National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

Notwithstanding the decision by most members of Parliament on Dec. 7 to refuse even to reconsider the abolition of the traditional definition of marriage in Canadian law, this issue is not closed. And it never will be closed, until the great majority of our MPs and judges recognize that they have no more power to change the fundamental nature of marriage than to transform a man into a woman.

That said, Parliament now seems bent on experimenting with so-called same-sex “marriage” for quite some time. The vote to reconsider the enactment in 2005 that abandoned the traditional legal definition of marriage lost by the decisive margin of 175-123. Only 13 Liberal MPs backed the motion, while an equal number of Conservative MPs, including six cabinet ministers, were opposed.

Just six years earlier, Parliament voted 216-55 in favour of a motion declaring: “It is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.” What accounts for this turnaround?

Judicial activists bear much of the blame. In a rogue decision in 2003, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal imposed same-sex “marriage” on Canadians in defiance of Parliament and centuries of judicial precedents.

The Liberals, under the unprincipled leadership of former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, went along with this judicial usurpation of legislative power. And in 2005, with the backing of the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberals enacted same-sex “marriage” into law.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the great majority of Conservatives continued to uphold the primordial understanding of marriage. In February 2005, Harper told the Commons: “It will come as no surprise to anybody to know that I support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, as expressed in our traditional common law.” He added: “I believe this definition of marriage has served society well, has stood the test of time and is in fact a foundational institution of society.”

There is good reason to believe that Harper was sincere in advancing these arguments and that he still recognizes the vital importance to Canadian society of reaffirming the traditional legal definition of marriage. Nonetheless, in response to Parliament’s decisive rejection on Dec. 7 to so much as reconsider the marriage issue, he said: “I don’t see reopening this question in the future.”

Likewise, Justice Minister Vic Toews has been, and remains, a stalwart supporter of traditional marriage and the natural family. Like Harper, he views the Dec. 7 vote as decisive for the legal definition of marriage. “I don’t think there’s any intentions of reopening (this issue),” he said. “There’s been no commitment in that respect and I don’t see any prospect in that respect.”

Evidently, Harper and Toews think the Conservatives must indefinitely postpone any attempt to revive the traditional definition of marriage in Canadian law if they are to have any reasonable chance of winning the next federal election. In making this political calculation, they might be wrong, but the evidence against them is thin.
Recent opinion polls on the marriage issue have been inconclusive. On Dec. 7, Pat O’Brien, the former Liberal MP who now heads Defend Marriage Canada, could only say: “I think there’s a very large proportion of this country, perhaps even a majority of the country, that doesn’t endorse same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Clearly, all of us who support traditional marriage and the natural family in Canada face a tough challenge, just as we did 16 years ago when Parliament failed even to mitigate the calamitous 1988 Morgentaler decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that abolished all legal protection for the lives of babies in the womb. On no account must we pro-life and pro-family Canadians give up the struggle. In the face of any and all setbacks, we must resolve all the more firmly to uphold the sanctity of human life and the natural family.