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37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 25, 2003




¿ 0905
V         The Chair (Hon. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.))
V         Ms. Judy Darcy (National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees)
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Judy Darcy

¿ 0910

¿ 0915
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher (As Individual)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher

¿ 0920
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher

¿ 0925
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance)
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews

¿ 0930
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Vic Toews

¿ 0935
V         Mr. Fred Hahn (Pink Triangle Committee, Canadian Union of Public Employees)
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, BQ)
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher

¿ 0940
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Svend Robinson

¿ 0945
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy

¿ 0950
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings

¿ 0955
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. Joe Courtney (Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees)

À 1000
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance)
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.)

À 1005
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Mr. Fred Hahn
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ)

À 1010
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Réal Ménard
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Réal Ménard
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)

À 1015
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Ms. Hedy Fry
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Svend Robinson

À 1020
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. John McKay
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair

À 1025
V         Mr. Joe Courtney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings

À 1030
V         Mr. Fred Hahn
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau

À 1035
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson

À 1040
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Hedy Fry

À 1045
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         Mr. Fred Hahn
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin

À 1050
V         Mr. Fred Hahn
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Ms. Judy Darcy

À 1055
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Mr. Fred Hahn
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Mr. Jeffrey Asher

Á 1100
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Judy Darcy
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


NUMBER 021 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¿  +(0905)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Hon. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): I'd like to call to order the 21st meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we're undertaking a study on marriage and the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

    Today, to help us in that, we have a group of witnesses from the Canadian Union of Public Employees; and appearing as an individual, Jeffrey Asher.

    I think the way we operate is not unknown to you. Basically, you have 10 minutes for the presentation. We have only two witnesses today, so I might be a little bit more generous than normal. Please don't try to do your 15-minute presentation in 10 minutes, because it will drive our interpreters crazy.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy (National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees): May we negotiate? We're negotiators, you know.

+-

    The Chair: I understand. Again, we have two witnesses, so we'll probably have a little more latitude. But after twelve and a half minutes, I'll be waving frantically, and that will give more time. Remember, we have the balance of two hours to explore some of the ideas you present, so we'll be able to touch on them later as well.

    With that, I'd like to go to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as represented by Judy Darcy, president; Fred Hahn, from the Pink Triangle Committee; and Joe Courtney, the senior equality officer.

    Ms. Darcy.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Thank you very much. We will try our best to stay within our time limits.

    The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada's largest union. We represent 527,000 Canadian working men and women. Our members work in a wide array of public services such as public education, public health, water, libraries, transit systems, children's aid societies, emergency services, municipal services, airlines, and a number of other occupations and services across the country.

    We are a large organization in terms of both members and the staff who work for our union. We have 700 staff in about 70 area offices across the country. I say that because we're going to speak to the issues, first and foremost, that affect our membership, but also on some actions we've taken as an employer of 700 staff that are very relevant to the issue that's in front of this committee.

    CUPE's membership is very diverse. The majority of our members are women--about 60%. We also represent a large number of workers of colour, aboriginal workers, workers with disabilities, and workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We believe very strongly, and have since the birth of our union in 1963, that we have a duty to represent the interests of all of our members, and that includes the interests of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members.

    CUPE has a very long history and a very proud record of standing up for equality issues in our workplaces, in our union, and in society at large. We have in particular, through our history, worked very hard through collective bargaining to ensure there is no discrimination against any of our members in the workplace. We're very proud of our record in the area of collective bargaining. On equality issues for women, from the inception of the union we have been a leader in fighting for issues like equal pay and maternity leave.

    Over the last 20 years, initially small numbers, then dozens, now hundreds of our locals across the country negotiated anti-discrimination clauses in their collective agreements to deal with a wide array of discrimination, including discrimination against gays and lesbians. We have successfully negotiated provisions that deal with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We're very proud of our record of fighting for inclusive definitions of spouse and family that include same-sex partners. We believe we are the first union in the country to have negotiated in our collective agreements to provide for a range of benefits for same-sex couples, including accessibility to medical, dental, and pension benefits and bereavement leaves.

    It is our experience as a union, as it is the experience of the trade union movement in Canada, that many of the rights Canadians now enjoy as citizens, whether they're legal rights, human rights, or social programs that are now part of government policy, were initially negotiated in collective agreements covering small groups of workers, extended to wider sections of workers, and then, as a result of both the trade union movement and other groups in society pushing for those rights, eventually became enshrined in law. That's why we think it's important to talk about what we've done in the area of collective bargaining. Many of the rights we first gained through collective bargaining for our gay and lesbian members for same-sex couples have now become law in various provinces across the country.

    We're also extremely proud of a landmark case the Canadian Union of Public Employees fought a number of years ago. It was about an eight-year battle that was jointly taken on by two women who worked for our CUPE national office and by our union as an employer, the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

¿  +-(0910)  

    Those two women came to CUPE and said they wanted to be able to register their same-sex partners as spouses on the CUPE pension plan for the purpose of survivor benefits. We were more than willing to be able to do that, but we found that there was a major barrier. That barrier was the definition of spouse in the Income Tax Act of Canada. So we decided, together with our staff, we would fight that case because it was discriminatory and we were opposed to discrimination in the workplace, as well as in our own workplace and employment.

    We attempted to register our plan under the Income Tax Act, and the federal government refused to allow us to do that. Consequently, we launched a court challenge, first in the Supreme Court of Ontario and then in the Court of Appeal of Ontario, which eventually agreed with us. Subsequently the federal government decided, after deliberating for some time, not to appeal it. The result of that, as I hope your committee well knows, was an amended definition of spouse in the Income Tax Act. It began with that court case.

    That has also led to similar court cases on the definition of spouse in various provincial acts. Relying on the Rosenberg-Evans CUPE case I've referred to, CUPE's initiative led to other cases also being successful across the country. As I'm sure you're also aware, omnibus bills were introduced in various provincial legislatures and federally.

    Now the courts have said to the federal government that because of both the lack of legislation and a definition of marriage that is limiting, it is discriminatory and the federal government has to do something to address that situation. That brings us to where we are today.

    In the discussion paper the justice department has released, there are four options about what marriage should look like in Canadian law. As you know, those options include retaining the opposite-sex definition of marriage, creating an equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, legislating equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay Canadians, or the creation of a registration system for all conjugal relationships, in which marriage would be a strictly religious ceremony.

    CUPE has adopted the very strong and clear position that true equality for gay and lesbian Canadians entails the extension of full marriage rights to same-sex couples. We view the current restriction on equal marriage as clearly discriminatory because it denies a segment of our population access to an institution that is otherwise extended to the majority of Canadian citizens.

    Many people in our society regard marriage as lending legitimacy to the most intimate of our relationships because it's imbued with enormous social, cultural, and symbolic significance. Therefore, in order to achieve equal citizenship under the law, we believe it is paramount that marriage be extended to same-sex couples. So CUPE calls on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to recommend to the federal government that it pass legislation to redefine the opposite-sex meaning of marriage, thereby extending the choice to marry to same-sex couples.

    The prohibition against same-sex marriage conveys the message that lesbian and gay relationship are somehow inferior to heterosexual relationships. It also conveys the very dangerous message that discrimination against lesbian and gay Canadians is acceptable and warranted. We say that's a dangerous message because discrimination is part of a continuum of abuse that also includes harassment and violence. In fact, discrimination is the impetus for the harassment and violence that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people endure based on their sexual orientation, whether it's verbal abuse or threats of physical assault, or whether it escalates to murder.

    As a union that represents many gay and lesbian members, if we take studies from professionals in the area who say it's a fair estimate to say that 10% of our population are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people, then as a union that represents over half a million Canadians we have to say very strongly, on behalf of our 50,000 members who face discrimination in the workplace and society, that we strongly oppose discrimination on any basis, including in the area of marriage, and we strongly support the extension of the fundamental right to marry to same-sex couples.

¿  +-(0915)  

    Same-sex couples who desire marriage want to be treated with dignity and respect, as we all do. They are not looking for special treatment under the law. Same-sex couples want to marry for all the same reasons that opposite-sex couples do, namely to publicly celebrate their love and commitment to family, friends, and the community.

    Like many other equality- and justice-seeking groups in our society, CUPE is extremely disappointed that the federal government chose to appeal recent court decisions in Ontario and Quebec that found the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage was both discriminatory and unconstitutional. Recent public opinion research reveals that a majority of Canadians support equal marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and we suggest to you very strongly that the government is out of step with Canadians on this issue.

    We see the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples as a natural step in the evolution of equality rights in Canada. The issue of equal benefits for same-sex couples was considered a radical notion 10 or 20 years ago. Today it's a reality in many places, many workplaces, and many provincial laws across the country.

    We suggest to you that equal marriage for lesbians and gay men will one day be a reality in Canada, whether now or in the future. What is takes is leadership. What it takes is a willingness on the part of the Parliament to show leadership on this issue and say once and for all that we're going to treat all Canadians equally.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Asher.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher (As Individual): Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen, for most of my life I agreed with gay friends that marriage for homosexuals and lesbians should be supported as an equality issue, but 50 years of evidence on the weakening of the family and consequent harm to children shows us those assumptions are mistaken.

    Support for gay marriage includes claims--

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Robinson.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): I'm very sorry to interrupt Mr. Asher, but I wonder if he could just introduce himself and tell us something about who he is. Normally the witnesses give us some sense of who they are.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Asher will make his presentation. If we want to inquire as to what his background is and so on, we can ask.

    Mr. Asher.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Support for gay marriage includes claims for tolerance, inclusion, and diversity. Members of cultural or religious groups may make more persuasive intrinsic claims to redefine marriage to suit their beliefs. Furthermore, whether a redefinition of marriage will contribute much to gay life is far from evident. Even in countries that offer approximations of civil unions, gay couple behaviour and culture seem largely unchanged.

    Homosexuals are equally protected by democratic, social, and civil legislation, and their relationships and associations are accepted as lawful--

¿  +-(0920)  

+-

    The Chair: We'll give you 12 minutes if you slow down.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Thank you, sir.

    I've brought copies of my presentation, ladies and gentlemen, but only in English. I do apologize.

    Gays may enter into civil contracts regarding their relationships and choose religious ceremonies. Homosexuals live in a different but equal social situation. The gay marriage project requires change to the core identity of marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of others. Many same-sex marriage advocates celebrate the impending transformation of hundreds of laws and the inclusion of homosexual or lesbian experience as subversive to heterosexual marriage.

    Homosexuals possess no more democratic right to alter the definition of marriage than larger minority groups. Demands for the alteration of the definition of marriage could legitimately emanate from religious fundamentalists, as it has historically from racists, xenophobes, and polygamists, among many others. Alteration of fundamental social structures to suit the desires of a minority group to the exclusion of others is a sure route to undermining the foundations of the tolerant society that protects all citizens, minorities included.

    No institution is more central to heterosexual life than marriage. Demands for mutual respect should not subvert the rights of 98% of the population to sustain the integrity of their fundamental institutions. The gay marriage project does not accord with inevitable progress but is a misapplication of a claim to rights. It is based on subversive claims that reach far beyond legitimate expectations for dignity and respect.

    Without an anchor in procreation, same-sex intimacy is fragile. Gay experience with families of choice disconnects family from sex differences, biological ties, kinship, and the wider community. The incapacity for procreation of homosexual life does not equal the inherent procreativity of heterosexual marriage. Gay families raise children who are biologically unrelated to one or both parents. Gay couples may have children only through previous heterosexual relationships, adoption, surrogacy, or reproductive technologies. The number of children in these categories remains exceedingly few. Those children's biological versus legal relationships are complex and often conflicting.

    Throughout history, marriage was legalized and sanctified to support the bonds of natural parents to their children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that children have the right from birth to know and be cared for by their parents. The gay marriage project suggests that society may weaken the family, which protects the bonds between children and their natural parents.

    Revolutionary and reactionary advocates throughout history have attempted to transform marriage. Advocates for progressive change legislated no-fault divorce as the route to a happier society. Over 50 years the divorce rate rose from 8% to 40%, with second and third marriages showing higher rates of dissolution. Divorce was intended in the best interests of children but inflicted widespread social disruption and pain, including lifelong negative consequences for children.

    Discoveries in biochemistry and the social sciences indicate that hormonal and emotional bonds form during pregnancy so parents will protect and nurture their children. Legalization of gay marriages inevitably allows unrestricted adoption and custody of children. Children do not fully prosper with quasi-parental role models or other surrogates. Every child needs his biological mother, father, and wider family to develop to the fullest of his potential. Parental love remains one of the most powerful forces of nature.

    The divorce epidemic and coming out of previous heterosexual biological parents has resulted in millions of children developing in single mother and non-family homes. Some of these situations are inescapable or the options of least harm. The state and responsible social agencies must not make a virtue of necessity, nor social desirability out of disaster.

    Some homosexuals and lesbians desire to legalize their loving unions so they may last a lifetime. But homosexual relationship studies show transient and open relationships and in some cases unrestrained promiscuity, which are sometimes proclaimed with pride. Extensive evidence of such behaviour does not auger well for gay relationship stability. Some gay advocates assert that their demand for legalized marriage will legitimize homosexuality, its lifestyle, and culture. Marriage will be further undermined.

    Homosexuals and lesbians themselves advocate limits on who may marry, rejecting tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness. Most gays oppose lowering the age of consent to facilitate child marriage, even though throughout history teenagers were routinely married to adults and this persists in some contemporary cultures. Radical lesbians vehemently reject Muslim and Mormon polygyny as patriarchal exploitation. Adult sibling marriage is also condemned as morally unacceptable.

¿  +-(0925)  

But gay marriage advocates choose to evade the evidence that same-sex parents' lifestyle may lead to dysfunction in their heterosexual children. Advocacy studies founded on sparse data do not provide scientific endorsement for gay marriage or parenting. Clearly, gay marriage advocates select what they define as scientifically, humanely, or morally tolerable.

    Lesbians and homosexuals consist of less than 2% of our population, and gay couples less than one-half of 1% of all couples. Their sexual orientation created congenitally is natural, but so are genius, creativity, cuckoldry, retardation, psychopathology, exceptional physical skills, and disabilities. We do not transform our legal structures to redefine deviations as normalcy. For their own security, homosexuals need protection and nurturing from their mother and father, committed to each other and to their children for life, and to the wider extended family, so they may prosper in a tolerant society.

    Marriage had to be created to advance human civilization, to fulfill needs for identity, love, and family, which are fundamental to human aspirations for order and meaning. Marriage defines the quality of heterosexual life. Marriage is given deeper meaning from hundreds of centuries of religion, traditions, and culture. Change to a core definition must affect self-identity and entire cultures that cherish the meaning of marriage.

    No civilized society should risk disconnecting marriage from its profound roots and lifelong bonding between men and women, creation of children, and powerful natural attachments between parents and children. Homosexuals as children were dependent upon their parents for conception, nurturing, rearing, life direction, and love. None of us can gamble on disconnecting marriage from parenthood and letting marriage drift off into uncertainty.

    Marriage was not created to fulfill individual needs. Marriage and raising children requires commitment between spouses, duty and devotion to raising children, and responsibility to the extended family and larger community. Despite changes to marriage, the core features remain familiar across history, cultures, and religion. Yearning for marriage and children is profound and remains central to the hopes of the vast majority of men and women. Marriage permits men and women to bridge the complex sexual divide and share a commitment to each other and family for the rest of their lives.

    Inclusion of same-sex unions will alter the nature of identity and definition of men and women in society, in ways impossible to predict, but inevitably destabilizing. All Canadians should be treated with dignity, respect, endowed with equality of opportunity and equality before the law. But those rights do not include dismantling an institution fundamental to heterosexual life and the future of human culture. Predicting the consequences of changes to marriage is impossible, but those consequences will follow. Marriage, the family, grandchildren, the wider family, and their pervasive interlocking commitments to others in society remains one of the foundations of civilization.

    The Government of Canada must not further undermine marriage with ever-opening redefinitions, but reinforce marriage as the foundation of our society.

    Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    To Mr. Toews, for seven minutes.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): Thank you very much.

    My question is directed to Ms. Darcy.

    Ms. Darcy, as you know, governments are often subjected to criticism and even lawsuits where they have lent financial or other support to private organizations that engage in practices that are discriminatory according to law. Essentially, no government support for organizations carrying out discriminatory practices seems to be an accepted principle in Canadian public policy.

    You look a little puzzled.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'm just wondering where you're going.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: As a general rule, would you agree that governments should not lend support to private organizations that engage in discriminatory practices?

¿  +-(0930)  

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'm assuming the answer to that is yes, but I'd like to know where you're going.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: All right.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I think there are a few more steps in this question.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: There definitely are more steps. But as general policy, you would agree with that.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Sure, of course, but I'd like to hear the rest of your question.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: If we change the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriages, your submission--CUPE's submission--is that those ministers who would be entitled to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages would still technically be discriminatory, but you would not interfere in any way with their right as a private organization to carry out those kinds of ceremonies.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: What we say is that the Canadian law respects religious freedom, and we support and respect religious freedom. So nothing in what we're proposing interferes with religious freedom. The issue is whether or not the state will legally sanction same-sex marriages; it's not whether specific churches will.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: All right. As you know, of course, these churches receive government support--

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Ah, now I see where you're going. I had the feeling.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: --through a charitable tax status situation. They receive that type of status; they receive benefits directly as a result of government law.

    My concern is this. Even though you say that as a private organization they'll be entitled to carry out marriages but they'll be discriminatory, would you tell the government, then, that they should withdraw the charitable tax status of those churches that refuse to carry out same-sex marriages? But it's not the law now.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Well, you know, there are churches in Canada that have various practices, some of which I personally believe are discriminatory, but that is a matter for people in those churches to take up and to deal with in their churches, and to litigate if they feel that they want to do that. There is the Catholic Church that doesn't allow the ordainment of women as priests. There is a strong movement in the Catholic Church to address that issue.

    Frankly, regarding what it should mean about how the government deals with charitable status, it's just not an issue that we've looked at. If you feel strongly that those policies discriminate, then you're in a much stronger position than we are as a union to press the government to charge the churches with discrimination, if you think that's what they're doing.

    We're saying we support religious freedom, and the charter supports religious freedom, and nothing we're proposing interferes with religious freedom.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: What you're saying, then, is that you, as an organization, wouldn't see it as inappropriate Canadian government policy to continue the charitable tax status for organizations like the church, who may, in fact--

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I've said I don't have an answer to that. It's just not an area we've explored, so please don't put words in my mouth.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: No, I'm just asking whether you agree with that position or not.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: We've never explored that issue.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: All right.

    Then your position that there is a perception, for example, that religious institutions would be forced to perform same-sex marriages if marriage rights were extended to lesbian and gay Canadians.... You've indicated that this is not the case. I'm just asking to go one step further. Apparently your union hasn't addressed the issue of the legal jeopardy this might put private organizations into if they refuse to carry out marriages in accordance with the full definition of the law, if the law is changed to include same-sex unions.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I think our position is quite clear. We believe the state in Canada has the power to sanction marriages. We believe the state should sanction same-sex marriages. That's our position. We do not believe that advocating that position interferes with religious freedom.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: So then you would certainly agree, and I think all of us at this table would agree, that those organizations that want tax status on the basis of advocating racist policies of course should be denied that charitable status.

¿  +-(0935)  

+-

    Mr. Fred Hahn (Pink Triangle Committee, Canadian Union of Public Employees): I think when the House of Commons holds a committee on charitable tax status, we'll do another brief and another presentation. Today I think we're here to talk about marriage and access to marriage.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews: Unfortunately, our problem is that we have to take this issue into account in the context of this particular issue, because the ramifications are much broader than simply the marriage standing as a stand-alone institution. There are all kinds of social and legal ramifications that we, as a committee, have to look at.

    Thank you. I understand that you haven't examined this issue, and we'll look to other witnesses to respond to that.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Toews.

[Translation]

    You have the floor for seven minutes, Mr. Marceau.

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I realize that you said you hadn't looked into this, Ms. Darcy, but in the course of your research, did you ever hear anyone say that the Catholic church would lose its status as a recognized Church as well as the entitlement to tax benefits that flow from this status if it refused to ordain women?

[English]

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: No.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: Did you ever hear of synagogues losing their recognized religious status because most refuse to solemnize unions between Jews and non Jews?

[English]

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: No, but in Canada we have a separation of church and state, the last time I checked.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: Fine then.

[English]

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: The state can sanction things that churches don't.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: Therefore, you agree with me that we are talking here about marriage as a civil, not religious, ceremony. Correct?

[English]

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Yes, I've made that distinction, I think several times.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: It's an important point, but I often have the impression that this committee is mixing apples and oranges. We're not here to decide what a religion can, or cannot, do, but to determine what the state, the secular government not controlled by any one religion, should or should not do.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Precisely.

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: Fine.

    Are you married, Mr. Asher?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I was at one time, but I'm sorry to say that I no longer am.

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: Consider my situation. I'm married. If my colleague Réal Ménard was allowed to get married, how would that affect my status as a married man?

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I am suggesting that the redefinition of marriage to include others will weaken the strength of marriage throughout history and in our society. As it is, the divorce rate in this country is over 46%. I consider that a threat to the security of society in Canada.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: I see. I have two questions for you. First, gays have nothing to do with the divorce rate among heterosexual couples. Since they can't get married, they have no impact on the divorce rate. Second, are you saying that because divorce is a threat to the institution of marriage, then we should do away with it? You just told me that you were divorced.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Certainly not, sir. I would not suggest that we abolish divorce. What I am saying is that marriage, as an institution, has been under continued assault for close to 50 years. What I think should be the primary objective of the Canadian policy is to rebuild marriage, to strengthen it, not merely for the benefit of married partners but primarily for children and for the broader society.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: As far as children are concerned, you stated earlier

[English]

that we cannot disconnect marriage from parenthood.

[Translation]

    With all due respect, who is Jeffrey Asher, or Richard Marceau for that matter, to say that people should marry to have children? When I got married, we hadn't yet decided whether or not to have children. Who are we to tell couples planning to marry that they should be tying the knot in order to have children, because that is the real purpose of marriage?

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I would say, sir, that one of the reasons people marry is to have children. This is a profound need--emotionally, culturally, and biologically. And marriage sanctifies that relationship and regulates it for the protection of children and the broader society.

    We are not to impose child-bearing upon couples, as religion sometimes did, but couples yearn for marriage and children. Having children, for me, was among the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and it continues with my grandchildren.

¿  +-(0940)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: I attended a very interesting dinner party Saturday evening. In all, there were four married couples in their thirties. My wife and I were the only couple with children. The others claimed that they got married because they wanted to publicly proclaim their love for one another. These three other couples did not want children. You state the following:

[English]

couples yearn for marriage and parenthood.

[Translation]

    I submit to you that this is not true.

[English]

Maybe they yearn for marriage, mais pas pour parenthood.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I would agree with you, sir, that the advent of reliable contraception over the past 50 years has given people choices that never existed before. The age of marriage is growing to about 30. The age of having first children is entering the early thirties. But many men and women in their forties deeply regret that they have lost the opportunity to have natural children.

    Heterosexual life and marriage are inherently procreative, and that capacity is there. If marriage and child-bearing were not protected over the past 500,000 years, I assure you, sir, we would not be here.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: I'm not convinced that this is the fundamental purpose of marriage. Perhaps that's where your logic flags. Why not leave it up to couples to decide what they hope to achieve by getting married?

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Of course they should, sir. Those who choose to remain childless should be allowed to be childless. But as I pointed out in my presentation, the inherent reproductivity within heterosexual marriage is not in any way equal to the infertility of homosexual and lesbian marriage.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau: What happens then with women in menopause? They are incapable of bearing children, of procreating. A man who is sterile cannot father any children. Should they not be allowed to get married?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Marceau.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Marriage also has its essential heterosexual functions to reinforce natural bonds of love and attachment, not only for the couple but in the wider family and in the broader community. However, I may point out to you that many women who have chosen careers and have built substantial and rewarding careers often deeply regret, when menopause arrives, that they have forgone the option to have children.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Robinson, for seven minutes.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

    First of all, I want to thank the witnesses from CUPE, not only for their eloquent presentation this morning but, more importantly, for their tireless advocacy for equality for gay and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Over many years, I've had the privilege of working with representatives of CUPE on a number of different issues, whether it was with the airline division or other representatives, and I can say without hesitation that CUPE has really been in the forefront. I'm really delighted that once again CUPE is here speaking out for equality. Certainly the Rosenberg decision was a landmark decision and one of those that led to the government's decision to move ahead in the omnibus bill. There's no question about that.

    So thank you very much for your leadership and your continued commitment. All your members are very well represented, and that leadership makes a big difference in this country.

    Mr. Asher, I guess I'm struggling with the same question that my friend Mr. Marceau raised earlier. You talk about the threats to marriage, the fragility of the institution of marriage, the number of divorces, and so on, yet for the life of me, I still don't understand how my ability to marry my partner, Max, would in any way weaken the institution of marriage that you're so concerned about--in fact, to the contrary, there would be more people marrying--unless it's your thesis that somehow my ability to marry would lead to heterosexuals not procreating.

    I'm not sure what your background is, and maybe you could also share that with us since we don't know who you are. But there's at least some preliminary opportunity to look at the evidence.

    In the Netherlands, for example, where gay partners can marry, has there been a calamitous drop in the procreation rate? Are heterosexual couples not marrying in numbers that give you deep concern? What's the problem here?

¿  +-(0945)  

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: First of all, let me give you some personal background. For most of my career I was a college teacher in Montreal. For the past 12 years, I have taught one of the two courses on men in Canada. I regret that the advocacy of men's issues in this country terminated my career. I'm now a sometime journalist. I've written articles on epidemiology and on the condition of men in Canada, and they've been published in some of the daily newspapers here in Canada.

    I think to personalize the experience and ask about you and your partner is somewhat misleading. What is important is the general trend of social policy.

    Again, forgive me, Mr. Robinson, but I must go back to the analogy of divorce. We were told in the 1950s that divorce was a progressive move that would benefit families and children. It has turned out to be a widespread disaster across the western liberal world, with divorce rates in some countries exceeding 50%. What this means, if you will forgive me for personalizing, is that an individual couple is more likely to break up if they are married than if they just choose to maintain a separate relationship.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: So we shouldn't have changed the law on divorce is what you're saying.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: No, I'm not suggesting that either. What I am suggesting is a law of divorce that, for example, includes the concept of fault. By the way, in some cases, as has been done in the United States, Britain, and France, some divorces have been refused in the interests of children, because it would have been exceptionally disruptive to children, particularly younger children, prepubertal, to have their parents divide.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: But you haven't answered my question. Why do you believe there would be fewer heterosexual couples marrying or having children if gay couples could marry? That's what I want to know.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I don't believe I said that. What I said was that once the precedent is set of including homosexuals and other groups within marriage—and this is important—you may be sure others will follow. There are other minority groups, religious, cultural, ideological, and political, who also want to change marriage. Given an added constituency, their pressure to change the definition of marriage will be irresistible once the precedent is set.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Just to be very clear, so you're not suggesting there would be fewer heterosexual marriages or fewer children born if gay people or lesbians were allowed to marry.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: That's not what I said. But what I am suggesting, sir, is that as further changes are made to marriage, the trend toward high divorce rates, smaller families, and more no-child families will increase.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Okay, let me ask something very specific on that, then. Why would there be more divorces if gay people could marry?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I didn't say that, sir. I said the trend toward divorce would probably increase.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: That means there'd be more divorces?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: The trend would increase.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Right, so there'd be more divorces.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Yes, sir.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Right. And why would there be more divorces if gay people could marry?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Because the integrity of marriage as an institution to which young people and adults aspire would be weakened.

+-

    Mr. Svend Robinson: Ms. Darcy, did you want to comment?

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'd like to comment on the issue of children.

    On behalf of the gay and lesbian members of CUPE, I have to say that I am not only outraged at some of the statements made about children, but as an adoptive parent I'm also personally outraged at the notion that somehow every child needs a biological mother for long-term emotional health and stability, and that somehow there will be a crisis for children and families if all children are not biological children. I find this to be one of the most sweeping stereotypical and bigoted statements I have heard for a long, long time. It discriminates not just against lesbian and gay couples, who have effectively and successfully raised their children in loving families, but it is also hugely discriminatory toward adoptive parents who, through no fault of their own, are not able to conceive and who are also proud and loving parents who have effectively and successfully raised many children in our society.

    I think it just underlines a very, very fundamental flaw in the argument of the other presenter here today that somehow you need to have a heterosexual couple who is not infertile to maintain the institution of the family and to procreate and have children in our society.

¿  +-(0950)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson. Your time is up.

    Could I again ask all members and the panel to try to keep the language as moderate as we can and to try to address the discussion in this direction as opposed to against each other, because I think the latter has a tendency to sometimes escalate, particularly between members of the panel.

    Everyone has been invited here to put their arguments forward. We're here to listen and we're trying to figure out where everybody is on this. We're going to have to do this in a way that is as respectful as we can make it.

+-

    Ms. Judy Darcy: With respect, Mr. Scott, immoderate statements elicit immoderate responses.

+-

    The Chair: You can express your opinion, and I respect this as well, but we're engaged in a very emotional debate and discussion. I think it calls upon all of us to engage in the discussion this way.

    Ms. Jennings.

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    Thank you very much for your presentations. I have a couple of questions.

    Mr. Asher, if I'm not mistaken, near the beginning of your presentation you were talking about the condition of homosexuality. I believe you used language leading one to believe that, in your view, it represented some kind of handicap and therefore required further or more in-depth parental guidance, love, and protection.

    Am I mistaken?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: You are mistaken, Ms. Jennings. I described homosexuality as natural; it is a product of nature. There are many products of nature, including genius and extraordinary physical abilities, but we should not redefine marriage to suit—

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Yes, but in making that analogy you talked about other natural conditions, some of which you said were intellectual handicaps, physical handicaps, etc. By putting homosexuality within that basket of natural conditions, you made it obvious the conclusion from this is that this particular natural condition requires increased support, either from society, the parents, the family unit, or the community unit, in the same way as an individual suffering from an intellectual handicap or incapacity, or from a physical incapacity, may require this as well.

    Am I correct?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Again, Ms. Jennings, I included genius, creativity, and extraordinary physical abilities—

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Yes, I understand that.

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Those who may choose to identify with those are free to do so.

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Okay.

    I would like to know how that differs from the largely discredited legal concept of the 19th century that people of African ancestry were somehow less than 100% human in comparison to those of European descent or ancestry. It was actually legal in United States to deem people of African ancestry to be only equivalent to three-fifths of someone of European ancestry, and therefore that this natural condition of being less than 100% of someone of European ancestry required a condition of servitude. It required ownership by people of European ancestry to guide and protect people of African ancestry who, by their natural condition, were not quite 100% of those of European ancestry.

    Can you explain to me how the analogy or concept you're providing, that homosexuality requires added support like other natural conditions, differs from this discredited legal concept? I understand that discrimination still exists, even within laws and so on, but this concept of inequality has been discredited. Where is the difference?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: There is a considerable difference.

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: I'd like to hear it.

¿  +-(0955)  

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Slavery was based on racism. I would point out that throughout history most slaves were white, particularly those in the Greek and Roman empires. I would also point out that my people, the Jews, worked in a condition of servitude and social inferiority. That too was bigotry, and I would hope that civilized societies and democracies have evolved far beyond that—although these conditions persist and are widespread in our world right now. I hope they will be changed.

    But the analogy between that and the gay marriage proposal is exceedingly different. This is an attempt to change a fundamental heterosexual institution meant for the support of families—largely natural families. Adoptive families are to be welcomed. There are many necessities within our society to which the generosity and love of adoptive families are welcome—and in short supply, by the way. As well, natural parents who are homosexuals or lesbians have every right to help bring up their own children as those children's natural parents. Many adaptations must be made in a tolerant, rational, and democratic society for the proper upbringing and care of children, but the comparison to slavery, as odious as slavery was and even though it continues in many continents in the world right now, is not one that I consider appropriate.

+-

    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Well, I think the concept you are advancing before this committee is remarkably similar to that particular legal concept regarding people of African ancestry based on less than equal.

    But we'll go on to another point. I would like to have both presenters address the issue that historically marriage, as a religious institution, as a cultural institution, and then more recently as a legal institution.... One of the factors that led to the accreditation, acceptance, and development of marriage was that it was one way, albeit less than perfect, of determining paternity. Given the scientific advances in medical science, that's no longer a justification for marriage that previously existed.

    We know that adultery existed within marriage and still does. We're constantly reading about someone who married and had children with his female spouse and it turns out, through DNA analysis, he's only the father of one of them and the other three were conceived within the marriage bond.

    But I would like you to address the particular issue that marriage, as we know it today, in part was developed as an institution for heterosexual couples based on the need to determine paternity culturally, religiously, and then later legally, for all other reasons.

+-

    Mr. Joe Courtney (Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees): I think the meanings attributed to marriage have certainly changed over time. Marriage as an institution has been in flux for quite some time, and as you suggest, there was a time when for marriage as an institution paternity was certainly an issue. I think a debate is raging that marriage has been seen traditionally as a patriarchal institution where women and children were viewed as property, but paternity was certainly crucial to the institution of marriage.

    Today marriage is something quite different. As we outline in our brief, marriage is one way for both heterosexual and, we hope, same-sex couples to reaffirm their commitment to one another and have the state recognize that commitment, and also for the raising and bearing of children.

    We've heard here this morning that heterosexual marriage and children are paramount to the institution of marriage. It would be no less for same-sex couples. Many same-sex couples already have children and raise children.

À  +-(1000)  

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: The link of paternity to children is part of the defining characteristics of marriage but not the primary one.

    The function of marriage is to protect children, to offer stability within society, and to offer the broader connections of family and kinship to the wider culture. Included in these is the protection of women and children, which by the way is part of the definition of traditional patriarchal values. Women and children were always protected because of their relative weakness, both physically and institutionally, within all societies.

    I would hope that the Canadian government would continue to protect marriage and maintain its integrity.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Sorenson is next, for three minutes.

+-

    Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the witnesses for coming and making their presentations.

    Mr. Courtney, this question isn't so much directed to you, but you did talk about the evolving and changing of marriage. I think what I personally struggle with--I don't speak for other members--are the changes that have really contributed to the definition of marriage over time, and changes that may erode the institution as a whole. When we talk about interracial marriages and marriages outside religion, I think they have made marriage better over time. We recognize that we couldn't disqualify for the sake of race...however, our concern is that other changes we discuss and debate today may weaken the institution. It's going beyond interreligion, interrace, and different colours. Now it's moving into same gender, and that may weaken the institution.

    Mr. Asher, recognizing the social and cultural institution, is there really a need to recognize the heterosexual union of one man and one women? Does it have to recognize that union at all?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Yes, sir, and I think there is a very strong need. If you'll forgive me, I will show you one of the instances in which it is not recognized.

    In the slums of many cities of the United States, teenage girls are living alone in wretched apartments with their many children in conditions of what I could only call misery. They have been abandoned by the young men who procreated those children. They are living in conditions of what I would call almost chaos. That is a social disaster that has been spreading for far too long.

    Marriage must be reinforced morally, religiously, culturally, and legally. This situation will lead to perpetuation of grim conditions within those societies and undermine the cultures on which those families and children depend.

+-

    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Some families are in much better circumstances than others. We have single-parent families. We have families where the father or the mother has passed away. So there are different reasons for being single-parent families. Certainly children are being brought up in many different ways in this country.

    What do you say to the people who would argue that, for those who are brought up in a same-sex relationship, the fact that the child can't say that the two are married hurts their self-esteem?

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Self-esteem is a question that I think has been overstressed these days. Children will adapt to conditions that they're being brought up in as best they can. But the loving connection of a mother and father who can provide that child with heterosexual orientation for its developing life and its later life, I consider, and many social scientists consider, to be essential for orderly development in that child's life and later the adult's life.

    To give you an example of evidence, children of divorce are even more likely to divorce than their parents. The rate of divorce rises. Now, we have very limited information on the children of same-sex families because the numbers are so small, but again, their attachment to marriage, their adaptation to heterosexual life appears not to be as good as those who came from natural mother and father families. But again, I must admit the data is exceedingly sparse.

+-

    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Sorenson.

    Mr. O'Brien.

+-

    Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I want to thank all the witnesses. To those from CUPE, although I disagree with most of what you said, I thank you for being here and presenting your views.

    Mr. Asher, I thank you for being here, as well. I happen to agree with a lot of what you said, and I thought you were particularly eloquent in defending your point of view, which I think is shared by most Canadians.

    I would like to start with a question to Mr. Asher. I'm quoting from a previous witness, a Dr. Cere, and he says this:

First, there is a fundamental difference between the “infertility” of some heterosexual couples and the “impossibility” of all same-sex couples to procreate, through same-sex bonding.

    He goes on:

Procreativity is an inherent, though variable, feature of the heterosexual conjugal experience; non-procreativity is an inherent non-variable feature of same-sex experience.

    I wonder if you'd care to comment on that, considering your expertise.

À  +-(1005)  

+-

    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Thank you. I'm familiar with Professor Cere's comments on this. As a matter of fact, I read them.

    I think this is one of the many important points to make: Our society is founded on a stable social structure because heterosexuals can have children and are deeply attached to those children, not only out of a sense of responsibility and law and cultural duty but out of profound connections of love, which are deep and lifelong lasting. That makes heterosexual marriage unique.

    I do not doubt for a moment that homosexuals who have come out and will have children are deeply attached to their children, but children who may be put into same-sex marriages due to surrogacy, reproductive technologies, or adoption do not fare as well as those who are born of their parents, although I must concede that in a complex society many arrangements have to be made out of necessity and out of the demands of least harm. I hope we will go on making those arrangements for the benefits of children.

    But again, sir--forgive me for being repetitive--I believe marriage must be rebuilt and reinforced, because it is in crisis right now in the western world, including in Canada.

+-

    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Thank you. Don't apologize for being repetitive. I think repetition is going to be necessary for those who share those views, as we go through this debate.

    I want to ask a couple of short questions of the CUPE witnesses, if I could, Mr. Chairman. I don't have much time, so I'd ask for--

+-

    The Chair: Less than a minute.

+-

    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Did your membership have any specific debate and pass any specific resolution on this issue?

    I see you reference your equality statement, and I've read it, but I wonder if you actually held a specific debate and had a vote and, if so, what the results were.

+-

    Mr. Fred Hahn: In fact, we've had several debates on issues of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members, including the issue of access to marriage. Our membership overwhelmingly, every time these debates occur within our union, at convention after convention, have overwhelmingly endorsed our approach, which says that allowing for the most equitable, equal access to the institution of marriage and to all rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is the approach that we would have not only our union take, but the Government of Canada take.

+-

    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Okay, thank you.

    My last question, Mr. Chair--

+-

    The Chair: I am sorry, I thought that was your last question.

    Mr. Ménard.

+-

    Mr. Pat O'Brien: You say that was my last question. You're not very flexible with the members, Mr. Chair.

+-

    The Chair: I have a long list.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): I have a proposition for Mr. Asher. Let me quickly assure him that it is neither emotional, nor tendentious.

    The witness made a rather startling pronouncement, namely that according to some studies, children of divorced parents were more likely to divorce as adults. I'd like to know which studies he was referring to, so that we too can have access to that data. I'm prepared to submit a study of my own for consideration. Since Mr. Asher has lived in Montreal, no doubt he's heard about Professor Danielle Julien, a psychologist affiliated with the Université du Québec à Montreal, who heads up a research centre where longitudinal studies have been conducted. These studies have shown that children raised by homosexual parents do not become homosexuals. Homosexuality is not a family value that is passed down and studies done in the US as well as in Quebec bear this out. If he's willing to produce the study to which he alluded, I'll submit this particular one for the enlightenment of all committee members.

    I have a question for the witness. People get married for two reasons, the first being the legal ramifications of marriage. Upon being joined in marriage, both spouses immediately acquire equal status in the relationship. The second reason people get married is tied to values. My friends who want to get married believe in fidelity and mutual commitment and support. Does the witness believe that homosexuals can embrace these values, or is his opposition to gay marriage predicated on the belief that these values are foreign to homosexuals?

À  +-(1010)  

[English]

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Monsieur le député, I am not suggesting.... First of all, on the issue of divorce, there are numerous studies--and I will try to find them for you promptly and bring them to you--to show that the children of divorce have higher divorce rates. Sadly, there is some clear logic in this. They do not learn a model of marriage that is a tolerant, abiding, forgiving, and adapting model. The model they learn is one of impermanence, of transience, and therefore they apply that model in their own lives.

    Next, I would not suggest that the children of single-sex marriages then learn single-sex behaviour. Of course not. My presumption is that homosexual and lesbian behaviour is in fact congenital, a product of nature, that it is not learned. Therefore, heterosexual children of homosexual couples, which will number in excess of 98% of their children, will have complex difficulties adapting to heterosexual life because they will not see that model embodied in their caregivers, parents, family.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Réal Ménard: But that's not what Ms. Julien's study showed. I will table a copy of the study for committee members' enlightenment. I challenge you, not to share your deepest feelings or prejudices with us or to debate existential questions because as legislators, we can't make decisions on that basis, but to bring forward a scientific study in support of your position.

    This subject has been the focus of research in the US for the past 20 years. I have an identical twin brother who genetically, is my mirror image, and yet he is heterosexual. One must be careful when making pronouncements like this. Your argument does not withstand close scrutiny because it is weak. I'd like to see some studies that prove homosexuals have problems adapting because of their sexuality and then we can compare findings. As I see it, your arguments this morning are based far more on prejudicial views than on scientific proof. You are entitled to your opinion, and I have no quarrel with that, but as legislators, we have to rise above this level.

[English]

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    The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Ménard.

    You can answer or not, Mr. Asher, as you choose.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I will respond briefly.

    The biological connection of homosexuality, monsieur le député, is far from clear. It is based on generalizations. Our knowledge of human genes is, at best, rudimentary. What people have done is correlational studies and statistical studies. There is no doubt that identical twins would appear to be identical in all aspects of their life, but they're not. They differ in some aspects and they may differ in their behaviour. I am not going to deny--

[Translation]

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    Mr. Réal Ménard: Is there such a thing as a divorce gene?

[English]

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    The Chair: Mrs. Fry.

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    Ms. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.): My question is for Mr. Asher.

    Mr. Asher, you made some very clear statements. You said that over the last 50 years divorce rose from 7% to 50%. Marriage over those 50 years has been an only-heterosexual institution. It would seem to me that as a heterosexual institution it is being undermined by heterosexual couples themselves. We now have gay couples, who you say make up one-half to one percent of the couples who would want to become married. It would seem to me that if people are beating the door down to enter an institution, those people might inherently strengthen that institution, because they're obviously committed to it and the current people within that institution are not committed to it.

    I would not be so bold as to suggest that the fact that divorce is so high is due to any one factor. It's due to multiple factors. However, you did suggest that the foundation of society is fundamentally the concept of couples who yearn to have children, that marriage is to protect children and the stability of the family, and that heterosexuals are deeply attached to their children, whereas there is statistical evidence, I hope, to prove that those who do not have children due to a heterosexual bonding are obviously less...they're inferior parents. If they're adoptive parents, they're inferior. If they've had children through some sort of reproductive technology, they're also inherently inferior parents.

    So I would suggest to you, coming out of your logical argument, it would seem to me that we should not allow people who when they get married decide on their own that they do not wish to have children, or people who after 10 years do not have children because they cannot, or people over a certain age at which they cannot have children, to enter into this heterosexual bond called marriage. We shouldn't. I want to know if that is really what you are trying to say, given your logical conclusions to marriage.

À  +-(1015)  

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Certainly not. Marriage should be allowed for all heterosexuals, even in old age, and certainly not for children. For adult heterosexuals, marriage should be offered even for those who are old and well beyond reproduction. To go back to the issue of divorce, blaming divorce on heterosexuals seems to me to imply some political agenda. Divorce is a danger. It affects all of our society. It affects all families. Marriage must be rebuilt in our society, given strengths that are social and cultural and legal. Otherwise, we will all be in danger.

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    Ms. Hedy Fry: Sorry, Mr. Asher, I really only asked you a simple question. You made some very clear statements. If the only people allowed to marry right now are heterosexuals, I'm not suggesting that they have destroyed marriage, but surely that is a logical argument. You seem to be making a lot of very logical arguments. I would like you to answer me the question about what should happen to people who cannot...because you have repeatedly said that marriage is in fact for protecting children.

    We've talked about other people who have children other than through normal heterosexual bonding. You obviously suggest that they are not as worthy of protection--their children aren't--as families that have it through the normal bonding. You have obviously talked about marriage being threatened over the last 50 years. I'm suggesting that it seems to me to be logical that those who are currently getting married must be doing something wrong, because divorce is increasing.

    So what are you suggesting? I don't understand, because I would suggest that you are saying that people who don't have children, who don't have them through normal heterosexual bonding shouldn't get married at all. I think that would be a very important statement to make.

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    The Chair: Mr. Asher.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I disagree. I think what Ms. Fry is suggesting, that marriage should not be allowed, that step-parents are somehow inferior--I would never make such claims. Those claims are wrong and they would harm Canadian society. However, I may point out that step-parents, both stepmothers and stepfathers, in the United States show higher rates of crimes against their non-natural children. Again, the numbers are small but they are disturbing.

    I would say again that the best protectors of the security, future, and love of children are their natural parents. We should do as much as possible to maintain the lives of children with their natural parents, agreeing that in a democratic society with many social problems you make the best adaptations necessary for the protection of children--that includes single parents, and that includes the natural parents of children who later come out as homosexuals.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Just to remind members of the way it all works--and this isn't intended because I'm going to Mr. Robinson at all--but the three-minute round includes the questions and the answers. I don't entertain questions from members after the three minutes. Obviously that would fly in the face of a three-minute round, but I do give some latitude to the witnesses who've come here to inform us. That's the way it works.

    Mr. Robinson.

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    Mr. Svend Robinson: Thank you. I'll be mindful of the time.

    Again, I'm trying to understand it. Really, in a sense, my question follows up from Ms. Fry's question.

    I made a note of your statement earlier, and Ms. Darcy commented on this as well. In your words you said, where there is no genetic relationship between the children and the parents who are raising them, this can cause problems. Ms. Darcy, I think quite properly, pointed out that that's deeply offensive to parents who raise adopted children. There may not be any genetic relationship, but there's absolutely no evidence to suggest that children raised in that particular family structure are any less well adjusted or adapted to that than anybody else.

    For that matter, by your logic, a lesbian couple who in fact do have children--and I know it comes as a shocking revelation to some people that lesbian couples are able to have children, and I've pointed out earlier that there are a variety of techniques for that, including the turkey baster that Mr. Toews seems to take such great exception to when I mention it, but that happens to be a reality--those children by your definition, because there is a genetic link there, presumably are better adjusted than children who are raised in heterosexual adoptive families. This kind of logic is just perverse, I believe.

    I'd like to ask you to comment on that, and also to ask whether you are aware--and I understand you are a former academic, that you lost your job, unless I'm mistaken--and whether you'd like to comment on your knowledge of studies that make it very clear that children who are raised in gay or lesbian families are in fact at least as well adjusted as children who are raised in heterosexual families. There are many studies to that effect. Are you familiar with those studies and would you like to share your thoughts on those studies with the committee?

À  +-(1020)  

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Certainly. First of all, I'd like to point out that studies on homosexual and lesbian life are sparse. They are based on very limited data and they are largely what I called in my presentation advocacy studies. They are presented to go to a predetermined conclusion and of course they wind up there. The evidence is exceedingly small.

    You refer, sir, to my logic that I rejected children who did not have a genetic relationship. That's not true. I have said a number of times in these hearings that adoptive parents, that gay parents, natural parents who have since come out, have every right to the care and love of their children and the upbringing of their children.

    These are not issues of absolutes. They are issues of generalities, but over the long period some of these generalities are quite clear. The divorce epidemic and the divorce culture in this country is a threat to the stability of our society. We rely upon immigrants to bring strong family values into our society in the hope that it will grow and that it will maintain its strength. We have to rebuild our family values.

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    Mr. Svend Robinson: Can you point to any study?

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    The Chair: Mr. Robinson, we have to move on.

    Mr. McKay.

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    Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Robinson repeatedly asked what could possibly be the harm of gay marriage on marriage itself and uses himself as an example. There's a writer named Kurtz who has commented on it, and he says:

But gay marriage is a surpassingly radical attack on the very foundations of marriage itself. It detaches marriage from the distinctive dynamics of heterosexual sexuality, divorces marriage from its intimate connection to the rearing of children, and opens the way to the replacement of marriage by a series of infinitely flexible contractual arrangements...once marriage has been divorced from heterosexuality, it will be impossible to induce even a partial restoration of traditional courtship.

    You indicated earlier that you had been one of the two professors of male studies in Canada. I'd be interested in your comments as to whether Mr. Kurtz is anywhere close to the mark in what you're trying to communicate to the committee.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: He's all too accurate. In this country both the Ministry of the Status of Women and Statistics Canada have attempted to redefine families. It's either opportunistic, practical, or groups of choice to include any group of two or more people. This redefinition of the family undermines the family through the very direction of research of the government and of its agencies. There is no doubt that once the family is opened to homosexual marriage, or to sanctification of homosexual marriage, that other groups would join and it would be further undermined.

    I return again, sir, to the situation of teenage mothers in the slums of North American cities, living alone in conditions of wretched poverty, whose sons become the repeated products of gang membership and who live on the margins of society and whose daughters become pregnant again when they are teenagers. You find in some cases grandmothers who are in their mid-thirties.

    This is not a good situation for our society, and the impending dangers of broadening the definition of marriage to me are clear. When will we find out about this? After it is far too late and after the damage is exceedingly difficult to repair.

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    Mr. John McKay: What about the role of men in our society, particularly in terms of fathering and caring for children? Do you have any views on that?

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I think it is underappreciated, sir, how deeply fathers love their children and how strongly attached they are to their wives. I would suggest that children give to fathers a meaning and direction to life. Most fathers would not stay at their jobs for almost all of their lives, well into their late sixties, with only two weeks of vacation a year, if they did not love their wives and children. What fathers effectively give up in our society is their entire lives for their wives and children. They do this because they love them so much. This family connection must be reinforced and recognized by our society. On becoming a father, and now as a grandfather, I discovered the rewards--satisfaction and pride. It is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

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    The Chair: I recognize Mr. Courtney, and then I'm going to Mr. Sorenson.

À  +-(1025)  

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    Mr. Joe Courtney: Thank you, Mr. Scott.

    I just wanted to offer some comments. Mr. Asher is somewhat correct. There is a lack of hard evidence and research about same-sex relationships. However, as for my own research, I would point you to the bibliography of our brief. There is a publication by the Vanier Institute, which was just released this year, 2003, in which the author does a literature review of existing studies on same-sex relationships. The author comes to the conclusion that children of lesbian couples are just as adjusted, or perhaps even more adjusted, than children of heterosexual relationships.

    I do realize that in many ways the research that exists and the ongoing research in this area is still in its infancy. I myself have done extensive research into the discrimination and violence that gay men and lesbians face on a daily basis in our society. My thesis will be published this year, for those of you who want to look at it. I look at discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We view the ban on same-sex marriage as but one form of discrimination in a continuum of abuse, and that's why we're here today.

    I take great exception to the view that children of same-sex couples are somehow maladjusted, when the evidence points to the contrary, and in fact we do not have enough evidence to make such a statement.

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    The Chair: The Vanier Institute is submitting a brief for the information of the committee.

    We'll now go to Mr. Sorenson for three minutes.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Mr. Asher, does excluding gays and lesbians from the definition of marriage diminish the relationship they have or does it simply recognize that it is different?

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Certainly not. I use the term, as you have, of different but equal. If we look at western Europe, where accommodation of gays and lesbians has been even broader than it is here, you will find that their relationships are not significantly different from what they are in Canada, nor have they changed significantly. The opportunity for living together, making spiritual vows to each other, and engaging in civil unions exists. Look at the state of Vermont, for example. It may even be possible in Canada. That does not lessen the quality of homosexual relationships.

    But what is fundamental to heterosexual relationships is marriage and family, the wider family, kinship, and community. That is one of the foundations of our civilization, and it should not be tampered with. Once it is changed, it will be changed again, and the momentum for widening definitions and for undermining it will be irresistible. The time to resist that is now, for the benefit of future Canadians.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Ms. Jennings.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Thank you.

    I want to come back to an issue that some of my colleagues on the other side of the table raised, which is the argument that there is a danger in opening up civil marriage to same-sex couples because it may affect the status of religious institutions that do now and would continue to refuse to solemnize marriage between same-sex couples.

    It's my understanding that religious institutions already refuse to solemnize marriage for certain conditions that are permitted under civil law. Am I correct?

    For instance, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, if I'm not mistaken, the Church of England, will not marry a heterosexual couple if one of them is divorced, because they are deemed to still be married according to the dogma of those particular religious institutions. As well, some of the churches or religious institutions will not marry a heterosexual couple of different faiths. Yet, under civil law, marriage of those couples is permitted. As well, that has not affected their religious status in terms of having a charitable tax status, etc.

    Can you address this issue in legal terms, if it's possible? If you're not able to do so today, you can always provide it in writing to the committee through the chair. Even though we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms legislating equality, etc., can you tell us how the law allows for discrimination within religious institutions based on religious faith, while that does not affect the charitable status of those religious institutions? It seems to me there's a blurring of the line between some of the cases that have been brought, where a school, perhaps, that's run by a religious institution refuses to hire a teacher who doesn't share the same faith, or things like that.

    Perhaps you could address that issue, because it's one that is being raised at every single hearing we have.

À  +-(1030)  

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    Mr. Fred Hahn: One thing that is part of our proud tradition in the country of Canada, and part of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a guarantee of rights and freedoms, including religious freedom. I think that one of the scurrilous arguments against the inclusion of same-sex couples in the institution of marriage is that it pits us in some way against religious institutions. I'm sure people around this table will know and appreciate that many presenters who are in favour of the extension of rights for same-sex couples to access the institution of marriage, the choice to do that, have said time and time again that for us this is not an issue that impinges upon the religious freedom of various religions to practise their religion in ways in which their members see fit.

    In fact, you outline many of them. I come from a Roman Catholic family and was raised Roman Catholic. Both of my parents were raised Roman Catholic. Both had been divorced and were subsequently excommunicated from the church in those days, and could not, of course, marry in the church. But they went forward to marry and, in fact, had children, and that was recognized. In fact, in those days they debated whether or not we could even attend a Catholic school.

    All of those things are part of the fabric of our communities. They are part and parcel of the practice of human rights in Canada.

    Again, nothing that we are saying would limit religious freedom. In fact, what we are talking about, as advocates against discrimination and harassment, is the most inclusive mechanism to include as many Canadians into the institutions of our country. That is fundamental to the Canadian Human Rights Act and, I would say, to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    That is why we are here today to say, of course, lesbian and gay couples should be allowed access to the institution of marriage, sanctioned by law.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Jennings.

    Very quickly, Mr. Asher, then I'm going to Mr. Marceau.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Mr. Chairman, I would remind the panel, again, that those who want to include as many Canadians as possible should include polygamous relationships. They are standing next in line. They will expect, since they are sanctified by their religion, that they should be considered just as legitimate.

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    The Chair: Mr. Marceau.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: I have a comment, Mr. Chairman, as well as two or three questions for the witness.

    Mr. Asher, you used the phrase “separate but equal”. As a heterosexual in favour of gay marriage, I urge you to continue using this expression because in so doing, you're giving me a very strong argument to use in this debate.

    You refer to traditional families. Did you know that today in Canada, less than 50 per cent of families consist of a father, mother and children?

[English]

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: As for less than 50% of families being composed of father, mother, and children, I must concede the divorce rate is approaching 50%. As I mentioned, what is so disturbing about this is that young people who intend to enter into marriage may now face the prospect that by choosing marriage they are less likely to be together in five years than if they did not choose marriage. That's not good for our society.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: Has anyone every said to you that if homosexuals were allowed to get married, then they themselves wouldn't, even if they were heterosexuals?

[English]

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: No, sir, I have not.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: If ever the Supreme Court were to decide--and I respectfully submit that the courts are leaning this way--that homosexuals can marry, would you be in favour of using the notwithstanding clause to block gay marriages?

À  +-(1035)  

[English]

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I prefer to use the term “prevent”. I would hope the Supreme Court would not make that decision.

    As for the notwithstanding clause, it's up to the provincial legislatures. I will leave it to them.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: No, that would be up to the federal government, since these are fundamental conditions.

    You've given me your opinion as a person staunchly opposed to gay marriage. I'm curious as to your position on this issue that will need to be examined further. If we wish to hold on to the traditional definition of marriage, we will need to take a closer look at the use of the notwithstanding clause. If it ever comes to that, would you be in favour of using the notwithstanding clause?

[English]

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I'm sorry, sir, that takes me out of my realm of knowledge and confidence. I really can't comment on that.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: Fine.

[English]

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. O'Brien, for three minutes.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to cite Professor Cere and then get a response from Mr. Asher first and then perhaps from CUPE.

    We're talking about the issue of parenthood here today, and I want to explore that a bit. In his brief, Professor Cere says:

...candid same-sex advocates recognize that the gay marriage project entails fundamental shifts for children.

    William Eskridge--who, by the way, Mr. Chairman, is a well-known Harvard professor--concedes that, building law upon gay experience:

Gay experience with'families we choose' delinks family from gender, blood, and kinship. Gayfamilies of choice are relatively ungendered, raise children that are biologicallyunrelated to one or both parents, and often form no more than a shadowyconnection between the larger kinship group.

That's a quote from Professor Eskridge, who I believe is a homosexual himself. I'm not sure about this, but I think it's true.

    Then Professor Cere says:

This disconnect between progeny and natural parents is the new legal vision of marriagethat has emerged out of the Ontario and Quebec judgments in favour of same-sexmarriage.

    Mr. Chairman, I'd also note that there's another court in B.C. that has upheld the current definition of marriage. I think one witness suggested the courts are calling for this, but I understand there is a split of two to one with court decisions under appeal at this point.

    I wonder if I could ask Mr. Asher to comment on this concession by the leading gay professor, William Eskridge, on the fundamental difference in the experience of children in same-sex marriages.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I think, Mr. O'Brien, the issue of choice is a rather important one. The responsibility of parents towards children is one of duty, moral duty, legal duty, and, I would suggest also, love. Child-rearing is exceedingly difficult. The period of infancy, especially with multiple children, the development of infants into children, and then into teenagers, poses extraordinary stresses on the marital couple. What they need to take them through this difficult time are not the early passions of relationship and love, but a sense of duty and obligation to each other, to the wider community, and to their children.

    This sense of duty has been severely weakened. It is now assumed teenagers have a natural opposition to their parents, and that their lives must separate quite promptly in looking at different values and different directions in life. Although certainly young people are entitled to define their lives as they choose, they are robbed of the opportunity of benefiting from their parents and the parent generation, of benefiting from their experience, their knowledge, and their direction.

    Choice replacing the concepts of duty, obligation, and love in marriage is exceedingly dangerous. When people choose once, they may choose again. They may choose divorce, they may choose to abandon responsibilities to children, they may choose all kinds of things. We must be moral, responsible adults. The decision to have children is not a transient one, it is a lifelong one. It is a lifelong one that is best served in the bonds of marriage.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Thank you, Mr. Asher.

    Mr. Robinson, do you have a question?

    Mr. Sorenson.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: I have a question for Ms. Darcy. You mentioned that you're parents of adopted children, is that correct?

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'm the proud mother of a 19-year-old adopted son.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Congratulations.

    If you were the mother of a son and a daughter who were adopted, do you believe that if they fell in love, they should have the ability to marry?

À  +-(1040)  

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: Yes, I do. Sorry, the son and the daughter with each other?

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: That's correct.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I've just never turned my mind to that one. In my experience, siblings tend to fight a lot to fall in love with each other. That's my experience.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: If they fell in love with each other, do you believe they should have the ability to marry?

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: If they're not related by blood, is that the question?

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: That's correct.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: It's purely hypothetical. I've never turned my mind to it. Where are we going?

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Where we're going is, if they have a relationship--perhaps they've been together for 20 years inside a home, they've fallen in love--would we, as a government, deny them the ability to marry?

    I have two adopted children, a son and a daughter. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we would have the ability to deny a marital relationship for a sibling.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I've never thought about it, and it's outside of my realm of expertise.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Perhaps to protect an institution we would--

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: What I do know, and what I feel passionately about, is that neither my son, nor any other child in this society, nor any parent, should be a victim of any form of discrimination, whether they live with birth parents or whether they live with non-birth parents. I would also suggest that the term “birth parents” is an accepted term in our society, not “natural parents”, because the opposite of natural of course is unnatural.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: But if we shouldn't discriminate against adopted children--

    Ms. Judy Darcy: Just a minute.

    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: I have three minutes?

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    The Chair: You can answer, Judy, and you'll get one more question, Mr. Sorenson. And then I think Mr. Asher wants to comment. Everybody, try to do it briefly.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: We believe this is not fundamentally a moral question. We think it's fundamentally an issue of rights, and of human rights. We don't think that children of adoptive families or of same-sex couples should be treated any differently in our society from any other children.

    The fact is today that same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, in society, as well as children of same-sex couples, suffer discrimination. We need to do something about that. One of the ways to do something about that is to stop discriminating against same-sex couples in the institution of marriage.

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    The Chair: You can ask a very short question.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Are we then discriminating against children when we say that if there are two adopted children in one family they cannot marry?

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I don't know the answer to that. I'm not going to go there. I don't have an answer to that.

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    The Chair: Mr. Asher.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Thanks.

    I would suggest that the reason why Ms. Hahn is confounded by this is that once the definition of marriage is open to the issue of choice, lack of discrimination--

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'm Ms. Darcy, he's Mr. Hahn.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I'm sorry, Ms. Darcy, excuse me.

    Ms. Darcy, once the issue of marriage is open to prevent discrimination and to leave it free for choice, all kinds of choices are possible. Biological siblings have lived together and married in sexual relationships in the past, to the scandal of the surrounding society.

    Ms. Darcy suggests that this is a question of rights and not a moral question. I would suggest that rights are deeply founded in morality, and that is one of the reasons western civilization has been a light to others, in directing the issue of rights through morality to the benefit of most of the world.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Ms. Fry, for three minutes.

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    Ms. Hedy Fry: I want to go back to Mr. Asher and his contention that marriage today is under stress, that it's in fact a weakening institution because of the 50% divorce rate. And I go back to my contention that this happened when it was purely and only a heterosexual institution.

    I would like to know whether or not Mr. Asher has anything other than presumptive evidence, or personal evidence, or personal feeling, that allowing same-sex marriages to occur would necessarily weaken an institution that is already weakened any further. I would like him to answer for me that question, because I recall that many institutions that have been standing for a very long time, men in politics only, women seen as chattel, all of the arguments for race eugenics and against interracial marriages, all of those had a scientific basis, and they all predicted that the sky would fall and that horrendous things would happen to institutions if we allowed them to be opened up. In fact, none of that has been proven to be true.

    So does Mr. Asher have anything other than his own personal presumptive evidence and does he have anything scientific that says that allowing same-sex couples to enter this rapidly declining institution would make it decline even further or would damage it?

À  +-(1045)  

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Again, I would like to answer that observations such as that it is just heterosexuals who have caused this rise in divorce reflects a political agenda, a political agenda that has come from government industries that use what is called gender-based analysis. That gender-based analysis is largely founded in radical feminist beliefs that marriage is a patriarchal and exploitive institution. That's a political position, not a social, moral, or family position. There are those who disagree strongly with those politics and hope those politics will not continue in our society.

    Will increasing weakening of the definition of marriage produce further weakening of marriage? Of course it will. The evidence is quite clear over the past 50 years, with the rise in the divorce rate. I think that alone is adequate support for these observations.

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    The Chair: Ms. Darcy.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: As a feminist who has been married for 25 years and intends to stay married, I strongly advocate the strengthening of the institution of the family, and one of the ways of strengthening that institution, I believe, is extending the right of choice of marriage to same-sex couples in our society. I don't accept for one minute that a feminist position, that a feminist analysis, leads to weakening of marriage. On the contrary, we believe that all people should have access to that institution and that it can only strengthen it.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Macklin, three minutes.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.): Thank you.

    I would like to raise one question, and that is the question of alternatives that are available or might be considered to be available, because the question that arises, as I see it, is this. What we're looking at is upholding the dignity and respect of gays and lesbians in our community. The question that falls to my thinking is, does this demand that we reconstruct the institution of marriage in order to achieve this, or in fact are there alternatives that we should be pursuing as a committee?

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    The Chair: Mr. Asher, then Mr. Hahn.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: I would suggest, sir, that there are many alternatives. There are civil unions in Vermont, and homosexuals and lesbians are free right now to enter into contracts regarding their relationships. Furthermore, there is a wide spectrum of religious beliefs, which includes polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, and which includes a permission of marriage of homosexuals right now. All of that is part of the respect for difference within a diverse democratic society. All of these opportunities remain open to homosexuals to sanctify and structure their relationships.

    But heterosexual marriage and the family should not be undermined to accommodate that; that's a misapplication of rights. The term I chose to use was “different but equal”, and equal is what's important, but it is different. Heterosexual marriage is a heterosexual institution, which is part of the foundation of western societies.

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    Mr. Fred Hahn: It's the position of our union, of our 500,000 members across Canada, of the activists of our union, of the politicians and the staff of our union, that anything other than equal access to the institution of marriage would be a lesser guarantee of some kind of lesser ability to recognize lesbian and gay relationships.

    The reality is that there are many ways in which in fact heterosexual couples engage in all kinds of partner-type relationships outside of the institution of marriage, but the issue here for us, and I think the issue before the committee and before the Government of Canada, is one of equal access to an institution, one of fundamental human rights, in terms of the ability for those people who are lesbian and gay, who want to choose, to be able to be part of the institution of marriage. Anything less would continue the kind of discrimination that has been allowed so far. This is the position of our members.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: It has been suggested by one of our members questioning that in fact achieving the gold standard of marriage might in fact be a Pyrrhic victory, in the sense that because marriage is an institution built on heterosexuality suddenly opening those doors and broadening it--and there has been some suggestion today that it could conceivably become very broad--in effect, will lessen this idealism, this goal of the union of same-sex couples in this gold standard.

    Could I have your comments on that concept?

À  +-(1050)  

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    Mr. Fred Hahn: Increasing access for various groups of Canadians has only served to further strengthen our society and the institutions in which we've increased that access. It's our position that today we're here to discuss access for lesbian and gay couples, and no other group, to the institution of marriage. It's our position that this will only serve to strengthen the ability of lesbian and gay couples, who so choose, to demonstrate their commitment to each other in that institution. We think that any other debate about any other group is simply not before us. In fact, again, we know that where we, as a society, have decided collectively, through public opinion--which, by the way, is overwhelmingly in favour of allowing access to same-sex couples to marriage--to allow that kind of equal access to rights, it has only served to strengthened the institution.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Asher, very briefly. I have two more questioners.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Requests for special privileges for homosexuals only within marriage is, as they say, the beginning of the slippery slope. Larger groups, founded in religion, who support polygamy will say that their religious traditions, reaching back centuries, if not millennia, entitle them to be included in the definition of marriage.

    Homosexual acceptance within marriage is not a change, it is merely a beginning. Further great transformations will follow. That in a democratic society is certain.

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    The Chair: Ms. Jennings, three minutes.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: I want to address an issue that has come up at just about every single hearing I have attended, whereby the sexual orientation of certain noted academics or scientists, or people who are recognized as having a certain knowledge, like Mr. William Eskridge, somehow lends weight to their particular argument, whether scientific, anecdotal, or otherwise.

    In the case of Mr. Eskridge, because it's raised at almost every single one, the fact that he is opposed to same-sex marriage has a series of arguments, some of which may be valid, some of which may not--I'm not going to comment--and it's pointed out every single time that his studies or arguments are raised that he's a homosexual. And you, Ms. Darcy, just made the point that you are heterosexual, living in a one-on-one marriage, whether it was religiously solemnized or civilly solemnized, and that was somehow to lend weight to your arguments in support of opening up civil marriage to same-sex couples.

    I would like you to address that. How, in any way, does sexual orientation, whether it be homosexuality or heterosexuality, give weight or credibility to an argument on either side of the fence on this question?

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I don't think it does, and if I gave that impression, it was not my intention. The question was, it has been said repeatedly that somehow allowing same-sex couples access to the institution of marriage weakens that institution. So I was speaking as an individual who is married, who believes other people should have access to the same rights.

    I don't believe the fact that I'm a heterosexual or the fact that I'm married gives greater weight to my arguments, but I think I speak for the majority of Canadians. Whether they're married or not, the majority of Canadians believe all Canadians, regardless of sexual orientation, should have access to the institution of marriage.

    When I stood with my partner in a civil ceremony to say we chose to enter into the state of marriage, we voiced the same things that the men and women in CUPE, the gays and lesbians in CUPE who want to be able to enter into the institution of marriage...we verbalized the same things that they want to verbalize, which is our commitment to one another, our commitment to our community, and also wanting our community and our society to recognize our commitment to one another and to help us and support us.

    That, very simply, is what marriage is all about. We believe any couple in our society has access to that. They may choose to exercise it or they may not, just as heterosexual couples may or may not to choose to access it. But to not allow them is to continue discrimination, and to encourage discrimination in one aspect of someone's life means that we are encouraging discrimination in all aspects of people's lives.

À  +-(1055)  

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    I'm going to go to Mr. Sorenson, and then back to Mr. O'Brien. We have four minutes left for questions, so be very brief, please.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Mr. Hahn, you mentioned that your parents were both divorced, and the debate raged on whether or not you should be able to attend the Catholic school after that.

    Part of the discrimination that we are concerned about and the challenge that might ultimately come toward religious institutions is not based entirely on the denial of a marriage between same-sex couples, but it may end up being in an institution where they would be denied membership in an institution or a church body, or a church itself, because of their homosexual or their gay relationship.

    You're aware of the case we have right now in Ontario, where the young high school individual wanted to bring his gay partner to the school dance. Yet it was deemed to be discriminatory, that the school was discriminating against him because they wouldn't allow that within their religious institution or within their religious school.

    Do you believe in the court decision that came out of that case?

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    Mr. Fred Hahn: What's inconsistent in the case before the courts that Marc Hall has brought forward is that a number of Catholic school boards and separate school boards across the province of Ontario in fact engage in practices where lesbian and gay students can bring their same-sex partners to school events and celebratory events like a prom. It was not a consistent approach of the school board in Durham region. In fact, that matter is still before the courts.

    The reality, again, which I think would be consistent with the position of our union, is that people should have equal access to events as they're allowed to participate as citizens of a school, as students are, or citizens of a country, as we are in Canada.

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    The Chair: No, Mr. Sorenson.

    Mr. O'Brien.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

    I'm going to continue to quote Professor Eskridge, who's a Harvard professor and, as I understand from some of the witnesses, perhaps the leading voice on the issue of same-sex marriage. I believe, as a matter of fact, he supports same-sex marriage--but that's just to clear the record, since I did put him in evidence, and I'll do that quite frequently during the hearings.

    Mr. Hahn, you mentioned that public support seems to be very clearly for changing the definition of marriage. I have to tell you, that's not my personal experience in my own constituency. In fact, quite the contrary is the case.

    You make the point that the only question really today for the committee is the issue of same-sex marriage and nothing else. I think Mr. Toews pointed out earlier, before he had to leave, that it's just not that simple for this committee.

    I repeat what I said. It would be incredibly irresponsible for this committee to consider such a serious issue without looking at the possible ramifications of changing the definition of marriage as best we can probe them. It would be incredibly irresponsible for us not to do that, including the question of polygamy.

    I want to raise that question with Mr. Asher.

    The Law Commission of Canada has a report called Beyond Conjugality, in which it says we will not be able to, in effect, limit marriage to two persons. That point is made there.

    Harvard professor and expert William Eskridge makes the same point. When he talks about the Mormon marriage project, he says there's discrimination against that. He said it's the same sort of discrimination against same-sex marriage.

    Serious researchers--and this is to the chagrin of some of the members of Parliament who are not here, who have raised objections about this--have continued to point out that we can't just necessarily draw the line at same-sex marriage, that the desire for polygamy is happening now, and it's very real.

    Mr. Asher, your comments, please.

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    Mr. Jeffrey Asher: Mr. O'Brien, I could not agree more.

    Ms. Darcy said, “All Canadians, regardless of sexual orientation, should have access to marriage.” That includes polygamy. It has to. It would also include Mary Kay Letourneau, mother of four, who decided to conceive two children with her 12- and 13-year-old student. They said they loved each other. He promises to marry her once she gets out of prison. Should a prison sentence be inappropriate for her, since they both agree on this relationship and they both conceived children?

    I would suggest, indeed, sir, that many alterations of marriage would follow, including lowering the marriage age to permit marriage between people like Madam Letourneau and her early teenage lover.

Á  -(1100)  

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    The Chair: That's it. It's after 11 o'clock.

    For those who think I'm too tough in terms of cutting people off, I have three names left on the list and the time is over.

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    Ms. Judy Darcy: I'd like 30 seconds. I need to set the record straight. I was misquoted.

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    The Chair: It's past 11 o'clock, and we're adjourning this meeting because we're going to be coming back to another meeting on Bill C-250 for Mr. Robinson. I think we have folks from Justice here. I think I recognize them, in fact.

    So I thank the witnesses very much for being here and I thank the members of the committee for their cooperation.

    The meeting is adjourned.