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

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. (File photo)
North Cowichan considers extending deadline for property tax payments

A two-month deadline extension to Sept. 1 gets three readings

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Letters to the Editor.
Speedy service by operations department

North Cowichan responds to deplorable conditions at Askew Creek Park

The Yellow Sub Machine has been open for business for nearly two months. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Pandemic pivot leads to the creation of the Yellow Sub Machine for gourmet sub grub

Former Odika owners stake their claim in the food truck business

Letters to the Editor.
Southern tribute brings back abundant memories

Growing up a great time with a friend lost far too soon

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

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

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read