It’s official. Sometime after 9:00 pm last night the Canadian House of Commons passed a motion legalizing same sex civil marriages. In pretty much a free vote, where people don’t have to vote on party lines, the bill passed with a comfortable majority. Even with some Liberals voting their “conscience” and saying no the opposition couldn’t come up with the votes to defeat the motion.
The only sop thrown the political right was that the bill in no way forces a religion to perform such a ceremony if it doesn’t want to. Whether this would stand up in a court which ruled that any obstruction to same sex marriage was unconstitutional is a question for another time.
What matters now is that Canada has become only the third country in the world to have a law endorsing same sex marriage. The whole thing was slightly redundant because it’s the provinces that have control over laws governing marriage, and all but three provinces have already established laws that allow them. With the passage of federal legislation the remainder will probably follow suit shortly.
It was all rather a tempest in a tea cup anyway. Once the courts had decided that it was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prohibit same sex unions, it became illegal to do so. A government could invoke something called “The Not Withstanding Clause” which allows them to opt out of the Charter of Rights on a specific issue if they seriously wanted to prevent gay weddings.
There is no way that a politician or political party is going to go on record in Canada as being the ones to do that. The potential political fall out could destroy their chances of re-election. In this country no matter how right wing you are, if you are serious about holding power , you can talk a good extreme game, but you’d better not put it into action.
Most Canadians are justifiably proud of their reputation for fairness. Invoking the Not Withstanding Claus to deny somebody a right given them by the Supreme Court of Canada would not go down well.
The Liberal party’s approach to the matter was to make it rights issue. Over and over again the federal government emphasised that this was about guaranteeing minority rights. That in a country as diverse as Canada we can not treat any one group differently then the next in terms of certain inherit rights, even if we don’t happen to agree with them. Everybody has the right to be treated in the same manner.
Perhaps in an attempt to cloud the issue and play the fear card, some members of The Conservative Party Of Canada accused the Liberals of being hypocrites. Their reasoning; because they would protect the rights of homosexuals but not those of people who were the victims of pedophiles. Those type of remarks typified the level of debate offered as opposition to the bill.
The only explanation for comments like these is they are being made for the benefit of constituents who feel that way. In a fine example of leadership the Conservative Party of Canada showed they are willing pander to the lowest common denominator in our society by utilizing statements that will be sure to raise some people’s ire. It’s these types of appeal to the hate card that manifests the distrust of the party in the urban areas of Quebec and Ontario.
As these are the areas in Canada with the highest population density, they also have the majority of the seats in parliament. Unless their leader, Steven Harper, is able to reign in some of his more voluble members they are doomed to never gain power. But he has proven himself not much more aware then his fellow travellers.
Ever since the courts made their decision Mr. Harper has been ranting and raving about how horrid same sex marriages are. Americans will probably recognise the language, it sounds like it has been lifted from the speech of any republican politician. You know, the bible, God, and traditional family values. Slogans meaning little or nothing.
But in Canada we don’t trust politicians who invoke God in the way Americans seem to. Because of the divers nature of our population separation of church and state is very important to our voters. The slightest hint that one religion is being pushed to a place of import in political decisions makes a lot of people nervous. What would happen to them in a faith influenced state?
Throughout this debate Mr. Harper has shown that he is either not above wilfully misleading people or is just ignorant of how our constitution and the Charter of Rights works. He has continually stated that in order to prevent gay marriage that the bill had to be defeated in the house. But as was pointed out earlier, and has been pointed out in many a newspaper article, the only way to stop gay marriage now would be through invoking the not withstanding clause of the Charter.
Even yesterday after the vote was lost he was still talking about the legislation. If they were to form a government one of the things Mr. Harper would ensure is that a new bill would be introduced. The longer he continues to play that tune the more ridiculous he is looking.
Symbolically the passage of the same sex marriage bill does two things. One it lends authenticity and authority to a court decision. It also makes the Liberal party look more and more like the party of government. In the past session of parliament, in spite of having a minority government, they have managed to pass the majority of their agenda, with little or no concessions.
The Conservative Party of Canada on the other hand has managed to look unorganized, desperate, and ignorant of the laws of the country they want to govern. With the beginning of summer recess and the house not sitting again to the fall the Liberal party has lots of time to plot their strategy. They are now in a position where they can let themselves be defeated and stand a good chance of recovering seats lost in the last election.
The same sex marriage bill was an opportunity for Steven Harper and The Conservative Party of Canada to show what they were made of. Unfortunately for them as more of the country get to know them the less they are liking them. There chances of forming a government are all of sudden looking slimmer and slimmer.