A bill that would ban conversion therapy in Canada has been met with some pushback in the senate.
The bill was voted against by 62 Conservative MPs and Independent MP Derek Sloan, who was expelled from the party in January. Conservative MPs have said there is a danger of criminalizing “voluntary conversations about sexuality”.
Ben Rodgers, a Belleville native and survivor of conversion therapy says that based on the wording of Bill C-6, that justification for a negative vote is nonsensical.
“Literally the bill very specifically allows- if you want to have a conversation with your church leader it doesn’t say you can’t. A person is allowed to have a consensual conversation, the law cannot change that fact. Now where the law comes into play is where people are being geared into this, like I was when I was 19. I was being told by my leaders that this was what I had to do to the point where I gave in.”
Critics of the bill allege that the wording is too vague and worry that Bill C-6 will remove any ability for religious leaders to discuss sexuality.
The Kingston archdiocese opposed the bill in January, writing on a letter that the bill could even “criminalize Catholic ministries and groups, religious leaders, or pastors who encourage individuals with same-sex attraction to live chastely and in conformity with the teachings of the Gospel.”
Rodgers was a victim of conversion therapy in 2003 at the hands of the local Third Day Worship Church. He says undergoing conversion therapy is like having to sacrifice an integral part of yourself, and that getting out of it is much the same.
“I had to cut off a huge part of who I was, twice. First I had to live this straight, fake lifestyle, and in doing that I had to cut off anything that had to do with the gay life that I was living. And then I had to do the same thing all over again when I finally got the courage to leave the church.”
Kingston became one of the first municipalities to outlaw conversion therapy on January 13, with council voting unanimously to strengthen the city’s stance against the practice that has been called torture by many.
Legislation banning the controversial practice federally was written in March 2020 and tabled in October of the same year. After facing COVID related delays through the past year, the push back from Conservative senators now puts the bill in jeopardy of failing before Parliament is dissolved.
Rodgers notes however that he doesn’t think there should be room for compromise in this bill to help appease the Conservative naysayers.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the bill the way it is presented, other than that there needs to be a no consent provision. If anything it isn’t strong enough.”
He adds that regardless of the bill passing or not, conversion therapy survivors and LGBTQ people in Canada are struggling, and need more assistance.
Critics of the bill have also alleged the timing of the bill is meant to act as a tool to create an election issue.
The senate is not scheduled to return until September, however on Friday Senator Marc Gold proposed a plan that would see Senate’s committee on legal and constitutional affairs examine the bill in virtual meetings and have Senate return on July 26 to vote by the end of the week.
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative