Mr. Speaker, let me begin by apologizing to the Chair and the House for not being present at noon to formally move my Motion No. 3. It was a misunderstanding on my part and I apologize. I want to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for being alert enough to move the motion on my behalf and for all hon. members for allowing the motion to proceed. Motion No. 3 proposes to remove clause 3 of the bill. Clause 3 reads:
It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Why am I moving to delete this clause? I know that my speech will not change members' minds on the bill. I know that very few members are even listening to report stage debates, much less considering the arguments. I do so in order to state my position for the record, for historians, future generations, and politicians from around the world, present and future, who may study our debates in order to help decide policies in their own countries. Most of all I do it for my children and their children, so they know their dad was there and contributed to the debate as best he could.
I accuse the Government of Canada, the cabinet, the Department of Justice, and the Minister of Justice himself, of legal and intellectual hypocrisy for including this clause. In the reference to the Supreme Court, the Government of Canada asked the Supreme Court of Canada certain questions. The relevant one for our purposes was question no. 1 which asked:
Is the annexed Proposal for an Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada? If not, in what particular or particulars, and to what extent?
Section 2 of that proposed act read as follows:
Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.
That is virtually the same wording as clause 3 of the bill we are debating. The words are not identical, but the intent is 100% the same. How did the Supreme Court of Canada answer the question? It said:
Section 2 of the Proposed Act relates to those who may (or must) perform marriages. Legislative competence over the performance or solemnization of marriage is exclusively allocated to the provinces under s. 92(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867.
The Attorney General of Canada suggests that section 2 of the proposed act was declaratory, merely making clear Parliament's intention that other provisions of the proposed act not be read in a manner that would trench on the provinces jurisdiction over the solemnization of marriage. The provision might be seen as an attempt to reassure the provinces and to assuage the concerns of religious officials who perform marriages.
However worthy of attention these concerns are, only the provinces may legislate exemptions to existing solemnization requirements, as any such exemption necessarily relates to the solemnization of marriage under s.92(12). Section 2 of the proposed act was therefore ultra vires Parliament.
While it is true that Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to enact declaratory legislation relating to the interpretation of its own statutes, such declaratory provisions can have no bearing on the constitutional division of legislative authority. That is a matter to be determined by the courts should the need arise. It follows that a federal provision seeking to ensure that the act within which it is situated is not interpreted so as to trench on provincial powers can have no effect and is superfluous.
The court was asked in question no. 1 whether section 2 of the proposed act was within the exclusive legislative competence of Parliament. Because section 2 of the proposed act relates to a subject matter allocated to the provinces, it follows that it does not fall within the exclusive legislative competence of Parliament. The answer to the second part of the first question must therefore be no.
I repeat the critical lines from the judgment of the Supreme Court:
Section 2 of the Proposed Act is therefore ultra vires Parliament...It follows that a federal provision seeking to ensure that the Act within which it is situated is not interpreted so as to trench on provincial powers can have no effect and is superfluous.
Why would the Minister of Justice, who is required to certify to his cabinet colleagues that the legislation is in his opinion constitutional, insert clause 3 in the face of the clear and unambiguous language of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada?
I accuse the Government of Canada, the cabinet and the Minister of Justice of inserting clause 3 clearly against the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada for purely political reasons, namely, as a carrot to entice nervous members of Parliament into voting for this bill. There is only one thing more shameful and incredulous than this tactic and that is that a number of MPs have actually been convinced by it.
I accuse the Government of Canada, the cabinet and the Minister of Justice of disrespect for the very institutions they all call on everyone else to respect, namely, the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly stated that the words and intent embodied in clause 3 are beyond the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada and yet they appear in the bill. What a slap in the face to the very institution that we are told to revere.
Finally, I accuse the Bloc Québécois of not only legal and intellectual hypocrisy but also political hypocrisy. Those members pretend to be the champions for the rights of the province of Quebec, and here they have a clause which the Supreme Court of Canada has said is ultra vires Parliament, that is, beyond the scope of the powers of the federal Parliament. Why has the Bloc not insisted that clause 3 be removed, as it is an affront to provincial powers? Only the Bloc can answer the unanswerable.
This entire bill reeks of hypocrisy, political motivation and selective legal reasoning, but clause 3 is the prime example given the unambiguous wording of the Supreme Court of Canada. It should be removed because it does not fall within the exclusive legislative competence of Parliament, can have no effect and is superfluous.
Sadly, in this political environment where logic and the law are the first casualties, I will be surprised if anyone other than myself and a very few others will support my motion to remove the unarguably ultra vires clause 3 from this scandalous bill, a bill that will make Canada one of only three countries in the community of nations which grants marriage status to same sex persons. That fact alone should be reason enough for sensible people to vote against this bill.