House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sexual.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that conversations of this type are difficult, but they must happen. To say that we cannot have conversations would be unrealistic. We must allow for conversation to take place to make sure that young people know they are loved and are part of their community.

This bill would not in any way make it a crime to have those conversations. That is the first step, and it is important and will continue to be important.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

We know that the Quebec National Assembly is also debating a bill on conversion therapy. It is great to see the two parliaments working together.

MNAs in Quebec City are also wondering whether individuals who are under the control of religious organizations that consider homosexuality to be a mortal sin could decide to challenge the Quebec law in court on the grounds of freedom of conscience and religion. That is something that is being discussed in Quebec City.

I am wondering whether the federal government had any such discussions. It is certainly important to start by passing the bill. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These preliminary discussions about possible court challenges to the federal law would help us prepare to deal with that eventuality.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a step in the right direction. There is no question that religious freedom is a part of what we believe in this country and that will not change.

We know that there could be some more discussion, right up to the Supreme Court, on these issues, which is entirely part of the process. It behooves us to move forward and make sure that we get this right.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I agree with her 100% and could not have put it better myself. She is absolutely right: this bill is a step in the right direction, one I think we should have taken long ago.

Her description of conversion therapy as abhorrent, disgusting, abusive, and even dangerous resonated with me. If conversion therapy is all of those things, why does the Liberal government's bill not seek to ban it outright?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I wish the bill went further. I agree that we need to move forward on this so that conversion therapy is outlawed completely. However, we know that in this country we want to make sure to bring everybody onside and that we do this step by step. This is our first step toward that.

I hope that eventually we will be voting on a bill that will completely criminalize conversion therapy in Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before resuming debate, I wish to inform the House that there have been more than five hours of debate on this motion during this first round. Consequently, the maximum time allocated for all subsequent interventions shall be 10 minutes for speeches and five minutes for questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy, a truly horrific practice. Bill C-6 specifically criminalizes transporting a minor out of Canada for the purpose of conversion therapy, subjecting adults to conversion therapy against their will and the “business of conversion therapy”: charging for, profiting from or advertising conversion therapy for both minors and adults.

We must be clear. Homophobia and transphobia kill. They are a side of the fascist and hateful coin that demonizes and attacks us all. As parliamentarians we must be clear: There is nothing wrong, or that requires fixing, with anyone in the LGBTQ2IA communities. Conversion therapy is a horrific practice that should never have happened. The fact that it did, has and does is shameful. Our families, doctors and communities should be sources of comfort and respite for everyone, not harm.

The first responsibility of members of Parliament is to stand up for the rights and dignity of their constituents. The bill is an opportunity to show that. It is an opportunity to say no to homophobia and transphobia, because homophobia and transphobia kill. Let us send a clear message to the bullies, the bigots and those who would harm the LGBTQ2IA communities that their harmful behaviour, their hate and demonization are unacceptable and unwanted. Let our voice of love drown out the hate. We must speak out against homophobic and transphobic jokes, because they are not jokes. It is hate. Every one of those hateful jokes does the same type of damage we are talking about here. It comes from the same type of hate we are trying to stamp out. If we see it, we must say something. We must make it clear which side we stand on.

The phrase “conversion therapy” does not really reflect the horror of the practice, so let us be clear about what we are talking about: electroshock therapy, forced vomiting, forced ingestion of psychotropic drugs such as ketamine, and exorcisms and beatings. Simply put, it is abuse. Trying to force people to be something they are not will never work. We should not try, because there is nothing wrong with who they are.

A recent study showed that roughly 20% of gay, bi or two-spirited men experienced some form of conversion therapy. Another said that 42% of survivors age 13-24 attempt suicide. Homophobia and transphobia kill. It is no surprise when people are told that they are lesser and they do not matter: when they are told they need “fixing.” To anyone listening who needs to hear it, let me be clear. They do not need fixing. They are fine just the way they are. It is the folks attacking them who need fixing, not them. It may not feel like it, but many people believe in them, want them to succeed and cannot wait to meet them.

This hateful message often comes from those closest to us: parents, neighbours and in some cases even elected officials. It is truly unacceptable. We must put an end to it. We must put an end to homophobia and transphobia because they kill. It is impossible to change someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression through conversion therapy, nor would it be desirable even if it worked. All we would be doing is contributing to further harm, sometimes leading to depression and social isolation and often to self-harm or death by suicide. This is true of traditional conversion therapy and so-called body affirming therapy. We must ban conversion therapy. We must say no to homophobia and transphobia because they kill.

As we get to this moment, I would like to recognize the work of those who got us here. In so many of these struggles, we do not always get to bear witness to the hard work of community members and survivors who lay the groundwork. I want to recognize the LGBTQ2IA advocacy groups, labour unions, members of the medical community and the movement builders. I think of trailblazers across the country like my friend, Cheri DiNovo; my colleague, the MP forEsquimalt—Saanich—Sooke; trailblazers like Svend Robinson and Bill Siksay, former members of Parliament for the NDP; and my provincial colleagues, like Janis Irwin, who speak out and have spoken out against homophobia and transphobia at any chance they had.

I think of every survivor who has shared their story, every person who has spoken out and every community member who has endured, and I think of those who did not. Not one more person should be murdered by homophobia or transphobia. We owe it to those who are not here to make sure it never happens again.

I am happy to see some really inspiring and amazing work happening at the municipal, provincial and territorial levels across the country to protect queer youth. No provincial health plans allow for conversion therapy as part of the public health care insurance system. No reputable health care provider should perform the practice, yet we know that it happens. That is why this legislation is so critical.

Only my home province of Manitoba has a formal and complete ban on health professionals offering conversion therapy. It was the first province to ban the practice. Today, nearly 80 per cent of Alberta is covered by conversion therapy bans, but the provincial government refuses to act. Its lack of leadership puts children in danger.

Ontario, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have made it illegal for health professionals to practice conversion therapy on minors. Yukon Territory is moving forward with legislation to ban conversion therapy as well.

However, there has been a lack of federal leadership until this point. In 2019, my former colleague Sheri Benson brought forward a petition by the Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, signed by survivors and allies, calling on the government to ban the practice. They shared their stories and their collective voice called on us as parliamentarians to stand with them.

At the time, the Liberal government used the tired argument of obstructionists to human dignity everywhere: state rights. After countless survivors and activists continued to raise their voices, the government relented. The government was wrong then, but I am glad it is moving now, because homophobia and transphobia kill.

Let us be clear on the Liberals' pink-washed record on LGBTQ rights more broadly. A government that believes in queer rights does not prop up the Saudi Arabian government: one of the worst abusers of LGBTQ rights in the world. It does not continuously deny the right of men who have sex with men to give blood, despite saying otherwise.

In 2020, being an ally must mean more than doing the bare minimum. It must mean more than attending Pride parades. It must mean giving communities the tools to live in dignity and in health, and to lead their own fights in their own way.

New Democrats support this legislation, but we believe it must go further. We must make sure we are not leaving trans people behind. We must make sure that when we talk about banning conversion therapy for sexual orientation, we also include the same harmful practice when it comes to gender identity and expression because, and it bears repeating, homophobia and transphobia kill.

We know that legislation alone is not going to keep LGBTQ2IA people safe, nor will it repair the damage brought. The government must ensure that adequate funding exists for community-led solutions. It is the only way. Whether it is speaking out against hate or against practices that are harmful to the LGBTQ2IA communities in Canada, or in Canada's foreign policy, we must be clear on our values of love and respect, and condemn the bullies and bigots.

When I was writing my speech, I read stories of survivors of conversion therapy. Many were living through their pain, and their voices must be heard. I want to share a few of those stories.

Conversion therapy is not therapy. It is just torture, abuse, and people still need to be educated.

These are the words of a survivor who was forced to take a cocktail of psychedelic drugs and told to smell his feces any time he felt attracted to another man. His story helped convince the City of Vancouver to ban the practice. There are other horrific stories, but out of these stories we know change has already taken place. Folks in the LGBTQ community deserve more. Their human rights matter, like everyone else's.

Today, let us support Bill C-6, but let us go further in ensuring respect and realization of rights for LGBTQ people across our country and around the world.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Derek Sloan Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate those comments. I just have a question.

I feel like we are not answering some of the concerns that other groups have. I am getting emails, not from religious groups but from feminist organizations and LGBT individuals. One email I got from We the Females, a feminist group, is concerned that among young girls gender dysphoria is being overdiagnosed. Young girls who may be confused about their general sense of self or who believe their current personal distress has a simple cause, being the wrong gender, are being overdiagnosed, put on drugs and put on a process that is irreversible.

Does the member have a comment for the people who are concerned about this? This is not related to animosity towards LGBTQ people, but just a concern for kids.

Could the member address this concern?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member who asked the question has a record of supporting deeply troubling and discriminatory views. We saw that in his leadership campaign. What I would say is that when it comes to—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington is rising on a point of order.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Derek Sloan Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, those comments have nothing to do with this debate. They are personal attacks that have been taken out of context and are in fact false. I would prefer that we return to the debate—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I appreciate the hon. member's point of order. In this case, I did not hear anything in the comment by the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski that would necessarily categorize it in the same way that the hon. member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington has. I will keep an ear open for that. In this case, what the member is speaking of constitutes debate on the question before the House. Perhaps he will have another opportunity in the course of this debate to comment on those issues.

The hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski can complete her response.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, frankly, I am flabbergasted at the member's comment. If he is not able to take the heat for what we all know is a very troubling track record, then I am not quite sure what he is doing here.

I have real concern with mis-characterizing organizations as feminist. I am very concerned to hear the kind of framing that the member is using, frankly, to fit his own agenda: an agenda that we know has been of hate and discrimination.

Let me be clear. Trans rights are human rights. The rights of the LGBTQ2IA community are human rights. As members of Parliament in a country like Canada, which commits to upholding human rights, we should be standing up for them. Supporting Bill C-6 is squarely part of that, and we must go a lot further.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my colleague's speech. Like her, I agree with the bill we are debating today.

I recently watched the TV series Ratched, which is set in a psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. In the series, they treat homosexuality with a lobotomy. It really drives the point home that this was happening in the 1950s.

I am shocked to see that in this day and age, gay and trans individuals are still not fully accepted and face a great deal of intolerance. I am very aware of the suicide rate among gay people.

In 2020, this bill is progressive and brings us into the 21st century. What should we do today to make trans and gay individuals feel more accepted? As legislators, what can we do to advance Canadian society even further?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I appreciate what he said about the history of our country. We must learn from history so that the abuse suffered by gay and trans individuals is not repeated.

In my speech, I mentioned several actions that the federal government should take to recognize the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community here in Canada. We must also ensure federal funding is distributed to support the work being done every day by LGBTQ+ organizations on the ground, in support of marginalized members of their community.

As I said, it is not enough to do this work here at home. For example, we must also implement an international policy that upholds the rights of members of LGBTQ+ communities.

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12:30 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member, 100%, that sexual orientation and gender identity, SOGI, rights are human rights; and we need to go further as parliamentarians to protect people from homophobia and from horrible practices like the practice of conversion therapy, which is not a therapy it is torture.

In going further, would the member like to see a complete ban? The legislation says that adults going through conversion therapy against their will is banned, but would the member like to see a complete ban of this so-called therapy?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, absolutely a complete ban is important. It is very important for us to support the bill but to state very clearly that it must go further. Let us not lose the opportunity that we have right now to do the right thing. Already, the Liberals have waited way too long. I certainly would encourage jurisdictions across the country to continue to do the work they are doing to implement complete bans at their levels of government, but we can be leaders right now and set the bar right now; a complete ban is critical.

As I said, we need to be ensuring that we are standing up for the human rights of the LGBTQ2IA communities here at home and in our foreign policy as well. That is something where we need to see much more leadership from the Liberal government, now and going forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join second reading debate on Bill C-6, which proposes to criminalize conduct pertaining to conversion therapy, a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's LGBTQ2+ communities.

Bill C-6 proposes the same amendments as a previous bill, Bill C-8. We are committed to ending conversion therapy in Canada and we continue to advocate for that. Conversion therapy is a destructive and discriminatory practice that serves to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, the fundamental part of who they are.

Relevant evidence shows individuals have experienced a range of harms. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of conversion therapies and transgender, indigenous, racial minority and lower-income individuals are disproportionately exposed. This bill promotes the equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited Canadians by targeting the conduct of the hazardous practices that sends a message that they can and should change who they are, which is wrong.

Canadians value diversity, equality and human dignity. This bill reflects and reiterates those fundamental values. We must move ahead and eradicate this discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values. Many studies have catalogued the harms experienced by people who have been subjected to conversion therapy. In 2009, the American Psychological Association noted that conversion therapy originated in a time when homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic and statistical manual.

More recent research shows a wider variety of interventions, including gender role reconditioning, support groups and psychotherapy, as well wide varieties of providers, including both licensed and unlicensed mental health providers in various disciplines, pastoral counsellors and laypersons. Not surprisingly, the science shows that conversion therapy is incapable of achieving this discriminatory end. A person can no more change their sexual orientation or gender identity than they can their ethnicity or other characteristics that define who they are.

As with any bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, it negatively affects mental health and causes a wide range of serious harms, including decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, confusion, depression, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidal ideation, increased substance abuse, feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, loss of faith and sexual dysfunction.

Conversion therapy has also been discredited and denounced by many professional associations as a harmful practice, particularly to children. For example, in 2014, the Canadian Psychiatric Association expressed its opposition to the use of conversion therapy, stating that the practice assumes LGBTQ2+ identities “indicate a mental disorder” and that LGBTQ2+ people “could or should change their sexual orientation [or] gender identity”.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has also indicated the practice is clearly unethical and the Canadian Psychological Association, in its policy statement on conversion therapy, opposes the practice and takes note of the fact that scientific research does not support its efficacy. I would like to emphasize that conversion therapy is a very harmful practice to our children, and it is our duty to protect them against such harmful practices.

To be clear, the evidence tells us the persons exposed to conversion therapy have experienced its harmful impacts regardless of whether they were compelled to undergo the practices or sought it out themselves.

Both groups experienced the very same harms, because conversion therapy is aimed at changing a person and not exploring the harmful impacts of stigma and stereotype on a person's self-conduct, which is the foundation for legitimate interventions. Conversion therapy can take many forms, including counselling, behavioural modification and thought therapy and may be offered by professionals, religious officials or laypersons.

Bill C-6 defines conversion therapy as “...a 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.” To be clear, this definition does not capture practices, treatments or services designed for other purposes, such as those aimed at supporting individuals without trying to change them. Furthermore, the legislation clarifies that gender-affirming therapies and treatments are not captured by the definition.

Conversion therapy is predicated on lies and falsehood, such that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is somehow wrong and needs fixing. Not only is this belief false, it signals a demeaning and degrading message, which undermines the dignity of individuals and the entire LGBTQ community. In contrast to what others may say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to who one is or who one loves. As mentioned earlier, conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced by professionals and health care associations in Canada, the United States and all around the world. It has no scientific basis or grounding in health care practices.

Bill C-6 proposes to create five new Criminal Code offences targeting conversion therapy. These proposed offences would prohibit: first, causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy; second, removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad; third, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will; fourth, profiting from providing conversion therapy; and fifth, advertising the provision of conversion therapy. If passed, this bill would make Canada's laws on conversion therapy the most progressive and comprehensive in the world.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, has said that this bill could provide a new international model for dealing with such practices and that this type of more encompassing disposition is probably the very best when it comes to the practices that he has seen around the world.

I implore my colleagues across all party lines today to ensure that we are clear: There is a clear difference between asking someone who they are and telling someone that who they are is wrong and needs fixing.

Supportive teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends and family members do not need to fear engaging in the important discussion about someone's identity. These discussions are often critical to personal development. However, what is being targeted here are those who are actively working and providing services designed to change someone's identity based on preconceived notions of who someone ought to be or how someone ought to behave. This bill represents important progress toward ending conversion therapy in Canada and reflects a harmony between progressive policy and constitutional consideration. We must stand together in support to curtail this unscientific and dangerous practice.

In closing, Canada is a country where everyone, regardless of their gender, their gender identity or their sexual orientation can live in equality and freedom. As parliamentarians, this is exactly the legacy we should leave for all of our children, grandchildren and so on. I sincerely hope that all parliamentarians will support this important piece of legislation.

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member and I worked together at the mental health caucus for two Parliaments and have done a lot of good work there. He just spent the last 10 minutes explaining how important this piece of legislation is, but in the last four years the government has failed to act. It was actually the municipalities that encouraged the government to finally take action on this file.

I am curious to hear his thoughts as to why it took him and his government so long, essentially kicking and screaming, to get to this point and finally bring the legislation forward.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been an honour to work with the member on the all-parliamentary health caucus. We have effectively worked on that caucus together for at least the last two years to make sure that the impact of mental health on many vulnerable individuals, especially men, in our community is addressed. It is a passion that is shared by both of us.

To respond as to why this has taken so long, the bill was introduced earlier this year. Unfortunately, due to the Speech from the Throne, we were not in a position to debate it fully. Now the bill is in front of us and we are looking forward to debating it and sending it to committee. We are looking forward to having the support of all parties in the House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed my hon. colleague's speech.

I found one aspect somewhat intriguing. Everyone agrees that we need to pass this bill quickly. Some people who have experienced trauma are waiting for us to pass it. However, there are several other pressing issues, including medical assistance in dying. Some of these bills could have been passed a month ago, but the government decided to prorogue the House for five weeks.

Would my colleague agree that we could have used those five weeks to move some of this legislation forward? People are waiting for us legislators to move things forward.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an important question. It is fair to acknowledge that we are living in very difficult times. COVID-19 has left an impact on not only Canadians but across the world. That is the reason we had to take a pause and really reflect on what we had learned since March or early February, when we became aware of this pandemic. We did that and we did it effectively.

We came back with a very strong Speech from the Throne that talked about mental health. We also now have the opportunity to reintroduce bills such as Bill C-6 and Bill C-7.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we see in terms of what is happening on the ground right now, particularly with trans youth, is marginalization and high levels of violence.

I have heard from some of the Conservatives this continual message that this legislation, which bans the specific act of conversion therapy, will somehow interfere with families being able to talk about these issues and will criminalize professionals who are brought in to work with them. I think it is pretty clear, if one looks at the issue of transgender actions, that there is an entire process of consultation and preparation. The idea that this is going to be criminalized, which some members of the Conservative Party have been trying to say, is creating unnecessary fear.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague about this.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to my colleague for that clarification. As I stated in my speech as well, there is a clear difference between trying to convert someone against their wishes and consulting someone or providing information.

Therapists, school counsellors, various professionals and parents do not have to worry about engaging in a conversation that explores and guides, because this is not being criminalized. It is actually strongly supported because it is a fundamental process that one has to go through to become comfortable with one's own gender or identity, if one needs to do so.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code, in relation to conversion therapy.

It is my belief that harmful conversion therapy practices are wrong and have no place in Canadian society. No person should be forced or coerced to change their sexual orientation or their gender identity. As we consider this legislation, it is incumbent upon us to examine the actual text of Bill C-6. We must review what is in it or, in this case, what is not in the legislation, because at the end of the day laws will be interpreted and applied based on their written text and not on an expressed intent. It is for that reason that I have serious reservations about the bill.

The legislation lacks a clear definition of conversion therapy. Its definition is so general that it leaves room to be applied broadly. There is very reasonable concern that the legislation could criminalize voluntary conversations and efforts to seek support. It also leaves the door open to infringe on religious expression and parental rights.

As we know, the bill has been reintroduced after it was cleared from the legislative table when the Liberal government unnecessarily prorogued Parliament. It was originally introduced in the first session of this Parliament as Bill C-8. Concerns about the broad definition were raised with the original introduction of the bill. With the clearing of the legislative slate, the Liberal justice minister had the opportunity to fix the definition. It is disheartening that this legislation was reintroduced without addressing these serious concerns.

The justice minister was fully aware of these concerns and made the decision to ignore them. In fact, after the first introduction of the legislation, the Department of Justice put the following disclaimer on its website. It reads:

These new offences would not criminalise private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

That statement would not have been offered if there were no need for it. By providing that clarification, there is an implied acknowledgement that the legislation is not clear. Unfortunately, a disclaimer on the department's website is not the same as legislation. That statement takes a position that is not explicitly stated in the bill before us.

There is nothing in Bill C-6 that clearly states that private conversations in which a person expresses their views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity would not be criminalized. When a person is struggling or wrestling with life's issues, regardless of what that might be, it is very common to voluntarily turn to a trusted person for support. In fact, we would probably all encourage a person to reach out for help and not go through it and struggle alone. For each person, a trusted person is different. It could be a counsellor, a faith leader, a parent, a teacher, a friend or any person with whom they may feel comfortable.

To have the space for open, honest and real conversation, there cannot be a cloud of legal uncertainty around that conversation. There should not be fear of repercussions for expressing a certain viewpoint, offering counsel or even just having an informal conversation. That does not serve the individual seeking support or the individual offering it. There must be freedom to openly talk to those whom we trust. We must be cautious not to undermine support networks.

In introducing this legislation, the Liberal government has spoken about protecting LGBTQ rights, and it is so important that their rights are protected. I would agree that we should stand up to protect those who have been degraded or dehumanized by harmful conversion therapy practices. That is why, as legislators, we should be committed to getting this bill right and, in that effort, we also have the responsibility to be mindful of the rights of all Canadians.

Without a clear definition, it leaves room for the infringement of other held rights. Parental rights in the guidance of children must be part of this debate, just as freedom of religion and freedom of belief are also a part of this debate. Parents not only have the right but the responsibility of raising their children. That responsibility includes providing food, shelter and clothing for them.

However, parenting goes well beyond providing material needs for a child. Parental guidance is key to a child's development. Moms, dads and guardians help protect the physical and psychological well-being of a child. They also help a child understand and unpack the world around them. We often hear parents of infants and toddlers talk about reliving the world through their child's eyes. A child learns about the world around them and a parent is there to help guide and navigate them.

As a mom, I know first-hand that kids from a very young age will ask their parents an abundance of questions and sometimes they never stop. It does not matter if it is the most basic of questions or something incredibly thought-provoking. Parents are there to offer response and insight.

It is healthy for parents and their children to have open and honest dialogue, and for parents to help children in their understanding of their own emotions. A loving and open relationship between parents and children helps foster self-worth and self-esteem. It is important for children to feel comfortable in coming to their parents when they have questions, struggles or want to talk through or about their feelings.

In a world where we live more and more of our lives online, where kids are exposed to so many outside influences, where kids can be inundated with oversexualized content from a very young age and have access to so much information, whether it is credible or not, we need to have more real conversations between children and their parents, not fewer.

The other concern with the broad definition of conversion therapy in this legislation is its relationship to religious expression. A code of conduct around ethics, morality and sexuality is common among major religions. These are often strongly held beliefs that are studied, instructed and practised by all persons of faith. Faith groups have expressed their worry about how this legislation will be applied to them. Will they remain free to teach and encourage members of their faith community to practise their faith in accordance with their religious teachings, or will this legislation and its application go well beyond criminalizing involuntary, harmful and discriminatory conversion therapy practices?

As I have said, it is my belief that the practice of involuntary conversion therapy is harmful and should be banned, but we cannot ban or police thought and expression. We cannot infringe on religious freedoms and we must respect parents. In an effort to ban the practice of conversion therapy, we cannot needlessly criminalize normal and healthy conversations.

As it is written in the current legislation, the definition of conversion therapy is overreaching, in my view, and it is flawed. It does not strike the right balance between protecting people of the LGBTQ community, parental rights and freedom of religion. By providing a clear definition of conversion therapy, we can provide needed clarity on the scope and intent of the legislation.

I will personally be supporting the bill at the second reading stage so that it can be sent to committee where amendments can be put forward in good faith to improve and fix the current legislation's shortfalls. It is my sincere hope that the Liberal government will be open to amendments so that we can get this right for all Canadians.