* * *
The Honourable Martin Cauchon, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Dear Mr. Cauchon:
On behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge you to appeal the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of Halpern et al. v. The Attorney General of Canada that redefined marriage to be "The voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others."
Marriage as a public commitment between a man and a woman has profound cultural, religious and social significance. As a word and as an institution marriage is full of history, meaning and symbolism. The State has a fundamental interest in this social institution where most children are procreated and nurtured and, according to recent statistics, continues to be the most stable environment in which to raise a family.
The reasons for the Court's finding that "the Attorney General of Canada did not demonstrate any pressing and substantial objective for maintaining marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution" are unconvincing and disappointing. We know that not every married couple has children, that not all children are born in marriages, and that not all marriages lead to stable and nurturing environments for children. We also recognize that, with the help of new technologies and the intervention of a third party of the opposite sex, same-sex unions can have children. Exceptions, however, do not invalidate but prove the rule; individual practices and choices do not determine the objectives of an institution such as marriage which plays such a pivotal social role.
The Court's conclusions about the objectives of marriage should concern Canadians about the future of our country and Members of Parliament who are ultimately responsible for the development of social policy in this country.
The written argument filed in the Ontario Court of Appeal by you as the Attorney General of Canada echoed this concern very well: "The Charter was never intended to effect a wholesale alteration of the fundamental societal structures and institutions within which it emerged."
As you know, members of the House of Commons affirmed on 9 June 1999, by a vote of 216 to 55, "That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada."
We respectfully ask you to live up to this resolution and do everything necessary to preserve the definition of marriage, including appealing the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal. Millions of Canadians, who have invested a great deal of hope and meaning in marriage, are counting on you.
Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, P.H.
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
CC: Members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights