankind has always affirmed the crucial role that a man and woman in a couple play in building society by granting the couple special status and protection. Common law unions, which reflect a crisis in society and have repercussions on the institution of marriage, are subject to the same laws that the state applies to marriage and the family. In this way the state protects the rights of spouses and children.
It is very clear to me that this debate is not about individual rights but rather the common good of our society and the spiritual and physical well-being of our children and the future of Canadian families.
If homosexual marriage is legalized it becomes a norm. I am afraid it will inevitably lead to the trivialization of the institution of marriage and eventually to the deterioration of our societal fabric. There is no denial that the institution of marriage emphasizes the interest of every child, natural or adopted, to be raised as a first choice by a mother and a father.
This is why it is most surprising to note that the bill does not mention children. Even though Bill C-38 recognizes “Whereas marriage is a fundamental institution in Canadian society...and represents the foundation of family life for many Canadians”, this silence is both suggestive and disturbing.
As children are created by a woman and a man, they need both a mother and a father during the first years of their lives in order to develop normally. Normal development for a child can better originate in a stable family situation where the mother and the father occupy their traditional roles. Studies in sociology and psychology have confirmed this evidence.
We are living in an era where nobody's rights are more infringed upon than those of our children: the right to have two parents, the right to stability and the right to live in harmony with affection. Is it not more important to protect our children's rights and should we not be more preoccupied with those rights than the question of same sex marriage?
The General Assembly of the United Nations reminded the world in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child that “The child...shall grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, in an atmosphere of affection and material security”. In this perspective, we ask ourselves how Bill C-38 would impact and what negative consequences it would have on our children.
It is our prime responsibility to defend the rights of those who do not have the ability to be part of this debate, the ones who will be most affected by these major changes on our society. It is fundamental that we protect our children who will be the first victims of this legislation.
The only positive aspect of this debate is that it forces us as individuals and collectively to reflect on an institution in crisis and on its role in society. Like it or not, heterosexual marriage, which consecrates the union of a man and a woman, is the very foundation of our society and of the family. Society owes its very existence to the family. The rapid pace of change in society today has, in a sense, blinded many people.
We must recognize that we should not play with a concept as important as marriage without more serious thought, in spite of the pressure to name the new social reality of same sex couples. It is essential for our society that the wisdom recorded by ethnologists and historians must not be tampered with lightly.
I find it very challenging to see how expanding the definition of civil marriage will benefit homosexuals. On the contrary, the public reaction to the redefinition of marriage could lead to a rejection much more profound than what this minority has experienced thus far.