37 years ago our forefathers in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Divorce Act into law. This momentous decree came as a beacon of hope to millions of Canadian families who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of inequality and persecution. But almost 4 decades later Canadian families have not been freed from their bonds
Four decades later Canadian families are still crippled by the manacles of sexual segregation and the chains of discrimination. Four decades later, parents and their families may still live on lonely islands of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Four decades later the family has been reduced to languishing in the corners of Canadian society and the non custodial father finds himself in exile in his own land.
So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Divorce Act, they were signing a promissory note to which every Canadian was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and security. It is obvious today that Canada has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as the protection of itís families is concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, Canada has given the people in particular fathers, a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice for our families. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind Canada of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregating families to the sunlit path of equality and justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of sexual injustice to the solid rock of family values.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of fatherhood. This sweltering summer of our legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Two thousand and five is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that fathers just needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Canada until all parents are granted their full and unalienable rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the barren threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which springs from our very being must not lead us to distrust and hatred in a furtherance of the sexual apartheid that the few have sought to prolong for their own benefit, - be it power, esteem or merely greed. For many of our sisters, as evidenced by their ongoing support in these efforts, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our own and their freedom is inextricably bound to ours
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of family rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our spirits, heavy with the sorrow of loss and grief, cannot gain equality in the courts. We cannot be satisfied with legislated downward mobility. Enshrined judicial prejudice. We can never be satisfied as long as a father cannot see his own child and is stripped of parental rights by virtue of his sex . No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Iam not unmindful that some have come out of great trials and tribulations. Some have come fresh from narrow cells. Some have come from areas where your quest for freedom left them battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. We have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Call back to Nova Scotia, call back to Quebec, call back to Saskatchewan, to British Columbia, to the slums, ghettos, and prisons where our brothers have been exiled by judicial and legislative atrocities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Canadian values.
Ihave a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "Equality under the rule of law and supremacy of God." I have a dream that one day on the foothills hills of Alberta, sons and daughters will be freely able to visit with their parents. I have a dream that one day even the province of Manitoba, a prairie state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their sex and income but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
Ihave a dream that one day the province of Ontario, whose premiers lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little boys and girls will be able to join hands with their parents and walk together as a true family. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to all. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "O Canada the true north strong and free." And if Canada is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Newfoundland. Let freedom ring from the mighty cities of Ontario. Let freedom ring from the great prairies and arctic plains Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of British Columbia! Let freedom ring from the fishing villages of the Maritimes But not only that; let freedom ring through the halls of justice in this great country as was intended by our forefathers in their promise to us., Let freedom ring from every mountain and valley. Let freedom and justice ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every town and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, men and women and children, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, " We shall overcome!", - and no man or woman or government shall ever again deny us our unalienable rights as parents again.