Conversion therapy: O’Toole allows free voting for Conservative MPs on new bill

OTTAWA – Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will once again allow his caucus to vote for free on a government bill seeking to ban conversion therapy.

So-called therapy is widely discredited as a harmful practice that aims to try to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Earlier in the week, the Liberals introduced legislation for the third time in the House of Commons to criminalize the practice.

The first bill was lost when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau authorized Parliament in 2020.

A second version was introduced not long after it failed to pass the Senate before the legislative program was passed by Trudeau’s election call last summer.

However, it was passed by the House of Commons, where 62 of O’Toole’s 119 MPs voted against the bill, despite the leader’s efforts to take a more progressive stance on the issues. LGBTQ topic.

At the time, many Conservative MPs complained that the bill’s wording was too broad and could criminalize conversations about sex between children and their parents or with religious leaders.

The vote provoked a backlash, with critics arguing that O’Toole failed to follow through on his more progressive rhetoric on LGBTQ issues.

Facing another vote on the issue soon, an O’Toole spokesman confirmed that he would again allow free voting, but added that he “has long been an ally of the community.” LGBTQ and will continue to support efforts to ban conversion therapy.”

O’Toole communications director Josie Sabatino wrote: “He will also continue to highlight the fact that the Liberal Party has three times failed to quickly resolve this issue.”

“While the bill will be voted on by a free vote, all Conservative MPs oppose the coercive and harmful practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Allowing MPs to vote as they please on issues of conscience has been a position of O’Toole since becoming leader of the party, which includes a significant number of MPs supporting the social conservatives. of this party.

Nicholas Schiavo, founder of advocacy group No Conversion Canada, said federal leaders should ensure the legislation receives unanimous consensus to send a clear message to LGBTQ Canadians that conversion therapy is unacceptable. He called O’Toole’s decision to allow a free vote disappointing.

“You’re putting the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians, who are proven to be at risk. And you’re putting their basic liberties up for debate,” Schiavo said.

“I don’t believe you can have fair votes on issues of no conscience… it’s a failure of leadership.”

A spokesman for the New Democrats confirmed all of the party’s MPs would vote in favor of the ban.

Schiavo said Michelle Rempel Garner, a prominent Conservative MP who has long advocated for LGBTQ rights, agreed to meet with them. His team hopes two openly gay Conservative MPs – Eric Duncan and Melissa Lansman – will also push the issue.

O’Toole MPs will have the opportunity to discuss the legislation when they meet in Ottawa today for their weekly nationwide caucus.

They also have to deal with another government bill related to COVID-19. The two-pronged bill would provide 10 days of paid sick leave for federally administered workers and create two new Penal Code crimes against anyone who threatens health care workers or hinder access to health care facilities.

The second measures are in response to anti-vaccination protests at hospitals and clinics but they would also apply to facilities that perform abortions.

Liberals have long used abortion to forge a political rift among Conservatives, with the federal election campaign in September being the most recent example.

Campaign Life Coalition, a national anti-abortion organization, has warned the bill could restrict freedom of speech for those who want to publicly oppose the procedure.

Longtime Ontario protester Cheryl Gallant also said in a recent social media video that Trudeau is pushing for a “protest ban” and questioned “what kind of protests should be banned next.”

A statement from O’Toole’s office suggests the Conservative Party plans to support the legislation. But Sabatino did not respond when asked if the vote was hit.

She said they support the existing Penal Code measures to protect healthcare workers and “will also support the new measures proposed in (the bill) along with provisions on sick leave with wages for all federally regulated industries.”

Sabatino also promised a Conservative government that would expand the law to apply to “other public works and critical infrastructure.”

O’Toole has in the past criticized blockades and protests held over transportation infrastructure, such as railroads.

This Canadian Press report was first published on December 1, 2021.


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