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Results: 1 - 15 of 1095
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and to my former colleague, still colleague in the House, Mr. Macklin, thank you for that. I didn't really anticipate questions, but now that I have the opportunity, I certainly will avail myself.
And I'd like to speak to a man I'm proud to say is an old friend, and our families were close in days past, Bishop Henry. We're proud he's a native Londoner, and I want to get that commercial in for the city of London. Now he's proudly a Calgarian, we know.
Bishop, as a former Catholic educator yourself, in the strictest sense of the word, and now as the bishop of the Calgary diocese, what are the concerns that you have heard, or that you may have yourself, around the issue of the potential for a restriction of Catholic teachers and the Catholic curriculum vis-à-vis homosexuality and Catholic teaching?
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much.
Reverend Kopke and Ms. Bowen, I happen to disagree with you that this is a human right, and I've been very forthright about that. I understand the different opinions on that, but I wonder, can you point to any country in the world, or any national or international court or tribunal, that's made a ruling, as you say, that this is a human right? I'd be happy to have any example you're aware of.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Maybe I didn't phrase my question well. I'm looking for any example you have of an international court or tribunal, or a national court, that has ruled consistent with your opinion that you think this is a human right, because of course the Supreme Court of Canada has not so ruled. Do you know of any court that has?
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
All right. Thank you very much.
I'll leave it there, Mr. Chairman. My next one would be too long, I think.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I must confess that I'm much more used to chairing these kinds of committees than appearing as a witness at them. I think it's probably my first time on this side. I thank you for the invitation. I was requested to appear; I'm happy to accommodate the committee's request. I would like to give some...context, I think would be the right word, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, my personal opinion has been stated many times publicly, including in the House of Commons. It is that a person, regardless of sexual orientation, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. My voting record will support that statement. However, that does not mean, and must not mean, that we have to redefine a fundamental institution called marriage in order to accommodate the reality of the first part of my statement.
I've been on record since at least 1998, in writing and in public, as being opposed as a matter of conscience to redefining marriage. I've had the charge a couple of times—not from well-informed people, but I've had it a couple of times, as have other MPs, as have other people on our side of the argument, if I can put it that way. It is the homophobia card. I saw it played with too much alacrity at the justice committee I served on from June to February 2003.
No one called me homophobic when I supported the hate crimes legislation, which included sexual orientation as something that should be factored into a violent crime, because I know, as most Canadians do, that it's all too sad a reality that in this country people are sometimes subjected to violence specifically because of their sexual orientation. Canadians of goodwill are simply appalled by that and abhor that, and that's why I supported that legislation. It's ironic I wasn't called homophobic then, but I've since been called homophobic a few times by a few people who one dismisses in life because of the nature of their accusation. Why? It's because I'm standing on a matter I consider a matter of conscience. It far supersedes any political consideration for me.
From February to June 2003 I had the distinct pleasure of serving on the justice committee following my two and a half years of service as the parliamentary secretary for trade. I didn't seek the appointment, but it was interesting that I was asked to serve. I was very pleased to join colleagues like Mr. Ménard and Mr. Macklin—and I think they are all the members I see here now who were on the committee at that time—for some very fascinating and interesting hearings. It was very thorough. Witnesses were not given less than 24 hours' notice, as we just heard. We had very thorough witnesses and very thorough hearings, with good witnesses on both sides of the table.
Unfortunately, and sad to say, Mr. Chair, those committee hearings were reduced to a farce. The committee did not even issue its final report. Three appointed judges in the Court of Appeal for Ontario incredibly, and in my view arrogantly and instantly, redefined marriage in the province of Ontario. Never was that done anywhere in any legal jurisdiction in the world prior to that, to my knowledge. Former justice minister Anne McLellan, now Deputy Prime Minister, expressed her great surprise and dismay at that. Current justice minister Irwin Cotler expressed to me personally that he thinks he was very shocked at the time and shared the sentiments of dismay. That was the context in which the committee's work was totally pre-empted.
In June, as that work was being pre-empted, I put a motion at that committee to appeal the Ontario ruling. It was defeated. How? A long-time Liberal member serving on the committee, who shall be unnamed--it would be easy to find out who--somehow didn't quite get to the meeting; he just happened to miss it. One member walked in seconds after the vote; he can explain that.
Members of Parliament--Liberal members of Parliament, I'm sad to say--who had virtually little or nothing to do with the committee were walked into the meeting to cast a vote dictated by the government of the day.
So the first motion lost. Then, sad to say, in a great show of democratic debate, Liberal members and others refused to give a quorum—hid in the hall—so we couldn't put a second motion to appeal it. I know it seems incredible, but it did happen.
The reality is the current Minister of Justice has personally told me he now agrees with me that it was a big mistake not to have appealed the Ontario court ruling. You don't have to be a lawyer, as I'm not, to understand that's why the Supreme Court refused to answer question four a few months ago, because the government of the day failed to go through the right process if it really wanted to challenge the Ontario ruling.
Mr. Chairman, in the recent campaign in 2004, I campaigned in writing and publicly, verbally, as someone who, if re-elected to my fourth term, could never in good conscience support same-sex marriage. I was re-elected on that basis. I had people tell me in some cases it cost me their vote. I said, “I'm sorry to hear that, but my self-respect and doing what I think is right are more important than telling you what you want to hear on your doorstep for your vote.” I'm sure in some cases it may have earned me votes. I don't know, and frankly I don't care. This is much bigger for me than partisan politics or my political career.
Let me share with you the constituent reaction in London--Fanshawe that's been repeatedly shown to me, and this came after they knew my position. I didn't do a poll to determine my position. I have stated to them my position clearly for years, including in the last campaign. Repeatedly and consistently, 92% of the people of London--Fanshawe have opposed redefining marriage. However, some 60% support recognition in law of same-sex relationships under another term. It simply offends common sense and the morality of millions of Canadians to try to call a same-sex relationship something it is not, and it is not discriminatory or demeaning to rule in that way.
There's not a national court or tribunal in the world--and I say that to some of the witnesses who have preceded me--that has ruled that this is a matter of human rights, not one. You've had some lower courts in Canada so rule. You've also had lower courts and judges in this country rule that it is not a matter of human rights. I know, the majority have ruled it is, but it's interesting that not a single national court has ruled that.
I was very close to leaving the Liberal Party in recent weeks to sit as an independent member of Parliament, and I don't think that's a secret. The Prime Minister asked me to reconsider, and I agreed. I agreed on the basis that I was assured by him there would be full and fair and meaningful public hearings of this committee. Given, Mr. Chair--and you'll recall our private conversation--that some members weren't here then or weren't on the justice committee then, forgot or didn't know what a farce that committee process was reduced to, I felt it was very important to be committing to hearings at this stage. I don't care about the niceties, frankly, of what a legislative committee's terms of reference are. We all know with the right political will around this place you can get things done, and anybody who thinks the Prime Minister's influence stops at these committee doors should think again. It shouldn't, and it doesn't, and that's the reality. So I agreed to remain in the Liberal caucus because of that assurance and only because of that assurance, quite frankly. I don't mind telling you that.
Now, I have some current problems. I'm concerned about the pace of your hearings. Explain to me what is magical about having to have this done by mid-June. I've explained about the grouping of witnesses. It's rare to group witnesses like this. It's done in committee. I've done it myself. But having a whole big group of witnesses should not be done as a regular matter of course. Regarding lead time for witnesses, this gentleman to my left had some very important work to do, and he's just testified. He had less than 24 hours' notice. That's not the proper courtesy. That's not the proper respect.
Mr. Chairman, this should be an election issue, in my view. I will do everything possible to defeat this legislation. I said that publicly in the House. I said it in the Liberal caucus. To me, there should be some consideration possibly for a referendum, but it certainly should be an election issue. Why? The Supreme Court has now ruled. Some of the earlier witnesses said this has been debated for a long time--it hasn't been since the Supreme Court has ruled. The Supreme Court ruled only in recent months. I've called on two prime ministers to use the notwithstanding clause as the last resort if necessary to uphold marriage. It's not some draconian thing: it's section 33 of the charter. And I quoted a former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, back to himself, that without the desire to use that as a last resort sometimes in this country, what we have in effect is rule by judges. Without section 33, as anybody who knows the politics of the day knows, we wouldn't have a charter.
Mr. Chairman, I'll finish there and just simply say that I haven't spoken to my arguments against same-sex marriage. Others can do that. I've done that extensively in the House of Commons in two different speeches. If anybody would like to reference them or wants copies, they're easy to get, or call my office and I'll provide them.
Thank you very much. I'm happy to take questions as well.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Let me say, with my colleague's indulgence, it was not Bill C-250 that I referenced. I forget the number of the bill, but it was the bill to change the act to add sexual orientation to the hate crime.... It wasn't Bill C-250. It was back about six or seven years ago; it wasn't the recent Bill C-250, which in fact I opposed.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much for the questions.
I would have been willing to sit on the committee; there's no question about that. I think it's pretty clear, mostly--there are no political rookies around here any more--even to the new MPs, that when the party whip is picking the people to be on the committee, he or she is going to pick people who support the government position. I guess that would be expected. I happen to think it would be a little more representative a committee if there were at least one Liberal member of Parliament to represent the 35 known to oppose it, as well as the others who will join the 35 in the ultimate vote. And there will be others. That's the political reality. I've been here 12 years, so I'm not surprised by the membership on the committee, from any party. There is no disrespect intended to my colleagues; we simply disagree. Within the Liberal Party we have significant disagreement on this issue of same-sex marriage, no surprise.
I didn't seek travel with my assurance from the Prime Minister that convinced me to stay in the caucus; I didn't make travel an issue, and I'll tell you why. I was on the committee that did travel extensively. I said if the committee decides to travel, wonderful. As for the previous witnesses who said we've heard enough, that's quite wrong; we have not heard enough since the Supreme Court ruled. Even if you reference the committee hearings that I sat through, I repeat, they were reduced to a farce: the committee didn't even write its report; it didn't even try to appeal the incredibly arrogant ruling of the Ontario court to instantly redefine marriage.
Am I satisfied? I have some concerns about what's going on here. I understand the realities the chairman deals with. I'm chairing the Standing Committee on National Defence myself. But the reality, as Mr. Siksay pointed out, is that the position may have been well known and easy to bring here, but people have forgone very significant other commitments to be here, and that's simply not fair, in my humble opinion.
I'll finish my question with this. What is the rush? Unless this committee imposes the June 14 deadline, there is no reason for the rush, and this kind of situation could be avoided.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much.
I had short notice too, but I was already here.
Going back to Mr. Boudria's point and the concerns that I have about this process--and they're growing as I sit here--you have people coming to the committee on extremely short notice. The chair has explained why. It doesn't change the reality that it's extremely short notice. You have something verging on browbeating of witnesses, because they're not, in my view, adhering to the strict terms of the interpretation of the parameters of this committee, yet these people weren't given adequate opportunity to address these strict parameters.
You know, you can't have it both ways. Either it's a full and fair and meaningful process, or it's not. So far today, I've got mixed feelings about exactly what I'm seeing.
I want to take another opportunity, if I might, to thank you for the opportunity. I was asked earlier about the provisions for the committee and the agreement I had with the Prime Minister. I stress there was no.... I didn't make a point with the Prime Minister about travel. Let me tell you why. It was because I take him as a man of his word, and I know, as an experienced parliamentarian of 12 years, that most hearings take place on this Hill. That's where most hearings take place.
The committee did travel extensively in 2002-03, although the process was reduced to a farce and we didn't report, but one would assume that since the committee is not going to travel, it wouldn't impose an artificial deadline of June 14 or whatever it is. It wouldn't expect witnesses to come on extremely short notice and then lecture them on the parameters of the committee and when they're offside, not speaking specifically, or not keeping themselves within those parameters. It's just.... Let's get realistic about this. Either there's a desire to consult with significant groups at this stage or there isn't. To tell us what the very strict parameters are of this committee and the hearings is not necessarily in keeping with the spirit of that kind of a dialogue to address the democratic deficit we all want to address around this place.
Thank you.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
I'd love to jump in briefly. I repeat what I said to the gentleman who is asking the question, Mr. Hawke, and I want to hear the answer. Not a single national or international court or tribunal has ruled that this is a matter of human rights. Some judges in Canada have ruled it's a matter of human rights; some judges in Canada have ruled it is not.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Good morning, everybody. I'd like to call to order the 39th meeting of SCONDVA, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.
We have two orders of business today. The first and foremost, and most important, of course, is to welcome and then hear from our witnesses, following which we will have two or three items, fairly brief but important, of committee business. So let us begin.
It is my pleasure to welcome General Rick Hillier, the relatively newly appointed Chief of the Defence Staff. We'll have to stop saying that, General.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Okay, great, we'll give you a little more time with that “relatively new” part.
It's great to welcome you to SCONDVA as CDS. My apologies that I could not make Monday's meeting with the two relevant ministers, but I know the committee was in good hands with our vice-chair, Rick Casson. I should have known better than to try to negotiate the 401 on a Monday morning to try to get a flight in Toronto.
General Hillier, welcome to you, and welcome to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Buck, and also to General Dempster, director general of strategic planning. Gentlemen, welcome all. We're very anxious to hear from you, and for you, General Hillier, to brief the committee on how you see the restructuring of the forces.
As you know, with Monday's meeting and with this meeting today, we really now start to move forward in a significant way on the committee work on the review of the policy statements, so you are very welcome. It is very important that you're here.
The floor is yours, sir.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much, General Hillier. We'll obviously have a number of questions, as you might anticipate.
Our first round is for seven minutes, starting with Mr. Casson, please.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you very much.
You're up next, Mr. Bachand, for seven minutes.
View Pat O'Brien Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Bachand, for one final question. Please be brief.
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