(Editor’s note: Pat O’Brien, a four-term Liberal MP for London-Fanshawe, Ont., ended his career as an Independent member in protest over the 2005 Civil Marriage Act on same-sex relationships. O’Brien was one of only a few MPs to voluntarily quit a government caucus in opposition to legislation. He discussed the experience in a May 13, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is a transcript of O’Brien’s remarks)
Former colleagues with whom I used to socialize were a little less ready to socialize with me. That didn’t bother me in the least. Frankly I wasn’t interested in socializing with most of them.
One day in the Liberal caucus an MP – I won’t name her – made a comment to me, a very negative comment about my views. I told her: “You and I disagree but if you keep shooting your mouth off this way and attacking my right to hold my view, I will go right to the microphone here in caucus and quote you.” She turned ashen face.
You have to understood there was half the Liberal caucus that shared my views. Quite frankly I became very disgusted with the Liberal Party. I could no longer stomach having my name associated with the Party.
Jean Chretien fundamentally understood better than other political leaders what a divisive and emotional issue, what a core moral belief this was, what a visceral issue this was and is for so many Canadians. To his great credit Chretien understood the discomfort of many of us.
This issue was a political hot potato. Governments don’t like political hot potatoes. They knew it was an emotional and divisive issue within the Liberal Party, within the country.
The Party was drifting way over to the left wing politically on core moral issues. I decided I would have to leave the Liberal Party and sit as an independent. That’s why I did it.
Marriage is to most Canadians the union of a man and woman. I still believe this to be true to most people in the world. It is the definition of one of our bedrock institutions.
Was same-sex union really a human rights issue or was it a phony human rights issue? My view is it was a phony human rights issue. To me it’s not denying anybody’s human right to tell them your relationship is fundamentally different. If it’s different, apply a different word to it.
The activists knew the best way to achieve what they wanted in this country was the courts which are so activist and so liberal after the Charter. One has to be impressed with how determined and successful they were thanks in part to the liberal, unelected, unaccountable, activist courts. We have an unelected, very small l-liberal activist court system in this country post the Charter, and those who strongly opposed changes to the definition of marriage didn’t get on the ice until the third period.
Today I think the majority of Canadians have accepted same-sex unions in the sense they know there’s nothing they can do about it. They don’t agree it should have been changed. I think the majority of Canadians disagree with the change in definition. They know that the political reality is, it’s a done deal.