Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s efforts to straddle the divide between social conservatives and more moderate members of his caucus were on display Wednesday as the House of Commons gave approval in principle to a bill that would outlaw the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

The bill passed easily by a vote of 308-7 but exposed divisions within Conservative ranks.

O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs.

But seven of his MPs voted against it, two abstained and eight others made it clear they were supporting it only grudgingly for now, in hopes that it will be amended by the Commons justice committee.

Former leader Andrew Scheer was among those who simply did not show up for the vote.

O’Toole allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue, part of his bargain with social conservatives that helped him secure the Conservative leadership in August.

The bill would criminalize the practice of forcing children or adults to undergo therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some Conservatives have expressed fears the bill would outlaw conversations between parents and their children or counsel from religious leaders. O’Toole himself has said “reasonable amendments” are necessary to clarify that point.

During debate on the bill earlier this week, former leadership contender Derek Sloan went so far as to suggest it would outlaw prayer. Sloan has previously said the bill amounts to child abuse.

Justice Minister David Lametti has dismissed those fears, arguing that the bill does not criminalize conversations that are meant to provide guidance to those questioning their gender or sexuality.

Sloan was among the seven Conservatives who voted against the bill Wednesday.

Others supported the bill for now but made their reservations crystal clear.

“With the best of faith, I vote in favour of sending this flawed bill to committee,” said Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall as she registered her virtual vote.

By contrast, all Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat, Green and independent MPs who took part in the vote supported the bill. A number of Liberal MPs made a point of announcing that they were “proudly” voting in favour.

The NDP questioned the validity of votes that came with “qualifiers,” prompting Speaker Anthony Rota to remind MPs that when voting virtually, they are supposed to say simply whether they are for or against the motion, with no other comment.

During question period moments before the vote, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a veiled shot at the sincerity of O’Toole’s profession of support for the bill.

“Conversion therapy is rooted in the harmful premise that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity could and even should be changed,” Trudeau told the Commons, in response to a setup question from a Liberal backbencher.

“Our legislation will criminalize efforts to force someone to change or hide who they are. While Conservatives couch their support for conversion therapy behind misleading arguments, on this side, we will always stand up for the rights of Canadians.”

The bill would ban conversion therapy for minors and outlaw forcing an adult to undergo conversion therapy against their will.

It would also ban removing a minor from Canada for the purpose of undergoing conversion therapy abroad and make it illegal to profit from providing the therapy or to advertise an offer to provide it.

The practice has been widely discredited as cruel and traumatic.

The Canadian Psychological Association says there is no scientific evidence that conversion therapy works but plenty of evidence that it causes harm to LGBTQ individuals, including anxiety, depression, negative self-image, feelings of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Federal Government

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

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Rimbey, Ponoka

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Most Read