OTTAWA, December 19, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The first subject in the English language debate between the leaders of the four major Canadian political parties centered on homosexual 'marriage'. As with the French debate which took place earlier last week, Friday's debate featured Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin trying to outdo each other in their support for the permanence of homosexual 'marriage' in Canada.
For his part, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper explained, "Most Conservatives support the traditional definition of marriage. Our party position is to support the traditional definition while supporting similar rights and benefits for all other equivalent relationships." Harper repeated again that he would not use the notwithstanding clause on the issue but tempered conservative backlash by noting that he would have a "free vote" on the matter in Parliament.
Of all the Leaders, Martin was most emotional and emphatic on the issue, going to far as to claim that homosexual "marriage" is a "Charter right", despite the fact that "sexual orientation" was specifically excluded from the Charter by its framers.
Despite his strident support for homosexual 'marriage' Martin nonetheless refers to himself publicly as "a very strong Roman Catholic," a statement which is not contradicted by his bishop, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais, who told LifeSiteNews.com in June that he considers Martin "a faithful member of my Cathedral parish". ( see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jun/05062902.html )
"Mr. Harper wants to reopen the issue, the Charter issue of same-sex marriage, and he would take away a Charter right," said Martin. "I believe it's wrong to take away people's rights. I believe the job of the prime minister is to protect them, not just the ones you happen to agree with."
Layton said, "There's one thing you can do to make sure that such an issue doesn't get raised again and debated and undone in the House of Commons" - vote NDP.
But Gilles Duceppe garnered, albeit unintentionally, the most humour of the night with his comments on homosexual 'marriage'. The Bloc Leader, whose party's purpose is to continually raise the issue of Quebec separation from Canada despite repeated referenda on the subject that have rejected such separation, said the gay 'marriage' issue is decided and should not be revisited. "Well, we already had a free vote on that, so I think we shouldn't have a free vote on a question that was resolved every six months. That was decided, and I think we have to live with that, and people I think will get used to that because it is now normal."
Harper responded to Martin's Charter accusations noting that the Supreme Court did not, in fact, rule on the issue of homosexual 'marriage'. "This issue was referred to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court left the definition of marriage to Parliament," he said. Adding his own challenge to Martin, Harper said, "If he believes it's a charter issue, why are there dozens of Liberal candidates running in this election who actually support the Conservatives position on the issue?"
Martin replied with vehemence, "The Supreme Court may well interpret, but let me tell you, it's the responsibility of the prime minister to defend the Charter of Rights, and if you can't defend the Charter of Rights, they be then you've got to ask why you want to be prime minister, and I will defend the Charter of Rights and not bring forward new legislation."
So fanatical was Martin in his charge that unless the gay 'marriage' Charter right was upheld Harper could not run for the nation's top job that journalists questioned him on whether any persons running for political office should be allowed to do so if they rejected homosexual 'marriage'.
Quickly back-pedalling Martin replied, "The point that I made was one that was directed at the prime minister -- the person who occupies the job of prime minister. The issue is not, 'What does an individual MP say?' An individual MP is entitled to his or her vision. The issue is, 'What is the role and responsibility of the prime minister of the country?' And the role of the prime minister of the country is to support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And it is not, in any way, shape, or form, to call the Charter into doubt."
See the full debate transcript here: