Last month, Parliament voted to ban conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that attempts to reprogram members of the LGBTQ2 community towards heterosexuality.
With the Senate on a break until September, it remains unclear whether the bill will be lost in the throes of a potential federal election, which pundits say could happen later this year.
With that news, Global Kingston got reaction from two local politicians vocal on the matter — Derek Sloan, independent MP for Hastings—Lennox and Addington, and Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen.
Conversion therapy is defined as any practice that tries to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of any person through so-called talk therapy or actions.
The bill, which would criminalize the practice against children and adults who do not give their consent, passed in the House, but 63 MPs voted against the ban, including Sloan, who has been outspoken against banning conversion therapy.
He argued Tuesday that the bill is purely political.
“This bill is very broad, and our concern is that it will criminalize legitimate counselling procedures and will actually prevent giving kids the right type of care that they need,” Sloan said.
Sloan says his opposition is to the language of the bill.
“This particular bill is saying, at least the way that I read it, is: listen, if you don’t affirm someone in their identity, whatever they say it is, you can go to jail,” Sloan said.
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Gerretsen, who has been vocal in favour of the ban, disputed his fellow MP’s claims.
“That could not be further from the truth,” Gerretsen said in an interview Tuesday.
Gerretsen, who voted in favour of the ban, immediately dismissed Sloan’s take on the bill’s language.
“The bill does not make it illegal to have a conversation with family members, to have a conversation with a guidance counsellor, to have a conversation with a doctor or a medical professional. What it makes illegal is the practice of actually trying to convert someone.”
Gerretsen hopes that no matter what happens in the fall, the bill will become law through a pending Senate approval.
He feels the issue has been put off far too long, and is openly critical of other elected officials, who, he says, cite vague language as a reason to not ban conversion therapy.
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“That was a red herring. That was just something that they were using as an opportunity to be against something that they wanted to be against in principle. It’s very simple for me. Do we believe that people are who they are? Or do we believe that we should somehow change who they are?” Gerretsen said.
Nearly 20 per cent of Canadian MPs voted against the ban, and two of those politicians are local — Sloan and Michael Barrett, Conservative MP for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. Barrett did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
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