Link To Photos of Senate
The Canadian Senate chamber

Click here for Senate Debates

 

 

"I was raised with the idea that homosexuals needed extensive counselling in order to be like the rest of us. It was not until my adult years that my view gradually changed."
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We do not have a state religion in Canada, nor have we ever had a state religion."
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"To deny these rights to those who are not mainstream is a violation of the Charter, a gross act of discrimination and a denial of the personhood against those who suffer that discrimination."
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Parliament cannot choose sides in the religious debate by enforcing one religious view of marriage on all. Otherwise, we are on the path to state religion, a concept that is currently unconstitutional and morally repugnant."
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

"Can we not respect diversity and choice in this country where we constantly boast of tolerance and pluralism?"
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

"I hope that individual senators follow closely the Ontario court case proposing recognition of same sex marriages. Among other things at stake is the continuing violation of basic human rights for a number of citizens of our country."
Sen. Lois M. Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by: Kevin Bourassa
The Ontario Hearing Daily Reports
(November 5 - 9, 2001)

November 5, 2001
November 6, 2001
November 7, 2001
November 8, 2001
November 9, 2001

Judgement is expected in March 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"To vote for this bill [Bill S-9] would be to accept the Neanderthal idea that common law is static and incapable of expanding to meet the changing needs of society."
Sen. Laurier LaPierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I oppose it [Anti-gay Bill S-9] because it is discriminatory. It is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It denies that all Canadians, regardless of their religion, culture or sexual orientation, are equal before the law, before the Charter, and before each other."
Sen. Laurier LaPierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Many have been discriminated against in the name of the gods and their lives ruined to maintain the hegemony of a fragile orthodoxy. They died in the dungeons of the princes of the churches and of the states, or burned at the stake by order of the churches or stoned in the public square of Imams. They died in Nazi concentration camps. They were reviled in the pulpits in the first days of AIDS ..."
Sen. Laurier LaPierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The day will come when homosexuals will be equal with heterosexuals. At that moment, harmony will be returned, and the individuals of the group to which I belong will walk in the light of day and under the stars at night without fear."
Sen. Laurier LaPierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Honourable senators, to use religion to justify intolerance is cowardly. It is an attempt to use faith to mask hatred."
Sen. Mobina Jaffer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage Debate In The Canadian Senate

Comments Regarding Bill S-9
(to remove certain doubts regarding the meaning of marriage)

March 13, 2002

Hon. Lois M. Wilson:

Honourable senators, on Bill S-9, to remove certain doubts regarding the meaning of marriage, I was raised with the idea that homosexuals needed extensive counselling in order to be like the rest of us. It was not until my adult years that my view gradually changed. I have a male friend whom I have known for 50 years who married and fathered children, two of whom I baptized. For some years we lived in the same provinces, but then we moved and I lost track of him. After a five-year interval, I ran into him again and immediately knew something significant had happened to him. "Your face is different," I said. "I cannot define it. What has happened?" His astonishing response was: "I have never been happier in my whole life. I have been a homosexual all my life, and my wife and I finally came to terms with it and I am now on my own. We parted amicably. My identity is now clear."

I could not deny this man's life or testimony. He is still the same responsible, caring person I had known at an earlier time. Now relieved of having to conceal what he fought against all his life, his sexual orientation, and now able to affirm who he was, he was free to live more affirmatively than ever before. A few years later, I met his male partner. I was an overnight house guest and rejoiced in the obvious love, mutuality and partnership evident in the relationship. He continues to see his former wife and children, with whom he maintains caring relationships.

If anyone could demonstrate to me his partnership with his male partner is any less responsible, any less in the qualities that make a healthy marriage, such as expressing one's sexuality through commitment, trust and love, any less a marriage than his former one with his then wife, I would be glad to hear it.

Is the main public interest in marriage reproduction, continuation of the species and procreation of children? I think not. A quote from the 1549 Church of England's Book of Common Prayer states the purpose of marriage is for the "hallowing of union betwixt man and woman, for the procreation of children." However, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer is not the law of Canada and has never been the law of Canada. The Book of Common Prayer is the prayer book of the established Church of England. We do not have a state religion in Canada, nor have we ever had a state religion. The dissenters suffered terrible persecution in England because of state enforced religion.

From the beginning of English rule, the enlightened policy of religious tolerance was the official policy of the day in Canada. However, sadly, Canada has also known religious intolerance. Some people thought that the Book of Common Prayer should be the law of the land. Ontario's first marriages were valid only if performed by priests of the Church of England. Marriages that I would have performed in those former days would not have been recognized as legally valid because I was not a priest of the Church of England. Even Catholic marriages were not recognized legally until 1847, and Jewish and other non-Christian marriages were not legally recognized until 1857. Fortunately, our society and our laws have moved somewhat beyond that time of intolerance.

Even the rituals of the Anglican Church of Canada ceased making the main purpose of marriage the procreation of children some time ago. In its 1959 prayer book, a prayer of the wedding ceremony for the expected children was bracketed with the admonition that "this prayer shall be omitted should the woman be beyond child bearing age." Wisely so. To tie marriage to the procreation of children denies the validity of marriages of post-menopausal women who cannot conceive children. In 1985, the phrase "and that they may be blessed in the procreation, care and upbringing of children" was removed from the prayer book and made optional.

In Canada, it is only required that the civil laws of the provinces and territories be met. The law also respects the human rights of those who are different under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To deny these rights to those who are not mainstream is a violation of the Charter, a gross act of discrimination and a denial of the personhood against those who suffer that discrimination.

The law respects religious choice and diversity. For Christian people, all churches also provide a religious rite, but the Christian churches in Canada do not make the law as to who can marry. They do retain the right to decline to marry the people they do not believe are free to marry. Those people can always go to another church or to a civil authority. It is a reality that increasing numbers of persons of faith communities authorized to perform marriages continue to bless the "holy unions," as they are sometimes called, or "same gender covenants." Some faith communities have been presiding at holy unions and covenanting services for years. These include some reform Rabbis, ministers of the Metropolitan Community Church and some of the United Church, and even some Anglican bishops. Parliament cannot choose sides in the religious debate by enforcing one religious view of marriage on all. Otherwise, we are on the path to state religion, a concept that is currently unconstitutional and morally repugnant.

As we know, technological advances have made procreation of children possible by those who are members of the same sex. That is the reality. People marry even if they have no intention of having children or when they cannot do so. Yet their marriages are not denied legality. The Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, Bill C-23 of June 2000, makes it clear that marriage means "one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." That is a quote from the 1866 UK judgment in the case of Hyde v. Hyde. That should give us pause. The Hyde case is not a Canadian case. It was decided in Victorian England, at a time when many women in Canada were not even persons in the eyes of the law. Since then, the law has changed and so has society, for the better, I think. The full definition from Hyde is this:

For this purpose I conceive that in Christendom, marriage is the lawful union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others.

This "purpose" was to deal with polygamy. It had nothing to do with same sex marriages. The phrase "in Christendom" is quaint. Canada is not officially Christian, and we value religious diversity and pluralism. The "for life" part came from the Church of England's definition of marriage, as it did not allow divorce. The inflexible Hyde case was good for England in 1866 but does not belong in Canada in 2002.

Not all homosexuals want to marry, but some do. Not all heterosexuals want to marry, but some do. Can we not respect diversity and choice in this country where we constantly boast of tolerance and pluralism? Some same-sex couples want a way to say publicly they are responsible for each other their whole lives long.

What about family values? The Supreme Court of Canada in a 1992 majority decision in the case Moge v. Moge said:

Many people believe that marriage and family provide for the emotional, economic, and social well-being of its members. Marriage and family are a superb environment for raising and nurturing the young of our society by providing the initial values that we deem to be central to our sense of community.

If marriage is the best place to raise children and same-sex couples choose to have children, surely those children should not be deprived of what is best for them. There is food for thought in Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé's comment on this worthy passage in her dissent in the 1993 case of the Canada (Attorney General) v. Mossop as follows:

...these values are not exclusive to the traditional family and can be advanced in other types of families. For example, while we may see marriage as an indicator of stability, it appears from the current rate of marriage breakdown that heterosexual union is not an absolute guarantee of stability....stability is a desirable value, but may be achieved in a variety of family forms....long lasting and stable relationships have been maintained outside the bounds of legal marriage, as well as within same-sex relationships.

In short, I hope the Senate does not pass this unnecessary bill. It is not necessary to make clear what has been the practice since at least the beginning of Confederation and confirmed ever since on numerous occasions. There is no need to try to make clearer what is already the law of the land. Remember that law is not static. I hope that individual senators follow closely the Ontario court case proposing recognition of same sex marriages. Among other things at stake is the continuing violation of basic human rights for a number of citizens of our country.

(1450)

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Will the Honourable Senator Wilson take a question?

Senator Wilson: Certainly.

Senator Cools: It will take some time to respond to all of the points Senator Wilson has made. However, in terms of the law of the land as it currently stands, could Senator Wilson share with this chamber the result of the legal court challenge in British Columbia respecting same sex couples' assertions that the law of marriage discriminated against them, asking the judge in the case, Justice Pitfield, to strike down marriage? What was Mr. Justice Pitfield's response?

Senator Wilson: Honourable senators, I am unable to answer that question.

Senator Cools: For the sake of the record, this chamber should be aware that there have been three challenges on the grounds Senator Wilson has described. In point of fact, the first judgment in the first case has been rendered, and the judge has upheld marriage as between a man and a woman. The justice rejected all of the arguments put forward.

Honourable senators, perhaps I could defer and let my friend Senator LaPierre speak. He seems to want to say something.

Hon. Laurier L. LaPierre: Honourable senators, I was just telling Senator Cools that judges can be wrong.

Senator Cools: Out of order. I want an apology from this man.

The Hon. the Speaker: This is Senator Wilson's time. Does the honourable senator wish to comment?

Senator Wilson: The burden of my intervention was that I am aware of the law of the land and that there have been other court challenges and, in particular, I am familiar with the Ontario court challenge. I do not know how it will be resolved, but I would urge senators to pay close attention to it.


Text Of Speech By Sen. Laurier LaPierre
Senate Of Canada
March 6, 2002

Recorded in Senate Proceedings (Hansard)

From a speech delivered in the Upper House yesterday by Senator Laurier LaPierre on Bill S-9, legislation that opposses gay marriage in Canada.

I am a gay man, living in harmony with a kind and gentle man whose silver ring I wear with comfort on the ring finger of my right hand.

Having admitted that, I must tell you that my opposition to this bill has nothing to do with my sexual happiness, nor do I want to be married to my ring-bearer, nor do I need my union with him to be recognized by the government and society, for I need only the recognition of my children and grandchildren, my extended family and my friends. I have that.

Why, then, do I oppose this bill?

I oppose it because it is not necessary. It is a bill, according to its framer and sponsor, that makes evident what has been the rule of law since at least the beginning of Confederation and confirmed on numerous occasions. There is no need to make more evident or clearer what is evident and clear in our Constitution, and which has been the de jure and de facto reality since we began to function as a country.

I also oppose it because it defies reality. Here is what the Law Commission of Canada says: "There (are) no census data or reliable studies on the number of lesbian and gay couples living together in Canada. The available data from small-scale studies suggests that gays and lesbians form enduring conjugal relationships in numbers comparable to the population as a whole. It appears that a significant minority of Canadian households consists of same-sex couples."

These unions are part of the fabric of our national life. Gay people form unions and perform the responsibilities imposed by that union just like married couples do, and just like common-law couples do. That is the reality.

The Supreme Court declared in 1999: "The capacity to form conjugal relationships characterized by emotional and economic interdependence has nothing to do with sexual orientation."

There is another reality, a reality the sponsor of this bill missed in her remarks introducing the bill with readings from the scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church. Again I quote the Law Commission: "Contemporary Canadian understanding of religious freedom and equality require that the state not take sides in religious matters. The history of marriage regulation in Canada has thus been characterized by a progressive uncoupling of religious and legal requirements, reflecting a growing emphasis on the separation of church and state in a secular and pluralistic political community."

Here is yet another reality: Marriage is no longer exclusively the institutional instrument for the procreation of children, an argument always put forward by proponents of this bill.

Listen once again to the Law Commission: "A review of the history of state regulation of marriage helps illuminate that the state interest in marriage is not connected to the promotion of any particular conception of appropriate gender roles. Nor is the state reserving marriage to procreation and the raising of children. People may marry even if they cannot or do not intend to have children. The purposes that underlie contemporary state regulation of marriage are to provide an orderly framework in which couples can express their commitment to each other and voluntarily assume a range of legal rights and obligations."

To vote for this bill would be to accept the Neanderthal idea that common law is static and incapable of expanding to meet the changing needs of society.

I oppose the bill for those reasons but, above all, I oppose it because it is discriminatory. It is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It denies that all Canadians, regardless of their religion, culture or sexual orientation, are equal before the law, before the Charter, and before each other. It would be most inimical to the interests of the Senate if, instead of repairing this massive injustice, we add to it.

All over this sacred land of freedom, same-sex couples form unions. They have the right to the status and the recognition of the validity of their union before the law and before their fellow citizens. The stubborn refusal by some heterosexuals to exclude some Canadians from the rights and status and recognition they themselves enjoy unless their fiat is accepted -- a fiat originating in the far away antiquity of time -- bodes ill for the harmony that must exist between the different groups of a modern and democratic society.

We are told that marriage has been ordained since time immemorial for the union of a man and a woman. Well, it is not so. It became so. Antiquity was full of same-union marriages, and it was so in the early times of Christianity and Orthodoxy. This practice of same-sex union endured for centuries. Montaigne in 1578, while visiting Rome, found such a ceremony in the Church of St. John of the Latin Gate -- a ceremony, he concluded, that was an ecclesiastical legitimization of homosexuality.

One cannot escape the fact that marriage became a same-couple extravaganza, blessed by all sort of deities, in order to assure the legitimacy of the children, the safe passage of the inheritance and the status of royals, feudal lords and families. They feared that illegitimacy, the fruits of which they came to enjoy through adultery, would cause havoc with the social status of the family and the tribal order.

The Church went along with it, no doubt because men of the cloth have always feared the power of women, particularly in sexual matters. Marriage made a woman the property of her husband, thus controlling her to the largest possible degree. They forced her to hide her femininity under yards of cloth and contrived with the men of her family to keep her ignorant and chained to the stove -- a state that has been the fate of women in every conceivable church and religion we believe in and which have all been established by men wearing skirts. The Taliban, who also wear skirts, were only following tradition.

To achieve the subjugation of women it was necessary for the promulgators of marriage to launch a campaign of discrimination against homosexuality -- a campaign that coincided, oddly enough, with what became the compelling obsession of most religions: anti-Semitism.

Many have been discriminated against in the name of the gods and their lives ruined to maintain the hegemony of a fragile orthodoxy. They died in the dungeons of the princes of the churches and of the states, or burned at the stake by order of the churches or stoned in the public square of Imams. They died in Nazi concentration camps. They were reviled in the pulpits in the first days of AIDS, a moment in our history that I know much about, and they still die in the dark streets and parks of our cities. They were and are discriminated against, an abuse too often blessed by the silence or the conspiracy of the churches.

But we have survived. Despite the denials of our rights, the gay women and men in my country today are better off than I was even 10 years ago.

More and more Canadians accept same-sex marriages. Provinces are studying legislation to recognize such unions, as are religions of various kinds.

The day will come when homosexuals will be equal with heterosexuals. At that moment, harmony will be returned, and the individuals of the group to which I belong will walk in the light of day and under the stars at night without fear.


November 22, 2001

Senator Mobina Jaffer
Calls For End of Marriage Discrimination

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I was dumbfounded yesterday when this chamber debated a bill to deny marriage to homosexuals. The debate came at a time when Vancouverites still ache at the horror committed last Saturday. Tragically, Aaron Webster was violently beaten and killed. All Vancouverites were horrified by his murder. This hate crime was committed by young men. These young men had not been schooled in the Canadian value of tolerance.


A crowd of more than 1,500 people gathered on Sunday in shock and anger to call for change. The crowd was reminded by Inspector David Jones of the Vancouver police that Mr. Webster's murder was a hate crime. Inspector Jones also noted it was most probably not the first hate crime committed by Mr. Webster's murderers.

When honourable senators rise in this house to speak in favour of Bill S-9, I remind them that they are giving comfort to those who hate. They are telling more generations of young Canadians that we should not treat homosexuals equally: Homosexuals must not use the word "marriage" to describe their relationships. They are denied the use of this word and the recognition of love in relationships that it conveys to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. They are also teaching that intolerance of homosexuals is both proper and righteous.

Honourable senators, to use religion to justify intolerance is cowardly. It is an attempt to use faith to mask hatred.

The words of the Reverend Martin Niemoller in 1945 are well known to all honourable senators. He said:

First they came for Communists, and I didn't speak up - because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time - there was no one left to speak for me.

Honourable senators, we have an obligation and a duty as members of the Senate of Canada to bring honour to this institution. Honour is brought by demonstrations of tolerance. I implore all honourable senators: We must continue to work together.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Jaffer, I am sorry, but your speaking time has expired.