Fraser Valley MP’s Ed Fast and Brad Vis were among a handful of Conservative party members who voted against Bill C-6, which outlaws the practice of conversion therapy.
The bill, which passed last week, criminalizes conversion therapy. The controversial practice aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual.
Bill C-6 is an amendment to the Criminal Code that proposes five criminal offences:
- Forcing a minor to undergo conversion therapy.
- Forcing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will.
- Profiting off of providing conversion therapy.
- Advertising conversion therapy.
- Removing a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad.
The third reading, which occurred on June 22, 2021, saw 263 MPs vote support the bill and 63, including Fast and Vis, vote against it.
A second reading, which occurred on Oct. 28, 2020, saw Vis support the bill. Fast was not present at that vote.
Vis, the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP, posted a statement on his website on Monday afternoon explaining that he struggled with the bill’s broad definition. He stated he voted for it back in October because he is opposed to conversion therapy but said he was concerned that the bill places parents in legal limbo when discussing issues of sexuality and sexual behaviour with their children.
During an interview with The News, Vis read his entire statement.
Vis said the Conservatives wanted to include language that these new offences did not criminalize private conversations on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or sexual identity such as those where teachers, school counsellors, faith leaders, friends or family provide support to those who may be struggling.
“The bill doesn’t clarify that and that’s why we [Conservatives] asked to have it included,” he said. “But they [Liberals] refused to do so.”
Vis said he wants to make sure parental roles are not impacted by the bill and that was a major reason why he decided to vote against it this time.
“My concern is this bill doesn’t respect parental rights in very challenging situations as I outlined,” he said. “For example, the application of puberty blockers.”
He mentioned in his statement that he is concerned about parents being out of the decision process if a child decides to use hormone blockers. The use of hormone blockers prevent puberty from happening and are often used by those who identify as trans as a way to control their gender identity.
The use of puberty blockers in B.C. must meet a certain criteria if you are under the age of 18 and can be relatively expensive, costing around $400 a month. Some health plans may cover the medication. Parents must give consent to those under 18 who want to use the medication.
Bill C-6 saw 51 Conservatives, including leader Erin O’Toole, support the bill and 62 vote against it. The other person voting against it was Independent MP Derek Sloan, who was removed from the Conservative party after it was revealed that he had received a donation from a white supremacist.
Vis said he is not concerned about the optics of only Conservatives voting against the bill and that he believes in the party’s right to allow MPs to vote according to their own judgment.
“I have a responsibility to my constituents to make decisions and the Conservative party was the only party that wasn’t whipped on the vote,” he said. “I’m more so concerned that charter rights are protected.”
He added that he and the Conservatives have fought for LGTBQ+ rights recently, including attempting to push against on what he said was the Liberal party’s refusal to allow gay men to donate blood.
“That is a discriminatory practice and we have been very vocal on that issue,” he said.
Vis also pointed out that he spoke up back in January when a trans-gender teen in Mission was filmed being bullied. He added that voting this way on this issue does not send a mixed message to those in the LGTBQ+ community.
Fast replied to The News after the story was published online and stated that the definition of conversion therapy was not clear enough. He said the Conservatives introduced an amendment that would have better clarified the therapy to target coercive practices.
“The language of our amendment perfectly tracked the language that the Trudeau government itself had initially included on the Justice Department’s own website,” he stated. “We heard from Canadians, including those from the medical community, who raised concerns about the broadness of the definition of “conversion therapy”. Sadly, the Liberal government ignored our reasonable efforts to include the government’s own wording in the Bill and build the cross-party consensus that such legislation calls for.”
Fast also re-iterated he was against the practice of conversion therapy, but the bill must also respect the rights of Canadians to seek counsel from their spiritual advisors, teachers and professional counsellors.