January 18, 2005
The Rt. Hon. Mr. Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons, Parliament Buildings,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister,
I understand the difficulty in which recent decisions of various Courts of Appeal and the supreme Court of Canada have left the Government of Canada regarding the traditional opposite-sex definition of marriage. Parliament is about to consider legislation to redefine marriage as a lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others, thus paving the way for same-sex marriage.
So far the debate has been among lawyers. It is time for there to be a debate in Canadian society as a whole. It is time for ordinary Canadians to be given a sufficient opportunity to discuss the issues and to reflect on the deeper implications before a debate occurs in Parliament and a decision is made that could irrevocably chnage the nature of marriage and the family in Canada.
My purpose in writing this open letter to you is to urge caution in taking this step towards the re-definition of marriage. We all would do well to pause refelctively before we alter social structures like marriage and family. that lie at the core of our society, and that represent the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages.
The conjugal partnership of a man and a woman is the beginning and basis of human society and the family is the first and vital cell of society. Tampering with marriage and the family poses significant social risks.
Can we say with certainty what the social outcome of a re-definition of marriage would be? In all humility, none of us can do so. Human sexuality is a powerful force, which society has acknowledged through many of our laws and social customs.
If same-sex marriage receives the approval of Parliament, then what?
The law is a teacher. Does Canadian society as a whole, and do parents in particular, understand what the law will be teaching in this instance? It will be teaching that homosexual activity and heterosexual activity are morally equivalent. Public schools will be required to provide sex education in that light. Many parents, religious and non-religious, would not agree, nor would many, if not the majority, of Canadians. Is it fair to put children in hte position of having to reconcile the values and beliefs of their parents with a novel state-sponsored understanding of marriage that may not be truly supported by the majority of Canadians?
Prime Minister, have you received assurances from provincial premiers that they are providing legislative protection for the right of religious officials and organizations to decline to celebrate same-sex marriages that are contrary to their faith? Are you prepared to pass legislation in the absence of such assurances?
An open and full debate would explore these and other implications of the proposed re-definition of marriage.
I urge you, Prime Minister, to table a Bill that legislatively enacts the traditional opposite-sex definition of marriage, coupled with a clause that provides for the legislation to take effect notwithstanding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As you know, the so-called “notwithstanding clause” has a five-year life span. A five-year period will allow this national discussion sufficient time to occur and to ripen into a sober and careful decision. It will give time for Canada to observe the social experiments now uder way in Belgium and the Netherlands, and in other places where legislation implementing same-sex marriage might occur.
Some will argue that the use of the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is wrong in principle. I must respectfully disagree. The notwithstanding clause was inserted into the Charter to recognize parliamentary supremacy and the need for democratic oversight for courts. No Canadian can say that courts always get things right. Judges are not lected and are ultimately not accountable for their decisions. Fundamental social change should only occur with the consent of the people through their democratic institutions. This understanding of the role of Parliament led to the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Charter. Its use in the context of same-sex marriage would be most appropriate.
Finally, Prime Minister, you will no doubt agree that freedom of conscience is fundamental to our society. Members of Parliament must be free to vote in accordance with their consciences on a matter as basic as our social structure as the definition of marriage. I urge you to permit all parliamentarians, Cabinet Ministers included, to vote their consciences on any legislation that it put to a vote in parliament on the issue of marriage.
Wishing you a happy new year, I remain,
Archbishop of Toronto
Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontarion M4T 1W2
Attention News Editors:
Media Advisory – Provocative New Book Launched in Defense of Traditional Marriage
TORONTO, Oct. 25 /CNW/ – Tuesday October 26th will mark the launch of Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment, a provocative new collection of essays from McGill-Queen’s University Press that takes on Canada’s debate over changes in the definition of marriage.
On hand for launch will be editors Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow of Montreal’s Institute for the Study of Marriage Law and Culture as well as McGill University professor Margaret Somerville and Maggie Gallagher, a nationally syndicated columnist in the US and the force behind marriagedebate.com.
The event will include remarks from the editors and contributors as well as a media opportunity for interaction. In addition, Cere and Farrow are available for interviews or appearances by arrangement.
Toronto Launch of Divorcing Marriage
WHEN: Tuesday, October 26, 2004 1:30 pm
WHERE: Park Hyatt Hotel
4 Avenue Rd.,
northwest corner of Avenue Rd. and Bloor St. W.
For further information and to arrange media interviews:
Please contact Elaine Barber, 416-535-2815 x. 28
The Institute for Study of Marriage, Law and Culture
About Maggie Gallagher:
MQUP’s Divorcing Marriage page:
Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment
By Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow
Foreword by Maggie Gallagher, co-author of The Case for Marriage
A brilliant, timely, and essential book on same-sex marriage. John O’Sullivan of ‘The National Interest’
Is redefining marriage to include same-sex unions simply an act of fairness to gays and lesbians – another step in the evolution of Canada into a just society? Or is it a hastily conceived social experiment that will undermine human rights, deflecting marriage from the support of children to the mere affirmation of sexual commitment between adults?
Written for a broad readership, Divorcing Marriage sheds light on three central questions: How did Canada come to the point of proposing a redefinition of marriage? Where would redefinition take Canadian society? Do the Charter and equality rights mandate exchanging an opposite-sex institution for one built on the union of two persons? The contributors ask Canadians to pause for reflection and take a closer look at the arguments for and against redefinition of marriage. They implore us to examine the effects of marriage on children, the law, freedom of speech and religion, and society as a whole.
The authors are prominent Canadians in the fields of law, ethics, political science, religion, and culture and include, among others, Margaret Somerville, Ted Morton, F.C. DeCoste, Katherine Young, and Conservative Party MP John McKay.
Whatever one’s view on gay marriage, this volume injects a sturdy dose of realism into a debate that tends to be driven by ideology and naiveté.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of political science, University of Chicago
For those of us who are concerned about judicial pre-emption of ordinary democratic political processes, this book is a welcome and well-reasoned contribution to the much-needed public discussion of what is at stake in the current marriage debate.
Mary Ann Glendon, professor of law, Harvard University
Daniel Cere is director of the Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law, and Culture in Montreal and a consultant to several North American think-tanks.
Douglas Farrow is associate professor of Christian thought at McGill University, author or editor of several other books, including Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society, and a frequent contributor on social issues to Canada’s national newspapers.
[My note: It is an excellent source of information unveiling the dangers in Canada’s new social experiment. Divorcing Marriage makes a compelling case that romanticisms plus rights has prompted Canada to embark on a radical social experiment absent the sober analysis and criticism that should be attended on such efforts.]
Source: Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
Date: 18 Dec 2004
Don’t use the Charter for political correctness
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Page Name: Arguments
Byline: Margret Kopala
Column: Margret Kopala
Source: Citizen Special
Better late than never, there’s finally a meaningful and accessible analysis in the debate on same-sex marriage.
Published earlier this year by McGill-Queen’s University Press and edited by Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow, Divorcing Marriage, Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment is a collection of thoughtful arguments by established academics who oppose same-sex marriage and raise seminal questions about its social effects, the nature of human dignity and equality rights, and the proper relationship of the state to civil society. This makes Divorcing Marriage the Christmas season’s must-have stocking-stuffer– particularly for parliamentarians, opinion makers and officers of the courts who must deliberate on such matters.
One chapter focuses on the obligatory questions about how same-sex marriage will affect our religious freedoms while, appropriately, concerns about the needs of children to be raised by their biological parents are woven throughout. Here, too, new questions arise, such as how it will affect the development of a masculine identity in young men for whom having or being a father is already devalued and a source of increasing social problems.
Then there are the legal questions: should feelings, lifestyles, or behaviours be determinants in defining human dignity and the disposition of equality rights?
The many contributors address these and other questions, but it is a law professor from the University of Alberta who offers a profound caution for our times and who concludes that the answer to same-sex marriage is “Nothing, nothing at all.”
In a short but far-reaching essay entitled “What’s the Charter Got to DoWith It?”, F. C. DeCoste exposes how a well-meaning liberal state can descend into totalitarianism.
State and law exist for persons, writes the legal theorist who also teaches on law and the Holocaust. Persons define themselves in their interactions with each other, not with the state. These interactions comprise civil society, or “the culture of daily life,” where persons are left alone “to author their own so-brief lives as each sees fit provided only that they cause no one harm.” Civil society is therefore prior and superior to the state, one of whose tasks is to maintain the primacy and autonomy of civil society. This means prohibiting “totalitarianism (or state occupation of the private sphere through legal imperialism) and, with that, the commitment, institutionalized through the rule of law, to limited government.
“Exceeding these boundaries, the state no longer protects social life but instead becomes its supervisor and engineer… and “the source, and not just the custodian, of rights and duties…”
“The state’s claim over marriage is most egregious in these regards, because marriage is both so intimate a form of social life and the form of life through which so many claim authorship over their lives.”
Good intentions only blind “the officers of the reformist state… to the consequences of their decisions.” Today, equality “is the value on which -engineering state acts.” Those who oppose it are viewed as “standing for inequality.”
In a paper on the Halpern v. Canada decision, DeCoste relents sufficiently to suggest that the state (the provinces) may recognize civil unions if same-sex unions are established as a social institution and if recognition does not amount to social engineering. “The first condition is meant to respect the integrity of the homosexual community… especially so given the law’s dishonourable history in that regard; and the second is meant to prohibit the state from rejoining that history under the guise of benevolence.”
Should Parliament decide? “Our law is a tradition and site of contestation about the limits of the authority of the state, in all of its branches, (his italics) to regulate our lives …”
Both Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights were hopeful responses to the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi totalitarianism. What a bitter irony, then, that the Charter and much human-rights legislation should now be abused to promote the soft totalitarianism of the secular and the politically correct.
Perhaps the Supreme Court understood these dangers when it declined to offer an opinion on the constitutionality of traditional marriage. Perhaps the eight premiers who opposed Trudeau when he first introduced the Charter intuitively understood them, too, because only when Alberta’s Premier Lougheed suggested the notwithstanding clause was it accepted.
Has an Albertan again shown the way forward?
Margret Kopala’s column on western perspectives appears every other week.