SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA
2005-FEB-16 to FEB-18
Parliamentary debate of Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act"
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
||"There are two types of MPs:
||those who support the right, true and traditional definition of
marriage . To them, say thanks for doing what is right and honest and
good for Canada.
||Then there are those who are out to destroy marriage and family.
To them say goodbye, it is time for them to be replaced in Ottawa. There
is a political price to pay for being anti- marriage, anti- family."
Quotation from the Canada Family Action Coalition." (CFAC) 6
||"For some of these people, their wedding is
something they've been hoping to do for years and now, for the first time in
history, they're allowed to do it. It gives their life and their love and
their sexual orientation credibility, validity in the larger society that
they're part of. It's a great celebration of their love, their gayness,
their membership in a tolerant society." David Paperny, whose company
has produced the "My Fabulous Gay Wedding" TV show|
As of 2005-FEB-03, 87% of Canadians lived in a province or
territory which has already made SSM available to same-sex couples as a result
of court rulings. Another court challenge is expected in Alberta. If this
authorizes SSM in that province, then only 3% of the Canadian population will be
without access to SSM in their province or territory.
On 2005-FEB-16, debate on the C-38 bill began in Parliament. If passed, then
the remaining 13% or 3% of the Canadian population will gain direct access to
The government expects to have a short debate on the bill, and hold a second
reading vote perhaps before MAR-02. If it passes, the bill then goes to a committee. They hope that the bill will
become law by the end of 2005-JUN.
||2005-FEB-16: Debate in federal Parliament began: Debate on Bill C-38 began on Wednesday.
Probably by coincidence, it happened in the middle of the Freedom to
Marry Week 2005, an American observance which runs from 2005-FEB-12 to
C-38 is unlike any other bill:
||Stephen Harper, leader of the right wing Conservative party appears
to be nervous about the potential for hate-speech in Parliament as his
MPs debate the bill. He has required all of his party's MPs who plan to
debate the bill in Parliament to first get their speech approved by him.
||House leader Tony Valeri said that Liberal MPs will speak "in a free
and unfettered way" during the debate. Referring to Harper's censorship
order, Valeri said: "It is a contradiction in terms to say that...
[the Conservatives] will allow a free vote when they will not allow free
||Justice Minister Irwin Cotler would normally have spoken first in
favor of the bill. He is the MP who is sponsoring the bill.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has taken the unusual step this time of leading off a
long list of about 150 speakers. Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star writes: "It
is an unusual move, a first for Martin and a signal the Prime Minister
wants to clearly frame the the debate from the get-go....To him, this is
an issue of leadership and the willingness of those elected to stand up
and be counted in defense of minority rights."
||Martin's Press secretary, Melanie Gruer, said: "He'll talk about
the critical need, no matter what the political environment, to defend
minority and Charter rights."
MacCharles continues: "If the bill fails to pass 'second reading' it
will be seen as a fatal blow to the government's legislation. If approved in
principle at the 'second reading' vote -- which many say won't happen until
late March -- the bill would then go to a Commons committee for study."
We suspect that, as each MP speaks, the public will be able to determine
his or her position within seconds. If the MP starts out with a reference to
human rights, it will obviously be a pro-bill speech. If the MP starts with a
reference to traditional marriage, it will signal an attack on C-38. 1
||2005-FEB-16: First day of debate on SSM in
||Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke first. As expected, he
based his argument on the need to guarantee equal human rights for all. He said that
legalizing SSM is a matter of protecting minority human rights and is the
Canadian thing to do. He said: "The people of Canada have worked hard to
build a country that opens its doors to all...regardless of their
differences...If we do not step forward, then we will step back, and if we do
not respect a right, then we deny it." He went on to refer to the unanimous
decisions in a series of court cases which ruled that it was
unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples. He said that the
Conservative party is "insincere," "disingenuous," and
unwilling to admit that they would have to override a fundamental Charter
right to equality in order to block SSM. Martin said that the only
way to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples would be for
Parliament to exercise
the notwithstanding clause in the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms. That belief was confirmed recently by
group of 134 constitutional experts.
Martin continued: "I believe in and I will fight for the Charter of
Rights. I believe in and I will fight for a Canada that respects the
foresight and the vision of those who created and entrenched the Charter."
As expected, Steven Harper, leader of the Conservative party, argued on the
basis that the institution of marriage would be endangered by SSM. He said "Same-sex
marriage is not a human right [but] a newly invented Liberal policy [that is
not akin to rights like] freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of
association, equality before the law." He proposed federal enabling
legislation that would allow individual provinces and territories to create
systems of civil unions, domestic partnerships or whatever form provinces
might legislate in order to give "all the rights and benefits of marriage"
to same-sex couples. But they would not be given the status of marriage.
Harper said: "In my view, the onus is on those who want to overturn such
a fundamental social institution to prove that it is absolutely necessary
and that there is no other compromise that can respect the rights of
same-sex couples while still preserving one of the cornerstones of our
society." He expressed concern about the guarantees in bill C-38 that
would allow clergypersons to discriminate against same-sex couples without
putting themselves at risk of a human rights lawsuit. Harper said that only
the provincial governments can make such a guarantee. He attacked the
Liberal party for having contempt of human rights in the past. The liberals
restricted Jewish immigration during World War II, interned Japanese
Canadians in the 1940s, and invoked the War Measures act in 1970. He
concluded his speech by saying:
ask them [Liberal MPs] to join with us to defeat the bill and urge the
adoption of another which reflects the practice in other advanced
democracies and which reflects our own honorable traditions of
compromise. There are fundamental questions here. Will this society be
one which respects the longstanding basic social institution of marriage
or will it be one that believes even our most basic structures can be
reinvented overnight for the sake of political correctness? Will
this society be one which respects and honors the religious and cultural
minorities or one which gradually whittles away their freedoms and their
ability to practice their beliefs? Will this be a country in which
Parliament will rule on behalf of the people or one where a
self-selected group of lawyers or experts will define the parameters of
right and wrong? All of these questions are in our hands to answer. It
is up to all of our consciences. It is not what the Prime Minister and
the PMO advisers tell us is most expedient; it should be based on our
consciences and what our constituents tell us to do. Mr. Speaker, before
I leave the floor, I would like to move an amendment. I move: That the
motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that" and
substituting the following: 'This House declines to give second reading
to Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for
marriage for civil purposes, since the principle of the bill fails to
define marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion
of all others and fails to recognize and extend to other civil unions
established under the laws of a province, the same rights, benefits and
obligations as married persons'." 4
||Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois,
discussed the stigma
and historical discrimination experienced by gays and lesbians that led many
to suffer; some attempted suicide. He said: "The debate on same-sex
marriage is ultimately a question of citizenship." He drew an analogy
between SSM and the decision to recognize that women were "persons" and to
give them the right to vote. "We can't claim that Quebec or Canada are
just societies unless citizens are treated with complete equality."
||Bill Siksay spoke for Jack Layton, the leader of the
New Democratic Party,
who was recovering from surgery. Siksay spoke from his perspective as a gay
man. He said that those who championed marriage rights for gays reflected
the values he learned in his family, church and community and "the
importance of making a lifelong commitment." He said that same-sex
couples want to embrace marriage, not change it. He continued: "Gay and
lesbian people cannot be considered full citizens if key institutions of our
society are considered out of bounds to us." 2,3
||2005-FEB-17: Flurry of reaction to Stephen
Harper's speech: As noted above, Harper criticized the Liberal party for
its disregard of fundamental human rights in the past: denial of Jewish
immigration during World War II, interning Japanese Canadians in the 1940s,
and invoking the War Measures act in 1970. This motivated a number of groups
representing cultural minorities to criticize him. The Toronto Star
newspaper listed: National Association of Japanese Canadians, the
Chinese Canadian National Council, the Canadian Race Relations
Foundation, the Canadian Buddhists Civil Liberties Association,
the World Sikh Organization, the British Columbia Unitarian Church
and the Muslim Canadian Congress. The Unitarian group referred to
apparently does not exist. The newspaper report may be referring to an
individual Unitarian congregation in British Columbia.|
||The National Association of Japanese
Canadians issued a news release saying it was "wrong-headed
[of Harper] to try to play politics with an ancient historical wrong."
||Professor Audrey Kobayashi of Queen's
University said: "By raising the issue of Japanese Canadian
internment, Mr. Harper is resorting to cheap political shots...rather
than facing the inconsistency of his position on human rights."
||Pat Case, chairperson of the Canadian
Race Relations Foundation, said it was "simply embarrassing"
to see Harper try to score political points with the issue.
||Judy Hanazawa, of the Greater Vancouver
Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association, wrote: "Although the
fight against racism and racial discrimination is far from over,
supporting Bill C-38 for equality rights in marriage for same-sex
partners is today's civil rights struggle."
||The Chinese Canadian National Council
criticized Harper for stating all Chinese or other ethnic minorities
were against equal marriage. They said it is "patronizing and
insulting" for him to say that there is a "universal view among
||Referring to Canada's record on Jewish and
Japanese-Canadians' rights, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, a
legal scholar and a Jew, commented: "Everything that Stephen Harper
cited, many of us have already written about and cited. The question
that I ask Stephen Harper is what does all this have to do with the
issue at hand, the question before the House? He continued, saying
it was: "nonsense [for Harper] to portray ... the Liberal party as
anti-religious, and anti-multiculturalism, anti-everything else,
anti-human rights, the source of almost all evil, to deflect away his
own vagueness on this matter."
||The Family Services Association of
Toronto said that Harper, in discussing limits that the Netherlands
and Belgium have put on adoption by gay married couples, wrongly
suggests gay parents are somehow "unfit." Yves Savoie, executive
director of the association, said studies show the opposite. He said
step-parent and third-party adoption rights are already allowed in nine
provinces and one territory in Canada with courts ruling that the
exclusion of same-sex couples from adoption rights is unconstitutional.
||Alex Munter, coordinator of Canadians
for Equal Marriage said that Harper was "so busy vetting his MPs
speeches, he forgot to check his own." He said that Harper "reached
a new partisan low by blaming one political party for Canada's
collective failure in admitting Jewish refugees and interning
||Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, a
pro-life group, said: "The first part of the amendment is just
what was necessary, what was expected, what was needed – a rejection of
the bill since it did not define marriage properly. However, Harper
needlessly went on to totally offend a large portion of the country and
alienate many of his supporters with an add-on devaluing marriage by
opening to any civil unions all the benefits and rights of married
couples. Marriage is the institution which brings forth and
nurtures the next generation and as such deserves special rights and
benefits. Such privileges are the reward and incentive society owes
married couples for the sacrifice involved in raising good citizens."
Hughes may not be aware that many same-sex couples have children or
adopt children, while some opposite-sex couples remain childless by
choice or infertility. 6
||LifeSite, a socially conservative
group that esteems "life, family and universal norms of morality"
commented on their web site: "The amendment is a political ploy since
the Supreme Court and even Harper in his own speech acknowledged that
civil unions are strictly a provincial matter."
Meanwhile, Danny Williams, the Conservative
premier of Newfoundland said: "From a personal perspective, I actually
support gay marriages. I practiced law for over 30 years and championed
social justice and believed in minority rights and believed in the rights
and freedoms of individuals under our Charter of Rights [and Freedoms]."
||2005-FEB-17: Hutterites object to same-sex
marriage: The Hutterites are a conservative Christian group with
Anabaptist roots. They have about 31,000 members in Canada -- primarily in
British Columbia and the Prairies. They have traditionally separated
themselves from political matters over their 477 year history. However,
their extreme concern over SSM motivated them to speak out. One minister
said: "We were taught to obey the government as long as it’s not
against our conscience. We felt we had to say something to let the world
know we’re against this." Mike Stahl, a preacher from a colony north of
Saskatoon, SK linked marriage to childrearing. He said, "It doesn't take
the kids long to find out about the birds and the bees. They know there's
got to be a bull with the cows, that there's got to be a stallion with the
horses and that when you're raising rabbits, there's got to be a boy rabbit
and a mother rabbit." He also may not be aware of the many same-sex
couples who are raising children, and the many opposite-sex couples who are
not. The Hutterites wrote a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin warning
that if Parliament continues on its present course, a fate awaits the
country similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
7 The Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) relate how God exterminated all of the men, women, children,
infants and newborns in those cities. Some think it was because the cities'
men engaged in homosexual behavior; others believe it was because the city
folk were unkind to strangers; still others consider the biblical story to
be a myth. More details|
||2005-FEB-17: Physicians warn MPs about same-sex marriage: A group
of seven physicians presented a paper titled "Gay Marriage and
Homosexuality, Some Medical Comments" in Ottawa. They believe that legalization of SSM will result in a major change in public
understanding of homosexuality. They will regard it as a normal,
natural sexual orientation. They seem to think that increasing
acceptance of homosexuality will lead to more youths choosing to be
homosexual. This, they suggest, will cause increased health problems and costs. They note a difference between studies of children raised in
a family led by same-sex parents: studies quoted by homosexual support
groups tend to indicate that children raised in a same-sex household are
as healthy as those raised in an opposite-sex household. Studies quoted
by conservative Christian groups disagree. 7,8|
||2005-FEB-18: Focus on the Family reviews
debate in parliament: CitizenLink, a newsletter from the Fundamentalist
Christian group, Focus on the Family, commented on "Angry Debates
Over Same-sex Marriage." They wrote: "Most Conservative members of
Parliament oppose the bill, and more than 90 have signed up to speak against
it. Even some members of Martin's Liberal Party oppose it, though most
observers believe the bill will pass. Same-sex marriage is legal in seven
provinces and one territory in Canada, and the bill would extend that across
the country." 9|
||2005-FEB-18: Liberal MP blasts C-38:
Tom Wappel (Liberal-Scarborough Southwest) called bill C-38 "discriminatory,
a sham and a hoax" that could well lead to the legalization of polygamy.
He denied that same-sex marriage is a human right. Referring to the
Netherlands and Belgium, he said: "Absolutely no country in the entire
world has declared it to be a human right including the two countries which
presently allow it for same-sex marriage." He suggested that if the
one-man one woman requirement is dropped, the requirement for "two
persons" may be also be superseded, Any number of persons may be allowed
to marry. In an apparent reference to Islam and some
Mormon denominations, he continued: "That discriminates against those
religions that believe that it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one
spouse. Why is it acceptable to remove discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation but continue to permit and perpetuate legislation and common law
other forms of discrimination? Either we eliminate all forms of
discrimination or we leave the current definition alone. It has worked for
millennia. If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Wappel may not be aware
that polygyny -- that form of polygamy involving one man and multiple women
-- has been practiced by Mormons in British Columbia (BC) for decades. The
BC government considered prosecuting them, but decided that the case would
be hopeless. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees religious
freedom. A number of constitutional experts consulted by the BC government
suggested that they would lose any court case against polygamy.
More details|Site navigation:
Tonda MacCharles, "PM to lead debate on same-sex bill. 'An issue of
leadership, Charter rights.' The stakes are high for both sides," Toronto
Star, 2005-FEB-16, Page A6.
- "Same-sex union a Charter right: PM," The Kingston Whig Standard,
2005-FEB-17, Page 9 & 12.
Tonda MacCharles, "Commons anything but civil. PM says bill protects
minority rights. Harper mocks 'newly invented policy'," The Toronto Star,
2005-FEB-17, Page A6.
House of Commons Debates, Hansard, Government of Canada, 2005-FEB-16, at:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/. The home page for FEB-16 is at:
Tonda MacCharles, "Harper speech stirs wide outcry. Comments during gay
marriage debate roundly condemned. Insulting 'to play politics with an ancient
historical wrong'." Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-18, Page A6. Online at:
"Hutterites Break Customary Political Silence to Warn Canadians Against
Gay 'Marriage'," LifeSite, 2005-FEB-17, at:
"Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ a Health Risk Doctors Warn Parliamentarians,"
LifeSite, 2005-FEB-17, at:
" 'Gay marriage' and homosexuality: some medical comments," LifeSite,
"Parliament Sees Angry Debates Over Same-sex Marriage," Citizen Link,
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-19
Author: B.A. Robinson