Commons sense: debates on gay marriage















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Legal - Canada - Commons sense: debates on gay marriage

February 22, 2005

Commons sense: debates on gay marriage
Parliament's House of Commons - Feb 16 - 18

Mr. Speaker," said Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ) on Feb. 16, 2004, "first, I would say that the government should not have referred this bill to the Supreme Court, and that this is a question the answer to which we have known from the outset. We should have proceeded before the last election, regardless of the electoral considerations that were driving this government. Had it not been for the Prime Minister's dithering, the Leader of the Opposition would not have been able to raise this issue. Having said that, in my opinion, there is no option but to use the notwithstanding clause if we want to prevent such a thing.

"Indeed, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms talks about reasonable limits, and it would be unreasonable to decide that, because of their sexual orientation, a man and a woman do not have the same rights. In my opinion, this is the fundamental issue. I am also convinced that we must adopt this bill, and that we must do so at the earliest opportunity, to avoid dividing our society and to make it clear that the issues that we debated in the past, namely abortion and divorce—which took us to the same place—have now been accepted by society and are now behind us.

Click to enlarge (Photo by, 2002)

Kevin Bourassa in Ottawa with the "Famous Five" who led the movement to have women's rights recognized. On October 18, 1929, the Privy Council declared in the famous " Person's Case of 1929" that women were persons and thus eligible to hold any appointed or elected office. The monument was erected in Calgary, Alberta, and was unveiled by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson on October 18th, 1999 the 70th anniversary of the "Person's Case." The following year, on October 18th, 2000, a duplicate of this sculpture was unveiled on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

"Indeed, divorced people are no longer stigmatized, as they were in the 1960s. Oddly, many people who were opposed to giving women the right to vote are now on the same side as those who, today, are opposed to same sex marriage. This is what I meant when I talked about progress. Do we recognize that all people are born equal and free, and that they can live their lives equal and free? That is the fundamental issue.

A timeline of Canadian milestones in marriage

Past or future?

"I am a Franco-Ontarian and, as such, a member of a language minority. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects such minorities, and I am grateful that it does. If gays and lesbians were to be removed from the protection of the charter, under the pretext that this is not a legal issue but a moral one, this would mean that, in the future, a similar application could be made to remove language minorities from the protection of the charter, under the pretext that it is too expensive. Consequently, it becomes an economic issue. Therefore, we have a choice before us. Either go forward with Bill C-38, the actual bill which is before the House, make the law uniform for all of Canada or go back to the past using the notwithstanding clause."

Hon. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Liberal), House of Commons, Feb. 18, 2005

Canada's Constitution,
the Courts, and Parliament

"After Parliament was adjourned and we were no longer sitting in caucuses, the Court of Appeal [for Ontario] decision came out. Contrary to this duty to act to support the laws of Canada and the Parliament of Canada and the integrity of the Parliament of Canada, the prime minister of the day, without consultation with caucus, without consultation with Parliament, and without letting the justice committee finish its job, decided not to appeal the Court of Appeal decision of the province of Ontario, effectively undercutting and undermining his own legislation and the expressed will of Parliament."

Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Liberal), House of Commons, Feb. 18, 2005

The place of Parliament

From Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ), House of Commons, Feb. 18, 2005:

"... to demonstrate the way this issue can be understood, one of my constituents has written to me, saying that he is a practising Catholic, very involved in his community and his church. He wanted me to know that a number of Catholics think the Church is not moving in the right direction by not recognizing the rights of same sex couple to marry in a religious ceremony.

"I replied that, while I was sympathetic to his idea, it was not my place as a member of Parliament, or the place of Same-sex marriage: separation of church and stateParliament, to pass judgment on debates within the Catholic Church or the Protestant churches or Muslim or Jewish congregations. That is the domain of moral doctrine.

"What we are being asked to do as parliamentarians is to decide whether the state will give same sex couples the same right to marry as opposite sex couples have. So, this is a legal issue and we should not get involved in an internal religious debate, whether it is with the Catholic Church or any other church. I should also point out that, in terms of the rulings made by the courts of various provinces, eight courts, in seven provinces and in the Yukon, ruled that preventing same sex couples from getting married violated their right to equality, as provided under the charter, and that such a violation of a protected right could not be justified in a free and democratic society."

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