Conversion therapy and the Conservative Party of Canada
(September 2021 – The Senate did not pass Bill C-6, the bill that would ban conversion therapy in Canada, before they rose for the summer, and with the election called the bill died on the Order Paper. In the following piece, I lay most of the blame on the Conservative Party, although there is indeed plenty of blame to be passed around.)
There’s a good possibility that Bill C-6, the bill to ban conversion therapy that passed the House of Commons on June 22nd, may end up dying in the Senate either because Parliament adjourns for the summer or because the Liberals will call an election. The House gave the Senate very little time to deal with the bill, and the Liberals certainly could have moved with more urgency than they did, but if the bill does die there’s only one party that’s ultimately responsible and that’s the Conservative Party of Canada.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole always has plenty of empty words of support for the LGBTQ community, but when it comes to doing the right thing, he blames the Liberals for his own inaction. They’re playing politics, he cries, and pretends that the opposition to the bill from the so-called “social conservative” wing of his party, the same ones who enabled him to become leader, plays no part in his dithering.
Of course the Liberals are playing politics. They didn’t become the most powerful political party in Canada by being choirboys. It’s O’Toole himself, however, who’s given them this glorious opening to exploit. He keeps voicing support for the LGBTQ community but then is undermined by the anti-LGBTQ elements of the party he leads. That’s a gift for the Liberals, and they’ll keep pumping it as long as O’Toole allows the situation to continue. That he pretends that the Conservatives would never do the same if presented with a similar opportunity is laughable. (Pierre Poilievre, anyone?)
The Conservative critics of the bill claim that it does not adequately define conversion therapy and therefore would criminalize voluntary conversations between children and parents or clergy. (Given that the most rabid opponents of the bill are religious fundamentalists, that word “clergy” alone sets warning bells a-ringing.) O’Toole typically continues to play both sides, as he voices support for the bill and yet claims it is insufficiently precise.
Meanwhile, the credibility of the people who profess that these are legitimate concerns looks a bit suspect from the perspective of LGBTQ folks. These include Conservative Senate leader Don Plett, who proposed the infamous bathroom clause to NDP MP Randall Garrison’s private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Code to include gender identity (Bill C-279); and former Conservative MP Derek Sloan, who claimed that the bill “would contribute to the massive increase we are seeing with little boys and girls who are being chemically transitioned because of their feelings of gender dysphoria.” (O’Toole finally expelled Sloan from the Conservative caucus in January.)
It’s a bit tiresome hearing Mr. O’Toole crying foul every time the Liberals exploit the divisions in the Conservative Party. The Liberals are doing what political parties do. It’s LGBTQ folks who are being used as the political football here, not you, Mr. O’Toole. If you do indeed support the LGBTQ community, as you claim, then do the right thing. Step up and ensure Bill C-6 does not die in the Senate.