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Legal - Canada - Rights, dignity, liberty and choice

February 22, 2005

Rights, dignity, liberty and choice
And no free vote on these says NDP's Libby Davies

"I listened to the minister of defence and the questions and comments that came later and I must say that to me this bill is not about some notion of tolerance. I actually do not even like that word; that we somehow tolerate other people who we see as different from ourselves. There is a sense of judgment in that, in saying that we will tolerate someone on the basis of their beliefs. To me, this bill and this debate are about rights. This is about dignity. This is about individual liberties and individual choice ...

Why the Charter of Rights and Freedoms"In terms of my own position, I do want to say that I do not see this as a debate about tolerance, as I said, or about destroying tradition or undermining other people's rights. In fact, what I believe is that one can actually be against same sex marriage and vote for the bill. I believe that is possible, because to me what this bill is about is our duty and responsibility as members of Parliament to uphold people's rights and choices.

"I do not believe it is up to me as a member of Parliament to say to another couple that they have no right to get married. I think it is very possible that one can be opposed to same sex marriage for religious reasons, cultural reasons or personal reasons, whatever they might be, it does not matter. That choice is not taken away from those members, but I see a distinction between that and what our roles and responsibilities are as members of Parliament.

"There are 308 of us and we have a very privileged position in this place. I believe that one of our core roles is to uphold the values of our society in terms of people's rights and their choices. I come here as a member of Parliament, no matter what my personal views are, and my duty is to uphold those rights for equality.

"I would really encourage members of the Conservative Party to think about that, because at the end of the day surely it is my choice if I wish to marry my partner who is a woman. That is my choice to make as long as I am doing it within the bounds of civil marriage and so on. I cannot understand and I cannot see how any other member of the House or the state as a whole has a right to deny me that choice if I want to make that choice, if I choose to live common law or if I choose to be married with my partner who is a woman. To me, that is a very fundamental question in this bill that has been put forward ...

"People are worried about losing their sense of tradition. Rather than MPs fueling and exploiting that fear, we have a responsibility to tell Canadians that this is not about fear. It is not about something ending. It is about something beginning. It is about extending the celebration of love and commitment into a civil institution of marriage. This is not something we should see as an end. We should see it as a great beginning ..."

Canadian Beacon

Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2004

"I had an opportunity some months ago to be at Toronto City Hall. I was there with the mayor. On that occasion several hundred people of same sex had obtained marriage licences to celebrate the fact that they were able to get married. It was no different from any other day when groups of people get together and celebrate their ability to pledge allegiance to one another, to one another's future, the same emotions, the same concerns about where they are going, the same angst that one has and yet the same thrill that this commitment is being made.

"Something quite remarkable happened at that event. As I stood there watching, I was asked if I would say a few words. A young American stood up on the stage. He said that he was there with 20 of his American friends, all of whom had come to Canada to get married.

"This young man from Boston [we suspect Mr. Graham is thinking of Brendan Fay] said something quite extraordinary. I mean this in no way critical of the United States, but I am quoting him, he said, “For me the Statue of Liberty has moved from my country to Canada as we come here today to celebrate our individual and collective liberties”.

"Everyone in that room stood up and sang O Canada. Mr. Speaker, you and I know that Canadians are not demonstrative as a rule, but I was proud of that group. I was proud of that moment. I will be proud when this bill is passed and we can all say the same thing: our country is a beacon for liberty; our country is a beacon for individual rights, freedoms, respect and tolerance for one another.

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of National Defence, Liberal), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005

No Free Vote

"Mr. Speaker, I feel very comfortable with the decision our leader has made, that this is not “a free vote” for the NDP. We have a party policy. The highest order of our party is a party convention. It was at a convention that our members democratically voted on a resolution overwhelmingly supporting same sex marriage. Therefore, when we run for the NDP, we do so on the basis of supporting our party policy and party platform. That is number one.

"Second, we do not see this as a matter of conscience. We see it as a matter of being a member in this place, being willing and accepting our responsibility to uphold the rights of people. That is why I say we can be opposed to same sex marriage but still vote for the bill. I do not see that as a contradiction at all. I feel proud of the fact that our [NDP] leader has had the courage to stand up and say, because this is an issue of rights, we will not vote against those rights. He said to every one of us that we would be [expected to] vote for the bill. That message also came from the membership of our party, so he has done the right thing.

Paul Martin comes out cruising for votes."The Conservative Party did it differently. I happen to disagree with that. I think it is a cop-out. I particularly feel that way with the Liberals. The Prime Minister said to Canadian to vote for him on the basis of equality, then he said to his own members that they would have a free vote. I do not like that and I do not think it is a good situation."

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005


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