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

Surrey Little Theatre is located on 184th Street at Fraser Highway. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey Little Theatre, Langley Players look to merge as single company at 200th Street theatre

A ‘really exciting’ development for the volunteer-run theatre companies

Architectural renderings show the proposed housing development on 66th Avenue in Langley Township. (Compass Cohousing/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Langley cohousing plans closer to reality

The 40-unit project would be the second cohousing development in Langley

Jonas Van Huizen is seen playing for the Langley Christian Lightning during the January 2018 Lightning Classic junior boys basketball tournament at LCS (Langley Advance Times file)
Rising volleyball player returns home to Langley to play for UFV

Isolated in a Kamloops dorm because of the pandemic, Jonas Van Huizen decided to transfer

RC Garnett Demonstration has been issued a COVID-19 exposure alert after an individual with the virus was at the school on Nov. 20, 2020, according to Fraser Health. (Google)
UPDATE: Langley schools, Superstore report COVID exposure alerts

Seven district schools and one independent school are listed

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Most Read