Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 3, 2003
C'tee to hear grassroots on same-sex unions
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
After a month of listening to dozens of representatives of national organizations and individuals in Ottawa, the House of Commons committee studying marriage and same-sex unions has decided to go on the road.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has authorized a travelling budget of $347,000 and will hold hearings in 11 cities in April, a committee source told CCN Feb. 25.
The additional hearings will be held in Vancouver, Edmonton, Moose Jaw, Steinbach, Halifax, Sussex, Sudbury, Toronto, Iqaluit, Montreal and Rimouski in the first two weeks of April and the last week of April but firm dates were not available.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon had given the committee until April to submit its report and recommendations but the source said it could be late May before the report is handed in.
The committee is considering whether Parliament should take measures to recognize same-sex unions and if so, what they should be.
A discussion paper issued by Cauchon gives members some possible approaches to the thorny issue. They include: keeping marriage as an opposite-sex institution, which is the preference of the Catholic bishops of Canada; changing it to also include same-sex couples; leaving marriage solely to the religions; or keeping marriage as it is but creating a law to allow for civil unions that would be deemed equivalent to marriage for federal purposes for other conjugal relationships.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops presented its brief to the committee Feb. 13, saying that allowing same-sex partners to marry would change the definition of marriage so that it would no longer be marriage "because by definition marriage is a union between a man and a woman."
Allowing for same-sex marriages would be a serious experiment, said Dr. Paul Nathanson, a professor at McGill University, who told the committee he is gay. "The results of fatherless children on a massive scale are discouraging, even under the status quo. Allowing gay marriage would only exacerbate the problem."
Nathanson also said that 40 years ago it seemed like common sense that changing the divorce laws would be an act of compassion for the few, but one that would make little or no difference to the many. "That was naive, to say the least," he said. "It changed us in ways that no one could have imagined."