Scheer says Conservatives would support legislation to protect LGBTQ Canadians
OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says a Conservative government would “support and introduce” legislation that “protects LGBTQ Canadians,” but didn’t specify if that would include amending the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy.
The promise to ban the practice—seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, often through religious counselling—was a commitment from the Liberals as part of their full platform released on the weekend. In it, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau committed to prohibit the “harmful and scientifically disproven practice, especially against minors.”
Asked what his party’s positon would be on that ban, Scheer said the party would “support measures that protect the rights of LGBTQ Canadians,” and would “support legislative changes that aim to stop the practice of people who are bullied or harassed or are threatened in any way because of their sexual orientation.”
When asked if this would include a ban on conversion therapy, Scheer said that he would “propose laws that protect the rights of LGBTQ Canadians,” but didn’t offer further detail.
The Criminal Code and Human Rights Act already prohibit discrimination or hate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“We will certainly make sure that all Canadians have the right to live their lives without fear or intimidation,” said Scheer. CTV News has sought further clarification as to whether this would include a ban on conversion therapy.
Throughout the campaign Scheer has faced questions about his 2005 anti-same-sex marriage speech in the House of Commons. He has not apologized, saying the matter is settled and he has moved on, though he doesn’t plan on marching in any Pride parades.
In the last Parliament Scheer joined some of his caucus colleagues in voting against a bill that enshrined protections for trans people by adding gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination under Canadian law.
On the campaign trail Sunday the NDP also committed to a conversion therapy ban, with leader Jagmeet Singh noting that it’s something the party has been pushing for years and slamming the Liberals for not acting sooner.
Months ago an NDP MP tabled a petition calling on the government to step up and do more, and at the time the government’s response was that health regulations are a provincial and territorial responsibility.
“This is a no-cost thing to do, we’ve been calling for this ban for years, why couldn’t they have done it over the past four years… this is something that is so obvious, why wasn’t it done?” said Singh.
This summer the federal government called on the provinces to ban the practice, and the Liberals said they were considering legislative reforms.
Scheer criticized that inaction in his response to Monday’s questions, saying that Trudeau was flip-flopping. “Now during an election campaign he’s making the promise,” Scheer said.
There is currently a cross-Canada patchwork of policies around the practice, and while it’s been largely discredited, the Liberals think these therapies are still being offered. Though, over the last four years the Liberals did not pursue these changes while making numerous other amendments to the Criminal Code.
"It's a completely fraudulent practice. It's not supported by any research that actually demonstrates that you can change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity," Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Issues, told CTV News Edmonton.
Restrictions on conversion programs already exist or are in the works in some cities in Alberta and as well as in Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia. Under former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario was the first province to ban conversion therapy in 2015.
Scheer on ending blood donation ban
Scheer was also asked his position on the blood donation ban on men who have sex with men, and he said he “is in favour of treating homosexual blood donors on the same level as heterosexual blood donors and would of course listen to the advice from medical experts on this very issue.”
The ban does not apply to all homosexual donors. It applies to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
The promise to eliminate the ban entirely was made by the Liberals in 2015. In 2016, the blood donation wait period for men who have sex with men was brought down to one year from five years, and in May Health Canada approved a request from the Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec to reduce it further, to three months.
In the 2019 platform the Liberals re-stated their commitment to ending the “discriminatory” ban “once and for all,” after facing criticism that any ban remains in place.
CTVNews.ca has sought further clarification on whether Scheer would also—given his stated support for treating all donors equally—promise to work to end the ban altogether if he forms government.
Scheer said he will be releasing his full party platform, which may have more information on his LGBTQ policies, by the time of advance polling days from Oct. 11-14, but wouldn’t commit to having it out prior to the Commission-organized debates happening Oct. 7 and Oct. 10.
“It will be in plenty of time for the vote, it will be well ahead of election day,” Scheer said.
On Monday, 216 organizations including Pride organizers across Canada, called for LGBTQ inclusion in federal policy and are holding townhalls in major cities across Canada next week to discuss where all the parties stand on “ensuring that human rights for sexual and gender minorities are secure in Canada,” given that “there continue to be policy areas of Canada to improve.”