House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was therapy.


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5:40 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

I rise today to participate in the debate at third reading of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy.

What is conversion therapy? Conversion therapy is a practice, service or treatment that is essentially designed to change a person's sexual orientation. I want to stress here that the goal is to “change”, since we are talking about conversion, which involves change. In my research, I learned that around 47,000 people in Canada have been subjected to this type of “therapy”—which I am putting in air quotes—and it is never successful.

I think I have mentioned that I am a social worker and very proud to be an active member of my professional association. I want to point out that Quebec has already had this debate, and that it has been taking real action against conversion therapy since Bill 70 was unanimously adopted in the Quebec National Assembly on December 9, 2020. Ontario and Manitoba have also passed similar legislation.

Passing Bill 70 was one more milestone confirming Quebec's place as a leader in Canada—and the world—in the fight against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Quebec is a great nation that is respectful and open and celebrates sexual diversity. That is something that makes me very proud.

Driven by this deep conviction, this long tradition of respect and the unanimity on the principle at the National Assembly, the Bloc Québécois is obviously in favour of Bill C-6.

It should be noted that the bill the Liberal government introduced chooses not to fully ban conversion therapy, limiting the prohibition to minors and banning advertising and marketing as well as sending a Canadian minor abroad to get this type of pseudo-therapy. In other words, Bill C-6 seeks to ban imposing conversion therapy on children and adolescents. I am particularly sensitive to the whole issue of adolescence because it is a time when a person gets to know their body, a time of self-discovery.

I must say that I am a bit shocked that this topic is still being debated in the House today, but I am pleased to see that the majority of parliamentarians here support the idea of banning this type of therapy, except for a very active and vocal fringe of the Conservative Party, as we have seen today.

The bill seems balanced. To me it covers the bare minimum. Frankly, I am surprised to have to make this speech, since this seems to fall under the category of respecting people's freedom to love whoever they want. Indeed, this is a question of love that we are talking about today. I want to make a point of saying that my wish is that every child and adolescent in Quebec and Canada can feel respected, welcomed, understood, included and loved regardless of their sexual orientation.

I also want to tell them that I have a great deal of empathy for those who are led to believe that they must choose between their sexual orientation and their spirituality, between their sexual orientation and their life in the community, between their sexual orientation and their future prospects, or in some cases between their sexual orientation and their family ties. These kinds of choices have no place in an open, sensible and sensitive society.

In fact, these dilemmas imposed on some young people are, in my opinion, absurd, since sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. It is therefore absurd to think that sexual orientation will determine anyone's place in society. It is also ridiculous to believe that conversion therapy could do anything other than suppress the full and honest expression of their sexual orientation. Conversion therapy cannot cure a disease that, basically, is not a disease or even a flaw.

Let us be clear: the practice of conversion therapy undermines respect for everyone's gender identity and sexual orientation. Conversion therapies are a direct affront to human dignity.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the groups promoting these practices are tiny and in a minority, and wishes to broadly state that respect for beliefs must go hand in hand with respect for differences and, at the same time, the assurance of equality among all persons.

However, conversion therapy advocates usually present these so-called therapies as a caring process and well-thought-out therapeutic sessions developed to help people come to their senses and get back on track. They present their sessions as open discussions about sexual orientation.

How can a discussion be open and balanced when the very purpose of that discussion is conversion? How can we believe that this is an open discussion when people are paying, and sometimes paying quite a lot, for a service that seeks to change a person's sexual preferences? How can we believe that these discussions can be beneficial when minors are being forced to participate in them under duress? In my opinion, the answer is obvious.

There is a very significant difference between caring and conversion therapy. Caring comes through acceptance, and when there is acceptance then people can talk about the fact that it is normal for a person to question their sexual orientation, try different things and learn about their sexuality and about the fact that a person's sexual orientation can change over the course of their lifetime.

If we are truly accepting and open-minded, we can recognize that it is completely normal to be gay or to identify somewhere on the broad spectrum of sexual orientation. If we are completely open-minded and accepting, we understand that a person can, at different times in their life, experience something other than heterosexuality, and that is normal. If we are completely open-minded, we understand that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or any sexual orientation is equivalent to being heterosexual. In other words, sexual orientation should not have an impact on the life or the value that a person has.

Not being able to tolerate the idea that an individual can love the person they choose to love is not being open-minded. Those who seek to guide an individual to what is considered tolerable, to suppress sincere feelings and to violate a person's right to live their sexual orientation with dignity, are forced to use arguments based on fear. This places people in a position of making judgments.

I want members to clearly hear me. The Bloc Québécois will definitely be voting unanimously for Bill C-6. All our members, and I did say all, will vote in favour of this bill, as we did at second reading.

I call on all political parties to do the same and to fully, unequivocally and unanimously support Bill C-6 to send a clear message that, in Quebec and in Canada, we respect the dignity of all people who, ultimately, are just living with love.

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5:50 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do want to remind the House that members of the Bloc, at committee, raised significant concerns about the text of this legislation. In fact, the Bloc representative on the committee voted against the addition of references to gender expression to the definition. It is important for the Bloc to remember that it was its own representative on the committee who did say that we needed to get the wording, the definition, right, because there are problems with the definition, and amendments were passed that he, in fact, voted against.

The other thing I wanted to say is that we hear from members, like the member for Kingston and the Islands, that we have to choose between banning conversion therapy and worrying about the details. I would simply say let us do both. Let us fix the problems with the definition and let us pass this bill. We have had the opportunity to do that. We still have the opportunity to do that.

I am struck to hear some members dismiss the study of the details as if they do not matter. If we get the details wrong, then we ban things that are not related to conversion therapy. Let us do both. Let us get the details right and let us pass this conversion therapy bill.

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5:50 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I know that he is passionate about this issue. We heard him speak at length in the House and at committee.

I would just like to remind him that, from a medical perspective, conversion therapy is pseudoscience. Not only is it dangerous and degrading for the patient, but many studies have also proven that it does not work.

We heard from many witnesses about the impact of this type of therapy on people. Witnesses told us that their lives were turned upside down and that they even thought about suicide because they felt rejected by their community due to their sexual orientation, which in fact demonstrates that conversion therapy does not work.f

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5:50 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I really appreciated the member's speech, just as I appreciate her support and that of all Bloc Québécois MPs.

Does my colleague think we need to keep debating this bill, or does she think it is time to pass it so it can be brought into force and enable more Canadians to be themselves?

I believe Canada is an inclusive country. We know we still have a lot of work to do.

Is it time to vote on this motion, or do we need to keep debating this bill?

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5:50 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her question.

I think my comment will serve as an answer to her question. Since 1977, Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination. In 2002, Quebec's National Assembly made the civil union of two people of the same sex legal.

In answer to her question, yes, it is time we passed this bill so we can protect children and teens who are currently being subjected to conversion therapy.

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5:50 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be part of a party that has been groundbreaking in this country in forging respect for rights on gender and sexuality going back decades. I am always concerned when I hear a debate on rights and protection qualified by the word “but”, and that is what I am hearing here. I am hearing everybody say they are in favour of banning conversion therapy, “but”. The “but” seems to be they are concerned that, by banning this harmful conversion therapy, we might interfere with some forms of conversion attempts that may be caught by this.

The problem is that, underlying every concern expressed, mainly by Conservatives, there is something wrong with the person, so they want to preserve some ability to convert someone for something. That is where the problem is. There is nothing wrong with individuals who are non-heterosexual or non-binary gendered individuals.

My question is this. I am hearing a lot from the Conservatives, and the Liberals for that matter, that they are concerned about people being able to access counselling. If so, does my colleague agree with the NDP that we should amend the Canada Health Act so necessary mental health services are—

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5:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Time is up. We have time for a quick response.

The hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît has the floor.

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5:55 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I do not agree with his last question because we all know that all mental health care, health care and social services fall under provincial jurisdiction, and so under Quebec's jurisdiction, and that Quebec already provides quality services to support everyone who needs help.

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5:55 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to debate this bill about a social issue. However, in 2021, we should not have to rise in the House under such circumstances because conversion therapy obviously no longer has a place in our society.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-6. Why? The reason is that the Bloc Québécois is deeply committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of Quebeckers and has always been quick to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation. Equality between Quebeckers is a fundamental value and an inalienable right in Quebec.

Practices that deny the existence of a person's core identity must be condemned. Historically, Quebec has been a leader in human rights protection. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977, and same-sex marriage was legalized by the National Assembly of Quebec in 2002, when it instituted civil unions.

From a moral perspective, within a democratic society, it is legitimate to affirm fundamental community values. In Quebec, respect for the gender identity and sexual orientation of all people is a value that the practice of conversion therapy undermines.

From a medical perspective, conversion therapy is pseudoscience. Not only is it dangerous and degrading for the patient, but many studies have also proven that it does not work.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the groups promoting these practices are tiny and in a minority. Moreover, the Bloc wishes to state that respect for beliefs must go hand in hand with respect for differences and the assurance of equality among people. I would add that the Quebec and Canadian societies are distinct societies, but they have much in common, particularly in terms of values.

Also, it is fitting that, on a number of subjects, they agree and adopt concordant policies that move toward the advancement of rights. The Bloc Québécois acknowledges the Quebec government's initiative to protect human rights and welcomes Quebec justice minister Simon Jolin-Barrette's Bill 70. The bill aims to put an end to conversion therapy.

The Bloc Québécois is also pleased that the Canadian government recognizes by means of this bill that, as a democracy, it is appropriate to affirm shared values and pass laws that govern practices arising from beliefs that are in conflict with those values.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois feels that the Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-6 are appropriate.

What is conversion therapy? Here is the definition from a Radio-Canada article:

Conversion therapy, or sexual reorientation therapy, is psychological or spiritual intervention meant to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity with the use of psychotherapy, drugs or a combination of the two.

In Canada, 47,000 men belonging to a sexual minority have been subjected to conversion therapy. According to the World Health Organization, these practices are a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.

The Canadian Psychological Association says that conversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes, such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association released a study entitled “Resolution on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts”. According to the study, contrary to claims made by those who administer these treatments, they are ineffective and potentially harmful. The study also noted that attraction to individuals of the same sex is a normal variation of human sexual behaviour and that those who promote conversion therapy tend to have very conservative religious opinions. That might be the crux of the problem.

I would like to talk about an interesting point my colleague from Shefford raised. The government finally chose to not only prohibit conversion therapy but to criminalize it. According to people with first-hand experience, some of these therapies were more like torture than therapy.

I think we can all agree that this practice, which is promoted and supported primarily by religious groups, is based on the idea that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong, that it is one of the most serious sins and that it could lead a person straight to hell.

Unfortunately, homophobia still exists in 2021. Expressions of it can be seen practically every day. It is frankly unacceptable that religious groups continue to stigmatize homosexuality. People in this community should not have to live in fear any longer. Human beings should not be subjected to goodness knows what kind of therapeutic process to become someone they simply are not. Many of us know people in our circles who have admitted how hard it still is to come out of the closet and affirm their identity. This bill does not solve all the problems of the LGBTQ2S+ community, but it is clearly an important step in advancing the debate.

Today is May 31, and we only have 17 sitting days remaining before the break. As we know, Bill C-19, which will change how an election is held during a pandemic, was passed under a gag order. Parliament needs to act quickly. I think there is a good chance that an election will be called, and any bills left on the Order Paper would therefore die. As I said, we only have 17 days left to move forward with this bill and all the others.

I am thinking of my colleague from Drummond who has been working very hard to ensure that Bill C-10 is given priority in the House and that it passes quickly. There is also the Émilie Sansfaçon bill to increase EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. In the context of a serious illness, such as cancer, we must be able to do something. Now, the question is not whether we are for or against conversion therapy. I think we can agree that it has no place today.

The important thing now is to act urgently on this issue. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to do so. We have no control over the timeline, since that is up to the government. If it were up to me, a government would have to complete all four years of its mandate and get through all of the debates that arise, so that bills can be carefully studied.

Bill C-6 on conversion therapy reminds us that we must act urgently. I urge all members of Parliament to reflect and remember that we still need to vote and the bill has to be sent to the Senate. We urgently need to move forward.

Also, we need to reflect on the importance of secularism, which is highly valued in Quebec. There are some ultra-conservative religious groups that are having a significant impact on people's lives. We have a moral responsibility to protect these individuals, given the rejection they often feel and the trauma that conversion therapy can cause. The purpose of this government bill is to provide protections.

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6:05 p.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, there have been constituents in my riding who have contacted me with concerns about the bill similar to some that have been mentioned by others in the House. I have typically responded to them to say that, if I thought this bill would control speech between parents and children, or teachers and students, I would certainly not support the bill.

Has the member also had criticisms from within his own riding? Could he share what he might say to ensure that people are not unduly concerned about some of the things this bill does or does not do?

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6:05 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be honest with my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge: As the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, I have not been contacted about this issue, because these matters have simply been dealt with in Quebec. This is not an issue of relevance to us.

However, it is worth being responsible in stating our position, so I would like to share with my colleague one of the answers I could have given. It is from the Conservative leader, who tweeted: “Let me be clear, conversion therapy has no place in Canada and should be banned”. To this he added, “Period. LGBTQ people have their place in the big Conservative family”.

I will not respond to that, but we get the gist of it. He continued, “…and I am committed to fighting this unacceptable and offensive practice. I will not compromise on that”.

That is probably the position I would take if one of my constituents contacted me about this issue.

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6:05 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, in response to the last Bloc colleague, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan suggested there are concerns, so we should address these concerns and get the best of both worlds, but we have already done that. We went through the parliamentary process. It went to committee, and the committee decided that the concerns were not legitimate enough.

He then went on to criticize the Bloc members who had raised concerns during the committee, as though somehow they are not justified to vote in favour of it now because of the position they took during committee. In reality, all they are doing is exactly what the parliamentary process instructs us to do.

Would the member from the Bloc not agree that, despite the fact that some of the members of the Bloc may have had some objections during committee, ultimately they have come down on the side of supporting this legislation?

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6:05 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think there is an attempt to mislead the House into thinking the Bloc Québécois is divided on this issue. I think our position has been made very clear, namely that we must act, and act quickly, for the sake of human dignity.

I would also remind the hon. members of the words of the Liberal Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth: “Evidence demonstrates that this is a practice that does not work. It's destructive, it's harmful and it should not exist.”

That is our position today, in 2021.

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6:05 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to to hear that the Bloc is supporting this. I am happy to hear they want to see this move through the House expeditiously.

The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue raised the issue of it going to the Senate. I am just wondering if he has any concerns with the unelected Senate and whether we could have just a handful of Conservative senators take on the Conservative attitude seen here, which seems to be that they support this bill, but they do not like some details because they want to have it both ways.

Is he concerned that the unelected Senate will then unfortunately block this bill before this Parliament ends?

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6:05 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you what I am especially concerned about.

I am concerned to hear and read comments like those of Mr. Buscemi of Quebec Life Coalition, who stated, “I cannot speak for therapists, but when someone does something that is right and a government says that it is wrong, I would tend to say that we need to do what is right and accept the consequences....Even if it means breaking the law”.

There is something else, and the member did mention it. We may have to have another debate in the House if the Senate does something to stop us from passing common sense bills like the one we are studying. We may have to have another debate in the House, a debate about abolishing the Senate.

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6:10 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, it truly is an honour to be standing here to speak about this very important bill, Bill C-6. As usual, I do my research, I write my notes and then I stand in the House of Commons and decide I am not going to talk about all the things in my notes, but will share some of the experiences I have had as an ally to the LGBTQ community, recognizing some of the relationships that I have built in this community as an ally and speak with their support.

Back in 2018, I was invited to view the documentary The Fruit Machine in Ottawa. The director brought forward this documentary speaking about what happened in the Canadian Armed Forces to members of the LGBTQ community from the 1950s up to the 1990s. It is their stories that we need to hear today; we need to talk about what actually happened.

To begin, I would like to thank Sarah Fodey for her work to bring this story to light. Sarah was the director of this documentary and stated:

I want people to leave this documentary angry that this [injustice] happened, and committed to talking about it in their own communities. I also want people to cry and laugh in parts of this film.... [Many of the survivors] have used humour as a way to cope, I suspect.... They are magnetic. You want to hear more from them because they make you laugh on the heels of making you cry. It's a beautiful combination.

We need to look at the history of discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Canada to reconcile what has happened and see how we can move forward. That is why Bill C-6 is something to move forward. I will be honest that there are some concerns. Those concerns are not so embedded in me that I feel we cannot overcome them, but I do understand some of them. We need to look at the history in Canada and what has happened to members of the LGBTQ community. We should have great shame. I know that back in 2018 there were formal apologies from all of the party leaders in the House to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and some members of the civil service, who lost their positions and careers because they were identifying as members of the LGBTQ community.

I want to back go to the history. As I indicated, this goes back to when the fruit machine was being used. During the Cold War, Canada investigated federal employees and members of the Canadian Armed Forces deemed susceptible to blackmail by Soviet spies. This is 2021 and we do not see that anymore, but back then there was a huge concern that members of the LGBTQ community would be used as collateral. They would be used and held as collateral and they did not know what to do in those positions.

Homosexuality was grounds for surveillance and interrogation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the directive of the newly established security panel. Over the course of four decades, thousands of men and women had their privacy invaded, their careers ruined and their lives destroyed because of this scientific machine and a disgraceful mandate that was put forward.

We ask what this machine was all about. To be honest, when we look at it, we can say it is like conversion therapy. They used this machine. They would hook people up and see whether their pupils dilated. For three years, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the civil servants were put into this situation and had to prove they were not members of the LGBTQ community. This fruit machine was being used to test them, just like a lie detector machine. They were asked personal questions. The types of responses they gave, whether were they stressed or lying, were looked at. We have to understand the discrimination that so many members of this community had gone through while all they were trying to do was serve our great country.

The development of this machine was very riveting. Lots of people wanted to know about it, but it was a failure and after three years, its use was discontinued. The fruit machine story captures the imagination and is truly symbolic of what members of the LGBTQ community were feeling, like conversion therapy. I look at these two things as coinciding.

I look at the way members of our Canadian Armed Forces were treated and think of a story that was published in The Washington Post by Todd Ross, who was in naval combat. I want to read this to look at what we have done in Canada, how we can do better and how this bill would move us forward.

It states:

Todd Ross was a naval combat information operator on the HMCS Saskatchewan in 1989 when he was called out over the public address system, escorted off the destroyer by officers and told he was the subject of an espionage probe.

Over the next 18 months, Ross was given six polygraph tests and interrogated about his sexual orientation and loyalty to Canada.

Eventually, he broke down. Facing a two-way mirror, he admitted to a stranger what he had not yet told some close confidants.

“Yes,” Ross said. “I'm gay.”

The 21-year-old seaman was given an ultimatum: Accept an honourable discharge or lose his security clearance, effectively extinguishing any prospect of career advancement. He chose the discharge and returned home to New Brunswick, where only a few years earlier he had been named the province’s top army cadet.

Ross was one of thousands who lost careers in the armed forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other government agencies during the country’s notorious “gay purge” from the 1950s to the 1990s. A legal challenge brought the policy to an end in 1992. Now its victims are gaining greater recognition.

I want to talk about the person who actually started this process. I have been so fortunate to meet her, not only at the status of women committee as a witness, but also through this work she has done on the LGBTQ purge. Her name is Michelle Douglas. Many people are probably very familiar with Michelle Douglas here in Ottawa and the great work that she has done for the LGBTQ community. She was talking about her time in the Canadian Armed Forces. I want to read from a committee report. It said:

The Committee heard testimony that was consistent with the findings of the Deschamps Report: many witnesses described a sexualized and male-dominated workplace where a culture of abuse, discrimination and harassment based on gender, gender expression and sexual orientation exists. Women and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit or as other gender identities and sexual orientations...are disproportionately affected by sexual misconduct and harassment in the CAF. The Committee was told that, although there is a belief that the CAF is a “gender neutral” workplace, it is not the case. While women can perform brilliantly in military roles, some do so by conforming to and adopting “highly masculine behaviours and, for some, masculine world views, attitudes and values.” For this reason, witnesses stressed the need for cultural change to create a more respectful and inclusive workplace for all CAF members. Michelle Douglas, Chair of the LGBT Purge Fund, said:

I believe that the military's policy regarding inclusion, particularly towards women—both cisgender women and transgender women—is actually quite good. The military has, of course, all of the things that they must have: pay parity, access to career paths, family support and so on. The establishment of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is a good thing and so was the establishment [of things and practices to ensure that we can move forward.]

These are things that I want to talk about because I look at the fact that we are sitting here today and can see how far we have moved forward, but the journey is not over. For members of the LGBTQ community, it is a very important time. That is why I want to talk about what is occurring starting tomorrow, which is the beginning of pride month here in Canada.

I will be honest. Back in 2018, I was really excited to do 160,000 steps for pride. I had gone on the pride circuit and was joining members of the community across this country to celebrate who they are and the fact that they are just the same as me. They deserve the same rights, the same opportunities and equity in this great country.

As I said, pride is such an important time. With pride starting tomorrow, we have to understand where it started. This truly was a political movement. This was because of things that happened in places like the Canadian Armed Forces. We can also talk about New York and things that were happening down there.

This was born out of a fight for the rights of LGBTQ communities. We are doing a really good job when it comes to education, engagement and bringing people together to have these conversations. This is exactly why I am so proud to be a member of Parliament and to have great friends even within this chamber.

Outside the chamber, I also think of my dear friend Anthony who I love dearly and who should be clapping out there. It is great conversations with people like Anthony that help me move forward with my own thoughts. Having those types of conversations is very vital to understanding and education.

I will never walk in the shoes of a member of the LGBTQ community. I am a heterosexual woman who is married with five children. I have never been discriminated against because of who I have chosen to love, but I do understand that members of the LGBTQ community have. That is why I think we need to look at these important milestones.

We look back at 1969, when Canada decriminalized homosexual acts through the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Then we look at some things that happened in 1971. There was the first gay rights protest. Across the cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and in some smaller communities, hundreds of people gathered to protest and to bring forward the rights of LGBTQ communities. It was 1971. That was the year I was born. Fifty years later, we are still talking about it; we still can do better, and Bill C-6 is one of those ways.

I look at 1973, and pride week in 1973. It was a national LGBT rights event held in August 1973 in Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, so even in two years we saw the growth of this.

However, there was still a lot of discrimination. We can look back at 1981 where, in Toronto there was Operation Soap. These were raids that took place. The police actually stormed bathhouses in Toronto and they arrested almost 300 men for being gay. This was Canada's stonewall. We hear a lot about the stonewall that happened and the movement of pride in the United States that had started to occur in 1969. Operation Soap was one of the largest mass arrests in Canada, and it was over 35 years ago.

When we look at those things, what can we do? We know that the police officers have apologized. The Toronto police chief actually came out and formally apologized. Those are ways of making amends. Those are ways of bringing us together so that we can start having those conversations. Once in a while, it is okay to say, “I did not understand” or “I did not get it”. Understanding what some of these men had gone through during Operation Soap is so important, and I really thank them.

In 1988, here in our own House of Commons, MP Svend Robinson came out as the first openly gay member of Parliament. Today, I know that there are many others and I am so proud because, at the end of the day, we are all here representing Canadians. Regardless of who we love, we are all people first and that is what we always have to remember when we are having these conversations. We are all equal. It does not matter who one loves. We are equal.

In 1990, we saw that there was a change, and the indigenous community started to gather in this, and that is when the term “two-spirited” was coined. This was just taking in the concept that when we are speaking about LGBTQ, we understand the rights of the indigenous people who are also of this community.

In 1995, sexual orientation was included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are things that are progressively getting better, making things better for all Canadians. I am so proud of that. We do know that back in 2000, once again there was another raid. This took place in Toronto and it was a lesbian nightclub that police raided this time. We ask, “why did they do this?” It was because people were homophobic. People were concerned with people's actions and sexual orientation. To me, it is no one else's business.

However, as we are talking about this, I do understand also some of the concerns I am hearing from those who are saying there needs to be a better definition. I can still have that conversation. I know that many members in this chamber will sit there and say someone is either right or is wrong. Sometimes they do not have to be right or wrong. Sometimes, there is just something that is so minute that it could make things a bit better. I was listening to my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan and I know he is always pushing for just a bit better.

The reason I am looking at this is the testimony that was brought forward in committee. Timothy Keslick had an English interpreter there, and I want to read his introductory statement. It is just a little phrase, but this is where we need to talk and this is where talking always comes out better and we do not have to think of it as conversion therapy. Sometimes it is just understanding. In Timothy's opening statement, he stated:

Under this bill, this kind of therapy would be taken away from me. The bill doesn't make any distinctions between good therapy or bad therapy. The bill would capture my therapy as one that wants to reduce non-heterosexual attraction or, more specifically, sexual behaviour. Without realizing that my therapy isn't actually trying to stop me from dating any guy, it's simply trying to stop me from dating the wrong guy. It's there trying to help me avoid people and situations that would harm me and have already harmed me.

That is why I wanted to bring this up. When we talk about this, there are so many discrepancies on what conversations are, what “talk” is. I do understand. When we see bills like Bill C-10 that are just so poorly written come out from this House of Commons, I understand why many people will say that they cannot trust the current government, that they do not think the government is going to do exactly what they want.

That is why, when I look at this bill, I understand how the government so poorly writes legislation. I get it. It does not mean I have to agree with it, but I understand why there is some conflict within people.

If we look at Bill C-10, for instance, we know that it needs an amendment, but when the government gets the idea that it is right, it doubles down. On this bill it has doubled, tripled and quadrupled down. At the end of the day, I think it is so imperative that we have open and honest discussion. This is why we are having this discussion on what is good and what is bad therapy.

When we are talking about families, I think therapy helps remove the stigma, which is probably one of the most impressive things I have seen over the last couple of years. With COVID, we see that a number of people need to talk to people. I need to talk to people. My colleagues need to talk to people. Once in a while, we just need to bounce an idea off somebody else who is not a family member, or we need to bounce something off somebody who has been in the same situation.

I think of my own case. I do not know of any members of my family who are LGBTQ, and that is fine. Regardless, I am saying it is important that we have these conversations with our children, that freedom of conversation. I think of my son, who will be 18 years old in two weeks. It is important that I talk to him about sex. Members may ask why I want to talk to my 18-year-old about sex. It is because I want to ensure that he understands consent. I want to ensure he understands how to treat a woman. I want to ensure that he has a healthy relationship.

I have come from unhealthy relationships in the past and that is not a good thing. It takes a lot of time for people to be able to find that bright light, so sometimes having these talks is exactly what somebody may need. That is why when I hear some of my colleagues say that Bill C-6 is not a good bill, I understand why they would say the government writes poor legislation. We want to get it right.

I want to go back more to pride, the members of the LGBTQ community and why I will be supporting this bill overall. I look at the fact we have seen things such as the fruit machine here in Canada. We have seen this in our own backyards, where members of the RCMP, the Canadian Armed Forces and members who serve this great country were told they could not participate because they were gay or lesbian.

There is no space in this world or this country for people to not have equal opportunities because they are gay and lesbian. To me it does not matter who people love, as long as they can love. Those are the things I look at. These are the conversations we should be able to have, but because it is so political, we cannot have them all the time.

I have walked on behalf of the LGBTQ community out there, supporting it as an ally, because I know it is the right thing to do. I know that discrimination continues to happen. I have been in pride parades and had people yelling at me for walking in them.

I felt shame for that person who was yelling at me for walking in that parade, but I was so proud to be walking with those other thousands of people who are walking in them. If I am being yelled at as a heterosexual, I can only imagine how the people of that community feel. Sometimes that is what we need to look at.

This is about compassion. It is about how we help people. It is not about changing their sexual orientation. I do not believe that is something we should be focusing on. I believe in healthy lifestyles. I believe in healthy relationships. I believe in talk therapy when it is good therapy, not bad therapy.

I do not support conversion therapy and I never will, but I thank everybody for having these conversations, and I ask that we do better once in a while. When we have these conversations, let us not tell people they are wrong just because they are a Conservative. Instead, let us figure it out and find a way of getting there together. Unfortunately, in this place, sometimes we find that extraordinarily difficult.

I will be supporting Bill C-6. It is not perfect, but I believe in the principle. I feel eternally inside of me that I must support members of the LGBTQ community, and that is what I will do.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London will have 10 minutes for questions and comments when the House next gets back to debate on the question.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Diversity and InclusionAdjournment Proceedings

May 31st, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the late show here tonight to follow up on my questions to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health on ending the blood ban in Canada.

This is timely, and this has been said in many speeches today, as tomorrow marks the beginning of pride month. It is the second year in a row we will be celebrating pride month in a different forum. We are not going to have our usual parades, pride events and brunches in every city and many small towns across this country. Rather, what we need to have this year, in lieu of all that, is actual action from this government.

I will remind the government that, in 2015, it promised to put an end to the discriminatory and homophobic blood ban for men in this country who have sex with men. Four years of a majority government, and the Liberals did not do it. In 2019, they promised again to do it, and we are no closer than we were six years ago.

They did not promise to study it. They did not promise to look at it. They did not promise to provide funding. They promised to end it, full stop. During an election, they told gay, bi and trans men in this country that they would get it done. After the election, they claimed that it is out of their hands and there is nothing they can do. If that is the case, and if it is not in their ability to do so, why did they promise to end it in the first place?

People wonder why LGBTQ Canadians look to elected officials, people in positions of authority and power, and do not trust them. They wonder why elected officials and politicians have a bad name. If one is a monogamous gay man in a committed relationship in this country wanting to donate blood and wanting to make a difference, who may have voted for this government in the belief that it would be allowed, that government continues, six years later, to let them down.

With all due respect to the government, there are a lot of members on that side who are the first to show up to a photo op, the first to show up to a pride parade and the first ones to make a statement that makes us feel good, but when they sit on those government benches and have the ability to actually effect a tangible change in this country to the single biggest piece of discrimination that I believe exists in the LGBTQ community today, they stay silent. They attack us, premiers and everybody else, but they do not talk about what they can do to actually resolve this issue.

Conservative governments of the past made a step, and we are now saying that, as the Conservative Party, the tools are here and the solutions are here to be able to do this. The science is clear. The solutions are endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, the All Blood is Equal campaign, our Conservative caucus, the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Green Party, but there is silence from those on the government benches, and they could actually end this.

The minister has the ability, through the Food and Drugs Act, to remove it. Section 5 says, “The Minister may, by notice in writing, remove a term or condition from an authorization if she or he determines that the term or condition is no longer necessary to prevent a compromise to human safety or the safety of blood.”

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Health know that this tool is available to them. We can change it from being based on sexual orientation and ask that it be based on gender-neutral behaviour.

I ask the government again. I implore the government again to stop the feel-good statements and stop the attacks on everybody else. The parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Health on the government side have the ability to get it done. Pride month is here. It is time for action.

Diversity and InclusionAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Pickering—Uxbridge Ontario


Jennifer O'Connell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I found the member's comments particularly interesting when he asked the government to “stop the attacks”. Perhaps that is because he is quite embarrassed and ashamed of his own members in the previous debate talking about how they will not even support banning conversion therapy. I see why he does not want our side of the House to talk about the Conservatives' record when it comes to the LGBTQ2+ community.

In regard to the Canadian blood ban, the member opposite ought to know the process. He has many members on his side of the House who were actually in government for 10 years, and if they had been able to just simply remove the blood ban, then why did they not do so? It is because there is actually a process in place. That is the process that continues to be followed.

I will point out that there has been progress and action on this file. In fact, when former prime minister Stephen Harper came into office, there was a lifetime blood ban for homosexual men who had had sex with other men. We have actually reduced that to three months. It is still a discriminatory process. One that we have said many times needs to change. However, the process cannot be changed unilaterally.

I will get into some of that process and why it exists. Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec were created in collaboration with provinces and territories to oversee and operate Canada and Quebec's blood systems. They were created at an arm's length from government to avoid political interference in the first place, and thus, cannot be mandated to change their blood donation deferral policies, except in extraordinary situations when safety issues arise. This is the foundation of a well-respected blood system that will continue to serve all Canadians.

It is also important that blood donation policies in Canada be non-discriminatory and scientifically based. That is why the process exists to allow Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to put forward an application to the Canadian government. We are committed to supporting those changes to the discriminatory deferral practice in question, while leaving the other elements of the well-functioning system intact. The Government of Canada, upon receiving this file in 2015, immediately began the process of supporting the blood operators and moving toward an end to the discriminatory deferral criteria for gay and bisexual men, as well as others impacted by these policies.

Once again, the Conservatives misrepresent this process as a way to, I guess, distract Canadians from their positions on conversion therapy, their recent talks about banning or restricting trans health here, as well as recent comments by Conservative members referring to the LGBTQ2+ community as “unclean”. We want to end this discriminatory practice, and we have put in place the process to allow that to happen and move forward, once and for all.

Diversity and InclusionAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to start with those comments from the parliamentary secretary. Canadians are expecting leadership from the government, which said it would get rid of the blood ban. That answer was an absolute slap in the face.

As a proud gay man, about 17 years ago I went to donate blood, only to find out that I was disqualified simply because I am gay. Let me tell colleagues that I am a proud Conservative member of Parliament, who is serving under a proud leader of the opposition, who allows me, and my colleagues who back me up, to say that we have come up with a solution. The Canadian Medical Association and the All Blood is Equal campaign have a solution that does not require what the member spoke about with the paperwork and the bureaucracy. She promised during an election campaign to get rid of the blood ban.

Instead of leadership, we get that. Instead of leadership, we get the member and her government taking gay men to court for standing up for human rights and asking the government to keep its promise. No more talking points are needed from Health Canada bureaucrats. What is the solution? The section has been quoted. The minister can do it. The change can be made. When will she act on her promises and get this change done?

Diversity and InclusionAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I explained the process, but once again let me clarify this for the member opposite. If he was disappointed years ago when he was going to donate blood, then I suggest he turn around to his colleagues, who sat around the cabinet table for 10 years and did not move this file an inch. Had they done so, we would have been a lot further ahead.

In the five years or so that our government has been in office, we have contributed $5.4 million to take action. Forgive me for not having sympathy for the member opposite's outrage over our action in his attempt to again distract Canadians from the fact that his own party today is talking about not supporting a motion to ban conversion therapy. If anyone in the House should be ashamed, it should be the Conservatives for not getting rid of conversion therapy. We will end the blood ban.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I am disappointed to be rising again today to ask about the question that I brought up in the House a month ago. It is all about the Canada emergency business account and the failure of the government to resolve an issue to allow businesses to apply for the increase in the account.

I rose at the beginning of May to raise this issue and to ask a simple question: When will this be resolved? It has now been nearly a month and there has still been no movement or clarification on when resolution will occur.

As I stated previously, after the announced CEBA expansion in December of last year, many Canadians applied for the expanded business loan. Many were denied, as records held by the CRA did not match their applications. However, there is no method for Canadian businesses to update their submissions.

In January, the government promised to fix this, yet here we are nearly six months later without a solution, leaving businesses to wait for the government to take action. When I asked about it earlier this month, the response I got from the parliamentary secretary was “Financial institutions will be reaching out directly to businesses that have applied for, but not yet received, the expansions that they have requested and we will be providing clarifying information through our banks.”

To date, my constituents have not been able to update their submissions. One constituent has even provided us monthly updates to let us know that there has been no process put for in place for nearly six months, demonstrating consistent proof of inaction. The updates the constituents have received from the banks say the following: “The Government of Canada has not yet finalized the remediation process for applicants to submit corrected or additional information in connection with their CEBA expansion enrolment request.” According to the CEBA website, “The CEBA program continues to actively work with more than 230 financial institutions to finalize these processes that will allow select $20,000 expansion applicants that were previously informed to submit additional information.”

I will give some positive news. I know one local business owner who did finally get clarification and was able to update their application just this past week. What was the problem the owner had to wait five months for? The postal code was wrong in the application. It took five months to fix a very simple clerical error in an application.

Owners of another local business, Foxx Salon & Spa, have had to go into their personal savings to keep their business operating. They have had no income now for 10 months, and here they are hanging on by the last thread and taking every last bit of savings they have to try to keep their business afloat while they are waiting for the $20,000.

I have a couple of simple questions for the government. Of the 230 financial institutions, for how many has the government yet to finalize a process for amending the applications? How many businesses have been able to amend their application since December in order to receive the expanded loan? How many businesses are still waiting in limbo because the government has not prioritized ensuring that businesses can access this vital lifeline? Will the government provide the data and show it has movement on resolving this issue?

The bottom line is the same question I asked a month ago: Will the government commit to a date when it will have this problem resolved?

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Outremont Québec


Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

As all members of the House know, the federal government has been there from the start of the pandemic. The priority has always been to support our small businesses and workers. We know that SMEs continue to have difficulty making ends meet because of the pandemic. To date, close to 900,000 businesses have been supported by the Canada emergency business account, and almost 550,000 have already received the $20,000 expansion.

However, I understand the concerns of my colleague opposite. Financial institutions will be reaching out directly to businesses that have not yet received the expansions that they applied for. We will be providing clarifying information through our banks.

We know that small businesses continue to face problems, as the member indicated, but I am nevertheless very pleased to learn from my colleague that certain problems have already been resolved.

I have heard my colleague opposite, and let me say on the record that I also have entrepreneurs and small business owners in my riding who are waiting for this clarifying information.

I am very pleased to hear from my Conservative colleague that a few of the entrepreneurs in his riding have managed to resolve the situation. He mentioned that for one, there was a problem in the application, a mistake perhaps in the address or postal code of the business, and now that the problem has been resolved, they have received the additional $20,000 in financing. It came, as everyone will remember, in the fall with the second wave in order to provide a top-up to entrepreneurs using the important CEBA program.

The banks will be contacting entrepreneurs for this small glitch in the CEBA application process when there is an issue with the application. However, I remind the House that there are numerous other programs that our federal government put into place to support small businesses.

For example, over a year ago, we put in place the regional relief and recovery fund, which has been of invaluable assistance to small businesses. Thus far, we are talking about 141,000 jobs across Canada supported by this particular program. Over 23,000 businesses have been supported by the regional relief and recovery fund.

Let me also mention the rent subsidy program and lockdown support, which have been providing subsidies for commercial rents across the country. Over 180,000 organizations have been supported by that subsidy.

Of course, there is also the emergency wage subsidy, which has been central to our government's response to COVID-19. The wage subsidy continues to help employers of all sizes in all industries affected by the pandemic.

As many people across Canada and particularly in the House know, Bill C-30, which is our budget implementation act currently before the House, proposes to extend the rent and wage subsidies to continue to support entrepreneurs. I hope that all members of the House will support Bill C-30, as it does provide critical support to our entrepreneurs.

In conclusion, our government will continue to ensure that Canada's economy emerges from this pandemic stronger, more inclusive and more resilient than ever before.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will remind the parliamentary secretary of the same quote I gave before from the financial institutions: “The Government of Canada has not yet finalized the remediation process for applicants to submit corrected or additional information in connection with their CEBA expansion enrolment request.”

On behalf of my constituents and all Canadian entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, including the ones in the parliamentary secretary's riding, whom she just acknowledged are having trouble accessing the same loan, when will the government commit to resolving this process and helping out these small businesses? Is it going to wait until the fourth wave, the fifth wave? We want it resolved now.