The Standing Committee on National Health and Welfare will study the feasibility of a federal-provincial communications programme that will affirm the importance of marriage and family life. The idea was introduced as a Private Members’ Motion by Reg Stackhouse (Scarborough West) and passed on December 2, 1986. MPs voted to send Mr. Stackhouse’s motion to the Standing Committee on National Health and welfare to be studied. It is not yet scheduled on the agenda of the Committee, but will probably be addressed in the Spring.

During the hour of debate on the motion, Mr. Stackhouse reminded the House of the fundamental importance of the family, not only to the persons who comprise the family unit, but to society itself. He stated that the family is the foundation upon which any society must rest, and it offers unique satisfaction to the basic, permanent, universal human need for belonging: to belong to each other, to care for one another, and to be cared for by one another. Some form of family will always be needed, he said, although we have seen changes in the typical family structure. It was Mr. Stackhouse’s opinion that the government has a responsibility to strengthen the capabilities of families through legislation and education. As one of the most powerful means of education is television, his motion specifically mentions the use of this medium to communicate the values of family life.

Other MPs also spoke to the motion. Lucie Pepin (Outremont) stressed that such a communications program should not force traditional family values on the population. She stated that a programme to promote or encourage traditional families would not meet the needs of the majority of Canadians, and that she could not support a programme with such a narrow view. She recommended that sexual education programmes should be integrated into the communications program to combat teenage pregnancy and parenthood.

Lyn MacDonald (Broadview-Greenwood) spoke in favour of the motion, but was concerned about the cost of broadcasting as an integral part of the communications programme. Monique Tardif (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare) moved an amendment to the motion to give the Standing Committee on National Health and Welfare the power to study feasibility of such a communications programme. Following this, Albert Cooper (Peace River), Jim Jepson (London East) and Leo Duguay (St. Boniface) spoke in favor of the motion, and the amendment and motion were passed by the House of Commons.