HANSARD, Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Alliance same-sex motion

Ottawa, Ontario - September 21, 2003, by: Peter MacKay


Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to take part in this very important debate. I congratulate my colleague from CharlesbourgÅ\Jacques-Cartier for his very interesting speech, which was both informative and tolerant. This is the appropriate tone for this debate, a tone that reflects tolerance. His approach is inclusive and modern.



time share

I wish to indicate at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the member for BrandonÅ\Souris.




I will preface my remarks again by stating categorically that we should be approaching this debate in an atmosphere of understanding, respect, tolerance, and constructive approach, and I think that has been the tone thus far.



& party

I will also state categorically that I do not personally support changing the definition of marriage and yet I am cognizant of the fact that within my own party there is a difference of opinion, within my own family.



society change

I want to echo one of the sentiments that was expressed by the member for Charlevoix. He talked about how society changes, how the advent of the charter has caused an evolution not only in the law but in the way society approaches the traditional definitions, whether it be of family or whether it be of marriage.




I came from what used to be called the product of a broken home. I had a single parent upbringing. That was viewed in many instances with some apprehension and intolerance. I developed an early understanding that the traditional definition of family does not always fit the mould. That is an important part of this debate. It is a comfort level which Canadians should feel with this issue. It is a comfort level that sometimes takes an evolution and that, I suppose, is a fundamental question. Are we ready? Is Canada ready to accept this change? I suggest that many Canadians are wrestling with this issue.




We should be looking for a pedway, a bridge across this chasm, not to tumble into a divisive and an intolerant atmosphere. We have seen that before in this place. We have seen discussions of capital punishment and abortion rip the country apart. Yet I suggest there are many intelligent minds who can turn their attention to this and look for an honourable approach that is going to give Canadians a level of comfort and allow us to move forward, and not become mired in what I believe can be a very destructive approach.




I have been clear in my statements and consistent that I would not support changing the definition of marriage. Yet I believe that this position is one which can be defended in the context of equality and allowing in fact for a definition to emerge that is equal to what has been the traditional and accepted definition of marriage. That is not to suggest this is solely an issue of semantics because that is clearly not the case, but I believe there is a way that we can sort through this issue without excluding people and without giving them the sense that their rights are being trampled.




This is very much an issue of equality, equality of access and protection, whether it be under the charter, the Criminal Code, access to pensions, or economic freedoms. These are important, tangible results of changing the definition of marriage.



judiciary &

There are a number of issues that I would like to refer to. First, many gay and lesbian, bisexual or transgender groups agree with this assertion that this is a matter of equality. Yet it would seem, in recent court decisions, that the judiciary and the provinces have embraced this ahead of the Parliament of Canada and that I fundamentally have a problem with




In other religious communities we also see that this is a matter of faith based on religion, based on longstanding accepted tenets of religion. I myself have respect for both sides of this argument and yet what we have seen under the direction of the current Liberal government and its leadership is the larger issue of having ignored this matter and having the courts decide for Canadians. That, fundamentally, offends many. Is this country being governed by the judiciary or the Parliament of Canada?




To this end, I want to spend a brief part of my allotted time discussing the division of powers that we have witnessed. I want to turn the debate itself and offer my own opinion on this matter, which is not perfect. I suggest that there is no perfect answer, but there is a compromise that could be acceptable to all.



no right
or wrong

Members from St. John's to Saint John, throughout my caucus, have listened intently to the opinions that have been voiced in our caucus over the last year. I believe that is reflective of where Canadians are broadly. There is no right or wrong answer in this regard.




Canadians have been concerned, obviously, about the appearance that the courts have encroached upon the supremacy of Canadian Parliament, reading in our laws interpretations that may in fact be inconsistent or outside the intent of the law as presented and passed by Parliament.



should be
a law

This in large part is why we should be having this debate today, but we should be debating the actual law, not a motion, not a revisiting of what we have seen in the past, in 1999, which I supported at the time. We should actually have the legislation before us. That is why I would urge the Government of Canada to withdraw this reference question. In the first instance, it is not phrased properly. It does not put forward the assertion that there is another way to proceed, that we could create a registered domestic partnership, a civil union that takes it out of the realm of religion solely and gives Canadians an option. We should be having this debate, but under the guise of the Parliament of Canada presenting legislation and being upfront and honest about that approach.




The extension of economic benefits protection under the charter or the Criminal Code should not be based on sexual orientation. Equality is the issue. I repeat again: human rights, the rights of homosexuals and heterosexuals, must be respected in this debate. However, as with any system, conflict will arise on competing sides.




In the last number of years, we have seen numerous cases in the Supreme Court and other courts in the land that did whittle away and undermine the supremacy of Parliament. I refer to the recent John Robin Sharpe case, which again, in my view, infringed upon Parliament's exclusive right, and to the right to give felons a vote in Canada. I believe that was out of step with where Canadians are on this issue. We have witnessed provincial cases in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, similarly on this issue, which I believe have not allowed for Parliament to speak.




To many, it seems that the reading into the intent of the laws has infringed upon the legitimacy of this place. We have to regain that. Because of the vacuum left by the government, we find ourselves in this dilemma.



need for

In acknowledging that marriage is very sacred and has religious connotations and implications that stem very broadly, there is also the need for involvement of the church in this debate, and for that very reason. There is also the need to acknowledge that there is a great deal of tolerance and clear thinking that has to be put forward, with clear lines drawn and with clear legal definitions.



make conflict
out of moral

There are many who would argue, and in fact we have heard many of those arguments today, that there is an erosion of social morals and that this stems from the decline in the institution of marriage. I personally do not subscribe to that thought. I believe it runs much deeper and is far more complicated. In terms of the traditional definition of marriage, this motion is an attempt to seek out conflict on a moral issue. Again, I believe we have to avoid that.



danger of

I am afraid that leaders sometimes simplify these issues that divide rather than bind Canadians. I do not believe we should change the legal definition, but I do see that same sex couples should be afforded all the rights and privileges of married couples. And domestic registered partnerships or a definition such as that would allow for this: equal treatment. To be able to say one has "similar" does not mean distinctive, special, or more or less. It does not negate or entitle to more or less. There is value in preserving the definition of marriage, I would suggest: stability, conformity and a sense of comfort for many Canadians.



a bill

I believe we can have consultations. I believe the government should withdraw this reference, bring forward a bill and have a real debate on this, one that would matter. Identical treatment does not mean different in this instance.




I will conclude by saying I believe that this is the place for this debate. I believe there is a way in which we will attempt to bring legislation, either through this place or through the Senate of Canada, if the government is not prepared to do so. There are many who would argue that there is an erosion. I do not believe that is happening. It is not erosion. It is evolution.




But let us do this with our eyes open. Let us do this in such a way that the Parliament of Canada restores its credibility. We in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada will be allowing a free vote among our membership.

Peter MacKay


M.P. Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough



Retrun to Ensign - Return to Saskatchewan News

This page is a story posted on Ensign and/or Saskatchewan News, both of which are daily web sites offering a variety of material from scenic images, political commentary, information and news. These publications are the work of Faster Than Light Communications . If you would like to comment on this story or you wish to contact the editor of these sites please send us email.

Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
Box 1776, Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, S0E 1T0
306 873 2004