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37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Wednesday, February 26, 2003




¹ 1535
V         The Chair (Hon. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.))
V         Prof. Bill Ryan (Centre for Applied Family Studies, School of Social Work, McGill University)
V         Prof. Shari Brotman (Centre for Applied Family Studies, School of Social Work, McGill University)

¹ 1540
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         Prof. Bill Ryan

¹ 1545
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Lise Poulin (Secretary General, «Confédération des syndicats nationaux»)

¹ 1550

¹ 1555
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Mary Bennett (Executive Director, Canadian Unitarian Council)

º 1600
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino (Canadian Unitarian Council)
V         Ms. Mary Bennett

º 1605
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino
V         Ms. Mary Bennett
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance)

º 1610
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc («Conseil Central de l'Estrie», «Confédération des syndicats nationaux»)
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Mary Bennett
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Mr. Chuck Cadman
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance)

º 1615
V         The Chairman
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, BQ)
V         Ms. Mary Bennett

º 1620
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         The Chairman
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.)

º 1625
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Bill Ryan

º 1630
V         Mr. John McKay
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair

º 1635
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Ms. Lise Poulin

º 1640
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.)
V         Ms. Lise Poulin
V         Ms Dominique Dubuc
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien

º 1645
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc

º 1650
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         The Chair
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc

º 1655
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien

» 1700
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance)

» 1705
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Rev. Fred Cappuccino
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.)
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Mary Bennett
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Dominique Dubuc
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Lise Poulin

» 1710
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Joe Peschisolido (Richmond, Lib.)

» 1715
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John McKay

» 1720
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         The Chair
V         Prof. Shari Brotman
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien

» 1725
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         Prof. Bill Ryan
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Mary Bennett
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Chuck Cadman
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien

» 1730
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Pat O'Brien
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)
V         The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Patrice Martin)
V         Mr. Svend Robinson
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Richard Marceau
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


NUMBER 023 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¹  +(1535)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Hon. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): I call the 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are undertaking a study on marriage and the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

    We have before us today three groups of witnesses: from the McGill School of Social Work, Professor Shari Brotman and Professor Bill Ryan; from the Confederation of National Trade Unions, Lise Poulin, secretary general, and Dominique Dubuc, Conseil central de l'Estrie; and from the Canadian Unitarian Church, Mary Bennett, executive director, and Reverend Fred Cappuccino.

    I hope everyone has been advised that we're expecting 10-minute opening statements, and that if there are two presenters, that time will be shared. Also, you may have read some public comments about the work of the committee. I think we would all agree that perhaps things have been a little exaggerated. I think we're going along reasonably well, but we would ask everybody to be respectful—and I would say the same to members of the committee.

    I'm going to call first on the McGill School of Social Work, and Professor Brotman and Professor Ryan, for 10 minutes.

+-

    Prof. Bill Ryan (Centre for Applied Family Studies, School of Social Work, McGill University): Thank you very much for the opportunity to present to your committee this afternoon. I'd like to give you a little bit of an idea of who we are, and then tell you some of what we feel are the main points from the brief we presented to you earlier in the month.

    We are two academics involved in both teaching and research in various areas of health and social services. We have held or hold peer-reviewed research funds from the following bodies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; le Conseil québécois de la recherche sociale; les Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec; the National Health and Research Development Program; and the National Welfare Grants Program. As well, we have researched such areas as the experience of gay and lesbian youths; relationships between gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths and their parents; access to health and social service care by gays, lesbians, and bisexuals across Canada; the experience of aboriginal men and women who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual; suicide among gay and lesbian youths; and the experience of elders who are gay and lesbian, in accessing services for seniors.

    Between us, we hold degrees from institutions in Canada and Europe in theology, social work, and education. We co-chair a national academic consortium on research on sexual orientation and health and human rights. We have published in health and social policy journals that include The Gerontologist; Canadian Journal of Community and Mental Health; Canadian Social Work; and Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services; as well as a series of reports for Health Canada related to discrimination and sexual orientation.

+-

    Prof. Shari Brotman (Centre for Applied Family Studies, School of Social Work, McGill University): As Bill said, we're both really happy to have been given the opportunity to appear before you as you debate an issue of great importance. It's an issue that is close to our hearts as professionals, as individuals, and as Canadians. It's an issue with which the two of us have been involved together for over two decades, as writers, educators, researchers, and activists.

    While we're focused today on the specific issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage, we must see and put this issue into the proper context in which it belongs, and that is the recognition of gay and lesbian people and of their right to equal access as Canadian citizens under policy and law. We must address this issue in the context of equity and social justice, because we are talking today of nothing less than ending discrimination against Canadian citizens, of affirming as a society our belief that all citizens of Canada, regardless of their sexual orientation, have an equal right to participate and to have their relationships affirmed.

¹  +-(1540)  

+-

    Prof. Bill Ryan: There are six points from our written brief that we would like to highlight this afternoon that aren't drawn textually from the brief, and they are the following. We need to remember that human rights laws, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and this very social justice committee exist to protect the rights of minority citizens. We can't justify not protecting minority rights simply based on public opinion polls. If we used public opinion polls to decide matters of social justice, we might still live in a society that accepts slavery, the non-personhood of women, and restrictions on interracial marriage, to name but a few.

    Second, it's really important to underline that Canada is seen as a beacon of hope in the world on the issue of human rights, and one of the leaders particularly in terms of the emancipation of gay and lesbian citizens. This is something we should be extremely proud of, but we can't forget this work is not finished.

+-

    Prof. Shari Brotman: While we acknowledge the rights of religious institutions to establish their own doctrines and their own decisions about who they will marry, we must not forget that Canada is a pluralistic democracy without an established religion, and one where church and state are separated. In this context, marriage is more than a religious act, it is also a civil act regulating relationships between individuals in a couple, regardless of whether they choose to officiate their union in a religious context or not. In light of this, the federal government has a responsibility to set public policy with respect to marriage, and must do so without bias or prejudice.

    Over the last three decades, either through political or judicial action, Canada has eliminated most of the vestiges of institutionalized legal discrimination. However, the question of same-sex couple recognition remains unsettled, as stated by superior courts in three jurisdictions.

    As social scientists, we're here to tell you that the impact of discrimination on the lives of gay and lesbian citizens of Canada still inflicts enormous damage. One need only examine the statistics on hate-based violence and suicide among gay and lesbian youths to justify this assertion. Young people kill themselves because of homophobia, not because they are gay or lesbian. Creating second-class citizens and not according equality in the law to same-sex couples reinforces the perception that gay and lesbian lives, relationships, and families are not valued. This reinforces systemic discrimination, which reverberates through our entire society.

+-

    Prof. Bill Ryan: As well, arguing that heterosexual marriage is the only form of relationship worth validating because of the procreative capacity of heterosexual couples is an extremely weak rationale to justify the exclusion of same-sex couples. Heterosexual couples themselves are procreative only for a short period of time; for long-term couples, most of their sexual life is dedicated to the expression of love and pleasure. Those couples who marry later, who are infertile, or who choose not to have children, will be excluded and potentially discriminated against if we act from an exclusively procreative perspective when discussing marriage.

    Are we really willing to exclude these couples from our vision of marriage as well? To be consistent from the procreative perspective, it would be logical to do so. And we also risk stigmatizing those men and women who are single parents. In any case, the early theological arguments against homosexuality because it was not procreative also forbade contraception, oral sex, and masturbation as non-procreative activities to be therefore forbidden.

    For those who invoke the argument against same-sex marriage based on concerns about children produced or raised by these unions, let us simply state that 25 years of research into this area by peer-reviewed scientists in both North America and Europe has clearly concluded that children and their social, psychological, emotional, and sexual development are not negatively affected by being raised in same-sex households. If you wish to verify this, we would refer you to the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement, “Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents”.

    The AAP produced a policy statement to this effect in 2002 that clearly confirmed there were no scientific reasons that justified policies against same-sex parenting. Any stigma associated with being raised in a same-sex family is due to discrimination and should be reacted to in the same way we would react to racism against minority children: not by blaming the family that is victimized, but by working to eliminate racism, or in this case homophobia. Can you imagine if we argued that because of racism, black men and women should not have children?

    It is also noteworthy to point out that family policy is a provincial jurisdiction, and that most provinces now recognize same-sex families and same-sex couples, and also accord adoption and foster family rights to couples in same-sex unions.

¹  +-(1545)  

+-

    Prof. Shari Brotman: In conclusion, we'd like to quote an authority that says much better than us the import of what we are debating here:

    It is easy to say that everyone who is just like “us” is entitled to equality. Everyone finds it more difficult to say that those who are “different” from us in some way should have the same equality rights that we enjoy. Yet so soon as we say any enumerated or analogous group is less deserving and unworthy of equal protection and benefit of the law all minorities and all of Canadian society are demeaned. ...If equality rights for minorities had been recognized, the all too frequent tragedies of history might have been avoided.

That's a quote from the Supreme Court of Canada, from 1998.

    We implore you, both for history and for the immediate abolition of discrimination, to embrace equality rather than allowing the judiciary to force you into it. Anything less than access to marriage is telling gays and lesbians of Canada, who are first and foremost Canadian citizens and taxpayers, that they are relegated to second-class status in their own country.

    Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Macklin.

+-

    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.): On a point of order, I wonder if we could just take a moment to clarify one issue while we have a quorum, and that is with respect to Bill C-231, which we have before us and which is known as Lisa's law. Based on our schedule, I think it would be appropriate that we once again ask Parliament to extend the hearings on that matter for another thirty sitting days.

+-

    The Chair: Are there any objections? No?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

+-

    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: I'd like to thank the witnesses from the McGill School of Social Work for doing their presentation in eight minutes, thus allowing us to get our business done.

    We go next to the Confederation of National Trade Unions, and Lise Poulin and Dominique Dubuc.

[Translation]

+-

    Ms. Lise Poulin (Secretary General, «Confédération des syndicats nationaux»): I would like to thank my colleagues; they have left me a few minutes to wrap up.

    Thank you Mr. Chairman for allowing the Confederation of National Trade Unions to contribute to this consultation on marriage and the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

    The CNTU is an organization of labour unions that has more than 270,000 members belonging to almost 2,600 unions located throughout the province of Quebec and in other parts of Canada and representing all areas of economic activity. The CNTU is deeply rooted in its community and, since its origins, has worked with a view to improving the fate not only of the members of its affiliated union, but also of all those who are subject to discrimination, with the goal of achieving equality for everyone.

    Since 1998 the CNTU has been involved in these debates and has taken a position in favour of the recognition of same-sex spouses as expressed during conventions, negotiations of clauses in collective agreements, and through its participation in government consultations on this issue including recent consultations on the civil union in Quebec. The CNTU has been consistent in its objectives; equal rights for gay and lesbians as individuals or as couples, the recognition of couples and their families, and equal protection for their children.

    An important step forward in the recognition of same-sex couples was made in 1999 with the adoption of Bill 32 by the Quebec National Assembly and Bill C-23 by the House of Commons, and, once again in Quebec, by the Act instituting civil unions and establishing new rules of filiation, in June 2002.

    These developments have given the general public the impression that equality of rights between heterosexuals and homosexuals has now been achieved . Despite the general positive view of the situation following these legislative changes, equality has not been achieved in reality because it is not still possible for same-sex couples to exercise the choice of marrying, which is the only conjugal status recognized in Canada that offers access to responsibilities and rights that imply greater commitments for the members of a couple toward each other and any children they may have.

    The entire debate is centered on recognition. Homosexuals have always existed and will continue to exist, just as there have always been persons of colour, left-handed people, etc. To close one's eyes, one's ears and one's heart, to prohibit them from enjoying certain rights because their minority status would be equivalent to an anomaly, is wrong-headed. Even though they are in a minority, their presence is part of the normal order of things. Recognition leads to acceptance which will, in turn, lead to equality. The couples and families formed by gays and lesbians are no less valid and are not based on values that are any different from those of heterosexual couples.

    It is obvious that the legal recognition of same-sex unions will lead to a change in opinions with respect to homosexuality in general. At this time, Canadian law explicitly confirms that homosexuals are second class citizens, the Charter notwithstanding.

    Giving women the right to vote did not automatically eliminate discrimination against women, but it was a necessary step towards achieving that goal eventually.

    We need only think about young people who are confused about their sexual orientation. Faced with the intolerance of our society, many consider suicide, and too many actually carry through with it. We must send them a clear message: both homosexuals and heterosexuals are equal and both are entitled to be happy.

    Because of the way things are at this time in Canada, same-sex couples and their families have different rights according to the province or territory in which they live. These couples and families exist and will continue to exist. Children are being born and will continue to be born, have been and will continue to be adopted and will live in families in which the parents are of the same sex. Children have lived and will continue to live in such families. We are seeking to make these families equal to families where the spouses are from the opposite sex. This equality relates to the status, obligations and rights relating to their relationship as a couple, as well as the obligations and rights as they apply to the parent-child relationship.

    Everybody is familiar with marriage. Its consequences are clear and are recognized equally across the country. Marriage would also ensure the immediate inclusion of same-sex spouses in social, administrative and tax legislation in the same way as opposite-sex spouses enjoy these rights. The Federal Divorce Act is also familiar to everyone and provides protection to vulnerable spouses and children. These pieces of legislation represent the best and the most complete formulas for opposite-sex couples and for gays and lesbians who wish to obtain an official framework for their commitments as a couple. By virtue of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and because it just makes sense, we must realize that all Canadian citizens, including homosexual citizens, are essentially equal.

¹  +-(1550)  

    For reasons of fairness and justice, the CNTU demands that all homosexual citizens have access to the institution of marriage, as is supported by the Charter as well as by recent decisions by courts in Ontario and Quebec.

    The hypothesis through which marriage must remain an institution uniting two people of the opposite sex is based on the principle that marriage is an institution designed for the creation of a family and that this is its essential nature. It is based on the presumption that only married opposite-sex couples can establish a family.

    The situation at the present time is quite different. Couples who marry do not all do so for the sole purpose of having children. Many families are created by opposite-sex couples who do not marry as well as by same-sex couples. Moreover, many same-sex couples wish to marry in order to establish a family or to provide a framework for the family they already have.

    Maintaining this choice, which is the situation we have at the present time, implies that discrimination on the basis sexual orientation will continue and that the legal debate will persist for several years to come. Even the possible use of the notwithstanding clause, which is valid for only five years, would merely delay the resumption of the debate to a later date and give the impression that those involved were merely ducking the issue. Furthermore, the use of this clause, which occurs in only exceptional circumstances, would send an extremely negative message to gays and lesbians in Canada, and could serve to reinforce the homophobic mentality, since the basic argument remains, even though it may only be implied, that the homosexual reality is essentially bad and homosexual citizens, their couples and their families are therefore second-class citizens. Nevertheless, in this room and throughout Canada, we are all equal as citizens; we should be proud of this equality and do our outmost to promote it. Permitting same-sex couples to marry does not harm any individual or Canadian society as a whole. The fears that have been expressed are usually based on prejudice against and ignorance of homosexual reality and many other groups in our society, whether or not they were minorities, have had to suffer the same prejudice as humanity has developed.

    We hope that the members of the committee will have taken the trouble to consider the many studies that have answered the main questions and deconstructed the main myths that have been propagated. We would refer you, among others, to the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics and that taken by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as the work of Dr. Karine Igartua and Dr. Richard Montoro, and to the publications of researcher Danielle Julien of UQAM.

    In short, the status quo is not only untenable, but, it is a flagrant violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and because of that, is harmful to all Canadians by challenging the universality of the protections that it affords us. Moreover, this hypothesis could lead to the segregationist temptation to create a special union for same-sex couples. This union which would be different from marriage, even though it might be available to all couples, regardless of whether they are of the same sex or the opposite sex, would perpetuate this discrimination and inequality amongst provinces or territories in many ways. Moreover, same-sex couples and their families would continue to be excluded from the institution of marriage. This exclusion would help to maintain existing prejudices through which these couples and these persons would be considered of a lesser value than others. The status quo respects neither the decisions of the courts nor the charters, and should not even be considered.

    Another theory would allow Parliament, along with the provinces and territories, to grant religious institutions the responsibility for marriage. This seems to be a very negative approach in itself. To deny all couples the right to enter marriage, an institution that is deeply engraved in the manners and customs of the whole of our society and in all the cultures that form part of it, in order to avoid associating same-sex couples and marriage seems to us to be an action that is disproportionate and unacceptable, as well as being homophobic.

    In Canada, marriages are not the sole prerogative of religious institutions since both religious marriages and purely civil marriages exist. Some churches already bless homosexual unions while others refuse to do so. There is no question here of forcing the latter churches to do so and there are means of ensuring that they may abide by their convictions. It is up to the religious institutions and their members to decide how to conduct their own business. This approach should accordingly be ruled out from the outset since, besides doing nothing to solve the problem, it would prohibit Canadian citizens from having a civil celebration.

    Marriage could also be open to same-sex spouses. We strongly believe that this is the only option that makes sense. It solves the problem of discrimination against homosexual persons, same-sex couples and their families. It does not harm anyone and is the only solution that respects the federal and Quebec human rights charters.

¹  +-(1555)  

It is also the simplest solution. The existing federal, provincial and territorial legislation applying to married couples would not need to be changed but would merely apply to the marriage of two persons of the same sex.

    However, questions of filiation, adoption and parenting, which fall within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, would not be resolved everywhere. Nevertheless, clear recognition by Canada of same-sex spouses in the form of marriage would make it very difficult to argue against their automatic recognition as parents of the children produced by their union. By extension, this recognition should also be extended to de facto same-sex spouses who are parents.

    In conclusion, some steps were taken with Bill C-23 to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples in de facto unions in federal legislation, but the fact remains that Canadian law is still fundamentally discriminatory in terms of the legal recognition of same-sex couples and everything that it would entail.

    In his message announcing that consideration would be given to this issue, the Minister, Martin Cauchon, stated:

“The Government of Canada believes that Parliament is the best place to debate how we as a society should address this question”.

He went on to say:

“At the same time, our Constitution makes it clear that Parliament has an essential role to play in deciding important social questions. Recent court decisions acknowledge the importance of this role, and we intend to responsibly play our part”.

    It is up to Parliament to grant full social and legal recognition to same-sex couples and their families in order to eliminate any discrimination against them in our laws. The only possible way to do this, in our view, is to permit same-sex couples to marry since they are not different from other couples when they make a decision to enter such a commitment. Any other hypothesis is based solely on prejudice and ignorance and is an attempt to avoid the only logical and just solution.

    Although a great deal still remains to be done in this struggle against prejudice and ignorance, the people of Canada have nevertheless moved a long way toward including different groups in a very positive way. If Parliament decided to permit marriage for same-sex couples, thereby recognizing these couples and their families, it would follow and precede the continuation of these changes at the same time. We strongly recommend that Parliament make that decision.

    Thank you very much.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Finally, we'll hear from the Canadian Unitarian Council, and Mary Bennett, executive director, and Reverend Fred Cappuccino.

+-

    Ms. Mary Bennett (Executive Director, Canadian Unitarian Council): Thank you.

    I'm Mary Bennett, the executive director of the Canadian Unitarian Council, which is the national office of the Unitarian Church in Canada.

    With me is the Reverend Fred Cappuccino, who will celebrate 50 years in the ministry this June, and who, with his wife, will celebrate 50 years of marriage this July. They are the parents of 21 children, 2 born to them and 19 adopted. They have worked with children all their adult lives, both in a church milieu and in two charitable organizations that they founded, Families for Children and Child Haven International. Reverend and Mrs. Cappuccino have received numerous awards, the most important being the Order of Canada in 1996 and an award from UNESCO for the teaching of human rights in 1989.

    We're pleased to be here to present the position of the Canadian Unitarian Council. We'll be going through our brief, but we're skipping some sections and summarizing others.

    The position of the Canadian Unitarian Council is that we strongly support the position of EGALE, which is that the federal government should pass legislation to remove the opposite-sex restriction on legal marriage, thereby extending to same-sex couples the freedom to marry. As an organization, we have repeatedly advocated for gay and lesbian rights, including a resolution at our annual meeting in 1984 that supported religious leaders in the performance of lesbian and gay partnership services. The full text of this resolution and another from the Unitarian Universalist Association are in appendices A and B.

    Of Canadian Unitarians, 64% belong to congregations that have completed the welcoming congregation program, which publicly affirms that they welcome gay and lesbian people. In the past year, our gender and sexual diversity monitoring group has been actively making statements in this area and has prepared a brochure—it's in the appendix—on same-sex marriage. We've received nothing but positive responses from our members on that.

º  +-(1600)  

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino (Canadian Unitarian Council): We're moving along. We're on the top of page 4. Before I get into that, though, I want to give a very personal reason for why I am here.

    Mary mentioned that my wife and I have 21 children, all of whom are grown now. One of these was a boy who was 5 years old when he came from India to be adopted. He had a relationship with another young man in high school. I don't know whether he was gay or not, but when this other young man committed suicide, our son committed suicide a week later. It's my feeling that society did this to those boys. They were created in a certain way. So for me, this has had a very personal tragic effect.

    All of our 28 Unitarian ministers in Canada are in full support of doing same-sex unions. All relationships need outside support from time to time. If there is no formal way to recognize certain long-term relationships, then there is less community support available to same-sex couples to help them keep their relationships stable and healthy. It is our belief that the state should find ways to offer support to stable and committed partnerships, because this is one way to provide for healthier communities in general. Healthy communities contribute to a better country, a better world. Where there are children involved, stability and publicly-recognized status are also helpful, as opposed to the shame and ridicule that sometimes accompanies having same-sex parents.

    The following is an affidavit from Reverend Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed, president of the Canadian Unitarian Council:

From my work with my parishioners and with the larger community, I am aware that legal marriage remains a very important institution for Canadians and Canadian society. The recognition of a couple's union by law and by society in general is viewed by many couples and others in society as sanctioning and legitimizing their relationship. From my work in the church, and particularly from my work with same sex couples, I have formed the belief that withholding state sanction of same sex marriage results in a strongly negative message to the larger society. This message is that the love that couples who are gay or lesbian share is wrong, and that their relationships are not worthy of the respect and protection that Canadian society accords to those of heterosexual couples.

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: The congregation that Mark and his wife Donna minister is the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. On May 28, 2001, at an annual general meeting, that congregation passed the following resolution:

1. The First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto supports the legal recognition of same-sex relationships within the institution of marriage.

2. The First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto supports the Metropolitan Community Church in its use of banns to officiate same-sex marriages.

3. The First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto supports its minister should they choose to use banns as a means to officiate same-sex marriages.

    In B.C., one of the eight couples challenging the courts are members of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. I want to read an excerpt from Dawn Barbeau's affidavit:

I believe that there is nothing exceptional or necessarily outstanding about our romance and our relationship. It seems odd to me that our love is an “issue”. To me we are a couple in love, and we both just happen to be women. We want to be able to get married just like any other couple.

I would like to go a step further from common law status to marriage, so that I can emulate the role models I grew up with by having my commitment recognized and sanctioned by my community, and so that our children will have married parents. I want our family to embody the family values I learned as a child.

    Vancouver Church minister the Reverend Dr. Steven Epperson had this to say:

I performed about a half a dozen ceremonies of union for same sex couples in the States and considered them to be among the most important and moving events in my ministry. After having migrated out of a religious community with a homophobic power elite—one of the most significant reasons for our having left the Mormon church—it was liberating for me to participate in celebrating an event in the lives of loving adults that should be just taken for granted and a natural part of a culture that has come of age.

º  +-(1605)  

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino: Lay chaplains are members of Unitarian churches who receive training and are appointed to perform marriages and other rights of passage.

    I think I'll go down to the summary, which is on page 9.

    I am proud of the stance my religion has consistently taken on affirming the rights of all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual preference. I'm also proud that my country is opening up this dialogue. I will be very proud when Canada finally affirms marriage for same-sex couples. I expect that will happen, and the sooner it happens, the prouder I will be.

    To me, it is very clear. Same-sex couples now enjoy most of the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. What our government cannot give them is the kind of easy acceptance heterosexual couples enjoy in our society. What can be given is the affirmation that this ought to be the case.

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: I'd like to close by quoting Linda Thompson, on being an ally:

I know how important my life as a member of a church has been. By being a queer-positive church-lady, I hope I'm able to make the point that our congregations are places where whole people (you don't have to check big parts of yourself at the door) where whole people - can come to explore their spirituality, where they can join others in a thoughtful reflection on the deep questions we all face and where they can know the joy of a diverse affirming religious community.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much. Please forgive us if we have to do a little business every once in a while.

    I again see quorum. As I understand it, we're probably not going to have it in the morning. That being the case, I would like to be able to go to the liaison committee with our annual budget for next year. It will be $50,000 rather than $60,000. If we need more money, we can then go back. If there's no objection, I'd like to be able to advise....

    Mr. Lee, would you be prepared to...?

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    Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.): I so move.

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    The Chair: I'd like to be able to advise liaison that we are submitting that for our budget for next year.

    (Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, and I extend our apologies to our witnesses. It's the nature of the place we work in.

    I'm going to go to Mr. Cadman, for seven minutes.

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    Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance): Thank you. I'll be extremely brief. I just have one quick question, but I'd first like to thank the panel for coming today.

    A number of concerns have been expressed by other groups about the potential that if Parliament does recognize same-sex marriage, it essentially opens the door to possibilities down the road of other groups coming forward demanding the same rights or equal rights for polygamist relationships and whatnot. I'd just like to know where the panel stands on that. Number one, would you support it if it did come to that? Also, do you see a potential for that?

º  +-(1610)  

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    The Chair: Ms. Dubuc.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc («Conseil Central de l'Estrie», «Confédération des syndicats nationaux»): Polygamy does exist in some places, but that is not what we are discussing today. Today's subject is the union of two persons who are as valued as two heterosexual persons. We are talking about equality. If we want to digress and move in other directions, I would say that this could be the subject of another study. Polygamy has not the slightest relationship with the matter that we are discussing today.

    The situation is quite simple: we are equal citizens living in equal conjugal relationships. We have children, and our families are all equal. It could not be simpler. We want access to the same legal institutions in order to have a framework for the relationships that we have already established. The problem at this time is with equality. That is what I have understood after reading the minutes of the hearings that are available on the Internet.

    This is the essence of the debate. Correct me if I am wrong, but those who are opposed, including certain honourable members, refuse to admit that we are equal—I refer to the statements of equality that I alluded to earlier—and when I say we, I mean homosexual individuals, couples and families. This is something that is clearly stated in the Charter.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Would anyone else like to comment? Ms. Bennett.

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: I was here on February 12, and I heard this issue come up. The Canadian Unitarian Council has never issued a resolution on multiple-person marriages, and I don't believe it has ever come forward in terms of someone asking for a resolution. I'm not aware whether any lay chaplains or ministers have performed such a right of passage, but I've never heard of anyone doing it. My guess is that if something came from our organization, it would be after quite some time, since our stance on this issue dates back at least twenty years.

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    The Chair: Professor Ryan.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: We agree with the intervention of Madame Dubuc concerning the issue at hand, which is the recognition of a couple composed of two people, in this case the recognition being extended to two people of the same sex.

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    Mr. Chuck Cadman: If I could just finish up with a comment, I would disagree, only to the extent that we have to consider the ramifications of what we do. That's part of what we have to do here. I understand the issue that we're dealing with at hand, but on behalf of our constituents and the country, we also have to consider the ramifications down the road. That's why we ask those questions.

    Thank you.

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    The Chair: There are still three and a half minutes left, Mr. Sorenson, if you're up for it.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    I wasn't going to speak in the first round, but I was reading something the other day, so I'm just going to ask you a quick question. Is there a need to protect the institution of a heterosexual union? Is there a need to define such an institution? I'm just going to read you one little quote that I came up with from some philosopher. He said:

There is a “thinkable” and an “unthinkable” in every era. One era is quite certain intellectually and emotionally about what is acceptable. Yet another era decides that these “certainties” are unacceptable and puts another set of values into practice. On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on....

    Some of that is very positive. It's a good thing that some of that has happened, because we've had interracial marriages being banned in the past, and, as has been said, some churches have disqualified marriages outside the boundaries of their local church.

    The things in 2020—and I'm adding that date, because it wasn't part of the initial quote—may “include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral.... They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.”

    We've heard testimony and we've heard witnesses telling us how many people believe the institution of marriage must be protected and that, for example, some of the new loosening of the divorce laws has hurt and hindered the institution of marriage. They're not at all saying there is inequality between homosexual and heterosexual individuals, but there is a difference.

    There is a difference in the relationships they have, and the definition of the institution of marriage is that of one man and one woman. We aren't saying it's better, we aren't saying it's the only one that is the standard that needs to be applied in every individual's circumstances, but we're saying that's the definition. We're aren't saying it's better, but we're saying that's what it is.

    We've had many people come forward and say marriage isn't for procreation, marriage isn't just for love. It's not just the love of two people. It's not what ends up being the result of marriage, but it is rather one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It's protecting procreation down the road. It's protecting society down the road.

    Could I get your response to that please? You don't have to respond, though.

º  +-(1615)  

[Translation]

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    The Chairman: Madame Dubuc.

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: Protect them against what? That is the question. The day that I will have the right to marry my partner, how will that have any effect at all on heterosexual couples who are joined in marriage? How will that have an effect on society? Honestly, I don't understand how we can believe for a second that that will have a negative impact on marriage. On the contrary, we share the same values, the value of fidelity, commitment, love and the desire to create a family. It's the same thing.

    What is the subtext here and we have to admit this, is that it is not homosexuality which is the problem. Behind all the speeches that I have heard, and I say this will all due respect, homophobia is the problem. That's what we have to open our eyes to.

[English]

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    The Chair: Monsieur Marceau, for seven minutes.

[Translation]

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

    First of all, I would like to thank the witnesses who came to present these very well written and very solid briefs before us. Thank you very much. Congratulations also to Reverend Cappuccino for his 50 years of ministry. Congratulations! By the way, please give my best regards to Mark and Donna Morrison-Reed, extraordinary individuals I had the opportunity to meet in Toronto, they are very great people. I can't say anymore: they are just terrific individuals.

    I'd like to come back a little bit to what my colleague Kevin Sorenson was saying. There is an argument which is often raised and which is a bit of a circular argument and upon which I would like to have your opinion. It is said that marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, and that because that is the way it is, this is how it must remain. Given this definition, we can't make any changes. In your opinion, is this a valid argument?

    Secondly, what would you say to those who feel that to give same-sex partners the possibility to marry is to render the institution more fragile and bring it to the edge of the abyss, while it is already more fragile given divorce and the modern world we live in? Furthermore, I would say that homosexuals don't have a great deal to do with the divorce rate among heterosexuals. In your opinion, is this institution so fragile that to open it to same-sex partners would lead to its eventual demise?

[English]

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: To words, there are denotative meanings and connotations. Certainly in Unitarian circles, the connotation of marriage is a relationship between two people who love each other, and often who are raising a family. I can't imagine how this move would endanger marriage.

    I actually consider it quite a strong statement of how much Canadians value the institution of marriage when people are coming forward and fighting this hard for the right to marry. As Dawn Barbeau states in the brief we submitted, she and her partner are living as if they are married in so many ways. They now share the same last name, they live together, they're monogamous. They own a house with a picket fence and they drive a Volvo. Yet still these people want to legitimize their relationship partly because of Dawn's own background, and be legally married with the kind of acceptance they would expect.

    During the time when I've been preparing this brief with my organization.... I have two sons, both of whom I believe are heterosexual. The first one certainly is. When my son got married three years ago, I realized that I, as a parent, would have been denied something if he had been homosexual. I was able to be at his wedding. I was able to say to friends that my son was getting married. It simply would not have been the same and people would not have realized his commitment if I had said my son was entering a domestic partnership with somebody. So I think it strengthens marriage.

º  +-(1620)  

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    The Chair: Professor Brotman.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: I would concur as well. I think this suggests a celebration of the values of marriage, not an erosion of the values of marriage. That would be the first point.

    The other point is that there's a question of modernization, that there's a danger even in the words that were used about the slippery slope of modernization, that because we've become a more tolerant and open society, this is somehow going to lead to the demise of civilization. In fact, we see that is not the case for most of our lives. In times when the rights of minorities are protected, in times when women have gained more rights, we see a more open and tolerant society, and it's a more liveable society for all of us. So in regard to the worry that if we open up the institution of marriage to same-sex partners who are in fact stating that they want to celebrate marriage in the same way and that this is then somehow going to lead to the end of marriage or the demise of civilization as we know it, that worry is not based in truth.

    Canada is an extremely tolerant and open society, and that's something we're proud of. The changes that have occurred in Canada for it to become a more open and tolerant society, less racist, less homophobic, are something we as Canadians cherish and value very much.

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    The Chair: Professor Ryan.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: I have two quick comments.

    I'm not a jurist, but this is my understanding in terms of my reading of the laws and the history of law. Historically speaking, my understanding is that it was only very recently in Canada that we defined marriage, in the law, as a union of one man and one woman. Until the last revision, it was defined in the Civil Code of Québec as the union of two persons. In much of the rest of English Canada as well, it was defined as two persons in the common law. My understanding is also that the definition was changed and revised in revisions to exclude the possibility of same-sex couples having access to marriage when that became a social issue. But in British common law and in civil law, marriage was often defined as the union of two persons.

    Secondly, with all due respect, many of these same arguments were used when we talked about interracial marriage. It would be the end of the family, it would be the end of civilization, it would be the end of marriage as an institution. These arguments were also invoked in terms of the equality of women at the beginning of the last century. If women were given equality, it would be the end of the civilization, it would be the end of the family, and it would be the end of marriage as we know it. Examining things in that light makes us see them a little bit differently, I hope.

[Translation]

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    The Chairman: Madame Dubuc.

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: I'm not a lawyer either, but I do believe that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman first appeared in 1866—we could check that—with a view to avoid polygamy. The first time that we said

[English]

“one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”,

[Translation]

so was with this objective. But one would have to check.

    I'd like to come back to the point that I mentioned earlier. Some would say that it would lead to the destruction of marriage, but at the same time, one of the hypotheses in this document would require that no Canadians have access to a civil marriage and that marriage would become solely a religious responsibility. Therefore, rather than allowing us to have access to the same status as heterosexuals, rather than reluctantly accepting us, homosexuals, within the institution of marriage, some would prefer to remove that option from all Canadian citizens. And then, from what I understand, we are being accused of destroying the institution of marriage, although we share the same family values and conjugal values of fidelity and commitment. You heard what they said earlier.

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. McKay, for seven minutes.

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    Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses.

    In the McGill paper, it says, “We implore you, both for history, and for the immediate abolition of discrimination, to embrace equality, rather than allow the judiciary to force you into it.” I stress that: “allow the judiciary to force you into it.” In other words, if in fact someone stands up with a traditional definition of marriage, somehow you're homophobic, you're ignorant, you're a racist, or whatever. A lot of names have been thrown around in this testimony, but that's in effect saying Parliament can't have a reasoned discussion about the role of marriage in society, with reasoned arguments on both sides and without one side resorting to some pretty inflammatory language and ultimately playing the trump card that the judiciary will decide this issue.

    I would like to go to the underlying assumption of that argument, which I would put to you is really a form of convergence liberalism. In other words, everybody has to get into the same melting pot, take the same view, and hide our problems when issues are not reconcilable. Certain issues are not reconcilable. That view is opposed, if you will, to that of a pluralistic liberalism that recognizes that issues aren't reconcilable, that there are things for which you accommodate differing viewpoints, that you recognize that people will honestly come to differences of opinion, and that hopefully you respect the other side in doing so. I think this is one of those issues on which the proponents of homosexual marriage are in fact arguing for convergent liberalism, that we all have to jam it all in together and in fact are not respectful of true pluralism in our society.

    Frankly, I'm disappointed that particularly the folks from McGill didn't unpack some of the issues. Frankly, your paper could have been written by a bunch of lawyers. If I wanted lawyers, we could get lawyers. But you didn't address any of the issues that surely people in the realm of social work should be addressing. What are the implications? What are the public policy implications?

    The gay literature is out there. I understand the gay literature. I understand the arguments. I've read the material. But you don't even think about, in a thoughtful sort of way, the issues arising out of the effect of this kind of request on children. You don't talk about it in terms of what it may or may not mean to men or may or may not mean to women. You don't think about how this may affect other “equality seekers”. And frankly, you provide very little public policy analysis of the other side of the argument when surely it is incumbent upon you to do that.

    It seems to me that you're prepared to defer to the decision of the courts, that you in effect argue in your paper that Parliament is an irrelevancy, that we're just going through the exercise. Can you at least acknowledge that there will be implications for the institution of marriage if this decision is made in favour of the admission of homosexual people into marriage? Surely it's a disingenuous argument to say there will be no impacts. And have you at all given any thought to what those impacts might be?

º  +-(1625)  

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    The Chair: I think the question is for Professor Ryan and Professor Brotman.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: I don't think we have time enough to comment on each of the questions embodied in your intervention, but I think our concern was primarily looking at the effects of discrimination and exclusion in this paper.

    Our reading of the publicity around the committee hearings in the last few weeks has made it clear that many people have discussed their perspective on the impact on the family. Our perspective is that, first of all, there are people in our community and in our society who are Canadian citizens but who are excluded from an institution that is regulated by the Parliament of Canada. This particular population is one that suffers from extremely high rates of suicide—particularly among youths—and from physical violence, and the refusal to accord equality to this population contributes to its low self-esteem and to the permission that many people see being granted by society to see people who are gay or lesbian as inferior.

    The experience in countries in which same-sex couples have been recognized for many years in Europe, and in countries where marriage has been accorded for several years in Europe, has not brought any evidence to light that society has suffered, that the family has suffered, that children have suffered, that men and women have suffered. In fact, what I would like to underline is that men, women, and children are suffering today because of exclusion. That is what we wanted to address in our paper.

    The fact is that the laws are discriminatory. In terms of the courts, the fact is that in this debate, the courts have been much more allied with the question of minority rights than most other institutions, including Parliament, I'm sorry to say. That's different from the experience in Quebec, where the National Assembly has been very allied with trying to eliminate discrimination against minorities. But the courts' role is not to look at what's popular, it is to look at what is right in the law and to protect the rights of minorities.

º  +-(1630)  

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    Mr. John McKay: I'm sure you'll agree with me, though, that a court analysis is a very narrow analysis. It's clear that marriage is a discriminatory institution. I don't think it ever started out that way. There was no intention on the part of marriage to be discriminating. Somebody didn't set this thing up to be discriminatory, but it is. There's no question about that. The question is whether or not it is demonstrable in a free and democratic society.

    Your argument seems to be that because there is a overrepresentation of suicide and various other ailments and issues affecting the gay and lesbian community, that because folks are suffering from low self-esteem, then by admitting gay and lesbian people into the institution of marriage, we somehow or another will address those issues. Is that the essence of your response?

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: More broadly than that, we're saying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and that the law on marriage is clearly in contravention of that prohibition. Ultimately, then, it needs to be changed.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: What we're saying is that you have to be very careful about the argument with respect to self-esteem, because by talking about issues with respect to violence and suicide, what we're trying to say is that gay and lesbian people still live in environments of extreme hostility and discrimination, which results in violence against them. This one component of increased recognition of gay and lesbian people and of their families will do a lot to set a stage for recognition in society. It doesn't automatically lead to the reduction of discrimination against them.

    Sometimes the law and policy are way ahead of people's perceptions and public perceptions. But when, as a society, our institutions recognize the rights of gays and lesbians and their relationships as equal citizens, it will have an impact on how people in the street, in one's family, etc., accept and recognize gay and lesbian people. That will do a lot to reduce this experience of what you were talking about in terms of low self-esteem.

    The only other thing I wanted to add is that, as I understood it, there was a comment about our profession. There is a strong tradition of human rights work in social work, and of looking at issues from the perspective of human rights. That's also the angle we took in writing our paper.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    I want to go to Mr. Sorenson for three minutes. Before I do, though, I just want to acquaint the panel with the rules, and maybe members of the committee will also hear the explanation.

    The next round is in three-minute bits. The three minutes are supposed to include the question and the answer. When the questioner speaks for two and a half minutes and then asks all the members of the panel to answer, it becomes very difficult for the chair. I'm going to ask members of the committee to direct their questions as much as possible, because that narrows the response to a couple of people rather than six. I would also ask you to be aware of the fact that we're dealing now with three-minute rounds.

    Mr. Sorenson.

º  +-(1635)  

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: I just want to clarify exactly what your answer was, Professor Brotman. Do you believe the argument that it becomes the role of Parliament or the role of society to grant legitimacy to homosexuality by granting it marriage?

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: No, I think what we do is stand for equality. When we stand for equality, the impact is felt by gay and lesbian people in their daily lives. It's not a question of granting legitimacy.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: No one here is questioning...what we're here debating today isn't the legitimacy of the homosexual lifestyle, it's marriage and whether or not marriage should be afforded to homosexuals.

    We talk about self-esteem and how the marriage of gays is going to help build up someone with low self-esteem. Well, what about individuals who are single? I can show you individuals whose self-esteem is deflated because they can't find a mate, because they are locked in a single lifestyle and can't get married or believe they can't get married.

    You talked about suicide amongst gays. How is marriage going to solve the suicide problems amongst gays? We have individuals who commit suicide because they're single. We have young kids who commit suicide because they're obese. We have young kids who commit suicide because they're on the outside of the crowd. I suppose there are suicides because people are locked up in an unhappy marriage. How is giving marriage to homosexuals going to solve the problems that you state?

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: Understanding the rules, I'll give you a very quick response to that.

    Recognizing equality changes the dynamic in which people live their lives socially. It's not going to change necessarily the experience of the 15-year-old in the year 2003, but it will change the way that person experiences coming to terms with being gay or lesbian, in seeing that it is policy in Canada not to discriminate because of a person's sexual orientation, including in one of the final laws that still does discriminate, which is the law concerning marriage.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: But we do discriminate. Mr. McKay has already brought that out. There is discrimination under our law. We discriminate against individuals who aren't a certain age when it comes to getting married. We discriminate against individuals who are closely tied together in a family unit. We're telling individuals that they can't marry a sibling. Maybe this is off the topic of marriage, but we do discriminate against...in some ways, we afford rights to some that aren't afforded to others, even in the Criminal Code. So in order to protect an institution, no one is going to say we aren't going to recognize differences, and no one is arguing the equality or the inequality. We're simply saying it's different. It's equal but different.

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    The Chair: Professor Ryan and Ms. Poulin.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: I don't think “equal but different” is a legitimate response in terms of social policy. What we're asking you to do is eliminate that discrimination that does exist, period.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Lise Poulin: Regarding the issue we're discussing here, we are talking about two men or two women who want to marry, who are old enough to make this decision and who are not members of the same family.That is the issue before us. For the family and the children, that is a concern. You are our representatives in the House of Commons and we are here to remove all forms of discrimination in the existing legislation. Marriage is discriminatory and is recognized by the courts. We're not here to debate the legal issues, but the social recognition of same-sex couples. If we recognize them as couples, then they must enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples.

    As to young people, I would tell you that the message we are sending to them is positive in as much as the sole model given to them is not that of a bue-eyed, white skin man and woman who have two blond children, a boy and a girl.

    In society—and we stated this in our brief and others have stated it as well—, when women were given the right to vote, they certainly didn't do it to make themselves feel better. A certain number of rights were acquired that way. Today, in society in general, in all Canadian provinces, great strides have been made. And we say today that discrimination must come to an and, because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that we are all equal in our rights and freedoms.

    I think that we must answer this question and we must send a positive message to our young people. Even if statistics are only numbers and, I really don't want to go there, it has been shown that young people who discover their homosexuality have higher rates of suicide and drop out more often than other young people, all because the role models in this area are not positive ones.

    I think that marriage between two men or two women would send much more positive messages to our young people, who already face enough difficulties given the fact that they are teenagers. At least this one issue would no longer constitute a problem.

º  +-(1640)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. O'Brien, for three minutes.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a number of questions. I'll ask what I can and then hope for another turn.

    I want to thank the witnesses. I'm sorry I had to come in late. I was trying to do the “two meetings at once” routine that we sometimes try to do here.

    I am disappointed about how much hyperbole I've heard. I share Mr. McKay's concern. In the time I have been here, I've heard at least twice the “prejudice and ignorance” comment. The hyperbole really disturbs me. I don't recall any of the members talking about the end of marriage, the end of civilization. I have more faith in marriage and civilization than that, so I've never used those terms and I never will. Perhaps one or two witnesses may have gone that way, but there has certainly been hyperbole on both sides. We've seen some today, in my view.

    I'd like to ask my first question to you, Ms. Poulin. I regret that it seems you've played the homophobia card pretty heavily here. That's fine, although I don't particularly care for it. I just want to ask if you're aware—and I mention the sexuality of these two people specifically because I think the homophobia card was played so heavily today—of the views of leading theorist and Yale professor William Eskridge, a practising homosexual, and also those of Ladelle McWhorter, a leading lesbian theorist, both of whom very candidly admit that changing the definition of marriage will most certainly change the nature of the heterosexual experience, and quite probably the family itself? Are you aware of those views? If you are, what's your opinion of their views?

[Translation]

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    Ms. Lise Poulin: I am not aware of them.

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    Ms Dominique Dubuc: I am not aware of those studies either. Obviously, the gay community is not made up of one cohesive group of individuals. I understand that there are heterosexuals who are in favour of same-sex marriage, just as there are gay people who may have differing opinions.

[English]

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Can I interject? I appreciate your candid response that you're not aware of them. I'd therefore like to go on. I won't quote them, but I'm quite happy to share those views with you if you want them. I could quote them, because I have in previous testimony.

    I would suggest to you that when you have leading theorists, including probably the strongest voice in this field in Professor Eskridge, himself a practising homosexual, fundamentally disagreeing that there will not be an impact on marriage and the family, then the homophobia card is just not the right card to play when the members of this committee are aware of these views that you say you're not aware of.

    Mr. Chairman, my second question is to Professor Brotman. I have an article here from The Globe and Mail, and I'd like to just quote it. It quotes Professor Brotman as having apparently told the Montreal Gazette, “We would like it if there were no possible expert witnesses to testify for the government against same-sex marriage, period.”

    That's a quote attributed to you. One, I wonder if it's accurate. And two, if it is accurate, do you not think it's incumbent on this committee—as Mr. McKay pointed out—to have the fullest, most inclusive, and respectful debate possible? If the quote's accurate, why would you think we could have such a debate when we only hear from one side of the argument, and then if anyone disagrees with that side of the argument, they're labelled homophobic? I find that to be a pretty sad commentary. Could I have your views?

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    The Chair: Continue to hold until the next round, Mr. O'Brien.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. I'll do that.

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    The Chair: Professor Brotman and Ms. Dubuc.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: Was that a piece in the Globe and Mail, or was in the Montreal Gazette?

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: I'm reading from the Globe and Mail, and the quote is attributed to you.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: Yes, it is a direct quote, and I was having a discussion with a journalist at the time. The meaning of the quote, in the context of the discussion with the journalist, was that of a wish that nobody was against the legalization of same-sex marriage and that we lived in a society that pursued equality for gays and lesbians. That's the manner in which it was meant. It was not meant in the manner that I don't want anybody to come forward to testify and that if those people exist then I wish they would be quiet. It was more a kind of wish that we lived in a society in which no one would stand against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

    In terms of the comment with which you led off, I actually wouldn't mind if you repeated the end, because in that particular document, I did not then go ahead to say that if someone holds an opposite opinion then they should be silenced.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: No, I didn't suggest that you said that.

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    The Chair: Ms. Dubuc.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: As regards homophobia and differences of opinion and respect, I think there is a huge difference in the impact that differences of opinions expressed here may have because the different opinions that I hear have a huge impact on my life and on the life of my children. It is obvious to me that the fact that we do not have access to marriage and the arguments which are presented are tantamount to segregation, to a non-recognition of our equality. The effects of these various opinions upon my daily life are concrete, whereas the opinion that I have on marriage doesn't have any effect at all on the lives of anyone here.

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Marceau, for three minutes.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: Thank you.

    We agree on the fact that in this context we're discussing civil marriage and not the religious recognition of marriage. Those among you who have attended these committee hearings have seen that certain individuals or certain organizations fear that to allow same-sex couples marriage would be an attack upon their freedom of religion. In fact, some feel that the State would force a church or a given denomination to marry same-sex spouses under the pretext that since churches benefit from tax deductions, the State does support them indirectly. And since they are therefore agents of the State to a certain extent they could be compelled to marry same-sex couples. Do you think that that is a valid fear? That's my first question.

    Secondly, if ever the committee suggested that same-sex marriage be legalized, would a section such as section 367 of the Quebec Civil Code suit you, in other words a section which states very clearly that no religious official could be forced to perform a ceremony which is contrary to the tenets of his faith?

    My third question is specifically to Reverend Cappuccino and Ms. Bennett. Couldn't that argument be turned on its head? By imposing a definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, are we not infringing on your freedom of religion, given that your religion does allow you to marry same-sex couples?

    The first two questions are to the representatives from McGill University and the CNTU, and the third question is to the representatives of the United Church.

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: I think that many of the witnesses answered this question on several occasions. Nowhere do we want to impose upon any religion an obligation to celebrate a union which it does not agree with, and religions already have the power to differentiate in this way, for example in the case of divorced people. I think that it has been said and repeated on many occasions, and I would have absolutely no problem with a section such as section 367 of the Quebec Civil Code.

    As to the creation of a registered form of partnership, of a federal civil union, there would be several logistical problems associated with this option, and marriage would still have to be open to same-sex partners. We can create new institutions, but they must be open and free from discrimination.

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[English]

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    The Chair: Professor Ryan, and then Reverend Cappuccino.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: Just to continue in that same vein, it's very clear for us that no religious organization should be forced to celebrate anything running contrary to its doctrinal stance. They already have the right to decide who they marry. But we're talking about civil marriage, and there are religious organizations, both from the Jewish traditions and from Christian traditions, that are waiting to celebrate same-sex marriages that are legal as well as religious in nature.

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    The Chair: Reverend Cappuccino.

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino: In my career as a minister, I have performed perhaps a thousand marriages, although I've lost count. For seven years, I was a minister in the province of Quebec. There were two Unitarian ministers there, with two congregations. When we arrived in 1967, there was no civil marriage. A person in Quebec had to be married by a recognized religious institution. The Unitarians were willing to do this, so my colleague and I did all of the marriages of Hindus and many other faiths that were not recognized by the province. We were the ones who were working so hard to help the Quebec people and government to institute civil weddings, because we were too busy and had to do all this work. But there was resistance to that.

    I don't think having civil marriage in Quebec, as a law, hurt the institution of marriage. I think it was a good thing, and the other religious groups gradually were recognized and were able to do their own marriages.

    Getting back to my son, his suicide was a devastating thing for our family, of course. If he and this other fellow—and if he was indeed homosexual, I didn't know—wanted to marry, then I think it's a matter of human rights.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Lee, for three minutes.

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    Mr. Derek Lee: At the end of one of her answers, one of the witnesses—it was either Ms. Dubuc or Ms. Poulin—said the real problem is homophobia. I think I heard that right. I don't know which one of them to ask the question to, because I don't recall which one said that. However, I regret that they see that as the problem, because a number of us see the issue as one involving marriage, not as homophobia.

    I'll let either one of you answer my question. Isn't it possible for a participant in this debate or a legislator in this debate to take a view that the issue is one of doing the right thing for the institution of marriage, and not one of being the target in this many-year battle to obtain fairness for gays, lesbians, homosexuals? Isn't it possible that the legislators who are involved in this debate are not really the enemy, that they're not homophobes, that they are in fact dealing with the issue of what's best for the institution of marriage? If one of you wants to recall which one of you said it, I'd be happy to hear the answer.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: I think that we both said it, but I will speak to the issue anyway.

    There is a difference between homophobic and making homophobic statements. Our society is homophobic. The quicker we realize it, the better off we'll be. We are raised with this homophobia. Homosexuals who discover their homosexuality hate themselves in the beginning, because it's an environment that we're all in every day. It is quite normal that homophobia manifests itself throughout society. That is what we want to counter. We would like to be able to highlight where it occurs. When we are told that because we are same-sex partners we do not have sufficient value to accede to the institution of marriage, we cannot interpret that statement in any other way than as an homophobic statement.

    Do you understand that there is a difference between accusing everybody of being homophobic and this underlying homophobia that we have to become aware of in order to evolve within our society.

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[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lee.

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    Mr. Derek Lee: Thank you.

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    The Chair: Mr. Marceau.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: If you had to tell us in a sentence or two what in your opinion is the goal, the essence, the objective of marriage, what would you say and I would like to hear all of you. Go ahead.

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: Personally, I want to marry my partner. That is the situation I am in. I want to marry her because I love her. I want to start a family with her and be committed to her. I swear to be faithful to her. We had a civil ceremony during the summer. That part is done. In our minds, the issue is clear. We would not ask to heterosexual persons to write an essay as to why they want to be married. And it is not simply a matter of, as I have heard , going for the benefits, since you have to be aware that marriage also entails a great deal of responsibilities.

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: If I am asking this question, it's because some have said here that the essence of marriage was the sex life of heterosexuals, that at the very heart of marriage lies a sexual relationship. And I'd be curious to hear what you have to say on that.

[English]

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: I'm heterosexual and I'm married, and again I could tell you my own personal reasons. They're certainly not those. I lived with my husband before we got married, so the marriage itself wasn't the reason. It was really about a recognition and celebration of our union, with our families, our friends, and our society. We wanted to walk through the world as a couple, and the way to walk through the world in a public way as a couple is to get married. So that's why.

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    The Chair: Reverend Cappuccino.

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino: My wife and I have been married for almost fifty years. The sexual part was important, but the basic thing that the two of us feel about our marriage is that two people together can do more human good as a team than either one could do individually. Right now, my wife is in Nepal, where we have a children's home with a thousand orphans. There are many homes over there, and she spends half her time there. This is a product of our marriage.

    Another angle to it is that when we married in 1953, we decided we would have two children born to us, maximum. That was a terrible thing, of course. Some adoption agencies would not let us adopt a child because children.... This is how times change and people's thinking changes. So we decided that instead of increasing the world's population, we would adopt one or two. But my wife got carried away, and it was one more and one more, and it became nineteen. And then she felt she still had more energy after they all grew up, so now she's over in....

    I just talked to her yesterday morning. She had been coming overland from our orphanage in Tibet. She was carried by a porter, on his back, over 30 metres of snow, because their Land Rover couldn't get through.

    I know a little bit about marriage, and I believe in it very strongly.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Mr. O'Brien.

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

    Ms. Dubuc, I listened to your latest comments about not labelling everybody. I have to tell you I'm going to review the transcripts, because perhaps you're not aware of just how hyperbolic the comments were when I came in—and particularly those of Ms. Poulin. It was pretty clear that if you have an opposite point of view on this—in other words, if you're arguing to preserve marriage as we now know it.... The words used were “prejudice” and “ignorance” and “homophobia”, and they were used repeatedly and in a pretty accusatory way, from my point of view. Perhaps you're not aware of that, but that is certainly how it came across. So I'm glad to hear a bit of a softening of that.

    I want to address this question to you, Ms. Dubuc, because you candidly admitted that you're unaware of the views of Professors Eskridge and McWhorter, and I appreciated that honesty. Their views certainly deflate the homophobia card that was played here today, because those people are practising gay and lesbian expert professors.

    But I want to pursue the question of polygamy, which I've pursued at this committee and which members opposite have pursued at this committee. Sadly, our comments were labelled by one or two MPs who sit on this committee as hateful comments and totally inappropriate. Well, that's just shear nonsense. As has been pointed out a couple of times by members here today and in many other cases, it's incumbent on this committee....

    The difference, ma'am, is this. You said your views don't affect our marriages, but our views affect yours. Well, with all due respect, we're elected members of Parliament charged with a very serious task here, and that's our job. That's the difference between our views and your views. We'll quite likely have to stand and vote on this both here and possibly in the House of Commons. You said earlier that you think it's very cut and dried, that it's just about same-sex marriage, and I gather the other witnesses feel that way. Yet the same Professor Eskridge I cited earlier has himself said it's not that cut and dried, that changing the definition of marriage could quite possibly lead to a desire to have polygamist marriages recognized as marriage.

    Are you aware of those expert views of a practising homosexual Yale professor, and what do you think of those views? Do you not see that it is not cut and dried? I suppose it would be simple for this committee if your view was correct, but expert witnesses have indicated that it's not correct and that the possible ramifications of this requested change are enormous.

»  +-(1700)  

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: Several experts also answered that this was not necessarily going to happen. We must not only listen to those experts. They are not necessarily right simply because they are gay or lesbian. I do not know them and I insist that polygamy is not what we are dealing with here; we are dealing with two adults equal under the Charter.

[English]

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: I'm sorry, but you're missing my point. We are talking, in part, about polygamy. That's where you and I are fundamentally disagreeing. For this committee, based on information from expert witnesses, that could be a consequence of the change you are requesting. It has to be something that we factor in. Do you not understand that?

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: Absolutely not. I do not see how such a connection can be made. We are dealing with two persons right now. Two heterosexuals, two persons of opposite sex have the right to get married. As for us, we are of the same sex. We do not intend to have a third or forth wife, or a man, or whatever. This is completely irrelevant.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    We have a long list, and it's growing.

    Mr. Toews.

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    Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): I'm sorry I wasn't able to be here for most of the questions and answers. Hopefully I won't repeat anything that has already been covered.

    I'm very interested in the comments you made in terms of a response to Mr. Marceau's questions about the purpose of marriage, Reverend Cappuccino. I think you told us, very movingly, about your relationship with your wife and about the very good and very important work you have done, and that's to be commended. You said you've made a great team, and that's wonderful. Marriage can be a great team. It can be otherwise, but it can be a great team as well.

    I'm not a theologian, but as I recall parts of the Bible, when Christ sent out his disciples, he sent them out two by two. He didn't command them to get married. Being a worker in that kind of work doesn't demand marriage. You can be an effective team without being married.

    My concern is whether or not we're mixing up what the fundamental role of marriage is with what could also be very good teamwork. I guess Christ could have sent out a man and a woman to work together. I'm sure he did. But I'm just wondering why it's necessary, in that context, to say, “Well, I'm going to send you out two by two, but you should all get married to each other as well.”

»  +-(1705)  

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino: That's a good point, Mr. Toews.

    Again, speaking of my own marriage, there's also an exclusivity of concern for each other. She's gone half the time, and I don't worry about whether I've lost her or that kind of thing. When we married, we took vows that we would be faithful to each other, and I think this is important. And for the disciples who go out two by two, that's a good thing also. But if two people feel they want to commit themselves specifically to each other in addition to carrying on the work of the Gospels, that's a good thing too.

    I don't know that I answered what you were raising.

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    Mr. Vic Toews: I was actually just thinking out loud. Maybe you could have, but I'll just think about it some more. In any event, I appreciate your answer. Thank you very much.

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    Rev. Fred Cappuccino: Thank you.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Toews.

    Mr. Maloney.

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    Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): I found your response to Mr. Marceau's last question to be very interesting. In regard to what the objective of marriage is, the three responders had different definitions or answers to that. I suspect that if we polled everyone in this room, we would probably all have a different objective of marriage. But does the current problem of not allowing same-sex marriages deter or prohibit you from exercising or experiencing those objectives in a same-sex relationship? That's perhaps to the three responders, or to anyone actually.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: Please repeat the question?

[English]

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    Mr. John Maloney: I'm trying to zero in on the magic of the word “marriage”. On the objectives that you have given to me as the objectives of marriage, do you not or can you not experience those same objectives in a same-sex relationship? My feeling is that I see that you can experience everything you've relayed to us today in both same-sex relationships and opposite-sex marriages.

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    The Chair: Ms. Bennett.

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: It took me awhile, but I got my eight-word definition. I came up with “public declaration and recognition of a lifetime commitment”. I think the publicness of it is quite different. In our culture, marriage means a certain kind of thing. People attending a wedding have a certain idea about what that means, and something less than that is less public and therefore less recognition. That's my understanding of the difference.

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    The Chair: Ms. Dubuc.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Dominique Dubuc: She said part of what I wanted to say and what Ms. Brotman also stated in her definition of marriage. In these conditions, why would heterosexual couples need marriage? Basically, we can reverse the question. We can, in fact, do everything, act as a team, be committed, and the rest, without marriage, but heterosexual spouses have the option to marry, which is publicly recognized by society and tradition. We would also like to have access to these positive features. Do you understand that if marriage has so little importance, heterosexual couples...?

[English]

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    The Chair: The third respondent was Ms. Poulin.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Lise Poulin: In answer to your question, I say yes. I am heterosexual, I am not married, I am 55 years old and I have a very dynamic sex life with my partner. For me, marriage is not a choice. If there were two worlds, with heterosexuals on one side and homosexuals on the other, I might agree, but there is one world, and we are all equal before the law. If I decide to marry, I can do that. My spouse and I decide to marry at the age of 65 because things are too complicated while we are still young. We will make this choice later. This is a right and not a...

»  +-(1710)  

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    The Chair: Mr. Marceau.

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: I have a question for professors Ryan and Brotman. Ever since Holland allowed marriage between same sex spouses, has there been a decrease in the number of heterosexual couples that get married?

[English]

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: The recognition of or extension of marriage to same-sex couples in Holland is fairly recent. From what I've read, nothing in any of the literature or reports says it has caused a crisis in terms of heterosexual marriage or that it has impacted on the family in a negative way or on society in a negative way. What has happened is that many people who were excluded from the recognition of their relationships—social and legal recognition, because that's what we're talking about when we talk about marriage—have had access to that recognition. But there's no indication at all that heterosexuals have fled marriage because of that.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: You heard some say, even today, that the members of this Committee must think of the social, political and other consequences. Basically, even if this is very recent in Holland, once all the issues involving benefits have been settled... We had bill C-23 and, in Quebec...

    You know, Ms. Dubuc, that as a homosexual couple, you have more or less the same rights as a heterosexual couple, with regard to pensions, insurance, etc. When we mention the consequences, we always hear a drum roll; we are told that the consequences will be serious, and bla bla bla. Would the consequences be as serious if one segment of the population which does not have access to marriage could have access to it today? If there are no problems with benefits, with recognition or adoption—Quebec, among others, has solved these problems—, where would these consequences be, which,as some say, could be so dramatic? I am looking for them. My question is perfectly candid and straightforward. What could these consequences be, even in the worst case scenario? I am still looking.

[English]

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: I suspect that, at some point in time, when Canada accords recognition of access to marriage to same-sex couples, then twenty years after that, we'll probably scratch our heads and ask what all the fuss was about, because ultimately we're not going to change the dynamic of heterosexual relationships. We're simply allowing access to a social institution that accords the highest recognition that society can give to couples in the civil sense. We're giving that to a population to which it has been denied.

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    The Chair: Mr. Peschisolido.

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    Mr. Joe Peschisolido (Richmond, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    First of all, I'd like to thank all the guests for coming out. One thing that has struck me is that, many times in the course of the discussion, we seem to be talking at one another. Whenever you want to get an endeavour accomplished, though, you have to agree on certain rules of that endeavour.

    Mr. McKay asked Professors Brotman and Ryan a question on the role of marriage. I think marriage is a social institution. On one side of the debate or the discussion or the analysis is the argument that marriage as a social institution has a variety of things to accomplish. Yes, prima facie, it is discriminatory, but it's justified by other purposes and other elements to it. You had mentioned that, as a social institution, your primary concern was of the exclusivity of it and the discriminatory nature of that.

    Others argue—and there has been a debate within the educational community, and I'd like to ask your input on this as a social scientist—having all-girl schools is a good thing as a social institution because they afford young women an environment in which they can develop self-esteem. But that in itself is a discriminatory concept, because young men who may benefit from that type of situation are denied that.

    So, Professors Ryan and Brotman, I'd like to ask you if you can take that type of argument, when you're analyzing social institutions, and apply it to other social institutions. Would you agree, then, that a social institution such as an all-girl school is a good concept? Even though it is discriminatory, it does serve a very primary and elemental function in society.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: There are a couple of things I would want to answer to in that. First, if we're talking about education and gender-specific schools, part of the reason for the creation of all-girl schools was that they were a response to a discriminatory environment as well. The history of education would say girls were not educated in a way that was equitable with boys, and providing the kind of environment that would allow girls to flourish was really in response to an inequity in the system. So although we're kind of off topic, that would be my first comment.

    The second is that all-girl schools don't exist outside of the fact that there are all-boy schools as well. The question becomes whether or not the schools themselves are equitable between each other in a system in which the institution is schooling. The institution itself is not all-girl schools, right? The institution is the educational institution, for which there are, in the example you're giving, schools that work with girls or are specifically for girls and schools that are specifically for boys.

    The other point I would make is that, oftentimes in so-called segregated schooling—although I'm not sure girls' and boys' schools would be a good example, because those schools are usually within the private sector and not in the public sector—the schools are not equitably resourced. If we talk about segregated schooling, such as black versus white schools, for example, we know that historically those schools, inner-city schools, are not funded to the same degree or do not have the same resources as do the white schools or the private schools.

    Now, I guess you're trying to make the jump to why we could not have separate institutions for gay and lesbian people and separate institutions for heterosexual people, right? I understand that, but if you still talk about the umbrella of the actual institution itself, it's the institution of marriage. It's as if you're saying the institution itself is the educational institution. But we're not talking about equitable....

    I guess what I want to say deals with the issue of “the same, but different”. We're talking about recognition, but if it's under a different label, it's not good enough.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Peschisolido. We've have ten minutes left. I have some more names on my list, and you're at over four and a half minutes.

    Mr. McKay.

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    Mr. John McKay: Professor Ryan, I just want to deal with your comment about what all the fuss is about and how we'll wonder what this was all about twenty years from now. I put it to you, Professor, that twenty or thirty years ago, under a former Prime Minister who was then the justice minister, we did tinker with marriage, particularly with respect to the Divorce Act. The fallout has been arguably quite catastrophic for our society. Marriages are down, a lot more children are being raised in a single-parent situation, and there's a greater sense of social chaos. I don't want to expand that argument too much, but what we're doing here today is arguably as significant as changing the Divorce Act was back in 1968. So to not address those issues in a thoughtful way is, frankly, irresponsible on the part of us as parliamentarians.

    Specifically, I want to address the issue of the argument that, somehow or other, not allowing homosexuals to marry will be excluding, it will be denigrating, and it puts them in an unworthy class of relationships, if you will. The analogy is that exclusion based on race is racism, and exclusion based on sexual orientation is effectively compulsory heterosexism. This is essentially the argument that homosexual couples wish to reach for the gold standard of relationships, i.e., marriage.

    I put it to you that marriage can't be all things to all people, and it can't be all things to all relationships without it losing its intrinsic meaning and significance in human culture. In fact, the institution of marriage has no intent to denigrate, it doesn't have any intent to exclude, and it doesn't have any intent to cast other relationships as unworthy. So I ask you to comment on this “unworthy” argument, if you will, that, somehow or other, being excluded will ultimately be an unworthy form of relationship, a lesser form of relationship for gays and lesbians.

»  +-(1720)  

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: I'd like to walk through the same reaction that Madame Dubuc had in her response to a question a couple of moments ago. Imagine if the situation were reversed and we were here debating in a society in which only same-sex couples were accorded the status of marriage and heterosexual couples were applying and asking Parliament to look at the law in order to open the status of marriage up to them. I think the clarity would....

    We're talking about an institution that accords the highest recognition to relationships and to couples, socially and legally, that a society can offer in a civil sense. As long as one group of couples now recognized in law as being in a couple relationship is not allowed access to that institution, to me it's clearly discriminatory.

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    The Chair: Professor Brotman.

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    Prof. Shari Brotman: I agree with what Bill Ryan has said, absolutely. I'm not sure I can add too much, except to say that in the document we presented to you, we put a number of quotes in at the end. They're from people who expressed their opinion in some work we did at McGill. The last quote is from a woman who is soon to be “married” to her lover of ten years in a commitment ceremony. The story is about her mother refusing to attend because it wouldn't be seen as a true and real marriage. The legal recognition of marriage would help to build back up both the respect and her relationship with her mother.

    So we can talk about it in the abstract, but in the lives of real people, of people who have committed to each other—in the case of this quote, it's a couple of ten years—these are relationships that they have, and it's recognition that they're looking for and yearning for from their family members, not only society at large. I think we have to remember that. When we talk about equity, we're talking about individual people and their lives.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. O'Brien will have the last question.

    Before he goes ahead, I'd like everybody to stick around just for a few minutes. I have to mention a few things in regard to our travel schedule, so please stay.

    And if you don't mind, witnesses, I'll ask you to stay. All the members are going to want to shake your hands and say hi, and I'd like them to stay here while I do this.

    Mr. O'Brien.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Mr. Chairman, we know Professor Ryan's right and that marriage as we define it is discriminatory. That's not the point, because that has been conceded. The question is whether or not that discrimination is justified, and some of us feel it is.

    Ms. Bennett, I noted with interest your eight-word definition of marriage. If I have it correct, it's a “public declaration and recognition of a lifetime commitment”. That's interesting, but I would submit to you that the state could give that without having to change the definition of marriage. You could have your definition brought into law, possibly by this committee and by Parliament, without having to change the definition of marriage.

    This is a serious issue that's on the table. Most of the proponents would not accept your definition, because they want nothing less than our changing the definition of marriage. That's just not on for me, and I hope for Canadians generally. I just wanted to make that comment, but I have a question for Professor Ryan.

    Professor, in your earlier comments, I thought you attempted to make the point that somehow there's not a long history of the heterosexual nature of marriage, and you referred to common law. I'm not a lawyer, but there are many lawyers here—and excellent lawyers at that—on this committee, on both sides of the table, but it seems to me that the practice in Canada since Confederation has been not to marry people of the same sex. To me, that's the common law. Is it not? Do you have any examples of when any people of the same sex have been married in this country?

»  +-(1725)  

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: No, I was simply stating, with some irony, that earlier definitions of marriage in the laws in some parts of this country defined marriage as a union between two persons. The Civil Code of Québec, which was revised not too long ago, actually named marriage as the union of two persons. It didn't say one man and one woman, it said two persons. It was only revised with the new code, to say that marriage exists between one man and one woman. So the definition itself seemed to have been more open at some point, obviously excluding same-sex couples in that more open definition.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: But the legal practice since Confederation has been to exclude people. You concede that point.

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    Prof. Bill Ryan: Yes, absolutely.

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    The Chair: We'll give the final word to Ms. Bennett.

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    Ms. Mary Bennett: I wanted to say that in that definition, I feel like underlining “public”. In terms of what same-sex couples are permitted at this point, it's less public, I believe, and I feel that's significant.

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    The Chair: So it's eight words, with one underlined.

    Now, I just want to let you know a couple of things. First of all, I'd like to thank Mr. Robinson for tabling our report from yesterday with regard to the extension for Bill C-250.

    I'm doing this today because it concerns the first Monday when we come back. I want to announce that the Minister of Justice will be appearing on Monday afternoon, which is not a regular time for us. That is on Monday, March 17, 2003, at 3:30, on Bill C-22.

    We're going right after St. Patrick's Day, Mr. O'Brien.

    I also want to bring up the fact that, at the next opportunity, we're going to be talking about the reference of motion M-192, which has to do with solicitation laws. It has been sent to us, and one of the committee members has suggested that we could form a subcommittee. Please think about it. I'm not going to have the discussion today, but I want to give notice that we're going to have the discussion and that I'd like you to think about it.

    On travel plans, let me just say that on April 1 we'll be in Vancouver, followed by Edmonton, Moose Jaw, and Steinbach, Manitoba, on April 1 through April 4. On April 7, we'll be in Halifax, in Sussex, New Brunswick—I don't know why you insist on putting “New Brunswick” in there, because everyone knows where Sussex is—and in Sudbury, and then we'll have two days in Toronto, the reason being that Toronto is where we're getting an enormous number of requests to appear. There will then be two weeks of constituency work, and on April 28, April 29, and April 30, we'll be in Rimouski, Montreal, and Iqaluit. I say all of this for those of you who would like to bring potential witnesses to the attention of the staff, because we would like you to please do so—and you all know how to do that.

    So that's basically the plan for our travel, and as I said, it was approved today.

    Mr. Cadman.

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    Mr. Chuck Cadman: Are you telling me that on the weekend of April 5 and April 6, we're stuck in Steinbach?

    An hon. member: There's an old tune that goes, “Stuck in Lodi again”.

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    The Chair: Order, please. We're holding the witnesses here, and I don't mean to do that. I thought this would go a lot more quickly.

    Reverend Cappuccino probably recognizes this, having been the father of 21 people.

    Voices: Oh, oh!

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    The Chair: Mr. O'Brien.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, did I hear that the minister is coming outside the regular day, on a Monday, and on St. Patrick's Day at that?

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    The Chair: Yes, Monday.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: Well, as a government member, Mr. Chairman, I have to say I don't find that acceptable. He's coming at a time that is not the normal sitting time and day. So I'll beat the opposition members to it and say I don't think that's acceptable, and I think the parliamentary secretary ought to go back to the minister and request an appearance by the minister in one of the normal time slots of this committee.

»  -(1730)  

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    The Chair: You should blame the chair first.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: I don't care who I blame, but it's not acceptable.

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    The Chair: The minister gave us two dates, March 17 and May. I was pushing for March 17 because it was earlier than May. So members on the government side, this is a perk of the chair.

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    Mr. Pat O'Brien: If I can finish it, then, Mr. Chairman, I don't find the minister's choices acceptable either. Quite frankly, I've chaired committees, I've sat on a number of committees—some with these colleagues—and I've found ministers to be a little more accessible and accommodating to committees than that. I think the minister ought to be told that the choices are not good and that we want to propose some dates to him in the normal time slots of this committee, as soon as possible.

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    The Chair: Mr. Robinson.

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    Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): I just wanted to raise another question. Indeed, the report of the committee was tabled today, and as I understand it, that effectively gives this committee until May 15, is that correct?

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    The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Patrice Martin): No, it has to be adopted before May 15.

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    Mr. Svend Robinson: It has to be adopted before May 15.

    In any event, in light of that, I just wanted to suggest that we consider holding hearings on my bill on hate propaganda in the first week of May, just to make sure we do have enough time after the hearings to consider that and to report back to the House.

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    The Chair: The chair considers this new business, but I have a whole bunch of business first.

    Mr. Marceau, on the trip.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Richard Marceau: Yes, I am speaking about the committee. We had envisaged going to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. Apparently, this will not happen. If we do not go, I would like to consider the possibility of calling in expert witnesses from countries which have allowed this, such as Belgium and Holland. I know that Great Britain is envisaging the possibility of recognizing same-sex spouses, and I gave the document to Mr. Martin. If we do not go, I would like us to consider the possibility of inviting people here to tell us what was done, how it was done and what the consequences were.

[English]

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    The Chair: That is our intention.

    Maybe I should allow the witnesses to leave. I wasn't causing them not to leave, but I thought this would go a lot faster.

    There's another meeting in this room now, so I'll finish the agenda tomorrow.

    The meeting is adjourned.