MPs embrace after bill to ban conversion therapy passes unanimously in House

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Justice Minister David Lametti, Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed the floor to shake hands with Conservative MPs, including party leader Erin O’Toole following the vote. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press – image credit)

The federal government's updated bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy has been adopted unanimously by the House of Commons.

MPs voted to fast track Bill C-4 on Wednesday afternoon. The Commons erupted in applause after the vote and several Liberal cabinet ministers walked across the floor to shake hands with and — in some cases — hug their Conservative counterparts.

Conservative MP Rob Moore moved the motion to fast-track the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

“It's a fantastic day,” Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti told reporters after the vote. “This is what we can do when Parliament works together.”

WATCH | The House of Commons unanimously adopts conversion therapy bill

Lametti was joined by several Liberal MPs who are members of Canada's LGBTQ community. The group took turns speaking during what became an emotional and celebratory news conference.

“I dream of the day when LGBTQ2 issues are no longer political footballs. And we are one day closer to that future,” said MP Randy Boissonnault.

MP Seamus O'Regan indicated that unanimous support for the bill came as a surprise to the minority Liberal government.

“You never know when you come into work in this place what to expect,” O'Regan said. “We didn't see this, but I'm delighted for it.”

Fast-tracking means no need for a recorded vote

While Liberal MPs repeatedly thanked leaders in the Conservative caucus for rallying support for the bill, some also acknowledged that another vote on the issue could have been damaging for the Tories.

The House's decision to fast-track Bill C-4 means there was no requirement for each MP to record their vote.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, who has taken a more progressive stance on LGBTQ issues since becoming leader, said earlier Wednesday that he would once again allow his caucus to have a free vote on the bill — even though 62 Conservative MPs voted against a previous version of the bill.

“I think people in this country do not want to be on the record anymore opposing LGBTQ2 issues,” Boissonnault said.

WATCH | Liberal cabinet ministers on approval of the conversion therapy bill

Conservative house leader Gérard Deltell said the vote reflected a desire within his party to restore legislation that was adopted by the previous Parliament.

“People are behind the situation, that we just want to have the bill where it was six months ago,” he said, blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to call an early election for the previous bill's demise.

“So now what we are doing is just to put it where it was six months ago.”

Third time's the charm

Conversion therapy, which is meant to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, is widely discredited and regarded as a harmful practice.

Earlier in the week, the Liberals introduced legislation for a third time in the House of Commons to criminalize the practice.

The first bill died when Trudeau prorogued Parliament in 2020.

A second version introduced not long after didn't pass the Senate before the legislative agenda was cleared by Trudeau's election call last summer.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

At that time, several Conservative MPs claimed the wording of the bill was overly broad and said it could criminalize conversations about sexuality between children and their parents or with religious leaders.

The vote prompted a backlash, with critics charging that O'Toole had failed to live up to his more progressive rhetoric on LGBTQ issues.

A spokesperson for O'Toole, Josie Sabatino, confirmed he would again allow a free vote but added that he “has long been an ally to the LGBTQ community and will continue to support efforts to ban conversion therapy.”

Allowing MPs to vote as they like on matters of conscience has been O'Toole's position since becoming leader of the party. The Conservative caucus includes a sizeable number of MPs who hail from the party's social conservative wing.

A spokesperson for the New Democrats confirmed all of the party's MPs would vote in favour of the ban.

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