|HOT TOPICS! >>||Donate Safe Schools National Education Survey NEW: Courage in the Face of Hate NEW: RHVP|
Canadians for Equal Marriage
Hansard – Civil Marriage Act (C-38) debate – Vic Toews (CPC)
April 19, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the motion for second reading of Bill C-38, the Liberal bill that proposes to redefine traditional marriage.
I am very disappointed at what the Liberals have done today in shutting down any possible motions and in fact trying to ensure that this matter is not fully debated. I hope that Canadians understand what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has just done. He has shut down debate on one of the most crucial matters in the Canadian political scene today.
I have already addressed some of the concerns I have with the bill and with the manner in which the Liberals handled this issue during the course of the past several years. I do not want to repeat those points of debate at this time. What I do want to address today is the refusal of the Liberal government to allow the legislative committee on Bill C-38 to hear testimony on the substantial matters of the bill and the refusal to allow the committee to travel and hear Canadians’ views on this important matter of social policy.
Let us recap what happened in 2003 when the justice committee examined this issue. The committee heard from a wide range of witnesses from all across Canada and travelled across the country. It was unfortunately turned into a sham by the Liberal-led majority on the committee which voted to shut down the committee before it could even issue its report.
The former justice minister, Martin Cauchon, had asked the House of Commons justice committee to travel the country and hear representations on same sex marriage from all walks of life. We did that and we were writing the report. Then on June 12, 2003 the Liberals on the justice committee, helped by the NDP and the Bloc, voted by a margin of one to recommend to the government that the committee not appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on this issue.
The committee’s work was rendered irrelevant and the committee did not report back to Parliament on its hearings on marriage and the recognition of same sex unions.
I would like to remind the House that the Liberal government at that time actually replaced some of the regular members of the committee with others who were guaranteed to vote in a certain way, despite the fact that they had not heard the evidence.
During the course of those committee hearings, we heard from a broad spectrum of witnesses, including not only representatives from religious faiths but also economists, lawyers and academics. These included such respected figures as Dr. Dan Cere and Dr. Margaret Somerville from McGill University.
Simply hearing the evidence without having the opportunity to evaluate it and report on it to the justice minister and the House of Commons does not do the committee much good. It is hardly a substitute for a substantial hearing on the matter.
The Liberals are once again trying to stifle not only the House, as the parliamentary secretary just did a few moments ago, but they are also trying to stifle the committee. Instead of bringing this matter to the full justice committee where the justice committee could have heard substantive evidence from all types of witnesses and could have travelled this country to hear from witnesses, they have referred it to a special legislative committee.
According to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, special legislative committees can hear witnesses only on technical matters. As such, the committee itself has no jurisdiction to change its mandate. It is bound to hear only technical evidence. Regardless of what the Prime Minister has promised, regardless of what the justice minister has promised, the committee has no jurisdiction to change that Standing Order.
The common statement is that a committee is master of its own procedure. That is not correct in this situation. In fact the committee is bound by the provisions of the Standing Order. Standing Order 113(5) reads as follows:
Any legislative committee shall be empowered to examine and enquire into the bills referred to it by the House and to report the same with or without amendments, to prepare a bill pursuant to Standing Order 68 and to report thereon and, except when the House otherwise orders,--
The House can otherwise order--
--to send for officials from government departments and agencies and crown corporations and for other persons whom the committee deems to be competent to appear as witnesses on technical matters, to send for papers and records, to sit when the House is sitting, to sit when the House stands adjourned, and to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it.
The jurisdiction that the committee has is limited by Standing Order 113(5). While credit should be given to the hon. member for London--Fanshawe for doing his best to persuade the Prime Minister of the necessity of expanding the committee’s mandate, it is highly doubtful that these promises can be carried through.
Again it is another example of the Prime Minister making a promise and breaking that promise, knowing full well that the committee that is going to hear this matter cannot do what the Prime Minister publicly stated to Canadians it would do. The Prime Minister knows that. He has in fact misled Canadians on that point.
What specific assurances can the Prime Minister give that there is authority for the committee to hear evidence beyond technical evidence? The point is quite clear that he cannot give any assurances. Only this House can give those assurances. That is why the parliamentary secretary stood up today to make sure that there are no further motions, to make sure that the jurisdiction of the committee cannot be expanded.
The Prime Minister stood before Canadians, including the member for London--Fanshawe, and made all kinds of promises about how the committee was going to do what committees usually do. In fact he knows that he has misled his own member for London--Fanshawe and he has misled the Canadian people on this fundamental debate.
The parliamentary secretary himself has indicated that there will be no travel across Canada. What do Canadians get from this technical hearing at a committee? A number of bureaucrats, a number of justice department lawyers telling Canadians what is good for them. It is a prime example of when Liberals come to Ottawa. They do not represent to Ottawa what Canadians want. Rather, they tell Canadians what Ottawa wants. This is a perfect example of telling Canadians what Ottawa wants, and not telling Ottawa what Canadians want.
According to the most recent statements by the justice minister, the minister states he is not aware of any promises the Prime Minister has made to the member for London--Fanshawe. That is interesting. The Prime Minister stood up on national news, on national TV. Everyone in Canada heard those assurances by the Prime Minister, and the justice minister has said that he is not aware of any assurances that were made. Then his parliamentary secretary walked in here and shut down debate to ensure that the Prime Minister’s promises cannot be kept. That is shameful conduct for the Prime Minister of Canada.
The Minister of Justice said in response to a question:
Mr. Speaker, I do not know of any backroom deal. I only know the answer I gave to a question asked by the hon. member in the House, to which the hon. member referred.
I said that any special legislative committee that was set up would address this bill in hearings as it did any other bill.
What the Minister of Justice is saying is that there was no backroom deal. Canadians know that there was no backroom deal. The Prime Minister made those commitments publicly. Promise made, promise broken.
The Prime Minister must now explain to the Canadian people why he has specifically broken his word to the member for London--Fanshawe, to the members in this House and indeed to the people of Canada. Why is he shutting down debate in this House? Why is he limiting debate in committee?
The Prime Minister has held out false hope on a number of occasions. This is only the latest example of a promise made, a promise broken.
Egale Canada ©2011