We’ve had MPs Arnold Viersen (head of the Parliamentary Pro-life Caucus) and Cathay Wagantall (who put forward the recent bill on sex-selective abortion) put out statements apologizing for not speaking up on the Conservative motion to expedite the process on Bill C-4, the so-called “conversion therapy” ban. Now, MP Ted Falk has put out the most comprehensive explanation explaining what actually happened and how MPs were blindsided by what was, in effect, a decision from the leader’s office:
I would like to say that I am deeply disappointed and troubled by the decision to fast-track Bill C-4 —and having done so in a way that, frankly, blindsided many Conservative MP’s, including myself. There had been discussions regarding fast tracking this bill among Conservative members—during which I regularly expressed my concerns about doing so—but at no point was it my understanding that a consensus or final decision had been reached.
Furthermore, the timing of the Unanimous Consent Motion—presenting it as everyone was rising to go after Question Period, completely caught me off guard. There were about four seconds in which any one of us could have voiced an objection and, in all honesty, before I could process what was happening, the motion had been passed.
As you can imagine, I have been reflecting hard on this outcome. As you may know, I spoke with conviction about my concerns for C-6 (C-4’s predecessor) when it was before the House. Those convictions never changed. From day one, as an elected official, my desire has always been to be a voice for the voiceless and vulnerable, to defend the religious freedom of Canadians, and protect the autonomy of the family. Knowing my history as an MP on these issues, you can well understand my alarm with what happened. I am sorry that I did not act quicker and voice my opposition to stop this from happening without debate or study.
Having said that, the Liberal government was determined to pass this legislation—without amendments—and had the support to do so, meaning its final passage in the House was inevitable. The Liberals, Bloc, NDP and, sadly, many Conservative members were vocal in their support of this bill.
Some hope remained that the Senate would take the time to debate, study and address our outstanding concerns. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Two hundred and twenty written submissions responding to C-6/C-4 were not considered by both the House and the Senate. As leader and Lawyer Don Hutchinson said in a blog, “three quarters of the submissions made to the committee were literally ignored, not even looked at.”
What was repeatedly requested by many of those making submissions, was the government’s guarantee—included in the legislation itself—that conversations with a religious leader, counselor or parent continued to be protected and possible. Sadly, these requests were not considered.
Nobody should be forced into any kind of coercive or abusive “treatment’, and I understand why some of my colleagues chose to support this legislation, but this bill is far broader in scope than simply banning coercive and abusive treatment. This is a bad bill. Had the Conservatives won the election, the bill would have at least had clear definitions that would have protected vulnerable people to have safe conversations with a pastor, councillor or parent.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen—but it doesn’t mean it never will. While C-4 will be law in Canada, the good news is laws can be improved. Please know that I have every intention to continue to work with parents, pastors, and legal experts, as we stand up for the rights and protections of all Canadians, including those who identify as LGBTQ+. There is a way to protect everyone’s rights. Just because the House got it wrong this time, doesn’t mean it cannot be fixed in the future.