Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate today and to voice my concern regarding this issue.
First of all, I want to say that I will not be voting for the bill.
I will not be voting for it. I believe we do a grave injustice to marriage by changing its definition. I believe firmly that we would do well to pause reflectively before we alter social structures like marriage and the family because these institutions lie at the core of our society. They represent the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages.
As we are all aware, traditional marriage predates European civilization. It is a physical union, yes, but it is also considered to be a spiritual union. This is why so many of our mainstream churches are against this move.
We hear many of the churches say that government is involving itself in a piece of social engineering that may prove to be very dangerous to society. Can we say with certainty what the social outcome of a redefinition of marriage will be? I am reminded of what Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto, recently said:
If same sex marriage receives the approval of Parliament, then what?
He went on to say:
The law is a teacher. Does Canadian society as a whole and do parents in particular understand what the law will be teaching in this instance? It will be teaching that homosexual activity and heterosexual activity in marriage are morally equivalent. Public schools will be required to provide education in that light.
Many parents would not agree, so is it fair to put children in the position of having to reconcile the values and beliefs of their parents with a novel state-sponsored understanding of marriage that may not be truly supported by the majority of Canadians?
These are valid concerns that the government has not yet addressed in the debate.
The churches are very concerned about their own protection. The government cannot say beyond a shadow of a doubt that churches will not at some point in the future be prosecuted by the courts for refusing to sanction and perform same sex marriages, which have, after all, received the approval of Parliament.
Has this government received assurances yet from provincial premiers that they are going to pass legislation giving protection to religious officials and organizations that decline to celebrate same sex marriages that are contrary to their faith? I do not think so.
I believe that, regardless of what the federal government says, churches will eventually be forced to perform these ceremonies or else they will lose their tax free status.
When the government offers assurances that the churches will not be put in that situation, I say they have no credibility to make that statement.
Just a few short years ago, the justice minister of the day, who is now Deputy Prime Minister, said when we were debating the same sex benefit bill that we could put our fears to rest, our fears that the same sex benefits bill would lead to same sex marriage. She said that the government would insert a clause saying that marriage is the “union of one man and one woman”, to the exclusion of all others.
That did not stand up. Today, this same minister is part of an administration that threw that clause out the window and placed a bill before Parliament changing the definition of an institution that has for centuries been considered the cornerstone of society.
The same government is saying to us today, “Trust me when I say the churches will not be forced by courts to perform same sex marriages”. This government is being deceptive when it states that.
Adding a new category, a same sex category, to the institution of marriage alters substantially the nature and definition of marriage. It changes to recognize the legal concept of marriage for the whole of society. Marriages cease to be solely the union of a man and a woman. As the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop O'Brien, stated:
Marriage as we now know it will become but one variety of a new reality.
He cautioned that the word itself would ultimately lose its sanctity throughout society. He went on to say, and I agree:
We need to be able to speak of, and support, the importance of marriage as the committed...relationship of man and woman, which produces and nurtures the next generation.
This is a step in the wrong direction for our society. This government continues to hide behind the Supreme Court as if the court is forcing government to act. The Supreme Court simply said that same sex marriage was consistent with the charter. It did not say the state was compelled to legalize it.
At the height of this debate, a column in The National Post by Barbara Kay recently caught my eye. The headline on the column reads, “It's time to think about the children”. Ms. Kay made this point:
Canadian researchers have made no effort to harvest the views of those who have the most invested in the gay marriage debate--children. Nobody has asked children if they “strongly prefer, strongly reject or don't care” whether they have: a single mom, single dad, mother and father, two moms or two dads.
She says that children are, by nature, “social conservatives” and will by nature respond that they prefer a mom and a dad. She concludes by saying:
Canada is one of only three places on Earth poised to endorse the use of children as social guinea pigs without their consent. And all because our intellectual and political elites “haven't ever really thought about it.”
Ms. Kay makes a good and valid point. Researchers or government, nobody knows what the outcome of this reckless piece of social engineering will lead to. Does it not make sense to answer these vitally important questions before embarking on this course of action?
This is probably one of the reasons an Ekos poll taken on February 17 among the people of Ontario showed that 48% of Ontarians oppose same sex marriage while only 35% support it.
In conclusion, let me say that this is a terrible time for our country. Anyone who is tracking the social workings of government over the last 10 year period is painfully aware that the assault on marriage continues. One newspaper column put it this way:
Some conservatives argue that same-sex marriage is just another broken window. First make divorce easier. Smash. Then give common-law couples most of the same rights and benefits as married people. Smash. Now give men the right to marry other men and women other women. Smash. Marriage becomes just another lifestyle option, one in a long list of possible choices that a couple can make, with no special status or privilege. As the once-hallowed institution loses its lustre, even fewer people will want to be part of it.
A few years ago, back in 1995, Judge Gérard La Forest of the Supreme Court said that the ultimate reason for marriage:
--is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship.
If the government is so convinced that it is travelling down a road that Canadians want it to go, then the very least it can do is allow the people of Canada to be fully represented by extending to all members a free vote. To do otherwise is a grave violation of conscience and a grave disservice to generations yet to come.
As I have indicated, Mr. Speaker, I have grave concerns as to the outcome of the social experiment that we call same sex marriage. In all conscience, therefore, I will be compelled to vote against the bill when Your Honour calls the vote.