Surprise Tory motion sends anti-conversion bill through Commons

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole questions the government during Question Hour in the House of Commons on November 25.Adrian Wilde/The Canadian Press

The House of Commons unanimously approved a Conservative Party proposal to fast-track legislation banning conversion therapy.

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The unexpected move on Wednesday, resulting in applause and applause among lawmakers, means legislation introduced by the government earlier this week for the third time, without being scrutinized by committee, goes to the Senate for approval.

It also leads to the potential for a divisive debate over Bill C-4 among conservatives about how to deal with the law surrounding widely discredited therapy aimed at changing a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

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In a third reading of the previous bill in June, 62 Conservative lawmakers voted against it. Party leader Erin O’Toole was among 51 Conservatives who voted in favor.

Hours before Conservative MP Rob Moore proposed passing the bill in all phases, Mr O’Toole told reporters outside a caucus meeting that the party would expedite the passage of the new bill.

“There are many ways for us to expedite the passage of this law,” he said.

Mr O’Toole, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ2 community, said the caucus had had a “good discussion” on the issue, but did not elaborate.

Following the passage of the resolution, Tourism Minister Randy Boissonault, who is gay, said Wednesday’s development was a sign of progress in Canada and an example of what happens when parliament acts.

“I think political people in this country don’t want to oppose LGBTQ2 issues because they are fundamental human rights,” he said.

Justice Minister David Lametti said members of the Conservative caucus were to be thanked.

“There are clearly people in the Conservative caucus who exercised a lot of leadership on this issue, and I thank them,” he said. “He’s done a very important job for the Canadian people. That’s what we can do when Parliament works together.”

He said he now hoped the bill could be expedited through the Senate.

In a tweet, he said, “I want to thank all the elected members for choosing the right side of history.”

Conservative House leader Gerard Deltel declined to disclose the dynamics of caucus discussions on the issue. He said no one has been in favor of conservative conversion therapy, but there were concerns in the past about legislative options to deal with it.

He said Mr Moore had done a good job addressing the issue earlier. “He moved a motion six months ago to put the bill before the prime minister called unnecessary elections,” he said.

“It’s in the hands of the Senate, which could have been done exactly six months ago.”

Government House leader Mark Holland said the Commons has “extreme power” when members speak unanimously on an issue.

“When you take that time to work with each other, you can get the results you see today, and I think it’s possible in other aspects,” Mr Holland said.

Earlier this week, the Liberal government re-introduced a bill banning conversion therapy. The law had a wider reach than the previous version. The aim was to ban the practice entirely for children and adults. Previously, the proposed law left open the possibility that an adult could consent to conversion therapy. The new bill plugs that loophole.

The bill was first introduced in March, 2020, but died on the order paper when the government prorogued Parliament later that year. It was reintroduced shortly thereafter and died when parliament was dissolved before the federal election.

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