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MP calls on faithful to make Liberals pay for ignoring conversion therapy concerns

  • June 16, 2021

OTTAWA -- A Conservative MP wants Catholics and other Canadians of faith to remember during the next election that the federal Liberal government is ignoring concerns about a bill to ban conversion therapy for youth that could make some religious discussions about human sexuality illegal.

Marilyn Gladu, like almost all critics of Bill C-6, said she supports the idea of banning aspects of conversion therapy, but the devil is in the details, and those details worry many religious organizations.

“We know that the purpose of the bill is to ban conversion therapy, to make sure that children cannot be forced into conversion therapy, and to make sure that advertising or benefiting materially from conversion therapy is also banned. These are all good things,” Gladu said. “The issue is the definition in the bill, which is overly broad. It would criminalize things that are not conversion therapy.”

A minority of federal MPs, mostly from the Conservative Party, have been raising concerns about how the wording of Bill C-6, which is currently at the third reading stage in the House of Commons, could end up criminalizing sexual orientation conversations between parents and children as well as such conversations with faith leaders.

“The Liberals knew that there was a problem with the definition. When the noise started to happen from faith groups and legal professionals who said this would infringe on people's freedom of speech, they published a clarification on their web page,” Gladu said.

That government website assures “these new offences would not criminalize private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors ... doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.”

“That is a great clarification. That is exactly what people were concerned about and exactly what they wanted to hear,” Gladu said. “Unfortunately, however, judges have to judge by what is in the law, not what is on the government's web page.”

It is that concern that is at the heart of the Catholic Church’s opposition to Bill C-6, even though the Church is quick to condemn some aspects of conversion therapy.
“Like many Canadians, (the Church) is opposed to all forms of coercive and manipulative activities because they do not respect the sacred dignity of the human person and the freedoms inherent with that dignity. The protection of vulnerable Canadians from harmful acts is a necessary and important goal and one which the bishops irrevocably support,” according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), adding that the wording of Bill C-6 is too broad and will expose good faith efforts to address gender identity issues to the whims of the courts.

“It is generic in its scope and ambiguous in its language, and thus its application could be overextended and interpreted to include what are and should remain lawful activities,” said the CCCB in a brief presented to the House of Commons regarding Bill C-6.

Gladu wants Catholics and other Canadians of faith to remember that such concerns about the wording of Bill C-6, which is one of the bills that the Liberal minority government with the support of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, want to pass and get Royal Assent from the Senate before Parliament rises for its summer break on June 23.

“Twelve million people in Canada are Catholics. I want them to remember at election time that the Liberal government is trying to erode their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion,” Gladu said.

“If a person is a member of other faith communities like the Evangelical Fellowship, Baptists, Muslims and Jews, they are also having their rights eroded…. There are 24 million of them in this country. If they all vote for their freedom of religion and freedom of speech, then the government will have to listen. That will be very important.”

Despite the concerns, some Conservative MPs, including Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, support the bill.

Ontario Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen said Gladu and other critics of Bill C-6 are raising a “red herring” to try and stop Bill C-6.

“For the member to suggest that this bill does not give the right for families to have conversations is nothing more than a red herring,” Gerretsen said during Bill C-6’s third reading debate in the House of Commons.

“She has to come to terms with whether she will support this bill because it will protect and save Canadians lives, or whether she is going to get hung up, like so many other Conservatives, on this definition and these nuances of the definition.”

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