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House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.

Topics

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are the responsibilities in marriages where there are no children, for various reasons. In those marriages there is a responsibility to be true and faithful, to be loving, to care for each other in sickness and in health, and to be there for each other in the bad times and the good. In marriages with families there is a responsibility to the children, to bring them up in love and to give them the things that they need. I think those responsibilities are fully so in same sex marriages. I have seen them as a physician over and over.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed it is an honour for me to rise tonight in the House to support the motion to re-open the traditional definition of marriage. I also rise today for my constituents who have overwhelmingly communicated to me that they support our government's efforts in re-opening this debate. I must say that I also have the pleasure of personally sharing the same view as the majority of my constituents.

I cannot stress enough how passionate the constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex feel about this issue. Of the thousands of letters, calls and emails that I have received from my constituents on this issue, they have voiced their displeasure in the changing of the definition of marriage. I have also received numerous petitions from my constituents calling on our government to revisit this debate and restore the traditional definition of marriage. Every day more of my constituents come forward to express their disapproval of the changes in the definition of marriage, changes that were made without the free will of Parliament.

Marriage has been an honoured institution that has stood the test of time and is one of the key foundations on which our society has been built. For thousands of years marriage has been recognized as the union of one man and one woman. Since Confederation and until recently marriage in Canadian law has been defined as the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I along with the majority of my constituents believe that the traditional Canadian marriage debate needs to be revisited and eventually agreed upon by a free and democratic vote in this House.

I must also mention that I hold the view that same sex couples deserve the same rights as those involved in traditional union. I believe that same sex couples should have the same financial, property and other forms of rights as traditional couples, and that the meaning of the term marriage be preserved as the union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I do not believe in denying certain groups their rights while enhancing the rights of others. I would find it difficult to support any legislation that would impose on the freedoms that Canadians enjoy. I feel that religious institutions have been denied a full say in this debate and in turn have seen their religious freedoms put at risk. I find it worrisome that priests and ministers can be disciplined in refusing to marry same sex couples.

Earlier this year France rejected the marriage of same sex couples because of the effect that same sex marriages have on children. The French published a report that raised many important questions. In the report the commission said that the child represents the future of society. The commission also asked French legislators to ensure that children confronted with alterations in family models be taken into account and not suffer from situations imposed upon them by adults. It added that the interest of the child must take precedence over the lifestyle choices of adults.

This is a stern reminder that children have rights, rights that need to be taken into account. It is a reminder that our personal lifestyle preferences should never take precedence over those of our children.

The last time this issue was before the House our Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, was the only national leader in the House who allowed a free vote. We also saw members of our caucus and then members of our shadow cabinet who voted differently than their leader. I am proud to be a member of a party that believes in the right to uphold one's beliefs.

In this party we support a member's democratic right to vote with his or her conscience. Unfortunately, this right was not supported by the previous leadership of the Liberal Party. Hopefully, the new Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, along with the leaders of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois will right this wrong and allow their caucuses to practise their democratic right and allow a free vote on this issue.

A traditional marriage debate is very important to many Canadians. It is an emotional debate that has critics on both sides of the issue. By having a free vote in the House, it is my hope that Canadians will be provided with a sober judgment, a judgment that this Parliament has failed to deliver.

Canadians have put their trust in this House via their elected representatives with the understanding that their democratic voices would be heard. I feel that we should grant them that opportunity on this very important issue. I am proud to stand in this House tonight to defend tradition and to defend my constituents on the very basis of accountable democracy which sees all members of this House as servants of the people and not the masters. We are the ones who take the word of the people and bring it to this House, the highest democratic chamber in the land.

During the last campaign, our party made it very clear to Canadians that we would bring the traditional marriage debate to the House and encourage other parties to have a free vote. Once again our Prime Minister has shown leadership and integrity in his commitment to Canadians. He has shown leadership and set an example of how democracy can and should work in this country.

On January 23 of this year, Canadians gave our party a mandate, a mandate which I talked about and which our Prime Minister is fulfilling. Democracy has not had such an opportunity to live and to grow in this country for quite some time. The last 11 months have been refreshing for Canadians who have witnessed honesty, integrity and accountability in its government. Giving the Parliament of Canada a free vote on the traditional marriage issue is just one of the many examples of the Prime Minister's commitment to democracy in this country.

I am blessed and fortunate that I can stand in this great chamber tonight, in this great chamber of Parliament, and know that I will have the freedom to vote my conscience and the wishes of my constituents on this very important motion. This decision is fundamental to the basis of what this country was founded upon, that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I ask that all members support this motion.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard over and over from across the way the term “defending tradition”. For thousands of years women were considered to be chattel. In 1927 women were not considered to be persons in this country. How do we defend tradition?

If we had defended tradition, women would still have no vote. Women would still be chattel and they would still not be considered persons. If we defended tradition, slaves would still be working the plantations within the new world and the new colonies. If we defended tradition, we know that some of the traditions that have occurred in this world are not worth defending.

Countries must move forward. We have moved into an era where we talk about human rights, the rights of the individual and the rights of groups within society to live freely and equally. In societies where minorities groups live freely and equally, those are societies that have order. They live in peaceful co-existence and they are able to move forward and continue to build a nation together.

When we talk about tradition, I would like to ask the hon. member these questions. Would he still have women being chattel? Would he still have women, traditionally over the millennia, continue to have no vote?

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is such a great country that we live in. We have the opportunity to make choices, the opportunity to stand up and debate as we are doing tonight, and to have freedom of expression on issues that are so important to the future of this country because of the basis of what it was founded upon.

The UN talks about, in a declaration on human rights, that what must take priority over the rights of adults, referring to those more vulnerable and requiring the support of the state, are children and they are entitled to the best possible circumstances to be raised.

That is what this whole debate is about. It is about the fundamentals of what this country was based on. It is about the definition of marriage and it is about the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight there has been a lot of debate about the motion before the House, which is not about whether we should reinstate the traditional definition of marriage, but whether we should call on the government to bring forward legislation to address that matter.

I am a bit curious as to why the government would come to Parliament and ask for permission to table legislation. I hope that the member, should this motion fail, would encourage the Prime Minister to table legislation to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. Does he think that is a good idea? Will he do it?

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight is the basis of his request. The whole debate is about a definition of marriage and the motion to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage of that between a man and a woman.

I hope he supports the motion. If he believes that to be the true definition of marriage, I hope he will stand tomorrow when we vote and support that.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Again, Mr. Speaker, if the member and his caucus feel strongly about reinstating the traditional definition of marriage, will he not admit that the motion we will vote on will not be the end of it, that the government has the power to introduce such a bill? Will the government introduce such a bill?

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion we will vote on tomorrow is fairly straightforward. It is the motion is in front of us and it is the motion I will support.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be appropriate to note, as we have already today, that today is the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the massacre at École Polytechnique where 14 women were killed by a misogynist, someone who hated women.

It would be most appropriate if the House could come together on this issue.

I will repeat what the member for Vancouver Centre said when she talked about how we fight hatred and exclusion with the weapons of mass inclusion. That is very important, and it is a very significant statement. I hope her statement gets written in the lexicon of Canada and we keep it in mind.

I grew up during the desegregation fight in the United States of America. Politicians in the states made a political career out of fighting against desegregation. They were governors of various southern states and they stayed in office for a long time. I am talking about people like Lester Maddox and George Wallace. Black children were killed trying to desegregate schools.

I bring this up because there was a time when it was okay to discriminate against someone because of their colour or their race. I look to the states in that respect because the most dramatic pictures were presented to me as one growing up in the late fifties and the sixties. We saw dogs going after blacks. We saw police and horses trample blacks. It was okay at that time. There was a long struggle. Civil rights leaders aroused a lot of emotion, Martin Luther King being just one. He paid for his struggles with his life. His speech “I Have a Dream” is very famous.

There was an incredible amount of discrimination in Canada. First nations are an example. It was not until the sixties and seventies that they were allowed to even vote, to have the franchise. We know what happened to Canadians of Chinese and Asian origin. We know about the people from the Ukraine, people who were interned. We know what happened to the Jews and the policy of none was too many. We had a blatant racist immigration policy.

It was all these things put together that resulted in Canada's recognition of the fact that we are a collection of minorities. There is no majority in our country. It was at that time when there was the realization that if one minority's right could be attacked one day, another minority's right could be attacked some other day.

April 17, 1982, was a very historic day, when Canada got its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is an important guiding document for us. It acknowledges and it is an answer to the injustices that happened to many people in the past. It gives us guidance for the future.

Fundamental rights are spelled out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a living, breathing document. One of the sections in the charter is the equality section. For members who are having trouble understanding the charter, it is the job of the courts to interpret it. The reason for that is very simple. When it comes to basic human rights, we do not want to trust that to the whims of the capriciously elected politicians who will at times exploit it for all the wrong reasons.

I am very disconcerted as to why we are having the debate. We have dealt with this issue. Why are we debating it again?

I will provide a bit of my interpretation, and I alert whatever viewers there are to visit a website, which is dawn.thot.net/harperstiestousa/american_right_report.pdf. It talks about a Conservative movement in the United States and how it wants to control the political process.

We all know that George Bush got elected in the last presidential election because he was able to exploit the whole issue of same sex marriage by trying to pass wrong constitutional amendments on that issue. Lo and behold, he happened to win the state of Ohio without which he would not have been President.

There is also a very good book that I would recommend to my colleagues in the House, particularly on the other side, but mostly to the viewers of this debate. In particular, I want to draw attention to a person who was an employee in the Bush White House. His name was David Kuo. He was working with religious based organizations that were very much assisting the Republicans in the United States to get the vote out.

He wrote a book called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. It talks about the way the Bush administration referred to the Christian organizations working within the White House as nuts, goofy and people who are to be exploited for political gain. I recommend that book to all members of the House.

There is no question that the reason we are debating this issue today is not because the Conservative Party thinks it can change history or overturn the legislation. It is not going to happen. It might come as a surprise to the party that most members in the House happen to believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that human rights and civil liberties should not be left to the capriciously elected.

We have a free vote in the Liberal caucus. If members of the House at any time feel strongly that in their conscience they cannot support a vote, even if they are whipped, they have the right to stand in the House to vote against it and vote their conscience. I need no lectures from the members of the Conservative Party on having the right to vote my conscience. On issues I strongly believe in, I do.

I have another piece of news for members of the Conservative Party. I supported this when I was in the minority, but the majority of Canadians support the legislation and, further, are proud of the legislation. If the Conservatives ever talk about following the wishes of their constituents, which they always bring up, they should understand that their position now is a minority one. Just like the leader who walked with dinosaurs, that is where those folks are going.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleague across the way. I certainly hope he is more discriminating than to think that everything he sees on every website is totally believable.

How can the member be so sure that the majority of Canadians have decided on this issue when his party would not even allow the justice committee, which had travelled all across Canada hearing 465 witnesses and receiving 265 briefs, to present its report?

A member earlier tonight said that we did not really need that input because we should just go with what we have. Why do we even have committees? Could the hon. member address that, please?

MarriageGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2006 / 9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, if he reads the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, his regional paper, it is right in the editorial. I have been very much a proponent of same sex marriage. I come from the same region as the member and I have more votes than either of the members who opposed it and the majority of votes supported same sex marriage in the election. They had a lucky split that might not repeat the next time. I think that is important for the member to understand and I suggest that he read the report.

He also asked why we would not continue to debate the issue. I can only say that we did not end desegregation and discrimination soon enough. If the member wants to look at hateful comments, all he has to do is go from the 35th Parliament on and look at comments coming from the Reform Party, the Alliance Party, then the Conservative Party as it relates to gays and lesbians. Be it the hate crime legislation or the identifiable group, Bill C-250, Bill C-41 or the one on equal marriage, he should look at the comments.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I found the member's speech hypocritical at best. It is funny that he mentioned so much about the Americans but the Liberals are the ones who have an American keynote speaker. The Ontario Liberals are the ones who have an American keynote speaker.

We listened to Canadians who said that Canada is a nation of minorities. I tend to believe that Canada is a nation of Canadians and I am proud to be one of them. I would further like to ask the member, if he is so certain that the majority of Canadians feel that they have been heard on this, why we are inundated with thousands of letters asking us to revisit this issue and reinstate the traditional definition of marriage.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to respond to that question. Most of the e-mails and communication I receive on this issue are organized by fundamentalist churches. That is very simple to explain.

Let me just say that I would rather listen to Mr. Dean talk about how he defeated the right wing Republicans in the United States than listen to a guru by the name of Karl Rove who is emulated by the Conservative Party. When it was the Alliance Party, the Conservatives had a leader who believed that men walked with dinosaurs. I hate to say this but on this issue there are some dinosaurs in this House.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member, whose has many years of experience here, has had the same experience with regard to the Conservatives who come forward regularly with comments, either overheard or outright comments to me, that the promise by the Prime Minister of having this kind of vote tomorrow is wrong but that they will still vote for it because they feel pressure from that right wing group the member was speaking about.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the matter of rights, I do not care if the numbers are 10 to 1, I will stand by my conscience and I will vote for what I believe is the charter.

MarriageGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, we did not need to have this debate when people are dying in Afghanistan, when children go to bed hungry in different parts of Canada and when climate change is threatening our very future. There are many more important issues for us to tackle here in Parliament.

Why are we even contemplating taking away the rights of anyone, the right to love and to make a lifelong commitment, the right to share the challenges, joys and commitments of marriage? What do the hon. members who say they are defenders of traditional marriage think they are trying to prove?

We are in this House to serve the people and to protect the charters and Canadian ideals of equality. We are in this House to serve and to fight injustice. We are not in this House to limit the rights of any citizen.

Gays and lesbians have the right to serve this country. They have the right to serve in the military. They have the right to serve the public as members of Parliament. They have that right, as they should, as they all should. They are not second-class citizens. This is a country that attracts visitors from around the world because we believe there are no second-class citizens. We believe that everyone can lead a life of respect.

Why would any member of the House dishonour Canada's greatest quality and demean this country by calling for second-class citizenship for anyone?

At my own wedding two decades ago, my partner and I called out for recognition of same sex marriage. We could not understand why our gay and lesbian friends could not find the joy of expression, that freedom of expression that we had that day. We did not see same sex marriage as a threat to our marriage or anyone else's. We saw it simply as an affirmation of love.

Since then, we have had the privilege of seeing Canada take the lead in the world. We have taken the lead in this truest test of a society; the dignity and respect we accord all citizens. We have taken the lead and that should fill every member of the House with joy and pride.

I have had the pride and joy of attending many same sex weddings, from the very first one which was performed at Toronto's city hall when I was a city councillor. It was the marriage of Michael and Michael, followed by Alison and her partner. There were tears of joy, of relief and of celebration that finally the couple could stand tall in front of their families, friends, neighbours and the communities and they recognized the respect for the commitment with each other. What a moment it was, the smiles on everyone's faces, radiant to all participants and even to bystanders who happened to walk by. It warmed everyone's heart. How could it possibly be wrong when there is so much love involved?

Some members of Parliament used the UN declaration of rights of children as an example that somehow this is wrong. The UN declaration for the rights of children said that there needs to be housing, food and shelter and the right to be respected. Yes, the right to be respected. Every kid's parents, whether it is mom and mom or dad and dad, should be respected. Children need to feel proud of who they are.

I want to talk about another occasion at Toronto city hall when many Americans came to Canada to get married. It was a joyous and amazing occasion for them to finally have a chance to fulfil their lifelong dream. At one moment someone stood up and started singing O Canada. It just spread. There was that sense of pride among Canadians that finally Canada was standing up for equality.

I wish every member of the House, all the Conservatives and some Liberals, who seem to think that same sex marriage is somehow wrong, would join me in standing up for equality and sharing that love. I ask them to open their eyes, their minds and their hearts because the joyful expression of love and commitment harms no one. It is a positive force.

This debate demeans this House. We must put this matter to rest, as Parliament already decided two years ago and as the courts decided. Instead of taking the time of this House to try to stigmatize loving people, we need to get to work on fighting injustices in our world and stopping pollution. We should not tolerate intolerance. We must remember that if we take the rights of someone else, we jeopardize our own.

We must keep moving Canada forward, not backward. Let us celebrate loving commitments, not demonize them. Let us move on.

MarriageGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by commending all Canadians who have had the courage and the diligence to speak to or write their member of Parliament on this particular very important issue. Regardless of their views, their responsible and diligent involvement is vital to the survival of our democracy. It is our duty as parliamentarians to give full consideration to the concerns of those who have sent us to this House to represent them. I thank the many people from Peace River who have contacted me on this issue.

Nevertheless, I recognize that what is popular certainly is not always what is right. Moreover, the fundamental human rights of an individual or a minority cannot be subject to the whims or the discretion of the majority or the vocal or powerful lobby groups.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty to seek what is true and what is just. For that, our constituents expect us to look not only to them for direction but also to the collective wisdom of those outside this brief and narrow intersection of time and space that our lives and our current culture represent.

It will be said that while older traditions provide good guidance, we cannot follow them blindly, and with this I am in full agreement. However, as a society amazed by the speed of our own technological advancement, the greater risk is that we succumb to the naive or vain assumption that revolutionary changes necessarily lead to progress.

The decadence and the decline of previous civilizations in the midst of great material prosperity should always stand as a warning to us. If we dig deep into their histories, we often find beneath the veneer of material prosperity a hollow core, the inner life having gone away.

If we look at the major world religions that still speak to the human spirit, we find that they share teachings of respect for human life and dignity and a sense of self-transcendence.

We do not have to share in these religions' premises or beliefs in order to acknowledge that many of the values they encourage and the wealth of the human experience they contain are valuable.

While we cannot impose a moral or legal code derived exclusively from a particular religious faith, neither can we dismiss reasonable ethical considerations simply because their conclusions happen to be shared by religious faiths or because the people who bring them forward are from those religions.

Given these considerations, I also wish to commend those of my colleagues on both sides of this House and on both sides of this debate who have been diligent, have asked themselves what is right, and have had the humility to seek the best advice and the courage to stand up for the best answer they have found regardless of their political or personal consequence.

I must also say shame on any of us who put our own political and personal interests ahead of those of our fellow citizens, especially those who are the most vulnerable: our children and our children's children.

Shame on any of us who denigrate or dismiss the contribution of our fellow citizens on either side of this issue simply because they are guided in their consideration by their religious faith. If the reasons they put forward are reasonable, let us listen to them, whether we share their religious faith or not. To do otherwise would clearly demonstrate a lack of objectivity, if not radical bigotry.

For those of my colleagues whose opinion differs from mine, I wish to briefly outline why I consider it vital that we give full consideration to this matter and further reconsideration to the issue of marriage, despite the divisiveness that it might bring.

First, however, I should note that this would not be the first time the House has reconsidered this issue. On June 8, 1999, the House voted overwhelmingly, 216 to 55, to maintain the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Second, I should add that this is not necessarily the last time that our society will consider this issue. Within months of Parliament's 1999 vote, lower court rulings extended the definition of marriage to include same sex relationships, but in 2003 the government of the day decided to stop the appeals process on the issue, essentially tying the hands of Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada on being able to reinforce the 1999 decision in the House. Although the justice committee conducted cross-Canada hearings on the issue in 2003, it never reported those findings back to the House.

When consultations were cut short, the Canadian Parliament voted to change the definition of marriage. In that vote, many members of the House were forced to follow a party line. Moreover, many members of the House made decisions and still maintain their positions based on a mistaken assumption that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of same sex marriage.

Even this week, I have heard the same misleading references to the need for the use of the notwithstanding clause should the current legislation be revisited. The Supreme Court has never stated that preserving marriage as a union between one man and one woman contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While lower courts have made rulings on this matter, these rulings have never been tested at the Supreme Court level.

Most important, none of the lower court rulings have considered children's rights. Moreover, there was no mention of children in the previous government's reference to the Supreme Court and none in the reply. Thus, the marriage law was changed without giving any consideration whatsoever to the rights of children.

In stark contrast, the French National Assembly studied this matter at great length and published a 450 page report in January of this year that took a position opposite to Canada's. It did so exclusively to protect the rights of children. It cited the UN convention on the rights of children, signed by Canada in 1991, which clearly states that, to the extent possible, every child has the right to know and be raised by its mother and its father.

This summer, something happened to me that changed my life. I became a father. I am sure that I do not have to tell members that when a new life comes into one's home, everything changes. Suddenly the most important thing in my life is the protection of my daughter.

I know that any parent in this chamber tonight can relate to the fact that when we bring a new child home from the hospital, the main preoccupation of any new parents is to protect that child from any harm, real or imagined. I have to say that for the first number of weeks I was a little nuts. There was no question that my daughter was my pride and my joy and any thought that she might come into harm's way ripped my heart out.

That is why, as a new member of Parliament who was not here for the last debate, I cannot believe that the previous government never considered the effects that this decision might have on our nation's children. In its haste to push the issue through, the previous government forgot to consider the impact that this change might have on our children. There was no study done. There were no meetings held. No experts were called as far our children and the rights of children were concerned.

I do not mind if hon. members call me a paranoid new father, but I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to the most vulnerable and the most valuable citizens to at least consider what is in their best interests. There has to be a collective desire. Where is our collective desire to ask the questions that need to be asked? Other countries have done so. Why cannot we?

I would ask my fellow parliamentarians, my colleagues who are also parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, to join with me and ponder why we do not have the time to consider our children. I am not asking for a divisive debate. I am not asking for long and drawn-out consideration. I am simply asking for a chance for our children to be represented in the discussion. It was missed the last time this issue was brought to the House for debate. We have to rectify that by opening up this issue, like France did, and examining the impact that this change may have on future generations.

In the same way that my heart is dedicated to ensuring that my child is protected, our collective heart should be set on ensuring that our nation's children are given a voice in this debate.

MarriageGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot about children here. In many of the speeches I made in the House, children were in fact one of the prime focuses. I talked about the rights of the child, but actually the difference is that I talked about the rights of all children, all Canadian children, regardless of who their parents were.

If we are going to pick and choose the children that we give rights to, then we do not really care about children as a whole. We only care about the kinds of children who come from the kinds of parents that we think are worthy.

Who are we to decide what children are worthy? Either we believe in children and we love children or we do not believe in children and love children, all children. Every single child in this country deserves the right to be equal under the law and deserves the right to know that his or her parents can be married. When I hear about children, I become very concerned.

What about the marriages of those people who cannot have children? What about heterosexuals who do not have the ability to have children? Should their marriages be annulled? I would like to ask the hon. member that question.

MarriageGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously there is no question that the hon. member across the floor believes that children should be protected. That is why I brought this debate forward: because I do not believe that this was considered the last time it was debated in this House.

I believe that we have to reconsider why we, as Canadians, would sign on to the UN declaration in 1991, which said that we believe that all children should have the right to know their parents, both mother and father, and be raised by both their mother and their father.

To whatever extent possible, I think we need to consider what ramifications this issue might have on children. Obviously the French government believed that it was necessary to consider that issue.

Does the hon. member not believe that children have a right to know their mother and their father and the right to be raised by their mother and father?. I do not know the answer, but I am sure that if we open this issue and look at it, we will come to some conclusion on this issue.

MarriageGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, a significant majority of my constituents have loudly and clearly reinforced my decision to support traditional marriage when we vote tomorrow.

As the hon. member knows, we have a few members in our own party who have made the decision, for a variety of reasons, to vote against this motion. Tomorrow they will vote against it, but what will happen after that is what illustrates the key difference between us and the other parties in this House on this important issue. Cabinet ministers will not be forced to resign, as it was in the Liberal Party. Our colleagues will not be run down in nominations, as Bev Desjarlais was in the NDP the last time around.

I have one question for the member. How legitimate would this vote be tomorrow if we whipped our members to vote with the rest of the party, especially in light of the absolute sham of a vote imposed on this House the last time around?

MarriageGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there were certainly a lot of feelings on the past vote on this issue. Obviously there was a desire to ram the issue through without having gone through the comprehensive studies that I believe are important, comprehensive studies that would have investigated the effects on children, studies like those the French government has been involved in.

Certainly I believe that is one of the issues that was certainly neglected in the past, but there was also the issue of the whipped vote. I believe that this is an issue on which Canadians must be represented. From my constituency, I have hundreds and hundreds of letters, if not thousands, that have asked me to vote in favour of this motion to reopen the definition of marriage and to bring back the traditional definition of marriage. Certainly I believe that it is important for all members of Parliament to respond to their constituents and represent them on this issue.

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10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, until June 2003 there were a number of cases before the Supreme Court and other courts and provincial courts which sought to get equality for same sex couples to be married. Each and every decision was that there was discrimination in terms of the equality provision of the charter, but that section 1 was an override. That section 1 override said that it was demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

It was not until July 2002 and the case of Halpern v. Canada. The Ontario Supreme Court heard this case on the existing definition of marriage. Only a year earlier a same sex case had come before a B.C. court, which was before this Ontario court case. One said it was demonstrably justified and that the discrimination was justified.

I remember being at Canadian Forces Greenwood in Nova Scotia on a parliamentary exchange and I was in my bed reading the decision in the Halpern case and it was very difficult to read. Effectively, the case discredited heterosexual marriage by citing divorce rates and growth in common law relationships. It also dismissed the importance of the ability to procreate, citing the availability of reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption, just to name a few.

By the flavour of the court, the case and the arguments being made, all of a sudden we were challenging what happened in the B.C. court decision by looking at marriage and the distinctive characteristics of marriage and trying to discredit them to the point where it might tip the balance in terms of the section 1 analysis in the charter, in other words the section 1 analysis which allows one to discriminate.

On June 10, 2003 the court concluded that the existing legal framework was discriminatory since it failed to provide fair public recognition of gay and lesbian unions. The decision also stated that the infringement could not be demonstrably justified under section 1 of the charter, citing that the exclusion of same sex couples from the right to marry served no identifiable, pressing or legitimate government objective.

In my view this view summarily dismisses the relevance of marriage to any aspect of social well-being of Canadians, which in fact is one of the reasons that we are here. It is to protect the health and well-being of all Canadians, especially our children, so I would absolutely disagree with the decision in Halpern which was the tipping point. Members will know that subsequent to that Ontario Court of Appeal decision, eight other provinces went along with copycat decisions basically making it discriminatory.

We know how we got here. As a consequence of that, Bill C-38 came to the House, but it was not an action of a government; it was a reaction of a government to judicial proceedings and to judicial decisions. There is no question that we were faced with a situation that the definition of marriage was deemed to be discriminatory and the section 1 analysis did not save it in that particular case.

The motion before the House is:

That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decision that denied marriage to same sex persons was in violation of the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision was also reached in another eight provinces. In the reference to the Supreme Court, the important aspect here is that the court concurred with the conclusions of the lower courts. It absolutely concurred. In fact, the Supreme Court decided and it made a decision in the reasons for judgment that it would not overturn the decision in those courts.

All of a sudden it was the law in Canada that the government could not discriminate by excluding same sex persons from being married. It is the law today.

To introduce a new bill, which this motion proposes, to reinstate the traditional definition would not in fact be charter-proof. It would not be charter-proof and it would be challenged by the courts not only federally, but in the nine provinces where it is law today. This is the opinion of over 150 eminent constitutional authorities.

It is estimated that these cases would take seven to 10 years to work their way through the courts. This thing would be with us forever and this is just not acceptable.

Not only would such a bill be unconstitutional, but the motion deals with civil unions which are a provincial jurisdiction. In addition, it would create two classes of same sex couples, those who could marry and those who could not. Their children could not marry but the children's parents or their guardians would have been married. It is a very awkward situation.

As a legislator, not as an individual who wants to just take care of my own values and my own issues, but as a parliamentarian, I have to vote against the motion. The reason I have to vote against it is clear. The motion is improper. It is asking Parliament to undertake a legislative process which is unconstitutional. It also asks us to deal with something that is beyond federal jurisdiction. Technically it is wrong.

We say a prayer when we start here in the morning that we are here to make good laws and wise decisions. We cannot. As a matter of fact, if the motion were simply as was promised during the election campaign by the Conservative Party to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage, I could vote for it. But this motion was a little clever by a half and it spoiled it for a lot of people. The motion now before us really is disingenuous and it really is only to satisfy an election promise and would surely fail in its present form. The government knew that. That is my view.

Today during the debate on the motion, I asked the government House leader if he would just simply forget this motion and table a piece of legislation to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. The question was not answered and yet the Conservative Party form the government. It does not need the approval of this place to table a piece of legislation. I say table it if it can.

Constitutional experts have said that a piece of legislation cannot be tabled that would summarily change the definition back because it would be constitutionally invalid. It is not charter-proof. The only way, and I said this when I gave my speech on February 21, 2005, is to invoke the notwithstanding clause. In my speech on February 21, 2005 on Bill C-38 I concluded, and I want to read it into the record:

Finally, I believe that the redefinition constitutes a radical societal change. It may not have immediate societal consequences, but over time it would have enormous implications. This is not just about the infringement of rights of gays and lesbians. It is also about the diminishing the relevance of the most important social institution in our society, and that is marriage.

In my opinion, the potential for material and adverse 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.

With respect, my view is that Bill C-38 should not be passed and that the notwithstanding clause under section 33 of the charter should be invoked to provide Parliament with the time it needs to make a fully informed decision.

Let me assure the House that my opinion is still the same today.

Unfortunately, the motion before this place is not whether or not I support the traditional definition of marriage; it is whether or not I think the government can table a piece of legislation to summarily change it. Constitutional lawyers have said it cannot. The only way it can be is to invoke the notwithstanding clause and the Prime Minister has said he is not prepared to do that. We are now at an impasse.

I will write to the Prime Minister and I will ask him to either invoke the notwithstanding clause or introduce another bill in this place to get the Government of Canada out of the business of marriage and leave it to the churches.

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10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what the member had to say. I would argue that his words in 2005 were exactly correct. There was no need to rush Bill C-38. We did need to look further into it. That is what this motion seeks to do.

If the member believes those words from 2005, why will he not support this motion and help those of us who wish to reinstate the traditional definition of marriage to do so?

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10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member needs to listen and to think. I said very clearly and laid out in great detail that a piece of legislation which simply changes the definition of marriage back to its traditional definition of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others would not be charter-proof and would not be constitutional. The notwithstanding clause would have to be invoked. That is the opinion of eminent constitutional experts. This is the impasse we are faced with here.

There are members here who understand what is at stake. This is not a game to be played. I believe very firmly that there is a way to do this but we need to get past a motion which has technical flaws and a motion which asks Parliament to do something which is unconstitutional. This is inappropriate. As legislators, we have to vote against this motion.

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10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to call the member's bluff. He is very strongly in favour of traditional marriage, and I appreciate, value and honour the member for that.

Because the motion before us does not say we will invoke the notwithstanding clause does not mean that it is automatically unconstitutional. The motion says very clearly that the House should revisit this issue. That is what is before the House.

Why the member is even contemplating not voting for it to at least give it a last chance at life is a mystery to me.