Madam Speaker, I want to be very clear that absolutely no one in my party sought to vet my speech in any way. What I say today are my own words and I will stand by them.
This debate is truly an historic occasion for what is at stake is the future of the most vital institution in our nation, marriage and the family. Bill C-38, if enacted, will change the definition of marriage in Canada to include same sex couples. The bill states, “Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”
This proposed definition is one that both I and my wife Evelyn, and millions of other Canadians find unnecessary, illogical and morally offensive. Opponents include members of every political party and no political party, of every faith and of no particular faith. Same sex marriage is an oxymoron because it denies the heterosexual prerequisite of true marriage. It is a real threat to marriage and the family which is the basic foundation of all human societies.
Mr. Justice Gonthier in the December 19, 2002, Supreme Court of Canada decision of Nova Scotia v. Walsh states:
Marriage and the family existed long before any legislature decided to regulate them. For centuries they have been central to society, contributing to its social cohesion and fundamental structure...Marriage and the family promote the psychological, social and economic well-being of all members of the family unit...The fundamental nature of marriage inheres in, among other things, its central role in human procreation...Marriage and family life are not inventions of the legislature; rather, the legislature is merely recognizing their social importance.
Rather than attacking marriage in a misguided effort to treat same sex couples fairly, our courts and our governments should be protecting the institution of marriage and defending the traditional definition.
In October 2001, in a decision which upheld the opposite sex requirement of marriage, Mr. Justice Pitfield of the supreme court of British Columbia emphasized the fundamental role of marriage when he stated:
The state has a demonstrably genuine justification in affording recognition, preference, and precedence to the nature and character of the core social and legal arrangement by which society endures...The gain to society...of the deep-rooted and fundamental legal institution of opposite-sex marriage outweighs the detrimental effect of the law on the petitioners.
In other words, traditional marriage is a unique and vital relationship on which the future of humanity depends. As such, it does not offend the charter to treat this special relationship in a preferential manner. True marriage results in the unifying act of sexual intercourse and is reproductive in type.
Robert P. George addresses this point in his article “Same Sex Marriage and Moral Neutrality”: He states:
What most of the proponents of same-sex marriage fail to realize is that the unity of spouses is distinct from any other kind of unity. What makes it distinct is the reproductive-type act, whereby a man and a woman become a single reproductive principle. This distinction makes marriage intrinsically ordered to the good of procreation as well to the good of spousal unity, and these goods are tightly bound together.
Repeatedly one hears that same sex marriage is a matter of human rights or minority rights and that to prohibit same sex relationships from being called marriage is unfairly discriminatory under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A plethora of public opinion polls shows that Canadians are divided on this point about evenly. Expert opinion is certainly divided even in the legal community.
As others have noted, those who claim same sex marriage is a human right cannot point to a single ruling by any national or international court, including the United Nations, or indeed by a human rights tribunal to support those arguments. Some people have even tried to draw an analogy between the women's rights and the black civil rights movements with the demand for same sex marriage. This analogy is utterly false. However well-intentioned its proponents, only by a misreading of history and the use of specious logic can one possibly arrive at such a patently false conclusions
Millions of Canadian women and many black persons, including personal friends of mine, feel insulted by this false analogy. To equate their legitimate demands for equal and just treatment consistent with natural moral law with the illegitimate demands for same sex marriage in contravention of natural moral law is illogical. It is equally illogical to argue that the natural extension of protecting individual rights of gays, which I and most Canadians support, is that two gays in a sexual relationship somehow have the right to co-op the term marriage to describe their relationship. The charter does not speak to group rights, even a group of two people. Rather, it speaks solely and exclusively to individual rights.
It should be noted that some gays and lesbians are most eloquent and persuasive opponents of same sex marriage. Consider the words of John McKellar, Executive Director of HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism, who has stated:
--[it is] selfish and rude for the gay community to push same sex marriage legislation and redefine society's traditions and conventions for our own self-indulgence. Federal and provincial laws are being changed and the traditional values are being compromised just to appease a tiny, self-anointed clique...
I certainly agree with Mr. McKellar and with Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, who states:
--the issue is one of the common good of society, rather than one of individual rights. We have seen, in the last few decades, factors that have led to the devaluing of marriage, such as the increase in common-law unions and more lax divorce laws. Our concern is that this change in the definition will further devalue marriage.
The proponents of same sex marriage argue that no harm will be done to marriage and society if marriage is reconstructed to include same sex relationships. They note that gays and lesbians are being married in much of Canada currently and the sky has not fallen. Such facile and simplistic arguments totally ignore considerable expert advice which warns about the future long term erosion of marriage and the family if we surrender to the same sex lobby.
Lesbian theorist Ladelle McWhorte argues that if gay people are:
--allowed to participate as gay people in communities and institutions [heterosexuals] claim as theirs, our presence will change those institutions and practices enough to undermine their preferred version of heterosexuality and, in turn, they themselves will not be the same.
Yale University's expert legal theorist William Eskridge, an openly gay man, candidly concedes that:
Gay experience with “families we choose” delinks family from gender, blood, and kinship. Gay families of choice are relatively ungendered, raise children that are biologically unrelated to one or both parents, and often form no more than a shadowy connection between the larger kinship groups.
McGill University Professor Daniel Cere argues that the recent judgments in favour of same sex marriage are based on a vision which would disconnect children from their natural parent and that parenthood is reduced to nothing more than a functional activity separate from procreation.
If Bill C-38 becomes law, I sincerely hope these experts are wrong. However, the unmistakeable lesson of history is that they are right.
The legislation reconfirms the existing guarantee of religious freedom by which religious officials cannot be made to officiate at wedding ceremonies in contravention of their religious beliefs. So far, and with good reason, religious authorities in Canada do not feel very reassured on this point. It is easily predictable that this so-called guarantee will be challenged by gay and lesbian activists in a variety of ways. Given the track record of our Canadian courts, whenever religious freedom has clashed with supposed gay rights, it is all too obvious that religious leaders should be very concerned.
Religious leaders and Canadians who embrace religious values not only have the right but the duty to speak out in this debate. This is our country too, and we have every right to oppose this most serious threat to the cornerstone of our society: marriage and the family. The argument that we must be silent as per some erroneous and nebulous notion of the separation of church and state displays an incredible ignorance of Canadian history and the very founding of this nation in 1867.
In light of the inexorable judicial activism we have witnessed in the post-charter years, it seems clear to me that ultimately there is only one way to preserve the traditional definition of marriage: the use of the notwithstanding clause. The Leader of the Opposition argues that there is a way to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, short of using the notwithstanding clause. I will not repeat his arguments, but if his opinion proves to be legally correct, I will gladly support such a course of action. Millions of other Canadians would surely agree as well. For me, the use of the clause should be a last resort on vital issues and if it proves to be the only option, I support using it.
The Prime Minister argues that the use of the notwithstanding clause in this case would imperil the rights of all minorities who, in future, could find themselves threatened by the use of the clause to deny them their rights. Again, this argument equates the illegitimate demand for same sex marriage to the legitimate demand of other minorities for equal rights. With all due respect to the Prime Minister, it is illogical, hyperbolic and rather less than convincing to millions of Canadians, including legal experts.
May I remind those critics who vilify this clause, that it is section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, it can be argued that without this clause, the charter would never have been agreed to by the political leaders of Canada in 1981. Therefore, should there prove to be no other option, I call again on the Prime Minister to invoke this clause and defend the only logical and valid definition of marriage, the traditional definition.
The Prime Minister further has stated that we cannot return to the past, that is, retain the traditional definition of marriage “with a simple snap of the fingers”. Recall that incredibly it was a simple snap of the legal fingers of three judges in Ontario that instantly redefined marriage in June 2003. This shockingly arrogant ruling is an insult to the people and Parliament of Canada. At that time, as I served on the justice committee, I called for the ruling to be appealed by the federal government. The failure to do so is clearly the reason that the Supreme Court refused to address itself to the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage, which was question four in the reference to the court. Surely that time, when the justice committee hearings were reduced to a pathetic farce, should be recorded as one of the most disgraceful and duplicitous moments in the history of our parliamentary deliberations as a nation. It was also the quintessence of judicial activism at its worst.
I further call again on the Prime Minister to extend to all Liberal members of Parliament, including cabinet ministers, a free vote of conscience. This is no mundane piece of legislation. It is one of the most important decisions any Canadian Parliament has made or will make.