Mr. Speaker, to completely honest, I must admit that it is not a pleasure to take part in today's debate on Bill C-38 on civil marriage.
I get the feeling that, right from the very start, this has been a fruitless debate where everyone has stuck by their positions and refused to budge. Both sides have said some scandalous things. Not only has the debate been polarized, it has been controversial. Some people were subject to harsh remarks and an obvious lack of respect.
Today, I want to make my humble contribution, given my great surprise that the government is incapable of addressing the right to equality and, at the same time, respecting our identities as individuals. When I said that I supported maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, I also said, in the same breath, that I supported the union of same sex partners and their right to equality.
The challenge facing this House and its members, as legislators, was that, in maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, it was also our duty to find a way to pass legislation ensuring equality for same sex couples, so they could have access to a union recognizing their choices and rights. The quest for equality does not mean we have to standardize intrinsically different realities by creating just one type of union between individuals and using the same word to describe it.
Homosexuality exists. It is a reality and no one can explain it or even attempt to. First, it is complex; second, it would be politically incorrect to do so.
Love also exists between same sex partners, and their right to happiness, as far as I am concerned, is a given. We must understand that, according to the government, Bill C-38 seeks essentially to protect two equally fundamental values: the right to equality and freedom of religion.
In order to do this, the government took the easy way out by simply changing the traditional definition of marriage—which is the union of one man and one woman—to include all unions between two individuals. Was it the easy way or incompetency? Both, in all honesty. I believe that this government took the easy way out because it is incompetent and incapable of being bold and innovative.
The second fundamental value is protection of the right of religious organizations to refuse to marry partners of the same sex, which, according to the government, comes under freedom of religion.
As the government failed to assume its responsibilities, it appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. And the result? Essentially, the court concluded that the government had the right to authorize marriage between partners of the same sex, but that the court would not force it to do so, that it would not find that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was a bad thing in itself.
The court recognized that no one could guarantee that religious freedom would be protected against the rights of minorities and that Parliament could not do anything to guarantee religious freedom over the longer term either.
In conclusion, it was left to Parliament to decide. Today, we are experiencing its desire to present Bill C-38, which runs counter to the right of respect for the distinct identity of each kind of union between two people.
Obviously, in this debate, reference is made to the unions of persons of the opposite sex and of the same sex. We are talking, essentially, about sexual orientation, and therefore sex. Perhaps we should talk about it a little.
I would like to quote from Yvon Dallaire, an expert in the psychology of sex. I quote:
Although reasonable, human beings are still animals and, as such, subject to the laws of nature, whether aware of it or not. Thus, whether we want it or not, sexuality remains a strategy of nature to ensure the survival of the species. What we call love is another of these strategies to provide the best opportunity to raise our young. Love is a biological point of view serving sexuality—
And continuing the quote:
Love becomes so important in our species probably because we spend decades raising our children, while the young of most animal species become independent a few days, weeks or months after their birth. So, it is important for humanity that the male and female not only form a stable couple but share in the task of child rearing.
It is in this concept of the focus of life reaching out to life that society over the years has defined and confirmed the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
First I tried to use a Cartesian approach in addressing this issue and to be as rational as possible. It is fair to say that men and women are fundamentally different, but happily complementary. Thus, a union between a man and woman is fundamentally different from a union between two members of the same sex. I admit, it is disarmingly simplistic.
Allow me to quote Krishna Deva, “The sexual union between a man and a woman expresses the cosmic dimension of creation...Therefore, sexual pleasure is a symbolic reflection of the infinite joy of the divinity of creation.”
It is important to mention that this statement does not make either union a second class union with respect to the other.
Based on this philosophy, it seems that each of the two unions has its own identity. To paraphrase Michel Gourges, a professor in Ottawa, I would say that the first problem is that in the name of equality rights, it seems necessary for the union between two persons of the same sex to be recognized in the same way as a union between a man and a woman.
Second, for the union between two persons of the same sex to be recognized in the same way as a union between a man and a woman, it seems that both identities need to be described the same way. If we continue in that same vein, then recognizing equality between men and women should necessarily require both to be identical.
Allow me again to quote a passage from a text by Richard Alexander, biologist at the University of Michigan, “Men and women are different on a variety of levels and much more so than we can imagine. To diminish and deny these differences is to diminish our nature and a vital aspect of our human heritage.”
As I said earlier, men and women are fundamentally different, but happily complementary.
The government's approach to this issue sacrifices the very identity of each of the unions.
The government could have achieved equality of the unions of individuals while maintaining respect for the very identity of each of the two unions: the union between a man and a woman, and the union between two persons of the same sex.
In conclusion, I want to say I too received countless positive and negative comments, and I want to share one of them that particularly caught my attention, “The time has come for you—he is talking to me—to realize that, as an MP, you must lead by example, and that voting against this bill is completely unacceptable for someone who wants Quebec to be independent and open to the world”.
It is no secret that I want Quebec to be sovereign. I want Quebec to have the right to equality with other countries, and I want the identity of Quebeckers to be respected. If I took the same approach to these two fundamental values that the government is using to resolve the issue of same sex unions, I would end up with the following absurdity: I would obtain equality rights but I would forfeit—for the benefit of the Canadian identity—my identity as a Quebecker, something I would consider unacceptable.
So, we must respect the right to equality and the right to our own identity.