February 25, 2005
Park sends message to Parliament
"I very proudly rise to speak in
support of this bill. This bill breathes equality into dozens of statutes
where discrimination lay dormant, but I want to be clear what this bill
isn't and what this bill is. If this bill were somehow a vote on same-sex
marriage, I would very proudly vote yes -- I would vote yes to same-sex
marriage -- but that is not what this bill is about. The bill is primarily
concerned with bringing our statutes in line with the Charter of Rights
and Freedoms. The bill seeks to update our statutes to reflect a new reality
in Ontario. In a sense, as NDP leader Howard Hampton said yesterday, it
is a housekeeping bill. It is. It is born out of a judicial decision,
yes. I say to this House, it is also the right thing to do."
While Parliament is in a delayed debate about same-sex marriage, Ontario has got on with updating its legislation to be in compliance with the ruling from the Court of Appeal for Ontario, while also taking into consideration the religious protection issues raised in the Supreme Court of Canada Reference.
Until now, gay and lesbian couples were segregated in legislation, apart from the definition of spouse that had, until the June 10, 2003 ruling, been reserved for married opposite-sex couples. No more. Gender-specific terms have been removed from Ontario legislation and gays are now included in the definition of spouse.
On December 9, 2004 the Supreme Court confirmed that same-sex marriage is constitutional and that the Charter guarantees the freedom of religious officials to perform marriages and use their sacred places in accordance with their religious beliefs.
A simple voice vote in favour of the bill took place last night, leaving no record of individuals votes. Instead, the parties worked together united for human rights.
"We made a decision a couple of years back in order to deal with the issue of marriage in the province of Ontario,"said Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins - James Bay). "It was a bill that the Conservative government had brought forth that we voted for. We extended that right to individuals within Ontario. This Legislature did that at the time. I believe it was unanimous, if I remember correctly: Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals stood together unanimously to give people of the same sex the ability to marry within Ontario. We did that unanimously, and if I remember correctly, there was not a divided vote on that particular issue. Every member had an opportunity to get up and divide. Some of the gentlemen who got up today and said, "You know, we should divide today," had an opportunity to do that when we originally extended the right to do this back some years ago. So let's deal with this for what it is. This is in order to bring the statute into line with what the law already is. It doesn't deal with the extension of any rights. It doesn't deal with anything other than making sure that all of the acts within the province of Ontario comply with what is already in the bill, which is already the law."
Ms. Wynne spoke passionately about the need to publicly speak out against homophobia.
"Homophobia can be a loud and violent fact, or it can be subtle and whispering. It's the teasing that can stop a talented young male figure skater from pursuing a dream. It's the force that creates and reinforces stereotypes. It's the norm that can convince a beautiful, vibrant, healthy young girl that she's ugly because she doesn't want to wear makeup. It's the fear that forces teenagers struggling with their own sexual orientation to be the most abusive to others, because they're trying to cover for themselves. It's the fear that forces a little boy to turn to his mom one day and to tell her that he isn't going to wear bright colours any more, even though his whole little life he's loved those bright colours. He's figured out that that's not OK. Homophobia is the fear that forces those things."
Minister of Health George Smitherman spoke of the contribution of Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto:
"Now, I must be careful in acknowledging that Brent Hawkes is my preacher, because if attendance were taken there as it is here, there would be some concern about how one can make a claim that someone is their preacher when they don't go in person quite as often as they might to hear the tremendous oratory, the passion and the tremendous wisdom that Brent Hawkes brings in his role as pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church. That church on Simpson Avenue, in the riding of Toronto-Danforth, home to the member opposite, has a reputation, I think it's fair to say, as a place where a progressive, inspirational congregation does what it needs to do to make the kinds of advances, the human rights advances, that the gay and lesbian community has been much in need of over a period of time. This courageous band, a very small group of people in the grand scheme of things, has demonstrated that you can, in a certain sense, fight city hall, that you can make the progress that's necessary for a society to evolve. I think that is the essence of the greatness of Canada. That in this land, with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have made a home for people from all over the world where we celebrate diversity and recognize it as our greatest strength is, I think, a credit to the fabric of our country. I just want to say that I'm honoured to be here today and to have a chance to speak in the presence of Brent Hawkes, who stands out as one of the most exemplary leaders I think our country has ever known."
Like the Court of Appeal for Ontario decision that preceded it, the move by Queen's Park sends a strong and timely message to the federal MPs in Ottawa.
"I just want to come to the last point. I know to some people in politics this is a bit of a hot-button issue. We've watched the debate unfold in Ottawa, and some people have used this to their own advantage, as far as being able to trump it up as trying to be on the right side of the issue, as they see it, thinking that if they vote in opposition the voters back home will be happy with them and vote for them in great numbers. I just want to say that that's not where the public is at. The public on these issues, quite frankly, is way beyond that."
Conservatives need only compare Stephen Harper's meek response to this week's presentation of the Liberal government's budget, and compare Harper's divisive attack against charter rights and gay marriage. The evident priorities of Harper's extremist social agenda have shown how he is unsuitable for leadership, being so out-of-step with voter rich Ontario and Quebec.
"There's really no one left in mainstream Canadian politics representing fiscal conservatives anymore. Stephen Harper certainly isn't. He's spending too much time congratulating Prime Minister Paul Martin," Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck wrote in yesterday's column titled "Conservatism is extinct". Which raises the question: what's the purpose of the Conservative party? You might as well just vote Liberal."