House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was practice.

Topics

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, just last year there was a case in which a young man was brought into a workplace that was receiving government assistance. He was confronted about being gay and asked to convert to keep his job. These situations are still real.

How does the hon. member feel about someone like that now having to walk away from a job? They are pursuing it in other ways now, but what would she say to a youth who thought they were going to be working at a dream job, and then actually has to face that circumstance and leave the job?

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1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague.

It is appalling to think that people are still being discriminated against not only by parents or religious organizations, but also at work.

I sincerely hope that the amendments in this bill are made. I mentioned that it is important to be respected and loved for who we are, and I think this is a step in the right direction for 2020.

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1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill C-6 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and on behalf of my constituents in Berthier—Maskinongé.

Members will not be surprised to hear that Bloc Québécois members support this bill, if for no other reason than to show respect for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I must say that I have some mixed feelings. I should be thrilled to see Parliament pass such a bill and finally address this issue. However, it is 2020, and it makes absolutely no sense that this has not yet been addressed. I urge my 337 colleagues to quickly pass this bill, as my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle said so well.

We have a duty to protect and advocate for rights and freedoms. We have a duty to protect the equality of all Quebeckers and Canadians. We must protect them from any form of discrimination, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We must condemn such practices, which deny the very existence of the person and do not respect their core identity. Quebec has a charter of human rights and freedoms that has prohibited all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1977. Quebec has allowed civil unions between same-sex partners since 2002. We are proud of that, but we need to go one step further and respect everyone's gender identity and sexual orientation.

If my colleagues in the House take the time to read up on this and read testimonials, some of which have already been referenced this morning, it quickly becomes apparent that all of these therapies are an appalling form of violence. As my colleagues already know, the Bloc Québécois denounces all forms of violence, without exception.

Conversion therapy is one of them. They are based on a dangerous, demeaning and ineffective pseudoscience promoted by minority groups—I would even say splinter groups—related to some form of religious belief.

I am sure my colleagues would agree that we must respect people's beliefs, but that respect must be reciprocated through respect for individual freedom. As such, there are lines that cannot be crossed.

I applaud the action that the House of Commons is about to take. I also applaud the action of the Government of Quebec, which is preparing to pass similar legislation. I am pleased that the Government of Canada is recognizing, through its bill, that in a democracy, there is reason to affirm collective values and regulate religious practices that go contrary to those values under the law.

This bill seeks to prohibit forcing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will. We also want to prohibit subjecting a child to conversion therapy or doing anything to remove children from Canada to have the them undergo conversion therapy outside the country. We want to prohibit advertising related to conversion therapy and prohibit anyone from receiving material or other benefit from providing conversion therapy.

My colleagues will have noticed that two of those points refer to children. We want to protect children and prevent them from having to endure this torture. That is the duty of any society that claims to be civilized.

Before I became a member of the House of Commons, I was a high school teacher. As such, I am very much aware of how feeling accepted, listened to and supported contributes to personal development. For 25 years, I have witnessed first-hand the upheaval of adolescence, which we all know is not always easy. Some think that it is an impossible challenge, but I have always thrived on challenge.

My thoughts go out to all the young people who are currently questioning their core identity and sexual orientation. We too, all of us, questioned ourselves in that regard when we were their age. These young people are afraid. They are full of doubt and a desire to be “normal”. They want to be popular and accepted by others. When it comes to acceptance, we also need to think about how traumatizing it must be for someone to not be accepted by their own parents and the terrible harm that would cause.

The teen years are extremely important for self-esteem. Teens may be susceptible to depression, they are exposed to tremendous social pressure and they experience a lot of frustration. Most individuals, at some point in their teen years, feel alone in the world and misunderstood by everyone.

We all question ourselves and we all, at some point, feel defiant. Parents who sometimes disapprove of their teen's behaviour should realize that it is actually a positive sign for mental health. These young people are normal, they are challenging things. That is a good thing.

As everyone knows, it is a difficult time in a person's life. Just imagine the trauma of conversion therapy, which scars people. They feel judged by their parents, they may become depressed or suicidal, and so on. The pseudo-science of transformation may appear to be successful, but just imagine how dismal it must be to not express one's true identity, to not live life to the fullest.

Let me say this to the House: it is a loss for that person and a loss for society as a whole. We must live and let live.

I will conclude by talking about my experience as a teacher. I have had the pleasure of seeing people's attitudes and judgments change over the past 25 years. I have seen homosexual relationships being formed and not subjected to the crushing judgment of others. It has been wonderful to see. Today, I am asking that we take one more step forward. Let us guarantee individual freedom.

Earlier, we heard about a young man, Gabriel Nadeau. He said that four people held him while a prophet yelled in his ears and they made him drink holy olive oil. Other accounts describe people who say the Holy Spirit dwells in them and that, in the name of Jesus, they will release the wicked devil. That is ridiculous.

Our civil society must protect youth while respecting general religious beliefs. That is our duty. How can we not be shocked or outraged by such accounts? It is utterly absurd. It is our duty to protect our children from these charlatans. That is our responsibility. Today, I appeal to the dignity of elected members.

It is our responsibility to protect young people regardless of their orientation. Let us be worthy and overwhelmingly support this bill. Statistics show that more than 47,000 men have been subjected to this type of therapy. Many organizations offer this type of therapy for a fee that can run as high as $12,000.

The World Health Organization recognizes these practices as a health threat. The Canadian Psychological Association identified the very serious adverse effects of this practice. I named them earlier: stress, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights described these practices as abusive. Almost every organization around the world agrees that these practices are unacceptable. The report of the Alliance Arc-en-ciel de Québec speaks volumes and shares several accounts of confinement, assault, physical and emotional abuse, parents who failed to protect their child from bodily and mental harm by leaving them with a third party who would torture them. In fact, that is what we are talking about. Let's call a spade a spade. This is torture.

Of course Quebec society and Canadian society are distinct societies. That is a theme that comes up a lot in our speeches. However, these societies also have the privilege of sharing several common values such as the protection of individual rights, protection of the integrity of individuals, and the protection of diversity.

Today I am pleased to see that Quebec's legislative assembly and Canadian Parliament see eye to eye for once. That feels good.

Let's tell the world that being yourself whether you are gay, lesbian, transgender or any other identification is fine; it is normal. This should not even be up for debate in a parliament. Everyone—

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I must stop the member, because his time is up. He will have more time to speak during questions and comments.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his speech.

The member raised a good point. No matter how different our parties are, individual freedoms and the right to life are extremely important in Canada. Although I come from a different party, 17 years ago, I fought for the rights of gays and lesbians and everyone in the LGBTQ2 community to marry.

Today we are saying no to conversion therapy. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the importance of criminalizing this deplorable activity in our community.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague for his heartfelt question. There is a reason that we generally agree on things, and that is because we share the same values.

This is important because there must be consequences for those who torture others. It is as simple as that. There must be consequences if someone fails to protect a child.

We need to send a message. It is all well and good to have legislation, verdicts and consequences, but ultimately, Parliament needs to send a clear message that respect for the individual comes first.

I am sure that my dear colleague would not mind letting me read the last sentence of my speech, because it is quite beautiful. Everyone who finds the strength to love should be able to do so freely.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, in the case of one YouTuber, Elle Palmer, she started taking testosterone at the age of 16. She struggled for many years with issues of self-hatred and, in her words, began the process of transitioning, not in order to look more masculine but in order to hide elements of her body. In her opinion, transitioning was the ultimate form of self-harm. She wanted to change everything about herself and did not see a future in which she could ever be happy in her own body. At the time, she did not realize it was possible to not hate her body.

Right now Bill C-6 would criminalize someone like Elle for sharing her transition story. Does the member suggest that we need to restrict her free, respectful and exploratory speech because her story reaches out to others who may be considering de-transition?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very relevant question.

It gives me an opportunity to set the record straight and to make a general appeal to the House. I would ask members not to confuse the issue. Of course, there will be cases where people will want to undergo the reverse process. It happens a lot. I know people like that. Last year I taught some students who are currently undergoing this sort of transformation. I know what I am talking about, but I cannot speak for everyone. There will always be exceptions. We are talking here about medical treatment. The age of consent for a medical treatment is under 18. We need to be careful and be sure not to confuse matters.

The law is worded very reasonably. It does a lot to protect children. I gave examples earlier. We are talking about therapy against a person's will. We are not talking about prohibiting an adult from undergoing some kind of treatment. I think this is a very reasonable first step and I invite all members of the House to pass this bill unanimously or at least by a large majority.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I completely agree with him. It was actually inspiring.

I am a member from Montreal and I am proud of that. We have one of the biggest, nicest pride parades every year. In recent years, some people have been wondering whether we even still need the flags, music and floats, but I still hear horror stories. My colleague used the words “charlatan” and “torture”. I do not think those words are too strong to describe what is happening.

Does this not show that there is still a lot of work to do for the LGBTQ2 community and that we need to continue to stand up for the rights of its members?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for the nice compliment and for agreeing with me.

People who are open-minded and accept others for who they are sometimes tend to wonder if we still need pride parades after all this time. I would say we do, and for one simple reason: As long as people feel the need to hold such parades, and as long as such concerns persist, awareness raising must continue. The struggle for equal rights is never over.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 today. As always, I look forward to the day that we can all be back in the chamber instead of speaking to pinhole cameras, though I am mindful of the fact that any inconveniences or challenges we face as MPs pale in significance to the impact of COVID on ordinary Canadians who have lost loved ones, lost livelihoods or who are still working on the front lines in this pandemic. These impacts have been even more strongly felt by the most marginalized among us, and especially the community I come from.

I speak today as the NDP spokesperson on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, or SOGIE for short, but I also speak as an out gay man, someone who has been out in public life for nearly three decades. I wish we had a more representative Parliament today when it comes to topics affecting my community, like conversion therapy. Unfortunately, many of those voices we should be hearing from are absent. In the House, we have only four out gay MPs, and we have no out lesbians and no transgender or non-binary MPs. We are short about 30 MPs from my community.

Some jurisdictions have done better. In fact, New Zealand just elected what has been described as the gayest Parliament in the world, at 10% representation. While it is great to celebrate this as a milestone, I might suggest a more accurate headline that goes something like “New Zealand finally elects a Parliament that nears fair representation of the SOGIE community”. Then the story would have to go on to say that the total does not include any trans or non-binary MPs, despite New Zealand having elected the first trans MP in the world, Georgina Beyer, who served from 1999 to 2007.

I also want to give a quick shout-out today to British Columbia, which has just re-elected six SOGIE MLAs. It looks like the number will still be six when the dust settles, but that is about 7% of the legislature again and ties the U.K. This is compared to a mere 1% in the House. That is a hint to both SOGIE individuals and parties when it comes to nominations for the next election, and as someone who is always recruiting, as the gay stereotype goes, I know this remains a challenge.

Why is there a long preamble on representation? I firmly believe that the most diverse parliaments make the best legislation. It is not only that diverse parliaments are likely to have more MPs with lived experience on the topics at hand, although that is true, but that, perhaps more importantly, they will have the networks in the communities they represent and in Canada as a whole to bring those diverse experiences and voices to bear on the matters at hand. Besides, it is also important to remember, as one wag once said, “If you're not at the table, you're much more likely to be on the menu.” Clearly, in this Parliament we have more work to do to make sure diverse voices are heard on the topic of conversion therapy.

When it comes to Bill C-6, which seeks to end the practice of conversion therapy in Canada, I want to start by saying three things, at least two of which should be obvious to all but clearly are not.

The first is that no one in the SOGIE community needs to be fixed because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The prevalence of homophobia and transphobia makes it hard enough for many of us to live authentic lives as who we are, at home, at work and everywhere else in our daily lives. The very idea that we can or need to be fixed, which is fundamental to the concept of conversion therapy, only serves to reinforce homophobia and transphobia. The idea that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity could possibly be changed is especially problematic for those who, early in their lives, are still working their way toward figuring out exactly who they are. For queer youth, the idea they need to be fixed can and does contribute to both self-hate and fear of rejection by family and friends, both very damaging to mental health.

The second thing that should be obvious, which I think is to most people, is that certain sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions are not better than others. It is certainly not appropriate for governments to prefer some sexual orientations and gender identities over others. Nor is it appropriate to disadvantage or fail to protect some of our citizens because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. All of us are equally deserving of equal protection under the law, and that is the essence of the issues raised in Bill C-6.

Finally, the third thing I want to raise at the outset of this debate is apparently less well understood, though it is a clearly established fact. It is impossible to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and as a result, conversion therapy is harmful to those who are subjected to it.

As for the outcomes of these practices, whether they are called conversion therapy, reparative therapy, aversion therapy or gender affirming therapy, those names do not really matter: The results are always the same. There is no change, and those who are subjected to therapy suffer from outcomes that include guilt and shame, depression, social isolation and often self-harm or even death by suicide.

Fortunately, I was never subjected to conversion therapy, though some in my own family were anything but accepting. I recognize now, ironically, that attempts to beat the gay out of me may have been actually less harmful in the long run than being subjected to conversion therapy. That is because the overt violence allowed me to focus the resulting anger and hostility outward rather than inward on myself.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine that some of the torture that was carried out in the past, under the name of therapy, ever actually took place. Far too many Canadians were subjected to barbaric practices, such as electroshock therapy, chemical castration and even exorcism, as we heard today. It is equally hard for me to accept the idea that conversion therapy should still be going on in Canada to this day, no less harmful in its results, even if somewhat less brutal sometimes in its means.

The fact that conversion therapy is harmful to those subjected to it is the reason this pernicious practice has been condemned internationally and domestically by health professionals. More than eight years ago, on May 17, 2012, on the 22nd anniversary of the removal of homosexuality from the list of recognized mental disorders, the World Health Organization issued a statement labelling conversion therapy to be “a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.”

Eight years ago, the World Health Organization called for action at the national level to ban and place sanctions on conversion therapy. No organization of health professionals in Canada currently approves of or allows the practice of conversion therapy. No provincial health plans allow for the practice of conversion therapy as part of the public health care system.

Conversion therapy is no longer supposed to be taking place within the formal health care system in this country, yet we know that it still goes on in the shadows. Not only is it taking place in Canada, but some Canadians are still being sent for conversion therapy in the United States. A report on conversion therapy in Canada was published in February of this year. It surveyed over 7,200 gay, bisexual and two-spirit men. More than 20% reported being subjected to some form of conversion therapy. When it comes to transgender and non-binary Canadians, the numbers approach 50%.

It is one thing to know from formal studies that this is still taking place, but it is quite another to hear the brave survivors who have come forward to tell their stories of the harm they suffered as a result. I encourage all MPs to listen carefully to those stories.

When it comes to Bill C-6, let me say again, as we did last March and when the bill was reintroduced recently, the New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-6 at second reading. What the bill does can briefly be summarized as follows. It specifically criminalizes subjecting minors to conversion therapy and transporting minors out of Canada for the purpose of conversion therapy. It criminalizes subjecting adults to conversion therapy against their will, and it criminalizes what we call the business of conversion therapy.

The main strength of Bill C-6 is its focus on youth, for it is young people who conversion therapy is almost always directed against. It is young people who suffer the greatest harm from the attempts to force them to be someone they are not.

Its second strength is the suite of comprehensive measures to ban the practice or promotion of the business of conversion therapy, which would help ensure the practice is actually shut down by making it illegal to charge for, to profit from or to advertise conversion therapy for both minors and adults. The bill contains significant power to seek court orders to remove offending materials from online platforms.

Let me stop here for a moment to address the reddest of red herrings concerning this bill. This is the “what about” argument: “What about the rights of others?” and in particular, “What about the rights of others whose religious freedoms might be infringed by this bill?” For me, it is always a red flag when I hear arguments that start with “what about”. The resort to what about-ism is rarely about promoting real dialogue, and is instead usually a diversionary tactic to take the argument onto grounds that what about-ers think will make it easier for them to win the argument. What I am saying is that arguments that start with “what about” are most often exercises in distraction rather than attempts to confront the real issues before us.

Clause 5 of Bill C-6 says clearly that the definition of “conversion therapy” in the bill does not refer to “a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.” This means that there is nothing in the bill that prevents parents from talking to their children about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nothing in the bill prevents spiritual leaders from discussing these topics with their followers. Nothing in the bill prohibits anyone from holding bigoted and outdated ideas about sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. What it does prevent is taking those beliefs and ideas and turning them into hateful and harmful practices disguised as “therapy”. How the bill is an appropriate bill for a free vote is a question that I will continue to have for my Conservative colleagues.

Returning to the NDP position on the bill, again, as I have said, we will support it at second reading. However, we do believe the bill can and should be improved. What are those improvements we are looking for?

First, we would like to see the government respond positively to the demand from the SOGIE community for a full ban on conversion therapy, a ban for adults as well as for children.

The minister has made the argument previously that his goal here is to have a bill that is charter challenge proof. His solution has been to design Bill C-6 to avoid possible charter challenges by focusing on non-consenting adults, minors and the “business” of conversion therapy. It sets aside the question of so-called “consenting adults.”

This is a good argument in that I do believe the bill would survive a charter challenge as the provisions around the business of conversion therapy included will result in an effective ban on the practice for consenting adults, at least when it comes to paid services. However, a total ban would also survive a charter challenge. I would very much like to see any legal opinions that the government might have saying that it would not.

In brief, my argument here is that there is an equally compelling charter argument that it is a reasonable limit on fundamental rights to prohibit anyone from giving consent to a practice that is clearly harmful to those subjected to it. Without going too far down the legal rabbit hole here, there is parallel jurisprudence that has upheld restrictions on things like fight clubs, which leads me to conclude that a full ban would also be found charter compliant.

The second and perhaps more significant area in which the bill can be improved is in the language used to define what conversion therapy is. The language in Bill C-6 is actually pretty good when it comes to the traditional conversion therapy practice directed at sexual orientation. I am also glad that there is language in the bill attempting to ensure it covers banning conversion therapy directed at trans and non-binary Canadians.

This kind of practice is often styled as “gender-affirming therapy” or “transition treatment” or other such positive-sounding names. However, this is where the language in the bill is not so good. The committee will need to have a close look at this clause of the bill to ensure it is as comprehensive and up to date with current practice as possible when it comes to so-called therapies aimed at transgender and non-binary Canadians.

Now let me address a bit of revisionist history that has crept into the discussion of the bill. I want to take a moment to remind the House how we got here to second reading on a bill to ban conversion therapy. Of course elected officials have played a role, but not everyone who is on side now was always there.

Former Saskatoon West NDP MP Sheri Benson, the only out lesbian in the previous Parliament, sponsored petition e-1833 in the last Parliament, which called on the government to ban conversion therapy. That petition received nearly 20,000 signatures. When the petition was presented to the government in March of 2019, the Liberal government said it would take no action as it argued conversion therapy was a provincial responsibility.

In his 2019 Pride message, the NDP Leader, the member for Burnaby South, called for a ban as part of the NDP Platform. The Liberals still refused to budge. Then on September 29, in the midst of the election campaign just over a year ago, the Prime Minister suddenly changed course and promised a federal ban on conversion therapy. His December 2019 mandate letter for the justice minister included instructions to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy. I thank the minister for doing so and I welcome this conversion. I have no doubt also in the sincerity of his intentions to get a bill through this Parliament, which will end this practice.

However, let me stress today as always that no progress on SOGIE rights has ever taken place that has not been fought for by courageous members of our community and no place has that role been more important than in the case of brave conversion therapy survivors who have stepped up to tell their stories. Without them, the rest of us might have gone on blithely assuming that formal professional condemnation of conversion therapy was enough and had actually stopped this practice.

I cannot name all those who have spoken up, but let me quickly point to two who have helped deepen my understanding of how harmful this practice can be and how it continues to go on. I thank Erika Muse and Matt Ashcroft for speaking boldly and publicly.

There are days when the younger me is still surprised that I can stand in the House of Commons and speak as an openly gay man, and even more surprised that I do so as an official party spokesperson on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. However, there are also days when I am discouraged about the long distance we still have to go to reach full equality and acceptance, especially for transgender and non-binary Canadians. There are also days when I am hopeful that we will soon see more MPs from my community, including trans and non-binary representatives. We need those diverse voices in the House and young Canadians need to see those role models.

It is time to act and in fact long past the time to bring an end to this harmful practice. As welcome as new laws banning the practice are, new laws alone will not be sufficient to repair the past damage from conversion therapy nor combat the hate that underlies these practices. The government will need to fund capacity building within the SOGIE community so these challenges can be addressed by our community ourselves. Unfortunately, for some from our community it is far too late and they will never be able to be brought back to us.

I look forward to the speedy passage of the bill so we can get on with the important work of healing. I look forward to the day when we can say that all forms of conversion therapy have been banned from Canada and are no longer practised. I look forward to the day we can fully celebrate the full range of sexual and gender diversity in our country.

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1:45 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for a very strong and principled speech. I would expect nothing less from him on this topic, in fact on virtually every topic he stands on. He challenges us in his comments. I am not going to ask a question about his comments; they stand for themselves and are well reasoned.

My question for him is simply this. Those of us who want to see the day realized have work to do with him. I would like to know from his perspective what the next steps Parliament, in fact Canada, needs to take to realize that vision and dream of his of full equality and what he challenges us as Parliamentarians to take up in battle with him to ensure that all members of his community enjoy the full rights to which he speaks.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I know we do not have time enough in response to really answer that question. It is one of the reasons I focused on representation in my speech today. I look forward to the day we have a more representational House on all grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Conversion therapy is an urgent matter because unfortunately these harms are taking place regularly within our society. I would like to see the bill pass expeditiously and be in force by the end of the year, if we can possibly manage that.

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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his advocacy, his bravery and his words today. I really do appreciate it.

I wanted to give the member an opportunity to provide a bit more to his comments relating to a charter challenge and ensuring this important legislation, which bans something truly heinous and wrong, is not the subject of a charter challenge in the courts. I felt he had to speak to it too quickly and wanted to give him an opportunity to speak a bit more about the importance of protecting this from a charter challenge.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately I believe that no matter what we do the bill will be challenged in court because of the prevalence of homophobia and transphobia. Yes, I agree that it is important we write the best bill we can, but we cannot write a bill that deals with the questions of the whataboutisms to which I referred.

The bill is about ending a harmful practice directed at members of my community. To put it in the most simple terms, the charter is subject to reasonable limits. One of those reasonable limits is the rights of others stop at the harm that is done to me. Therefore, I believe this bill will ultimately survive any charter challenge.

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October 26th, 2020 / 1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent, very moving and very eloquent speech on this issue.

I have to admit that until just a few weeks ago, I did not even know that conversion therapy was allowed in Canada. I did not think that such a barbaric practice could exist. I am so glad that we are passing legislation today to prohibit it, or at least moving in that direction. I do not even find this to be an especially progressive bill. Today we are simply bringing Canada into the 20th century. Now we need to go even further.

My colleague mentioned something that was very interesting, picking up on something my colleague across the aisle asked about. In New Zealand, 20% of elected representatives are homosexual; in Canada, it is only 2%. Is there something we can do about that from a legislative standpoint? Are there any measures we could bring forward? How did New Zealand achieve that level of representation?

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, again, the member's belief that this was not taking place in Canada is representative of the beliefs of many Canadians. I want to thank the conversion therapy survivors, both in Quebec and in English-speaking Canada, who have told their stories and allowed us to realize this actually goes on.

As for New Zealand, about 10% of the new parliament is representative of the SOGIE community. How did they do that? Again, I am always recruiting. What I say is that the best protection for any community in Canadian society and the best way to get representation is to be out and proud of who we are, at work, at home, in all the social groups, in our church, wherever. If we are presenting ourselves as who we really are, that will help Canadians understand that all of us share the same basic humanity.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for having this voice that needs to be represented. I could not agree more that it needs to be more represented. I welcome all people of diverse backgrounds to engage in politics. It is important that we do this work so we make the space for them.

I wonder if the member could talk a bit more about how secretive this can be. One of the things that concerns me is this terminology of body affirming therapy, which really is a way of hiding the toxic nature. Can we be talking more about how that does not happen to anyone from this community?

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, that is an important question. The first thing we need to do is listen to those transgender and non-binary Canadians who have been subjected to what is often labelled with these positive sounding names like “gender affirming” or “transition therapy”, which sound like they will be helpful when they are actually quite harmful. I am hopeful that in committee we will be able to hear from those brave survivors who can help us understand how this takes place.

The question of the shadowy nature is very important. As I said in response to the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry on his comments concerning private conversations. This concerns me. Conversion therapy goes on in the shadows. I worry that if we open the door to protecting so-called private conversations, we are opening the door for this conversion therapy to continue in those shadowy areas.

We will have those discussions at committee, but I would like to see a stronger bill that has a complete ban of conversion therapy in it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the member touched on part of my question, so I will let him continue. I completely support what the bill says that it would do and the remarks from the minister this morning.

However, I would like the member to comment further on the suggestion by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. The member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke said that he considers some of the whataboutisms to be red herrings, yet would it not be better to craft a bill that is stronger and better and that would just undercut some of the red-herring arguments that have been made?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, the thing about red herrings is that they take us away from the harm we are trying to address. They bring in lots of theoretical problems and theoretical discussions about rights that are not the real topic of the bill.

I say yes to a strong bill, and yes to a clear bill. However, I am not wanting to qualify this bill in order to respond to the people raising what I believe are somewhat extraneous concerns.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it has been a pleasure to work with my colleague on a variety of issues. We share a strong opposition to conversion therapy. I have some concerns about the definition of the bill as written. I want to clarify the member's views on this point.

Let us say that an Orthodox rabbi, an imam or a Catholic priest expresses the sincerely held view that sexual activity should be limited to within a heterosexual marriage. I understand many of us in the House might disagree with that view. However, if someone expresses that view, should that person be subject to criminal sanction?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's question brings a very large red herring into the room. Nothing in the bill would criminalize comment on sexual orientation or gender identity by spiritual leaders. When we take those outdated ideas of what it means to be gay or transgender and try to turn them into a so-called therapy that is applied to people, that is what we are criminalizing in the bill. We are not criminalizing people's thoughts or opinions. We are criminalizing a practice that is harmful to Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne. I also want to thank the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who gave a very passionate speech on this and shared his own life experiences. I really appreciated it and received a lot of insight from that.

It is my pleasure to voice support for Bill C-6, which proposes Criminal Code amendments aimed at ending so-called conversion therapy in Canada. The bill proposes the same reforms as those proposed in former Bill C-8. They underscore the government's continuing commitment to ban an inherently discriminatory practice. Conversion therapy harms the well-being, dignity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians by proposing that they can and should change their sexual orientation or gender identity, a fundamental and immutable part of their identity.

Diversity is what makes Canada a great country. Respecting and valuing differences defines us as Canadians. I am proud to support a bill that reflects these fundamental Canadian values. Conversion therapy's origins explain why it is an inherently discriminatory practice. The practice comes from a time when any sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and any gender identity other than cisgender, would have been considered a sickness or a disease that required repairing. It just seems obvious to say that a therapy founded on ignorance and prejudice toward the targeted recipients also harms them.

We need to acknowledge these harms because they are documented by the evidence. Not only does relevant research show that conversion therapy causes significant harm to those subjected to it, it also shows that the practice disproportionately harms children. That is why Bill C-6 proposes comprehensive protections for children.

Bill C-6 would define conversion therapy as any “practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour”. This means that gender affirming therapies or interventions, including for children whose identity is not congruent with their biological sex, do not constitute conversion therapy. This is primarily because the objective is not to change anything about the person receiving the therapy, but rather to support their identity exploration and development.

To be clear, we want to protect children from illegitimate treatments, not prevent them from accessing treatment that provides them with the support they need. Supporting children who may not conform to heteronormative standards also means protecting them from practices that harm their development and exploration of self. That is precisely what Bill C-6 does.

Hindu Heritage DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to state that I hosted the third annual Hindu Heritage Day on Parliament Hill, virtually, last Saturday.

Hindu Heritage Day on the Hill is done to highlight the contribution of Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world known to mankind. This is also an opportunity to educate Canadians on Hindu heritage and its importance in the fields of art, culture, science, astronomy, medicine and many other areas.

Hindu Heritage Day is also an occasion to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the contributions of Hindu Canadians to our great country. Hindus arrived in Canada from different parts of the world and have immensely contributed to the socio-economic development of Canadian society and economy.