Canada’s House of Commons erupted into a scene of cross-party cheers and hugs on Wednesday as MPs unanimously passed a motion brought forward by a Conservative MP to speed up passage of a bill from the Liberal government banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ Canadians.
The bill, introduced earlier in the week, will now go to the Senate, as no MPs have spoken out against the decision to skip routine legislative debate.
The speed with which it unfolded was thrown around the House by Conservative justice critic Rob Moore, who introduced the motion in Wednesday’s sitting after the Conservative caucus meeting earlier today.
The only clue that something might have been going on came from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole who, after leaving the meeting, told reporters that her caucus was planning to speed up the passage of the bill, but without provide details.
After the motion was approved by the House, Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti emerged to give the credit he felt was due.
“There are clearly people in the Conservative caucus who we have to thank,” he said, surrounded by some of the openly gay Liberal ministers.
“There are clearly people in the Conservative caucus who have shown great leadership on this file, and I thank them for that. I sincerely thank them. They did a very important thing for Canadians.
Conversion therapy, as it is called, is widely discredited as a nefarious practice, aimed at trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The government’s gratitude for the Conservatives’ handling of legislation to criminalize the practice was a radical departure from just a few months ago, when MPs debated an older version of the bill.
At that time, 62 of O’Toole’s 119 MPs voted against the bill, which passed the House but did not clear the Senate until it rises for the summer, and is eventually died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an election.
Many Tory MPs – namely those from his conservative social wing – complained at the time that the wording of the bill was too broad and could criminalize conversations about sexuality between children and their parents or with them. religious leaders.
The vote sparked a backlash, with critics accusing O’Toole of failing to live up to his more progressive rhetoric on LGBTQ issues.
Five months later and in the face of another vote, O’Toole’s office said on Tuesday it would again let MPs vote freely on the new bill, drawing criticism from at least one group advocate who lobbied for the support of all parliamentarians.
Wednesday’s motion to speed up the House process, however, meant no recorded votes needed to take place.
“I think the politicians in this country no longer want to publicly oppose LGBTQ issues because they are fundamental human rights,” said Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault.
“We said we want people to be on the right side of history… no one can consent to torture, and so I think that message was pierced by the leadership of the Conservative Party.”
Boissonnault added that he believed the leadership came from O’Toole’s front and middle benches – not from his backbench MPs.
Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan told reporters he believed Michelle Rempel Garner, a well-known Conservative MP who has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights, had something to do with it. She was one of the Conservatives who were hugged by Liberal ministers in the House.
“Some days are exceptionally good days,” tweeted Conservative Ontario MP Melissa Lantsman, one of the party’s only openly gay elected members.
As to who pitched the idea, Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell only said the bill was discussed in caucus earlier today.
And of Tory MPs who formally challenged the government’s previous version of the same legislation, Deltell said they were able to speak in the last Parliament.
He called Wednesday’s motion to put the proposed ban back in the same place it was before Trudeau triggered what the Conservatives called an unnecessary and costly federal election, which reset the legislative agenda.
O’Toole’s decision to speed up passage of a bill that has sparked some controversy within his caucus ranks comes as he tries to turn a page on the party’s disappointing electoral defeat and d ” broaden its support to Canadians, namely those in urban and suburban Canada.
The Conservatives will also face another government bill related to COVID-19. The two-part bill would provide 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers and create two new Criminal Code offenses for anyone threatening a healthcare worker or obstructing access to a healthcare facility.
The latest measures are in response to protests against the vaccine in hospitals and clinics, but they would also apply to facilities where abortions are performed.
The Liberals have long used abortion to drive a political wedge between Conservatives, with the September federal election campaign being the most recent example.
Campaign Life Coalition, a national anti-abortion organization, has previously warned that the bill could restrict free speech for those who want to publicly oppose the procedure.
Longtime Ontario backbench Cheryl Gallant also said in a recent video on social media that Trudeau advocated a ‘ban on demonstrations’ and wondered ‘what kind of protests will be banned next’ .
A statement from O’Toole’s office on Tuesday suggested the Tories consider supporting the legislation, but spokeswoman Josie Sabatino did not respond when asked if the vote would be whipped.
She said they support existing Criminal Code measures that protect healthcare workers and “will also support new measures proposed in (the bill) as well as paid sick leave provisions for all industries under. federal regulations ”.
Sabatino also pledged that a Conservative government would extend the legislation to “other public works and critical infrastructure.”
O’Toole has in the past criticized blockades and organized protests against transport infrastructure, such as rail tracks.
—Stéphanie Taylor, The Canadian Press