Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 139, Issue 72

Thursday, November 22, 2001
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker

The Tragic Death of Aaron Webster

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I was dumbfounded yesterday when this chamber debated a bill to deny marriage to homosexuals. The debate came at a time when Vancouverites still ache at the horror committed last Saturday. Tragically, Aaron Webster was violently beaten and killed. All Vancouverites were horrified by his murder. This hate crime was committed by young men. These young men had not been schooled in the Canadian value of tolerance.

A crowd of more than 1,500 people gathered on Sunday in shock and anger to call for change. The crowd was reminded by Inspector David Jones of the Vancouver police that Mr. Webster’s murder was a hate crime. Inspector Jones also noted it was most probably not the first hate crime committed by Mr. Webster’s murderers.

When honourable senators rise in this house to speak in favour of Bill S-9, I remind them that they are giving comfort to those who hate. They are telling more generations of young Canadians that we should not treat homosexuals equally: Homosexuals must not use the word “marriage” to describe their relationships. They are denied the use of this word and the recognition of love in relationships that it conveys to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. They are also teaching that intolerance of homosexuals is both proper and righteous.

Honourable senators, to use religion to justify intolerance is cowardly. It is an attempt to use faith to mask hatred.

The words of the Reverend Martin Niemoller in 1945 are well known to all honourable senators. He said:

First they came for Communists, and I didn’t speak up — because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time — there was no one left to speak for me.

Honourable senators, we have an obligation and a duty as members of the Senate of Canada to bring honour to this institution. Honour is brought by demonstrations of tolerance. I implore all honourable senators: We must continue to work together.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Jaffer, I am sorry, but your speaking time has expired.