Justice Minister David Lametti is seen during a news conference Monday October 5, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Justice Minister David Lametti is seen during a news conference Monday October 5, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

In pushing to amend conversion therapy bill, Tories seek to bridge caucus divide

Some members were concerned discussing the topic could become illegal

Conservatives will seek to amend a Liberal bill that would criminalize forcing people to undergo therapy to change their sexuality or gender.

In signalling their intention on Monday to move an amendment to the proposed law, the party also showcased efforts to bridge the gap between their social conservative base and the more moderate MPs in caucus.

Leading off the Conservatives’ formal response on the second-reading debate for Bill C-6 was Conservative MP Eric Duncan, who is openly gay.

He called conversion therapy a “terrible, inhumane, dangerous practice” that needs to come to an end.

But before he rose, the MPs who had posed the first questions to Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti were from the party’s socially conservative wing.

They raised their concerns the legislation goes too far and would make it illegal for, among other things, religious leaders or parents to talk to kids about the issue.

Duncan said Monday the party will seek to amend the bill to ensure that the government’s stated intent — that the bill not criminalize conversations — will be explicitly reflected in the law.

In his speech, Duncan related his own story of coming out in 2017 and how he was greeted with support and love.

That is not always the case, he said, highlighting the stories of two men who died by suicide after years of struggling with their own sexuality.

Parliament must ensure the bill passes to send an important message, he said.

“It is OK to be gay. It is OK to be trans. It is right for them to live their lives as who they are and be who they are,” Duncan said.

“Canadians know that subjecting anyone to conversion therapy is wrong and we must protect those who are vulnerable.”

If passed, the law would ban conversation therapy for minors and also outlaw forcing an adult to undergo conversation therapy against their will.

The bill would ban removing a minor from Canada for the purpose of undergoing conversion therapy abroad. It would also make it illegal to profit from providing the therapy and advertising to provide it.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said the eventual vote on the bill will be a free vote for Tory MPs, as it is a matter of conscience. It’s a follow through of a promise he made during the leadership race he won, a victory attributed in part to the influential social-conservative voting bloc within the party whose support eventually went to him.

On Monday, Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall — who is sponsoring a private member’s bill to ban sex-selective abortion — said the bill restricts freedom of choice and expression for Canadians, including LGBTQ2 individuals.

She cited the case of a woman who had undergone transition and regretted it, suggesting the bill would criminalize her ability to speak out about her experience to warn others of the consequences.

Also on his feet was failed leadership contender Derek Sloan, who had made an assertion the bill would criminalize conversations between parents and their children an element of his leadership campaign.

On Monday, he raised concerns the bill, as written, would criminalize prayer.

The Liberals have insisted the bill does not criminalize ordinary conversations that are meant to provide guidance to those questioning their gender or sexuality.

“What we are banning is a practice,” Lametti said in response to Sloan.

“There is a great difference whether one is in discussion or whether one is praying. There is a great difference between trying to determine who someone is on the one hand and telling someone that who they are is problematic or wrong, and then trying to change it to something else.”

The Liberals have not declared definitively whether they’ll make the vote free for their MPs.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said his caucus will vote for the bill, though NDP Randall Garrison said Monday he believes it doesn’t go far enough in outright banning the entire practice of conversion therapy.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conversion therapy banLGBTQ

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Most Read