Transcript of remarks before Ontario legislature

On 2016.10.18, I gave a deputation to the Ontario legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy regarding Bill 28 – the Handmaid’s Tale Act, as I call it.

The original transcript has an unstable URL and will surely disappear at some point. I saved a local copy (lousy HTML retained) that you can look at. Here is a version of the transcript with better HTML and some copy errors fixed (italics; “eldergay”; punctuation).


The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next presenter is Joe Clark. Mr. Clark, if you could have a seat. You’ve heard the routine. Introduce yourself for Hansard. You have up to five minutes, and then questions will rotate between the parties.

Mr. Joe Clark: Hi, and thanks for having me in the big chair here. I’m Joe Clark, I live in Toronto and I’m a journalist and author. I wrote about 400 articles for newspapers and magazines, including over 100 for the gay and lesbian press. I also wrote a couple of non-fiction books on pretty uninteresting topics. I am very committed to protecting and defending the legitimately constituted gay and lesbian community.

I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk about Bill 28, the Handmaid’s Tale Act. That’s what I call it because this is a bill that literally rewrites motherhood and fatherhood. In fact, it redefines motherhood out of existence.

The original reason why this bill exists is to make it legally straightforward for gay and lesbian couples to be recognized as the parents of their respective children – not “queer” couples, please; please don’t use that word. That’s all we need and all we needed in this legislation but, in a classic example of scope creep driven by what is actually a pretty creepy transgender agenda, this bill attempts to rewrite human biology.

I’m sorry to be the eldergay journalist who’s saddled with the task of telling you about the birds and the bees, but here it goes: Males have XY chromosomes and a penis and testicles. For reproduction, males produce spermatozoa. Females have XX chromosomes, breasts, a uterus, Fallopian tubes, and a vagina and clitoris. For reproduction, females produce eggs or ova. There; you’ve just heard the immutable biological facts about Homo sapiens. These facts are just as immutable as Newton’s laws or saying two plus two equals four.

It is not true that there are really are two kinds of men, those with vaginas and those without. Men don’t have vaginas or female anatomy. It’s equally untrue that there really are two kinds of women, those with penises and those without. Women don’t have penises or male anatomy. These are basic biological facts. There are two sexes – two, not an unknown number or any other number.

What this bill manages to do is erase motherhood completely. It also takes a good stab at eliminating fatherhood, but for some reason doesn’t quite go all the way there. For example, part 2 of the Children’s Law Reform Act is simply repealed. Subsection 4(1) there says, “Any person having an interest may apply to a court for a declaration that a male person is recognized in law to be the father of a child or that a female person is the mother of a child.” That is just gone.

You’re trying to change the Vital Statistics Act so that, to quote from that act, “‘birth’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a fetus...” and “‘still-birth’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception....”

Into this Orwellian doublespeak nightmare, “ ‘birth’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from a person of a fetus....”

Your bill also says the following, pretty baldly: “The definition of ‘still-birth’ in section 1 of that act is amended by striking out ‘from its mother’ and substituting ‘from a person’.”

If this law passes, mothers will not give birth, mothers will not undergo the tragedy of stillbirth; generic, bodiless, sexless persons will do so. There are no generic, bodiless, sexless persons in existence, let alone in Ontario.

Could I ask the men on this committee – it’s pretty obvious you’re men; I don’t have to ask for your preferred pronouns, not that I do that sort of thing – if they as persons have ever expelled a fetus or had a fetus extracted from them.

Your bill also makes many references to “birth parent.” There is only one kind of birth parent and that is a birth mother. The only one giving birth is the mother and she is a she, a woman, a girl, a female. There aren’t two ways about it, literally or figuratively.

None of you were ever elected, least of all on a mandate, to socially engineer the province of Ontario. You were not elected to define motherhood out of existence. You really weren’t elected to suppress and deny femaleness, girlhood, womanhood and motherhood, but that’s what this bill does.

You simply do not have the authority to make sweeping changes of this scale, and they can’t be fixed by tinkering. You have to delete every attempt to redefine motherhood and fatherhood in sex-neutral terms. Mothers are drawn from the biological sex “female” and fathers from the biological sex “male.” I can’t believe I have to be the one to tell you that.

The cure is worse than the disease here. Remember, you had one job: clearing up parental rights for gay and lesbian couples. Yet you arrogated the right to redefine motherhood and fatherhood and simply deny biological sex. Really, how dare you?

That’s the end of my remarks. I’d be happy to sit here and endure the ritual berating that government committees visit upon unco-operative witnesses.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Clark. You’ve used your five minutes.

We start with the third party: Ms. DiNovo.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Mr. Clark, you support same-sex marriage?

Mr. Joe Clark: Without hesitation.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: We have many mothers behind you who are married women who want equal rights before the law and do not have them right now. In fact, as you perhaps heard, there was a charter challenge. It was successful, and that’s why we’re here: to give them equal rights before the law as mothers. So what’s not “motherhood” about that?

Mr. Joe Clark: Do you believe that a male-to-female transsexual can be a mother, Ms. DiNovo?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Absolutely, and they are.

Mr. Joe Clark: And you’re wrong.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: OK—

Mr. Joe Clark: Human biology did not change because you got elected to the Legislature, Ms. DiNovo –

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Clark and Ms. DiNovo, both of you, if you are going to have an interchange, please address me, and I will have your microphones turned on. If you’re talking at each other, it’s impossible for Hansard to keep a record.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Mr. Chair, I apologize. I will talk to you.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. Ms. DiNovo, you’re recognized. You may speak.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Mr. Clark, do you recognize that in the province of Ontario, gender identity and gender expression are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms. DiNovo. Mr. Clark.

Mr. Joe Clark: Mr. Chair, I am aware of that, but so are sex, sexual orientation and family status, as protected grounds under the code.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. Ms. DiNovo.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Really, what can one say? That’s it for me.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Do you have any further questions?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: No.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. We will go to the government. Is there a person from the government side who would like to ask a question? Mr. McMeekin.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: Yes, I would like to, I guess. Mr. Clark, your presentation was certainly different from most that we’ve heard. It takes some courage, I suspect, to come out and to, as you said – but I don’t intend to berate your presentation.

I do simply want to suggest that we’re proposing to update the law so that all parents and their kids can be treated equally under the law. We’ve been instructed to do so. We have a court rendering that has lamented the lack of that right and has instructed the government to get on with making the changes that are necessary.

Are you questioning the legitimacy of the court system that reviewed this particular case as human rights legislation? Do you think their court doesn’t work? Would that be your position?

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. McMeekin. Mr. Clark.

Mr. Joe Clark: Mr. Chair, no, that’s certainly not my position. My position is that the Legislature had a mandate as a result of that court case to clear up legal parentage rights for gay and lesbian couples. The legislation, as presented, represents massive scope creep and attempts to redefine human biology, which is something that no one requested, let alone the court.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Clark. Mr. McMeekin.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: Well, I would just say, you call it scope creep. I would respectfully suggest that we’re not anxious as a government, nor, I suspect, are any of the parties represented here, to go through another court challenge because we didn’t go far enough. I think that’s a serious consideration. A kid is a kid is a kid; a mother is defined by intent. I think I’ve heard enough of that to believe that. This is an attempt on the part of the government and some others here to get this sorted out as per the court’s direction.

Other than that, I don’t have a question for you. That’s just, I guess, respectfully, a difference of opinion. Thanks for coming out.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. McMeekin. We go to the official opposition: Ms. Martow.

Mrs. Gila Martow: I’m reminded of a couple of things. One is that oftentimes, people who buy land and build a house will say, “Well, that’s it. We don’t want any more development. I’ve already built my house and I’m very happy and nobody else should use land to build a house.” They want to stop development.

We all know that there are places in the world that don’t recognize people of different gender identities or different sexual orientations. It wasn’t even that long ago in Canada that people had a hard time living openly the way they wanted to live and felt comfortable and the way we’re living now today in society. So that bar moved. That piece of land was developed. That bar moved just where you, Mr. Clark, became comfortable, where homosexual relationships were considered the norm. You’ve moved the bar.

Ms. DiNovo asked you if you accept gay marriage, because she wasn’t sure, and when the bar moved to accept gay marriage, you were happy. The bar was where it suited you – it suited your lifestyle; it suited your views – and the bar should just stay there.

What I’m suggesting is for you to open your mind, which is why we invite people to come to these committee meetings. It is quite interesting to hear all the different points of view, and how respectful everybody is to each other’s point of view makes it really wonderful. But what I would ask you is if you could take a second to imagine what life was like 100 years ago, if you would have been born 100 years ago, and if you can maybe think about people who the bar hasn’t moved quite yet for them. That’s what we’re addressing here: to move the bar to be fair to everybody in the best interests of the child. That’s what we keep bringing it back to.

Did I use up the time?

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Is that a question?

Mrs. Gila Martow: Yes. The question is, can you imagine maybe allowing that bar to move to make life better for other people as well?

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms. Martow. Mr. Clark.

Mr. Joe Clark: To respond to your analogy there, first of all, I don’t have a lifestyle; I have a life. But when you described how the law changed to accept reality in my terms, well, that’s true. There were gay and lesbian relationships since time immemorial, and those eventually became codified into law. But what the present bill does in the specific context that I’m addressing you about today does not bring the law into acknowledgement of reality. The law is actually in active denial of reality.

I heard from our friend over here that, of course, motherhood relies upon intent. That may be true. Motherhood also relies on being biologically female. A mother who delivers a fetus or has a stillbirth is a biologically female person. This law specifically denies that and states that, under one of the clauses that I read for you today, birth merely happens to generic persons, not females. So, in fact, the analogy you gave is not applicable here.

You are regressing the bar. You, as legislators, are producing a bit of fiction, indeed, rather a lot like The Handmaid’s Tale, that you are trying to induce Ontarians to accept as reality. All Ontarians know that mothers who deliver babies are female, and that fathers who produce spermatozoa are male.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Clark. Ms. Martow, you have no further questions?

Mrs. Gila Martow: Yes. I would just ask how you feel about, say, a stay-at-home father. Does that mean he’s just a parent? This is all about labels, I think, and I think what we’re trying to address is the traditional model of the mother doing mothering, and now we’re seeing so many fathers who really are taking on the roles that traditionally women did. We’re seeing women working and men doing those first, early, formative months with children, and I don’t think that “mother” is about whether you’re XX or XY. I think that that’s where our difference of opinion lies.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms. Martow. Mr. Clark?

Mr. Joe Clark: Was there a question there? I’ve actually known quite a few stay-at-home dads. I’ve personally taken care of eight-year-old identical twin boys. In the scenario you have just described – this is one of those rare cases when having a degree in linguistics helps – the supercategory is “parent,” but that person there is a father, right? So you can be a parent and a father in the way that a thumb can be a thumb and a finger, or a leg can be a leg and a limb. You’re subject to two categories there. But there’s no suggestion that that a father is actually a mother because that father did not give birth to the child vaginally or by Caesarean section in the scenario that you’ve just described.

Mrs. Gila Martow: No, I’m just saying that it’s very interesting.

The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): And with that, Ms. Martow, we’re out of time. Thank you, Mr. Clark.