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View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:05 [p.1193]
moved that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour to finally rise again in the House and speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-210.
I first introduced this bill four years ago almost to the day back in October 2016. Back then, it was Bill C-316, which passed unanimously at every stage of the process. Unfortunately, in spite of the widespread support for the bill, it died in the Senate when the 2019 election was called. It was incredibly disappointing, of course. A lot of people worked on this bill with me; stakeholders and friends back home. It was incredibly disappointing, but what can one do? It is just the way it is, the way the cookie crumbles, as my daughters would say, and one just has to move forward.
Fast-forward to December of last year to the private members' business, PMB, lottery date. I clearly remember watching the draw. The Deputy Speaker, the hon. member for Simcoe North, walked into the room with his robes on, and it was really quite formal. He sat in the chair, and there was a big cookie jar with all of our names inside. The Deputy Speaker stood up, picked out a name and, sure enough, it was mine. I was just elated. It was fantastic. Coming from Calgary, I yelled out a “yahoo” Calgary Stampede-style. It was a good feeling, and clearly a divine intervention. I knew then that I had to reintroduce this bill, and so Bill C-316 has now been resurrected as Bill C-210. Here we are today in second reading, and we have this rare opportunity to re-pass this legislation to hopefully and certainly save some lives.
For those who may not already know, I have been a long-time advocate of organ and tissue donation in Canada. In fact, several years ago, I passed a bill in the Alberta legislature as an MLA, which resulted in the creation of the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry. The bill also put in place some strong and robust education and awareness programs that have included adding donor hearts to our Alberta driver's licences.
The reality is that 4,600 Canadians are still awaiting a life-saving transplant, and we need to do more to find those critical matches to save lives. This is an issue that transcends political lines and offers us, as parliamentarians, the opportunity to make a difference in every corner of this country.
It is disappointing that while over 90% of Canadians say that they support organ donation, only 20% have actually registered on their provincial or territorial registries. Every year, this country sees hundreds of people dying waiting for a donor. Sadly, Canada has one of the lowest donation rates in the world. A single donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a single tissue donor can help up to about 75 individuals.
My Bill C-210 proposes a very simple and effective method to increase the size of the organ donor base here in Canada. It would also help update existing databases but, most importantly, it would save lives. I am proposing that we use the annual income tax form to ask Canadians whether they would like to register as organ donors, and whether they consent to have this information passed to their provincial government for addition to its existing organ donor registries, and that is it. This is a very simple bill that would add the very simple question to our income tax forms. The federal government would simply collect the data and pass it on to the provinces.
We would not be encroaching on provincial jurisdiction because we would not be setting up a federal registry. That was already tried once in this House, back in 2015, by the hon. member for Edmonton Manning in his PMB. He wanted to create a national organ and tissue donation registry. It failed in this House, due to the fact that the government cited jurisdictional encroachment.
This bill would provide the information to the provinces. The provinces would use that information as they see fit. The provinces would still maintain their own lists. We would just be supplying them with that data.
The tax form, by law, is restricted to collecting data for the purposes of taxation only. That is why it is required to amend legislation to allow for this common sense approach to a national problem. I modelled my bill on the successful inclusion on the income tax form of the question that asks Canadians if they want Elections Canada to be kept informed of their current information. That question is on the first page of the form. My bill has been crafted in keeping with that successful precedent.
This proposal is so simple and could be implemented so quickly. The federal government, via the Canada Revenue Agency, already successfully shares data every day with all the provinces and territories via encrypted networks with strong and reliable privacy safeguards. In addition, the existing infrastructure at the CRA would support this change at virtually no cost. The CRA already shares dozens of data fields of information on every taxpayer with the provinces and territories and this would simply be one more data exchange. The income tax form is a way to update this information annually, via a legally binding document. Thus, it would allow for provincial lists to remain current and relevant year after year after year.
Before I go any further, I would like to thank the 20 members of Parliament from all parties in this House who have come forward to officially second my bill. That is a rare occurrence indeed; it has happened twice. It happened in my last bill as well, which was not successful.
This extraordinary non-partisan approach demonstrates how a sensible idea can bring us together as a House to improve the lives of Canadians. This collaborative approach also extended to the health committee. I served on that committee in the last Parliament, along with nine of my colleagues, one of whom is looking over here right now and giving me a big smile. They have been extremely supportive of improving the organ and tissue donation situation here in Canada.
The health committee conducted a study and tabled a report on organ donation with several recommendations. The committee specifically wanted to know what role the federal government could play in strengthening Canada's organ donation and transplantation procurement system. One of the key recommendations in that report deals directly with a debate that we are having here right now. If this bill is passed, it will fulfill that key recommendation.
I also want to thank the government for taking the rare and possibly unprecedented step of allocating funding for this initiative before it has even passed in this House. That is a fact. We have the will, we have the funding, and now all we need is our reapproval here in this House.
This is not a political issue. It is a human issue. Any one of us could be in need of donor organs or tissues at any time. Just asking the simple question could increase the number of donors. Donor registration jumped 15% in British Columbia when drivers were asked directly at licencing locations across their province if they wanted to be donors. They are also doing it in Alberta, as a result of a bill that was passed when I was an MLA there. Imagine what we could do on a national scale with the income tax form.
As I mentioned, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been allocated the funding for this purpose, but needs the law changed so it can proceed. While some methods used by provinces and territories, such as drivers' licences and health care cards, help register donors, none has as far a reach as the income tax form. The existing voluntary online method of registering is neither proactive nor fully effective. For example, those who move from one province to another rarely update their information. The income tax form approach overcomes these common problems.
Stakeholders have been universally supportive of the bill and the thousands of affected families with loved ones on waiting lists will welcome this additional help. One stakeholder, the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network, is the largest registry in Canada and its CEO, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, said:
...we would support creating an opportunity for Canadians, when filing their income tax returns, to register their consent for organ and tissue donation.... The online income tax return becomes a gateway and an annual reminder to drive Canadians to organ and tissue donor registration.
We share with you the goal of substantially improving awareness of organ and tissue donation and improving health of Canadians by increasing the number of life-saving transplants.
I thank Ms. Gavsie for sending that.
Also, the federal agency responsible for organ donation is Canadian Blood Services and its vice-president, Dr. Isra Levy, said, “Just like our colleagues, we support a transactional touchpoint that will raise awareness, especially if it leads to the conversation.... But for sure this is to be welcomed.”
Elizabeth Myles of the Kidney Foundation of Canada wrote to the Prime Minister expressing the foundation’s support for this change. Dr. Amit Garg of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, a society of physicians and scientists specializing in the care of kidney disease, and Dr. Lori West of the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program in Edmonton have also expressed their strong support for the bill. The list goes on. Support for this legislation reaches far and wide across the country and into every community.
In conclusion, we have the opportunity to leverage the resources of the federal government to help our provincial and territorial partners improve their registries. I hope we seize the opportunity and run with it. I and, most importantly, the 4,600 Canadians awaiting life-saving transplants hope we can count on all MPs for their support. We have shown leadership in the past by passing this bill unanimously at all stages, so I call on the members of this House to do the same. This bill got a rare second chance and I hope we can pass it so that people in dire need of the gift of life can get a second chance as well.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 11:19 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, I applaud the member on his initiative. It is an issue that I too have followed over the years, from the Manitoba legislature to here in Ottawa. I was disappointed in the Senate since we had gotten it to a certain point and for some reason the other house did not do what the House of Commons wanted done.
Having said that, the support the bill received in the last Parliament demonstrates that members of Parliament on all sides of the House are encouraged by the legislation and look forward to it going to committee, as I suspect it will in due time after debate.
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:20 [p.1195]
Absolutely, Madam Speaker, it is disappointing that we have to go through this stage again, a second hour of debate here, sending it to committee and then coming back to the House to be voted on. It is laborious and time-consuming. The second hour of debate at second reading is not until the end of January, for example. It is frustrating because there are people waiting for organs and we need to get this on the income tax form as soon as possible. There is a deadline to get this bill passed so it can be put on the next income tax form.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-10-26 11:21 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, Liberal member Lou Sekora introduced this bill in 1999 and the year 2000, followed by Judy Wasylycia-Leis from the NDP in 2002, 2003 and 2008, and the NDP's Malcolm Allen in 2009 and 2013. The most recent efforts have been very much appreciated and well received in the House.
We have had majority governments during that time and a lot of opportunities. Does the member feel confident that we have learned lessons in this chamber, going back to the original mover Mr. Sekora in 1999, and that it is time to act and throw away the irresponsible delays that have taken place?
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:22 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, yes, there have been many attempts to get a national organ donor registry put in place in this country. On the member's number of individuals who have come through the House to try to pass this bill, I need clarity on whether the hon. member is referring to actually getting the question put on the income tax form. I am not aware of that. I am certainly feeling confident that, this time around, this bill will pass on the kindness of the House because it is required to save lives.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
Madam Speaker, as a fellow Albertan, I know the member for Calgary Confederation's passion in this particular area. I also understand his frustration. I had a private member's bill that ended up being lost, but which then had the opportunity to come back in the next Parliament. It was regarding the personation of a police officer in the commission of an offence. After all the work done by our staff and the people who have worked with us in the past, I look forward to having this discussion.
One of the things the member mentioned in his speech is there would be an annual reminder on the income tax form. Would the fact that one has done it once mean that it would continue to be on there, or is there a possibility it would be something one would have to do continually?
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:24 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, from my meetings with the CRA in the past on implementing this on the tax form, the question would be there every year for the individual to either mark yes, they were willing, or to just leave blank. If a person left it blank, it would stay that way on next year's form. If a person changes their mind in the future, they would need to change it on their income tax form.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I want to start by congratulating and applauding the member for Calgary Confederation for his tireless efforts to improve organ donations across Canada: first in Alberta and now here in the House of Commons. He has reached across party lines. This bill has support not only across party lines, but across the country. His way of working in the House of Commons is one we can all take lessons from. He is one of the finest MPs we have in the House.
I gave a speech to support this bill in the previous Parliament, but sadly it did not pass in the Senate. This speech is much the same as the one I gave then because, unfortunately, organ donation rates across the country remain, quite frankly, pathetic. Here in Ontario, more than 85% of residents are in favour of organ donation, but only one in three Ontario residents has registered his or her consent to donate. This trend is similar across the country.
There is clearly a disconnect between people's wishes and their actions. Sadly, without advance registration, an individual's family is often faced with this decision at a time of crisis, dealing with the loss of a loved one when so many emotions are at play. Too often, we have not discussed our wishes with our loved ones. We know that health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, and I applaud the member for finding an elegant way to engage the federal government on this important issue while still respecting our constitutional jurisdictions.
This bill would make it easier to gather information. With a simple check mark on one's income tax return, voila: The information is passed on to the person's province of residence. A province can choose not to participate in the program if it so wishes. This is so important because, while our provincial counterparts have made tremendous strides to raise awareness in registration rates, we are still not seeing organ donation registration rates rising as they should.
In 2012, when I was an Oakville town councillor, I was part of a group of Oakville residents who formed Oakville Be a Donor. It grew out of a call from then Oakville resident Jennifer Malabar, who challenged the mayor and council to register as organ donors.
Jennifer developed a kidney disease while pregnant with her first child, Arya. Facing an eight-year wait for a kidney transplant or the prospect of dialysis, Jenn was the recipient of a kidney from her husband, Hitesh Patel, on their wedding anniversary no less. Hitesh later joined me for the Courage Polar Bear Dip wearing Be a Donor T-shirt to raise awareness for organ donation. They later welcomed their second child, Sage, and the family continues to thrive.
Through the Oakville Be a Donor group, I met the most amazing people: Bev Cathro, who donated her kidney to her young daughter, and Ron Newman, affectionately known as the “dialysis dude”, who received a kidney transplant and lived dialysis-free for many years. However, as of late 2016, he was back on dialysis as he waited for another donor.
Julie Pehar, whose experience was a different one, came to our group having lost a loved one and having made the decision to donate his organs.
Sarah Taylor and Keith Childerhose have a love story that played out as Keith struggled to breathe. In need of a lung transplant, Sarah took to social media to publicize Keith's challenges. They appeared in the news as Keith waited for a double lung transplant.
Keith was failing quickly and was on life support. He had been living with diffuse panbronchiolitis from the age of 25 and had been fighting the disease for 15 years. This severe and rare disease caused fluid to continually build up in his lungs, similar to cystic fibrosis. On life support, the news came as Keith was heading into a 10-hour surgery that a donor had been found. In one of the most touching pictures I have seen, Keith was hooked up to an IV and tubes, looking into Sarah's eyes. Keith touched Sarah's nose as she touched his hand.
The good news is that the surgery was a success and brought much-needed attention to the need for organ donation. In a lovely twist to the story, the two were engaged, then won a wedding package and were married in 2013. As wonderful as Keith and Sarah's story is, sadly, across the country, too many stories like Keith's do not have a happy ending.
Our Oakville Be a Donor group gathered together at the Interfaith Council of Halton with community leaders and politicians to raise awareness across town. Despite our efforts to raise awareness, registration rates across Canada are dismal.
I want to share some statistics from the Ontario Be a Donor website. In Ontario, there are still over 1,500 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. That number has not changed since I gave my speech in the last Parliament. This is their only treatment option, and every three days, someone will die because they did not get a transplant in time.
As the member for Calgary Confederation mentioned, one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation, and can enhance the lives of up to 75 people through the gift of tissue.
Age alone does not disqualify someone from being a donor. The oldest organ donor was over 90 and the oldest tissue donor was over 100. There is always the potential to be a donor and it should not stop someone from registering. Anyone over the age of 16 can register.
Current or past medical history does not prevent someone from registering to be a donor. Individuals with serious illnesses can sometimes be organ or tissue donors. Each potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
All major religions support organ or tissue donation, or respect an individual's choice.
Organ and tissue donation do not impact future funeral plans, and an open casket funeral is possible.
In Ontario right now, 1,100 people are waiting for a kidney, 252 are waiting for a liver and 46 of those on the wait list are under the age of 17. When we register, we give hope to the thousands of Canadians waiting for transplants. Those on the transplant wait list are often living with organ failure, like my friend Ron Newman. Tissue donors can enhance the lives of recovering burn victims, help restore sight and allow people to walk again. Transplants not only save lives, but return recipients to productive lives.
I want to remember my friend Bob Hepburn. Bob was a kind and generous soul, a teacher and librarian who was a role model for hundreds of students at Abbey Park High School in Oakville. Bob was generous beyond words, so much so that he was twice a living donor: once donating his bone marrow and another time his kidney. Bob died quite suddenly a short time ago, and those to whom he had given the gift of life came to his funeral.
Last but not least, I want to recognize my friend Tim Batke who donated his kidney to his brother over a decade ago.
These selfless acts by Hitesh, Bob and Tim have changed lives, but also highlight the need for more people to register as organ donors.
I want to thank again my colleague across the floor, the member for Calgary Confederation. I know this is an issue he has been committed to for years. I am proud to call him a friend and even prouder to have been asked once again to be a seconder of this bill. It is my sincere hope that this bill receives swift passage so that Canadians will soon have another simple option to register as donors on their income tax returns thanks to his private member's bill.
Those who are watching today should talk to their loved ones about their wishes and go online and register today. In Ontario one can go to beadonor.ca right now. It only takes two minutes to register.
View Luc Desilets Profile
View Luc Desilets Profile
2020-10-26 11:33 [p.1197]
Madam Speaker, we are here today to once again debate the bill to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act with regard to organ donors. This bill comes from the member for Calgary Confederation, who first introduced it in 2015. It was known then as Bill C-316, and it went as far as first reading in the Senate in late 2018.
This bill seeks to authorize the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, to enter into an agreement with Quebec, a province or a territory to be able to collect from individuals via their income tax return the information required for establishing an organ donor registry. This bill also seeks to enable the CRA, if authorized by the individual on their income tax return, to share the information collected with the province or territory in which the individual resides under that agreement.
The Bloc Québécois does not have a problem with this bill and we support it. However, it is unlikely that the Government of Quebec will want to enter into an agreement with the CRA because Quebec already has its own income tax return and, as the Government of Quebec has said and continues to say, we want to implement a single tax return that would be managed by Quebeckers.
This bill does not actually have any bearing on what we want. Again, what is good for Quebec is good for the Bloc Québécois. That said, even if Quebec did want an agreement, we would not have a problem with sharing that information. Quebec is free to sign an agreement or not in this case because this bill does not commit Quebec to anything or limit it in any way. It is when the opposite is true that we strenuously object.
We are fine with letting the CRA collect information and provide it to those provinces that want to participate in such an arrangement. We actually think it makes sense because the CRA handles all the tax returns outside Quebec.
I would point out that the number of transplants performed in Canada has increased by 33% over the past 10 years. Even so, there is still an organ shortage. According to the latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, 4,351 Canadians were on a transplant waiting list in 2018. That is a huge number. That same year, only 2,782 organ transplants were performed in Canada.
For example, the number of Canadians with end-stage kidney disease rose by 32% over the past decade, which partly explains the increased demand for organ transplants.
According to information from CIHI's Canadian organ replacement register, in 2018, there were 1,706 people who received one or two kidneys, 533 who received a liver, 361 who received lungs, 189 who received a heart and 57 who received a pancreas.
I want to thank all the donors who have signed their cards and have consented to organ and tissue donation. It is one of the most noble gestures a person can make, but one that is not easy, I admit. I also want to commend the work done by doctors who specialize in organ and tissue retrieval and those who perform transplants.
We need to do more, however. On December 31, 2018, there were 3,150 people waiting for a kidney, which represents twice the number of kidneys available, 527 waiting for a liver, 270 for lungs, 157 for a heart and 156 for a pancreas. We need to use every conceivable means of reducing this long waiting list.
In 2018, 223 people died while on a waiting list for transplant. That is obviously 223 too many. Every new initiative gives hope and can save a life or lives.
Our great sovereignist family was privileged to be able to count on one very courageous, generous and engaged supporter. Tomy-Richard Leboeuf-McGregor sadly passed away nearly two years ago on November 19, 2018, at the age of 32.
Tomy was born with cystic fibrosis, a serious, degenerative lung disease. Tomy's life not only changed but was actually saved when he received a lung transplant in 2013. Driven by a will to live, to give and to give back to others, he became very committed to the organization Living with Cystic Fibrosis, whose mission is to promote quality of life for people living with cystic fibrosis. He even served as its executive director.
Tomy was a staunch advocate for Quebec independence. He was active in the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois. He ran for the Parti Québécois in 2014 and for Projet Montréal in 2017. One of his goals was to promote organ donation.
I want to say to him and his brother Jonathan, his partner Éric, his grandparents and his two sources of pride and joy, Alexis and his niece Sarah-Joan, that we proudly continue to be his voice and carry on his fight.
For all these rather emotional reasons the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of the bill introduced by our colleague from Calgary Confederation, which seeks to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act with regard to organ donors, on behalf of all these people waiting for a transplant, their family and Tomy.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-10-26 11:41 [p.1197]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-210, and I also want to commend the work of the member for Calgary Confederation on the bill. There is no doubt that it has been around several times. This most recent effort is commendable given the fact that this Parliament is on an extended tour at the moment, from just the week before when we had confidence votes. Hopefully we will see something take place this time.
I would disagree that this is not a political issue. If it were not a political issue, it would have been done ages ago. If it were not a political issue, it would have been completed in the Senate as opposed to the Senate finding other business to do when there was plenty of time to get it done. The former minister of health, Jane Philpott, and the cabinet voted against the bill saying it was provincial jurisdiction. That is where there needs to be some recognition.
I think the Bloc's intervention was very strong today on this matter, because this is about giving provinces some control and some capabilities and an enhancement of responsibilities. It allows them now, through the Canada Revenue Agency, to enter into an agreement to be responsible for their citizens. It does not make anything have to happen. It provides the course, the window, the opportunity and most importantly the hope for organ donation in this country to go up.
We have heard from a number of different members that we have a low rate. We have a low rate because there has not been enough education. I do not think it has been a normal custom in Canadian society and it has been a struggle for us to get this in hand.
In my municipality, there has been some really good work with the Windsor Regional Hospital and the “Be a Donor” campaign and the Trillium group, but at the same time, we rank very low. I come from an area that has high cancer rates. The high industrial contaminants related to pollution and the type of work we did creates sickness and illness that is beyond some of the norms across this country and North America. Therefore, we would be a recipient of this, but we still struggle to get that message out.
The member for Calgary Confederation deserves credit for bringing this back in a Parliament that might have a shortened life in general because of the conditions of a minority Parliament, but it does provide an opportunity for us to get work like this done. Let us not ignore that the bill did pass very recently in this chamber. It went to the health committee, where it had good support, and then it moved back to the chamber and ended up in the Senate again.
We need to find a way this time to be extra determined if there is going to be all-party support for this on the surface, because the surface does not always show the real thing. Behind the scenes, there could be other things taking place. Hence, that is why we saw the bill die in the Senate last time because it was not seen as a priority.
I know this because I have seen many private members' bills, some I have been the custodian of, that have gone to that place. It is not good enough for the government to blame, like the parliamentary secretary did, the Senate, when the fact is that their work moves further, quicker and faster. That is why we have an abysmal record in this chamber of private members' bills dying a death in the Senate because it did not get dealt with.
It is unfortunate because there are some very excellent senators. Regardless of my feelings with regard to the other chamber and whether it should be democratically elected or not, there are strong, capable individuals who have been appointed. There are strong, capable individuals who have won their election in the few cases there have been. There are strong, capable individuals in the most recent selection process who are working on behalf of Canadians. However, the reality is that there is still political partisanship and games with regard to the ordering and the system in the Senate, which has several layers of committees and groups breaking apart. We cannot ignore that.
How do we actually fix that situation?
We unify even stronger in the House, pass it quickly at committee and get it back here in the chamber, or we could move it through unanimous consent. I will leave that to the member for Calgary Confederation to decide if that would be the appropriate way to go. I would support that because it already had its due diligence and its day here very recently.
It has been well recognized. I will give the government credit for this. There is money sitting right now that could help people and it has been funded. Just as I am critical, I am also very encouraging and respectful of the fact that we have money that is available for a program. In my 18 years here, I do not know many programs like this that would come through as a private member's bill and already have funding sitting on a shelf somewhere. It just cannot be triggered by legislation. I do not think I have ever run across something like that before. It shows there is a sound support structure within our public institutions and bureaucracies to move this along, and that the way this has been done is well respected.
The real holdup at the end of the day is us. The real holdup is Parliament through process. The real holdup is the Senate. What is behind the times and lagging and failing people right now is us as an elected body and the other place, which have to deal with this to get royal assent to get this done.
Everything else has been done to save lives, and they count for anyone, the two-year-olds and 30- and 40-year-olds. I have seen these cases because I served them when I was formerly an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities.
When somebody got an organ transplant, I saw what it did for their life. Not only did it give them hope and opportunity for themselves and the immediate circumference of their friends and family, but it also led to what I did as an employment specialist, which was help them find employment in the community. There needs to be some work on and recognition of that because it benefited not only the individuals, but also the people introduced to this person who had had this second chance at a full life. When employment was added to their curricula of activities, they become taxpayers and contributed back.
We see that these people have not only a recognition of what they have gotten from the community, but also a respect for the unconditional love that was provided when somebody filled out a form and gave them that gift. We see that not only through their emotions and their eyes, but also through their gestures.
Most recently, we had in this country the Kidney Walk. With COVID-19, we cannot do walkathons the way we would normally do them because of social distancing. The organizers of the Kidney Walk put a process in place where people got their shirt and a pin with their number on it, as I did. They then put them on and went out, wherever they wanted to, by themselves to find their walk. It was fun.
It was different because people reflected on it. I have done a lot of walkathons over the years, but this was really different. I was out by myself, just thinking about it. They said to pick the time, whenever, and just a few weeks ago, Canadians raised over $600,000 on that alone, despite everything. The people involved are often people who have had an organ transplant, or they are a family member or somebody else associated with them.
The legislation being presented here, as I noted earlier, has been around for many years. I noted the Liberal member who originally put forth a bill related to this was Mr. Lou Sekora in 1999 and 2000, just prior to my coming to this chamber. To suggest that we have unanimous support for this and that we actually have no politics behind it is not right, because it never got done.
I do not want to go back on a blame train with regard to why it did not take place with Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Malcolm Allen or, most recently, Liberal members, who introduced it and then saw cabinet vote against it. What I want to do is recognize that, because it is a potential pitfall we could face going forward to get this done. Let us not ignore that.
We can have these moments in this chamber when we feel good about coming together to speak about this, but if we do not get the job done, then we are part of the problem and not the solution. If we keep talking about this, with its real human existence connection among children, adolescents and seniors, then we have an obligation to follow through with those words to make sure the deed is actually done. We have to give the government credit for the fact that there is money on the shelf waiting for this, and it actually could help people right away.
If we look at Australia, Belgium and Spain, we see the results. When we move to a system like this with discussion about it and also inclusion, the numbers for organ donations go up because people feel better educated about it. They know that the process has been fully vetted through their parliamentary system and their democracy. They know there has been inclusion and consultation, such as what we had at the health committee before.
However, again, if we do not actually move on this, if we just give it lip service and do not have a plan to get it done, especially in a Parliament that potentially has a limited time, it could happen or maybe it could not. While maybe this Parliament will go on, as I have seen some minority governments go on for years, we all know the terms and conditions that we have right now.
As I conclude, I want to thank the member for Calgary Confederation and all the members who intervene here, but it is only worth something if we get it done. If we do not get it done this time, then we are just part of the problem that goes back to 1999.
View Scott Aitchison Profile
View Scott Aitchison Profile
2020-10-26 11:50 [p.1199]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Confederation, for sponsoring this bill, for his perseverance through our legislative process, and for his lifetime of advocacy and action on the issue of organ and tissue donation. I am honoured to second Bill C-210, a bill which would improve organ and tissue donation registration in Canada.
View Scott Aitchison Profile
Organ and tissue transplants improve life, extend life and save life for thousands of Canadians every year. In fact, one deceased donor can potentially save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve the lives of 75 more through tissue donation. This is an incredible field of medicine, which Canadians wholeheartedly support. In fact, 90% of Canadians indicate that they support organ and tissue donation.
Canada has been a world leader in the development of transplant surgeries, having performed the world's first successful heart valve transplant in Toronto in 1956, the world's first successful lung transplant in 1983 and the world's first successful double lung transplant in 1986. All were performed right here in Canada. However, despite Canada's pioneering role in transplant medicine, the undeniable success of these life-saving procedures and the overwhelming support of 90% of Canadians, merely 20% of Canadians have registered for organ and tissue donation.
Sadly, the impact of this gap between intention and action can be measured in lives lost. In 2019 there were 4,527 Canadians waiting for transplant surgery. Of those 4,527 people, 710 either withdrew from the list or died. Those 4,527 Canadians do not tell the full story. The Kidney Foundation of Canada reports that of the 22,000 Canadians whose kidneys have failed, only 16% are on the transplant wait list. Why the discrepancy in the face of such need and also such support?
In testimony before the Standing Committee on Health in 2018, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, explained that the variety of reasons for this discrepancy includes misconceptions about donation. Some people think that their age or health may prohibit them from being a donor, or that becoming a donor would affect their care in the hospital. Another factor is, quite simply, procrastination. Ms. Gavsie also explained that in 10% to 15% of circumstances, organ donor registrants' wishes are overturned by their loved ones at the time of their death.
Remarkably, the most common reasons for the gap in organ donor registration could be solved with a conversation. Canadians need to be reminded of their intention, and Canadians need to be encouraged to have a conversation with their loved ones about organ donation. Public education, awareness campaigns and greater opportunities to register could most certainly help, and as we have heard, tragedies have spurred Canadians to register as donors as well. An option to register for organ donation on the federal income tax form will spur the conversation, and it will save lives.
Laurie Blackstock was among the witnesses the Standing Committee on Health heard from while preparing its 2018 report on organ donation in Canada. Laurie arrived home one day to find her husband unconscious and suffering multiple seizures. He was rushed to the hospital where he then suffered a heart attack. The medical staff at The Ottawa Hospital brought him back to life, but he was transferred to the intensive care unit and put on life support.
After he had been in the intensive care unit for two days, Laurie knew that her seemingly healthy 57-year-old husband, Stephen, would not survive. Stephen had told Laurie that he had checked the organ donor registry and the doctors knew that Stephen was a registered donor. Laurie, along with Stephen's mother, met with the Trillium Gift of Life coordinator in the hospital and the decision was made. Through their despair, they knew that potentially eight families could be spared their grief and pain, and that their loved ones could be saved and go on to live a much healthier life.
Many weeks later, Laurie received a thank you note from a young man who had been the recipient of both Stephen's lungs. She described how in that note he wrote that he thinks of his donor family every time he breathes and that the word “grateful” could not begin to describe his feelings. He thanked her and her family for saving his life.
Laurie went on to say:
I'm here to emphasize that organ and tissue donation doesn't just help the recipients and their families. It doesn't just reduce the tremendous cost of long-term kidney treatment. It can also be an incredible gift to bereaved families like mine, because when presented gently and ethically, at the right time, when there's little or no hope of a loved one's survival, it is a gift. Knowing that five people's lives probably improved dramatically with Stephen's lungs, kidneys, and corneas doesn't change his death and the intensity of our grief, but it gives us moments of relief.
Stephen lives on through those five people.
What an extraordinary gift.
Today, all members of Parliament have an opportunity to come together to give the gift of life. We have a chance to work together in a non-partisan way to help our constituents. Let us rise to this opportunity. Let us show Canadians the best of this Parliament. For the sake of thousands of Canadians who desperately need an organ donation, I ask all members to support Bill C-210.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 11:58 [p.1200]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by both the mover and the seconder. No doubt there is a number of seconders out there who believe in their heart the importance of this legislation.
In my question to the mover of the legislation, I posed this issue: The House has previously reflected on the legislation, and it received unanimous support. Members of all political parties see the merit and the strength of this legislation. There was a certain level of sadness when it did not pass through the Senate. There had been an expectation, and I do not know the understanding or the in-depth thinking that went on in that chamber.
This legislation is much like that which the government just introduced a few days back in regard to sexual assault. That was something the then leader of the Conservative Party Rona Ambrose had brought to the floor of the House, and we expedited its passage.
The opportunity is still here for us in this Parliament. I really and truly believe that. Given the manner the member is presenting the legislation, and his willingness to work with members on all sides of the House, I am actually encouraged that we will in fact see the bill get through the House of Commons. I would love to see it get through before the end of December. If there are ways in which I could assist, I am prepared to do so.
However, at this time I do want to allow for ongoing debate on the legislation, and I hope the member will understand. I am more than happy to sit down afterwards to have a discussion—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
moved that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to commence second reading debate on Bill C-6, which proposes to criminalize conduct related to conversion therapy, a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit communities.
Bill C-6 is identical to former Bill C-8, which I introduced on March 9, 2020. Bill C-6 and former Bill C-8 signal our government's continuing commitment to eradicating a discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values.
Our government is committed to protecting the human dignity and equality of members of the LGBTQ2 community by ending conversion therapy in Canada.
The bill delivers on that commitment and complements other measures, including former Bill C-16, which provides increased protection for transgender Canadians in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I am pleased to present another initiative that will further protect LGBTQ2 people from discriminatory practices.
So-called conversion therapy refers to misguided efforts to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual; change a person's gender identity to cisgender; or repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. Conversion therapy can take many forms, including counselling, behavioural modification and talk therapy, and may be offered by professionals, religious officials or laypersons.
This practice is a manifestation of the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 individuals. More specifically, it suggests that sexual orientation other than heterosexual and gender identity other than those genders can and must be corrected. This type of discriminatory message stigmatizes LGBTQ2 individuals and violates their dignity and their right to equality.
Conversion therapy has also been discredited and denounced by many professional associations as harmful, especially to children. For example, in its 2014 position paper on mental health care for people who identify as LGBTQ2, the Canadian Psychiatric Association stated that it opposes the use of conversion therapy given that the practice is based on the assumption that LGBTQ2 identities indicate a mental disorder and that LGBTQ2 people could or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Canadian Paediatric Society has identified the practice as “clearly unethical”, and the Canadian Psychological Association, in its policy statement on conversion therapy, opposes the practice and takes note of the fact that “Scientific research does not support [its] efficacy”.
The position of these professional associations and of many other Canadian and international associations reflects the scientific evidence that people subjected to this practice must deal with its negative effects such as anxiety, self-hate, depression, suicidal ideation and attempted suicide.
Studies indicate that children are particularly susceptible to these negative effects. For example, research shows that negative mental health outcomes among youth who have been exposed to conversion therapy include, in addition to the negative impacts I have already mentioned, high levels of depression, lower life satisfaction, less social support and lower socio-economic status in young adulthood.
What do we know about conversion therapy in Canada?
Thanks to the community-based Sex Now survey, we have a better picture of who is most affected by conversion therapy. The survey's most recent results, from 2019-20, indicate that as many as 20%, or one in five, of respondents had been exposed to the practice, so we know that this harmful practice is currently happening in Canada. Moreover, a recent Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article that interpreted the Sex Now survey's previous results indicates that transgender, indigenous, racial minority and low-income persons are disproportionately represented among those who have been exposed. It also notes that transgender overrepresentation “may be explained by the ‘double stigma’ experienced by those who simultaneously occupy sexual minority and gender minority social positions.”
This data is significant cause for concern. Not only does conversion therapy negatively affect marginalized persons, but it negatively affects the most marginalized within that group.
Given the inherent cruelty of conversion therapy and the evidence of its effects, which are not only harmful but also discriminatory for the most marginalized, Bill C-6 proposes amendments to put an end to this practice.
First, the bill would define conversion therapy, for the purposes of the Criminal Code, as a practice, treatment or service to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.
I note that Bill C-6's proposed definition of conversion therapy is restricted to practices, treatments or services that are aimed at a particular purpose, that is, changing a fundamental part of who a person is. Accordingly, practices, treatments or services designed to achieve other purposes would not be captured by the definition, such as treatments to assist a person in realizing their choice to align their physical appearance and characteristics with their gender identity, and therapies that assist a person in exploring their identity, known as gender-affirming treatments.
However, out of an abundance of caution, the bill contains a “for greater certainty” clause, which clarifies that the definition would not capture certain practices, services or treatments, specifically those that relate
(a) to a person’s gender transition; or
(b) to a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.
This clause comprehensively responds to any concern that the definition could be misinterpreted to include legitimate gender-affirming practices that help people explore their identities or realize their choice to gender transition. It is also consistent with the 2009 report of the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which describes affirmative therapeutic interventions for those experiencing distress, for example, because of same-sex sexual attraction. Specifically, the report notes that legitimate interventions involve exploring and countering the harmful impact of stigma and stereotypes on the person's self-concept and maintaining a broad view of acceptable choices. To be clear, legitimate gender-affirming interventions do not share the same purpose as treatments that are designed to change or suppress who a person is.
Consequently, the offences proposed by Bill C-6 do not apply to recognized therapies, first, because the main objective of gender affirming treatments is not to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or to restrict their gender identity to cisgender only, or to repress or reduce attraction or sexual behaviour. In case this is still not clear, the proposed legislative measures specific to these types of practices are not included in the definition of “conversion therapy”.
Since this seems to be very important to the Leader of the Opposition, I want to explicitly reassure him. This bill does not prohibit conversations about sexuality between an individual and their parents, family members, spiritual leaders or anyone else. The legislative measure we are debating today does not prohibit these conversations, but criminalizes an odious practice that has no place in our country.
Building on its clear definition of conversion therapy, the bill would also create five new Criminal Code offences to criminalize causing minors to undergo conversion therapy, removing minors from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting or receiving a material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.
This approach will protect all minors who are disproportionately affected by conversion therapy, whether it be provided in Canada or elsewhere. No one would be able to provide conversion therapy to minors, and no one would be authorized to take a person who is ordinarily resident in Canada abroad to receive conversion therapy.
The approach would also protect persons who are at risk of being forced to receive conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to cause another person to undergo conversion therapy.
The approach would also protect all Canadians from the commercialization of conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to profit from the practice, regardless of whether it is provided to minors or adults.
Finally, the approach would protect all Canadians from public messaging suggesting that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. No one would be allowed to advertise conversion therapy, regardless of whether a fee is charged for it. Courts would also be authorized to order the seizure and forfeiture of conversion therapy advertisements or their removal from the Internet, which is similar to existing powers with respect to hate propaganda.
I cannot emphasize enough that telling someone they cannot be who they are is wrong and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The balanced approach in this legislation factors in the interests of every implicated person.
To be clear, the bill's main purpose is to protect the equality rights of marginalized people in Canadian society, but we know that conversion therapy not only causes individual harms to those subjected to it, but also causes harm to all of society by sending the message that a fundamental part of who a person is, their sexual orientation or gender identity, is a transitory state that can and should be changed. Such messaging is anathema to Canadian values, as reflected in our charter, which protects the equality rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ2 people. Respecting equality means promoting a society in which everyone is recognized at law as equally deserving of respect and consideration. This starts with promoting a society in which everyone can feel safe to be who they are. The law must provide the same protection for LGBTQ2 people as it does for others.
To promote these values, we need legislation to discourage and denounce a practice that hurts LGBTQ2 people and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 people.
As stated in the preamble of the bill, it is our duty to discourage and denounce the provision of conversion therapy, in light of all of the social and individual harms it causes. It is our duty to protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians. That is precisely what we are doing with Bill C-6.
We recognize the proposed amendments limit certain choices, including, for example, for mature minors. We made this policy decision because research shows us that all minors, regardless of their age, are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy's harms. Moreover, if mature minors were allowed to consent to receive conversion therapy, it would be the providers who would have to determine whether the child is mature enough to consent, but most so-called conversion therapy providers are not medical professionals and are not in a position to assess whether a minor is truly capable of making their own treatment decisions. That is why we have drawn a hard line at 18 years of age. That is the best way to protect the most vulnerable among those who are at risk of being subjected to this abhorrent practice.
We also recognize that criminalizing profiting from conversion therapy means that consenting adults would be prevented from accessing conversion therapy unless it is available free of charge. That is because deterring this harmful practice requires placing limits on its availability, and these limits assist in avoiding psychological harm to the individuals who may be subjected to it, as well as harm to the dignity and equality rights of a marginalized group.
Criminalizing advertising conversion therapy furthers that same important objective and reduces the presence of discriminatory public messaging.
Significantly, nothing in the bill limits a person's right to his or her own point of view on sexual orientation and gender identity, nor the right to express that view, including, for example, in private conversations between individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity and counsellors, family members, friends or religious officials seeking to support that individual. Ensuring everyone's ability to express his or her point of view is fundamental to a free and democratic society, and this is true regardless of whether there is agreement on that point of view.
Now that I have described the proposed amendments and what they will and will not prevent, I would like to commend former Senator Joyal for his work on this issue. He introduced former Senate public bill, Bill S-202, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy, which was taken over by Senator Cormier after Senator Joyal retired. This bill had previously been known as Bill S-260.
The proposed offences in the legislation fill a gap in the criminal law because we currently have no offence directly targeting the heinous practice of conversion therapy. Together with existing offences, the new offences would create a comprehensive criminal law response to the harms posed by conversion therapy.
Let us not forget that criminal law responses would complement existing provincial and municipal responses as well. Three provinces, Ontario in 2015, Nova Scotia in 2018 and Prince Edward Island in 2019, have enacted legislation under their responsibility for health-related matters. This legislation specifies that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and bans health care providers from providing conversion therapy to minors.
Significantly, other Canadian jurisdictions are following suit. Earlier this year, both the Yukon and Quebec introduced bills that would implement similar reforms. Although Bill C-6 is an exercise of criminal law because it would amend the Criminal Code, it is consistent with provincial health regulation.
Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, have also prohibited companies from providing conversion therapy in their cities. All levels of government have roles to play in eliminating this harmful practice. I was pleased to get the support of my provincial and territorial colleagues when we met in January to discuss Criminal Code reforms to address conversion therapy.
There is no reason for anyone in the House to oppose this bill.
We are proud that so much is being done in Canada to address this destructive practice. Our efforts place us at the vanguard of the international community. For example, Malta is the only jurisdiction known to have criminalized various aspects of conversion therapy. Its approach criminalizes conversion therapy to vulnerable persons, which is defined as persons under the age of 16 years, persons with a mental disorder or persons considered by the court to be at risk. Malta also criminalizes advertising conversion therapy as well as involuntary conversion therapy.
The approach that we are proposing goes even further. We are proposing to protect all children under the age of 18 from conversion therapy in Canada or abroad. We are also proposing to protect all Canadians from the negative messages associated with the advertisement of this harmful practice and those profiting from it.
We hopefully will be joined by others soon. For example, in March of 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning conversion therapy and urging European Union member states to ban the practice. Shortly thereafter, in July of 2018, the United Kingdom government announced that it intended to bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy. I understand that work is ongoing.
In short, there is growing recognition worldwide of the destructive nature of this practice and acknowledgement that the criminal law is an appropriate way to address that harm.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-10-26 12:22 [p.1203]
Madam Speaker, in response to the minister's speech today, there are direct consequences regarding the fact the definition of conversion therapy is flawed. The bill would restrict freedom of choice and expression for all Canadians, including LGBTQ2 individuals.
I want to quote Lee, one of many young transgender individuals who has de-transitioned and realized some important truths for de-transition. She said, “There were all these red flags and I honestly wish that somebody had pointed them out to me and then I might not have transitioned in the first place. If I had realized that somebody with a history of an eating disorder, a history of childhood sexual abuse, a history of neglect and bullying for being a gender non-conforming female, a person with internalized homophobia and misogyny should not have been encouraged to transition. .... I wish that somebody had sort of tried to stop me ... transition .... did not work for me.”
Lee reflects on her realization that with all of her issues she should not have been encouraged to transition, but rather wished that somebody would have tried to stop her as transitioning did not work for her.
Does the minister affirm that Bill C-6 would take away Lee's rights to have conversations of her choosing with anyone of her choosing in private or in the public square to change the outcome of what she recognizes in her case as a regrettable transition?
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for giving us an example of where the law, as drafted, intends to protect the legitimate conversations that a person would have with a health care provider, a parent, a religious mentor or other persons in the legitimate exploration of one's identity.
I repeat that nothing in this law bans these kinds of legitimate discussions about one's identity or finding one's identity. Rather, it is banning a practice that is saying something about one's identity is wrong and therefore needs to be changed. That is what we are banning and it is critically important we do so.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Madam Speaker, I congratulate the Minister of Justice on the bill we are debating today.
In my opinion, it is important for those who have undergone so-called conversion therapy to see that we are addressing the problem. I am surprised to hear my Conservative colleagues saying that the bill is not clear. It seems to me that the bill clearly prohibits conversion therapy for minors and forcing someone to undergo conversion therapy without their consent. That is very clear to me. This is a fundamental issue. The minister can certainly count on our support. The bill addresses abhorrent and I would even say barbaric practices stemming from extremist religious practices.
I would like to know whether the government intends to address other extremist religious practices, such as female genital mutilation or the imposition of sharia law in some courts.
I would like to know what the Minister of Justice thinks about that.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and his support of this bill.
We absolutely must act together on this. As a Quebecker and a Canadian, I am proud that, a few weeks ago, my Quebec counterpart, Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, announced his intention to introduce a complementary measure.
It is important to talk about this bill today. This bill is very important to the LGBTQ2 community because it will protect their rights. I will let the bill speak for itself.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for introducing the bill and assure him, once again, that New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-6 at second reading.
My question for the minister is very simple. Survivors of conversion therapy have been outspoken in their concern that this bill falls short of a total ban on conversion therapy and that its language might not be comprehensive enough to capture all current practices directed at transgender and non-binary Canadians to try to force them to deny their true selves.
Will the minister confirm that he is open to both these kinds of changes at the justice committee to address these concerns?
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank the member not only for his support but his leadership on these very important issues.
It is true that this does not represent a total ban. He is correct in his reading of the legislation. There will be a charter statement that I will table very soon in the House which explains our reasons for not going further.
I want to reassure the hon. member publicly, as I have in our private conversations, that I am open to all good faith attempts to improve the bill. If he believes there is a way in which we can explore a larger definition, I am always prepared to consider that.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-10-26 12:28 [p.1204]
Madam Speaker, as the hon. member for Fredericton has already put on the record, the Green Party is also very much in support of a complete ban on conversion therapy. I join the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke in thanking the minister for bringing forward Bill C-6.
How open will the government be to amendments that, without violating the charter considerations, provide moves toward a more complete ban on this monestrous practice? It cannot be called therapy; it is so destructive.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I agree that one ought to put therapy in quotation marks when discussing this practice. I agree it is a horrific practice.
As I have just assured the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, I am open to all good faith amendments that seek to clarify or work within the confines of the charter to extend the parameters of the legislation.
We want Canada to be leaders on this and therefore I am willing to work with members across the aisle to make it better.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2020-10-26 12:29 [p.1204]
Madam Speaker, much of the health care system of the country is governed by provincial and territorial jurisdiction and government. I am curious as to what kind of conversations the minister has had with his provincial counterparts to ensure there is no back-door access to a practice we are seeking to severely limit and restrict.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, as I said in my main speech, I have raised this with provincial and territorial counterparts. There was widespread support. I mentioned Quebec most recently, but a number of those jurisdictions have already moved to ensure this is not a “health care service” given at the provincial level, health care being within the jurisdiction of the provinces.
They also regulate the medical profession and other health care professions. There are movements within those professions to make the conduct unethical, according to the code of ethics or deontological ethics of these various professional bodies. Municipalities can also work with us by banning it as a business practice within their jurisdictions.
I would assure the hon. member that there is a great deal of co-operation across the levels of government and across Canada, and I am very proud of that.
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Very short question from the member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington.
View Derek Sloan Profile
Madam Speaker, unfortunately my questions are slightly longer than very short, but I will try to keep it brief.
For me, the devil is in the details in all of this. I have two quick questions for the hon. minister.
In the CPA policy statement, which is linked to on the justice website, prayer is listed as being a part of conversion therapy. In the context of this definition, would the wrong type of prayers be criminalized under the legislation? I have one follow-up question on the same CPA policy statement. It only mentions—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
I am sorry, but we will have to stay with just one question.
The hon. Minister of Justice.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, as is clear in the legislation and as was clear in my remarks, what we are banning is a practice. There is a great difference between whether one is in a discussion or whether one is praying. There is a great difference between trying to determine who someone is on the one hand, and telling someone that who they are is problematic or wrong and then trying to change it to something else. We are trying to—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today as the first speaker at second reading from our caucus on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy, formerly Bill C-8 before COVID-19 changed our model here and we lost a few months on this legislation.
I am honoured to stand in the House of Commons today to provide some comments and feedback on the bill and at times a personal perspective, as we all share a common goal to eliminate the harmful practice of conversion therapy across Canada.
I want to start on a personal note about the debate in this chamber. In the last few weeks many colleagues have stood to ask questions and offer commentaries in the debate around Bill C-7, on medical assistance in dying. As I mostly watched that from my office on television, I want to commend members on the tone and the civility of the debate. The questions and the debate going back and forth have been very civil, constructive and very worthy of the House and the debates that we hope to have similarly on a piece of legislation such as this.
View Eric Duncan Profile
I want to acknowledge the work of the provincial partners, as the minister mentioned in his comments, that did work in provincial jurisdictions before we were dealing with this piece of legislation in Ottawa. In Ontario in 2015, a law was passed, and in Manitoba in 2015 and Nova Scotia in 2018.
I may be a bit biased, being from Ontario, but I want to acknowledge the work that was done at Queen's Park in the provincial legislature. It is my understanding that it was the first in Canada, but also that all the parties worked together to get unanimous support for that bill, which proceeded to ban conversion therapy in the province of Ontario.
It shows how legislatures and parliamentarians from different parties can work together on issues of common concern. I believe we can achieve the same goal here in Ottawa. We all agree with the common goal, calling out conversion therapy for what it is: a terrible, inhumane, dangerous practice against the LGBTQ community that needs to be eliminated in Canada.
As I start my comments here today, I want to acknowledge the many organizations that have worked for years to raise awareness of this issue. As we debate and discuss the details of the legislation, we need to always remember the stories and the scars of those who have suffered through some form of conversion therapy.
There are many who have come forward to share their stories, to help educate us and to bring light to this issue. Unfortunately, there are some who have not been able to share their stories with us, because they are not with us anymore. The torture, the pain that they faced was too much to handle. Many suffered in silence. Too many have taken their lives because of the harms that conversion therapy caused them.
We often talk in the House about making our Parliament more diverse and reflective of Canada, by gender, by race, by profession, by sexual orientation and by lived experiences. As we debate this legislation, this is exactly why we aspire to that goal: to bring perspective from across the country, and to share stories and experiences that could help guide us all. I want to do that today for a few moments.
I have said a few times over the last year that I have talked more about my sexual orientation this past year than I have in my entire 33 years. I am a proud gay man who lives in rural eastern Ontario, and I have come to realize that my story matters. If I could get personal here for a moment, I want to talk about my story and my coming out.
It was back in 2017, in my hometown of Winchester, Ontario, a small town with lots of churches and a mix of bedroom community people working in Ottawa and people who have called the rural community home for their entire lives. People coming out maybe was not as common as it would be in downtown Ottawa or downtown Toronto or other places. I served as the mayor of my community at that time. I was out to my family and friends, and I had decided that it was important for me to let my community know that I am a proud gay man so that I could live my life openly, happily and freely.
I wrote a letter on a Sunday morning at about nine o'clock, posted it on Facebook and it went viral. I was not expecting the reaction. It was the lead story on the news channel the next day, and it went viral on Facebook.
What I was hoping from that was indifference, that people would just move on and not care, in a good way, showing how far we had come. However, what I got was the absolute opposite. The love, compassion and support I got from people was overwhelming, people from all different backgrounds and different life experiences. I find that as more people share their stories, it becomes a degree of separation.
I went to bed that night very happy and on a high. Unfortunately, it did not last too long. A couple of days later, in a community just south of my hometown, a young gay man only a couple of years younger than I was took his life. The high I had felt a few nights previous was equally emotional a couple of days later in the struggles he had faced, a variety of struggles. If that were not enough, there was a further degree of separation that broke my heart.
A friend of mine had let me know that a friend of his was a closeted gay man who had married a woman but was actually gay and struggling with his sexual orientation. He was nervous about coming out to his family, friends and community, and he hid it. He suffered and suffered in silence until he could not take it anymore.
I share these stories not because I know that any of the individuals were subject to conversion therapy, but it shows the struggles that people still face. Even with the positive experience I had with my family, friends and community, we need to acknowledge that it is not the same for everybody. We need to show compassion and care and understanding, whether someone is coming to terms with their sexual orientation or their gender identity.
Adding on something like conversion therapy to a child, any sort of therapy in that regard to change somebody, would be devastating for them to go through. What they would have to go through and what they are subjected to is so fundamentally wrong and dangerous. Subjecting a child to it to change them to be who they are not is wrong. It is dangerous and it must end.
I want to talk about the first speech our new leader gave here in the House when there was an opportunity to speak to this legislation when it was tabled by the minister. I have to say I am really proud of his response, his compassion and his understanding of the issue. He spoke of his military service. He spoke about how a fundamental part of his job, of that service, was to defend the rights of all Canadians wherever his service took him. He did that proudly in our military and he has done that as a member of Parliament here in this chamber when legislation has come forward. The NDP legislation a few years ago on gender identity was a key example of that.
I want to reflect on and put back on the record a quote from what our leader said that day, which really stuck with me. He said:
I stood and was counted for rights that day. As a parliamentarian, I am here to secure the rights of every Canadian, including those in the LGBTQ community, and to build an inclusive and prosperous country for all. Now, as leader of the Conservative Party, I pledge to continue this work.
Conservatives agree that conversion therapy is wrong and should be banned. No Canadian should be forced to change who they are, whether it be their sexual orientation or their gender identity. We know that too many Canadians have been harmed by this practice and, as parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That includes members of the LGBTQ community, who have been the target of degrading and dehumanizing practices in an effort to change their sexual orientation against their will. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
The bill states:
This [legislation] amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, create the following offences:
(a) causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person’s will;
(b) causing a child to undergo conversion therapy;
(c) doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;
(d) advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and
(e) receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.
I want to talk briefly about the details of the legislation and something that I have been able to speak about with many colleagues on different sides of the House, and even my constituents back home in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, as they have questions and comments about the legislation. I will use a specific quote. The bill says, “repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour” as part of the definition of conversion therapy.
I want to talk about the difficulty sometimes, in my opinion and my own life experiences, of trying to come up with a definition of conversion therapy that acknowledges how conversion therapy has changed in what it is over the years. Many people think of it as electroshock therapy, a terrible, horrible practice that I hope and believe is mostly eradicated in our country. I am not saying it is completely gone, but there has been an evolution over the years of what conversion therapy is, from that visual of electroshock therapy to what is more of a repression. It is some sort of therapy session to suppress feelings: It is okay to be gay but just do not act on it, or it is okay to have a different gender identity but just do not act on it. The suppression of that thought is equally as damaging as anything else.
When we talk about that, I want to acknowledge that the latest unfortunate trends and those who promote or offer conversation therapy are not so much the vision of something we saw decades ago, but something that is treated more as a therapy, when in fact it is anything but that.
As we move forward in the debate on this legislation and when the bill hopefully gets to second reading and into committee where the bill can be studied and discussed further, my Conservative team has noted that we will be proposing a reasonable amendment that will bring even more support to this legislation. I believe it to be fair, reasonable and bipartisan. I believe it should have the support of the government. That is because I believe we can simply add the words of its own news release earlier this year to confirm what the minister has said before.
As I am not a legal expert, the words the minister acknowledged in his comments could be put into the legislation for greater certainty, saying that private conversations are not subject to criminal prosecution. I will read the quote because I believe it. It is the intent of the legislation and I believe the legislation would be better off if the minister's words in the news release were put into the legislation. He stated:
These new offences would not criminalise private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.
I believe that to be the intent of this legislation, in my own personal view. It would be reasonable and appropriate if we could work, as the minister said, in good faith, which he has from myself and members of my party, to bring that forward and get it included.
I am happy to see that Parliament is tackling the issue of banning conversion therapy. The sooner that we put a stop to it, the more lives we will save and the better quality of life and promising future we can give young members of the LGBTQ community.
I mentioned earlier that I talk a bit more often about my sexual orientation and being a proud gay man, but something I have talked less about is my faith. I know for many Canadians in every part of this country their faith guides them in the decisions they make and values they have.
As I reflect on my own personal faith, I will say this. My faith and the values my church taught me have not guided me away from this legislation, but the opposite. They have taught me to support it, to stand up for vulnerable neighbours and friends, to show empathy and compassion, to be there and stand up for those who cannot do it on their own. That is what my faith has taught me and where it has guided me. It is guiding me to be behind this legislation and seeing it enacted as we work together through committee, third reading and eventually on to the Senate.
I will end my comments today not with debate on the specific legislation, but with a message to young gay or trans children. It is okay to be gay. It is okay to be trans. It is right for them to live their lives as who they are and be who they are. Canadians know that subjecting anyone to conversion therapy is wrong and we must protect those who are vulnerable.
I am grateful for the time today to offer my support for ending conversion therapy, for working together here in second reading, in committee and in the Senate to make this happen and get the job done together. We need to do this for the young children I mentioned and for those who are tragically not with us anymore. We must act on their stories and struggles to do better. Let us continue this work and get it done for them.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2020-10-26 12:48 [p.1207]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for what can only be described as a beautiful speech. Beautiful speeches often have a shadow of pain to show the contrast that creates that beauty. I want to thank him for sharing his thoughts and experience with us today. It makes us all better to know each other that way and to understand where we have come from and where we are trying to get to. I truly wish to express my gratitude for his good words today.
He talked about words he has for young people who are struggling as they emerge into their sexuality and gender, but he also comes from a community where older people have seen the world change. If we go back 10 years in this House, we will see a debate around same-sex marriage, which was not quite so beautiful and had some very painful moments for all us who have family members who have benefited from the changes that we have lived through.
What are the words he would share with older people in his community who have seen this change to give them comfort that their best interests and their loved ones are being cared for with this legislation?
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the kind words.
After I came out, I had a Facebook post to thank everyone, and the line that I have used many times since to talk about it is that every person who shares their story opens up new hearts and new minds. This is where I believe we have made a lot of progress in our country in the last 10 or 15 years. It has been a more comfortable environment, albeit not a perfect one, for more people to come out with their gender identity, sexual orientation, and to live their lives the way they were born to do.
What I have tried to do in my service here in Ottawa as an MP, and before that as a mayor or just somebody from a small, rural community where maybe there is that degree of separation and of not knowing somebody that is there all the time, is to say that I believe, as with the legislation before us, that we can send a message to say that conversion therapy is wrong, because a person does not need to be converted. Regardless of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, one can live and be free in who they are. However, I also acknowledge that for the progress that we have made, there is still a long way to go, and that it is not as easy for everybody under certain circumstances.
I believe this legislation goes in the right direction, and it takes away what I feel is such a negative force in somebody's life if they were subject to conversion therapy. If we can ban and get rid of the practice, take it right off the table, I believe it would give more young people, whether it be with sexual orientation or gender identity, a better hope for a better future and better support from their community and their Parliament.
View Louise Chabot Profile
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-10-26 12:51 [p.1208]
Madam Speaker, I am participating remotely, but I heard the member get some enthusiastic and justly deserved applause. I too applaud him for sharing his story.
The Bloc Québécois will support this bill. It is about basic dignity and fairness for the entire LGBTQ2 community.
I do have a question for my colleague, though. He emphasized that the bill needs amending. Would the member tell us more about the amendments he wants to see? Private conversations between family members and a child will not be banned.
In what ways would the member like to amend this bill?
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, I believe that we are proposing what we feel are reasonable amendments. In my comments, I used a bipartisan approach to this. I know that many of my colleagues thought the same when they read the news release from the Department of Justice back in March with the comments about what the legislation does not entail. It was worded better, and I think that parts were not in the legislation. Simply taking what was in the government's own news release with its own intent and clarification and putting those words in the legislation, we would have even more support for this and can give further clarity.
If there is comfort for the government to put those words in its news release, then there should be comfort in putting that in for greater clarity in the legislation itself. I take the minister at his word on good will, good-intentioned amendments, and this is one of them. I firmly believe we can send an even stronger message in this Parliament with that amendment and with more support.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, I will start by thanking the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for adding a diverse voice to this Parliament. I thank him for standing up and very bravely sharing his story with us and, of course, I thank him for his strong support for the bill before us.
There are many things that we may share as out-gay men, and there are many things we will probably agree on, but I have to say that I have some concerns about the kind of amendment the member is talking about, because conversion therapy in Canada goes on in the shadows. We have to be careful to bring it out of the shadows and ban it.
However, my question for the member is a more difficult question. Since he has said that Conservatives believe that conversion therapy is wrong, and he has stressed that he sees it as an attack on fundamental rights of our community, then how is it that he sees that a free vote is appropriate, allowing his colleagues to vote against fundamental rights and freedoms for members of our community, and to vote against our right to be protected against harmful practices like conversion therapy?
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, I want to begin acknowledging the work that the hon. member has done in his time in Ottawa and the leadership he has shown, to pave the way for people such as myself to follow in his shoes as we talk about LGBTQ issues in legislation.
A fundamental building block of the Conservative Party of Canada is free votes on these types of issues. I would not want to be subject to vote for something that I do not want to on something like this. I am proud to be able to, on issues that come forward for free vote, vote the way that I want. As we work together and debate this legislation here and as we get to committee, as our leader said, there are many members who want to get to yes on this, who want to get clarification and study some of the details of the bill.
I think, from our Conservative Party and the comments that our leader has made and many of our colleagues have raised, there is good intention here to get to yes, to understand what conversion therapy exactly is and want to ban it. I am proud to be able to have a free vote. That goes for myself on a myriad of different issues in our caucus. That is a fundamental building block of our party that I think makes our party stronger.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his personal story and for the amendment he is proposing. I think a lot of us would welcome that if it were included in the legislation.
If there are no amendments to this bill, is he concerned that it will suffer the same fate that the medical assistance in dying bill faced when it was struck down in court and is now back in front of us in the House of Commons yet again?
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, I have been a member of Parliament for one year and I am getting the legal hang of things bit by bit, but I will not presuppose what may happen if the amendment is not there. My focus right now is working with my colleagues who are on the justice committee, as we get to second reading, and talking about it. As the minister just said in his speech, he is open to good-faith amendments that can improve and strengthen the bill. I believe right now we should focus on that. We have an opportunity here.
My colleagues from the Bloc had said in their comments, as well, what this bill is not. I agree with what it is not, so let us put it in for greater certainty. I do not want to presuppose what may happen. My goal is that we can work together here in Parliament, support a reasonable amendment like this and get a very large number of members on third reading to support this. I think this builds on the strength of the legislation and, more importantly, sends a strong message to all of the country that whether a person is a member of the LGBTQ community or a supporter of it, Parliament strongly supports the rights of the LGBTQ community, and sends a strong message to end conversion therapy.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Majid Jowhari Profile
2020-10-26 12:58 [p.1209]
Madam Speaker, I have a quick question on the positive impacts of this bill on the mental health of those individuals who were previously exposed to this type of treatment.
View Eric Duncan Profile
Madam Speaker, I think this legislation would correct for the future subjecting children to this dangerous practice. So, it would eliminate and go there. I also think, as I said in my comments, this is a testimony and a tribute to those who have been victims of conversion therapy. Although we could not have stopped it in the past, we send a message here today that it is wrong, that their stories do matter and they have made a difference on future members who may not be—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Resuming debate.
The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I ask for consent from the House to share my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Does the hon. member have the consent of the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès): The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to an important bill, Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to conversion therapy. In my opinion, this bill should be passed quickly to ensure that LGBTQ2 individuals receive all the respect they deserve.
Bill C-6 proposes to amend sections of the Criminal Code in order to create offences related to the practice of conversion therapy. It is identical to Bill C-8, which was introduced in March 2020, before Parliament shut down. I hope it will pass unanimously in the House in this 43rd Parliament.
Historically, Quebec has been a leader in human rights protection. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977, and same-sex marriage was legalized by the National Assembly of Quebec in 2002, under the PQ government of Mr. Landry, when it instituted civil unions. Equality between Quebeckers is a fundamental value and an inalienable right in Quebec. Practices that deny the existence of a person's core identity must be condemned.
What is conversion therapy? It is a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. That is appalling.
I want every member to put themselves in the shoes of a vulnerable person and imagine just how much this can violate their identity and how much distress it can cause. I find it inconceivable that this type of treatment is still being used today because of a lack of acceptance by parents or any organization.
In Quebec, respect for gender identity and sexual orientation is an incontrovertible value, and conversion therapy violates that value.
Who are we to judge what is good for a person and to attempt to convince them that they should be different, in a society that is so inclusive and respectful of human rights? Experts say that conversion therapies are pseudoscience. Not only are they dangerous and degrading, but many studies show that, obviously, they do not work.
According to the World Health Organization, these practices represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people. Furthermore, according to the Canadian Psychological Association, conversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, and even difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction. That is very serious. Unfortunately, it is happening here, in the shadows. I personally was appalled to learn that these practices are still being used in 2020. I am ashamed.
Let us look to the example of the courageous Gabriel Nadeau, a former member of a Pentecostal Protestant community who spoke out publicly about his painful experience undergoing conversion therapy three times. I would respectfully like to share what happened to him. Describing his therapy sessions, Gabriel said:
Four people physically held me down while the “prophet” shouted into my ears for 30 minutes, calling for the demon to get out, and they made me drink “holy olive oil”.
He added:
In my community, it was believed that homosexuality was an evil spirit, a demon. That is what I was taught, and I believed it myself. I knew that exorcisms were performed.
Here is what he said about how this kind of therapy affected him:
I think that the hardest part for me, harder even than the exorcism, was the self-rejection that followed, the feeling of being completely disgusted by myself, wanting to change completely, and being so desperate every day.... It was truly awful.
This gives me shivers. It is terrifying. As a mother, it breaks my heart. This must change, and it needs to change as fast as possible. Fortunately, as distinct as they are, Quebec and Canadian societies have a lot in common, particularly in terms of values. We agree on a number of issues and adopt similar policies that translate into progress when it comes to rights.
As the Bloc Québécois critic for living together, I want to highlight the Quebec government's initiative in protecting human rights. We welcome Bill 70, which was introduced by the Quebec justice minister with the goal of outlawing conversion therapy.
In closing, here is what Gabriel said in an interview in July 2019:
I found self-acceptance, and I realized that I didn't always have to conform to what other people wanted or thought, when it came to my sexuality or anything else. It is wonderful, and I would never go back to that religious prison.
I want to tell Gabriel and everyone watching right now that, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, they are seen, they are loved and they are beautiful.
I am happy to say that the Bloc Québécois has always been deeply committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of the people of Quebec. I am very proud to belong to a political party that shares my values and that has always been an ally in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois supports the Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-6. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 13:08 [p.1210]
Madam Speaker, I really appreciate the tone of the discussions. It would seem members from all sides of the House recognize the importance of the legislation before us, and conversion therapy has been an issue for a great deal of time. It is encouraging to see this get to second reading today.
I am wondering if the member has any sense of specific amendments the Bloc would like to see to the legislation, or are Bloc members waiting for it to go to committee before they provide further comment with respect to amendments?
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for his question.
Considering what we have to work with now, and considering that this bill was originally introduced last March, I think we need to get a move on. That is what I said earlier during my speech. We need to act fast.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-10-26 13:09 [p.1210]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague just gave an example of a very serious and inappropriate intervention, which I would definitely identify as conversion therapy. That is why comments from individuals who have been exposed to this type of thing are important.
I just want to share that Cari spoke to her own experience when she was prescribed hormones after four sessions of therapy. She noted that no attempts were made, at these therapy sessions, to process personal issues that she raised, and that no one in the medical or psychological field ever tried to dissuade her from her gender transition, or to offer any option other than maybe to wait till she was 18. This revelation, of medical and psychological professionals not providing balanced options for Cari, would be validated by this legislation with its current definition of conversion therapy.
Is the member concerned that medical and psychological professionals are being prevented from providing individuals with other options because of the fear of being penalized within their own fields? As an example, Ken Zucker, a world-renowned Canadian gender expert, was fired from CAMH for his “watchful waiting” approach with young gender-dysphoric youth. Today, he could possibly also be prosecuted.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I want to reiterate that we must do something quickly to make sure that what Mr. Nadeau went through never happens again. Nothing should be happening against the person's will.
This bill will allow us to take action and to impose the necessary restrictions. We can then look at whether there are other issues, but for now, we must focus on quickly eliminating conversion therapy, which still exists today, in 2020.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-10-26 13:12 [p.1210]
Madam Speaker, just last year there was a case in which a young man was brought into a workplace that was receiving government assistance. He was confronted about being gay and asked to convert to keep his job. These situations are still real.
How does the hon. member feel about someone like that now having to walk away from a job? They are pursuing it in other ways now, but what would she say to a youth who thought they were going to be working at a dream job, and then actually has to face that circumstance and leave the job?
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague.
It is appalling to think that people are still being discriminated against not only by parents or religious organizations, but also at work.
I sincerely hope that the amendments in this bill are made. I mentioned that it is important to be respected and loved for who we are, and I think this is a step in the right direction for 2020.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-10-26 13:13 [p.1210]
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill C-6 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and on behalf of my constituents in Berthier—Maskinongé.
Members will not be surprised to hear that Bloc Québécois members support this bill, if for no other reason than to show respect for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I must say that I have some mixed feelings. I should be thrilled to see Parliament pass such a bill and finally address this issue. However, it is 2020, and it makes absolutely no sense that this has not yet been addressed. I urge my 337 colleagues to quickly pass this bill, as my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle said so well.
We have a duty to protect and advocate for rights and freedoms. We have a duty to protect the equality of all Quebeckers and Canadians. We must protect them from any form of discrimination, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation.
We must condemn such practices, which deny the very existence of the person and do not respect their core identity. Quebec has a charter of human rights and freedoms that has prohibited all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1977. Quebec has allowed civil unions between same-sex partners since 2002. We are proud of that, but we need to go one step further and respect everyone's gender identity and sexual orientation.
If my colleagues in the House take the time to read up on this and read testimonials, some of which have already been referenced this morning, it quickly becomes apparent that all of these therapies are an appalling form of violence. As my colleagues already know, the Bloc Québécois denounces all forms of violence, without exception.
Conversion therapy is one of them. They are based on a dangerous, demeaning and ineffective pseudoscience promoted by minority groups—I would even say splinter groups—related to some form of religious belief.
I am sure my colleagues would agree that we must respect people's beliefs, but that respect must be reciprocated through respect for individual freedom. As such, there are lines that cannot be crossed.
I applaud the action that the House of Commons is about to take. I also applaud the action of the Government of Quebec, which is preparing to pass similar legislation. I am pleased that the Government of Canada is recognizing, through its bill, that in a democracy, there is reason to affirm collective values and regulate religious practices that go contrary to those values under the law.
This bill seeks to prohibit forcing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will. We also want to prohibit subjecting a child to conversion therapy or doing anything to remove children from Canada to have the them undergo conversion therapy outside the country. We want to prohibit advertising related to conversion therapy and prohibit anyone from receiving material or other benefit from providing conversion therapy.
My colleagues will have noticed that two of those points refer to children. We want to protect children and prevent them from having to endure this torture. That is the duty of any society that claims to be civilized.
Before I became a member of the House of Commons, I was a high school teacher. As such, I am very much aware of how feeling accepted, listened to and supported contributes to personal development. For 25 years, I have witnessed first-hand the upheaval of adolescence, which we all know is not always easy. Some think that it is an impossible challenge, but I have always thrived on challenge.
My thoughts go out to all the young people who are currently questioning their core identity and sexual orientation. We too, all of us, questioned ourselves in that regard when we were their age. These young people are afraid. They are full of doubt and a desire to be “normal”. They want to be popular and accepted by others. When it comes to acceptance, we also need to think about how traumatizing it must be for someone to not be accepted by their own parents and the terrible harm that would cause.
The teen years are extremely important for self-esteem. Teens may be susceptible to depression, they are exposed to tremendous social pressure and they experience a lot of frustration. Most individuals, at some point in their teen years, feel alone in the world and misunderstood by everyone.
We all question ourselves and we all, at some point, feel defiant. Parents who sometimes disapprove of their teen's behaviour should realize that it is actually a positive sign for mental health. These young people are normal, they are challenging things. That is a good thing.
As everyone knows, it is a difficult time in a person's life. Just imagine the trauma of conversion therapy, which scars people. They feel judged by their parents, they may become depressed or suicidal, and so on. The pseudo-science of transformation may appear to be successful, but just imagine how dismal it must be to not express one's true identity, to not live life to the fullest.
Let me say this to the House: it is a loss for that person and a loss for society as a whole. We must live and let live.
I will conclude by talking about my experience as a teacher. I have had the pleasure of seeing people's attitudes and judgments change over the past 25 years. I have seen homosexual relationships being formed and not subjected to the crushing judgment of others. It has been wonderful to see. Today, I am asking that we take one more step forward. Let us guarantee individual freedom.
Earlier, we heard about a young man, Gabriel Nadeau. He said that four people held him while a prophet yelled in his ears and they made him drink holy olive oil. Other accounts describe people who say the Holy Spirit dwells in them and that, in the name of Jesus, they will release the wicked devil. That is ridiculous.
Our civil society must protect youth while respecting general religious beliefs. That is our duty. How can we not be shocked or outraged by such accounts? It is utterly absurd. It is our duty to protect our children from these charlatans. That is our responsibility. Today, I appeal to the dignity of elected members.
It is our responsibility to protect young people regardless of their orientation. Let us be worthy and overwhelmingly support this bill. Statistics show that more than 47,000 men have been subjected to this type of therapy. Many organizations offer this type of therapy for a fee that can run as high as $12,000.
The World Health Organization recognizes these practices as a health threat. The Canadian Psychological Association identified the very serious adverse effects of this practice. I named them earlier: stress, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights described these practices as abusive. Almost every organization around the world agrees that these practices are unacceptable. The report of the Alliance Arc-en-ciel de Québec speaks volumes and shares several accounts of confinement, assault, physical and emotional abuse, parents who failed to protect their child from bodily and mental harm by leaving them with a third party who would torture them. In fact, that is what we are talking about. Let's call a spade a spade. This is torture.
Of course Quebec society and Canadian society are distinct societies. That is a theme that comes up a lot in our speeches. However, these societies also have the privilege of sharing several common values such as the protection of individual rights, protection of the integrity of individuals, and the protection of diversity.
Today I am pleased to see that Quebec's legislative assembly and Canadian Parliament see eye to eye for once. That feels good.
Let's tell the world that being yourself whether you are gay, lesbian, transgender or any other identification is fine; it is normal. This should not even be up for debate in a parliament. Everyone—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
I must stop the member, because his time is up. He will have more time to speak during questions and comments.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his speech.
The member raised a good point. No matter how different our parties are, individual freedoms and the right to life are extremely important in Canada. Although I come from a different party, 17 years ago, I fought for the rights of gays and lesbians and everyone in the LGBTQ2 community to marry.
Today we are saying no to conversion therapy. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the importance of criminalizing this deplorable activity in our community.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-10-26 13:24 [p.1212]
Madam Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague for his heartfelt question. There is a reason that we generally agree on things, and that is because we share the same values.
This is important because there must be consequences for those who torture others. It is as simple as that. There must be consequences if someone fails to protect a child.
We need to send a message. It is all well and good to have legislation, verdicts and consequences, but ultimately, Parliament needs to send a clear message that respect for the individual comes first.
I am sure that my dear colleague would not mind letting me read the last sentence of my speech, because it is quite beautiful. Everyone who finds the strength to love should be able to do so freely.
View Tamara Jansen Profile
Madam Speaker, in the case of one YouTuber, Elle Palmer, she started taking testosterone at the age of 16. She struggled for many years with issues of self-hatred and, in her words, began the process of transitioning, not in order to look more masculine but in order to hide elements of her body. In her opinion, transitioning was the ultimate form of self-harm. She wanted to change everything about herself and did not see a future in which she could ever be happy in her own body. At the time, she did not realize it was possible to not hate her body.
Right now Bill C-6 would criminalize someone like Elle for sharing her transition story. Does the member suggest that we need to restrict her free, respectful and exploratory speech because her story reaches out to others who may be considering de-transition?
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-10-26 13:26 [p.1212]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very relevant question.
It gives me an opportunity to set the record straight and to make a general appeal to the House. I would ask members not to confuse the issue. Of course, there will be cases where people will want to undergo the reverse process. It happens a lot. I know people like that. Last year I taught some students who are currently undergoing this sort of transformation. I know what I am talking about, but I cannot speak for everyone. There will always be exceptions. We are talking here about medical treatment. The age of consent for a medical treatment is under 18. We need to be careful and be sure not to confuse matters.
The law is worded very reasonably. It does a lot to protect children. I gave examples earlier. We are talking about therapy against a person's will. We are not talking about prohibiting an adult from undergoing some kind of treatment. I think this is a very reasonable first step and I invite all members of the House to pass this bill unanimously or at least by a large majority.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I completely agree with him. It was actually inspiring.
I am a member from Montreal and I am proud of that. We have one of the biggest, nicest pride parades every year. In recent years, some people have been wondering whether we even still need the flags, music and floats, but I still hear horror stories. My colleague used the words “charlatan” and “torture”. I do not think those words are too strong to describe what is happening.
Does this not show that there is still a lot of work to do for the LGBTQ2 community and that we need to continue to stand up for the rights of its members?
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-10-26 13:28 [p.1213]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for the nice compliment and for agreeing with me.
People who are open-minded and accept others for who they are sometimes tend to wonder if we still need pride parades after all this time. I would say we do, and for one simple reason: As long as people feel the need to hold such parades, and as long as such concerns persist, awareness raising must continue. The struggle for equal rights is never over.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 today. As always, I look forward to the day that we can all be back in the chamber instead of speaking to pinhole cameras, though I am mindful of the fact that any inconveniences or challenges we face as MPs pale in significance to the impact of COVID on ordinary Canadians who have lost loved ones, lost livelihoods or who are still working on the front lines in this pandemic. These impacts have been even more strongly felt by the most marginalized among us, and especially the community I come from.
I speak today as the NDP spokesperson on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, or SOGIE for short, but I also speak as an out gay man, someone who has been out in public life for nearly three decades. I wish we had a more representative Parliament today when it comes to topics affecting my community, like conversion therapy. Unfortunately, many of those voices we should be hearing from are absent. In the House, we have only four out gay MPs, and we have no out lesbians and no transgender or non-binary MPs. We are short about 30 MPs from my community.
Some jurisdictions have done better. In fact, New Zealand just elected what has been described as the gayest Parliament in the world, at 10% representation. While it is great to celebrate this as a milestone, I might suggest a more accurate headline that goes something like “New Zealand finally elects a Parliament that nears fair representation of the SOGIE community”. Then the story would have to go on to say that the total does not include any trans or non-binary MPs, despite New Zealand having elected the first trans MP in the world, Georgina Beyer, who served from 1999 to 2007.
I also want to give a quick shout-out today to British Columbia, which has just re-elected six SOGIE MLAs. It looks like the number will still be six when the dust settles, but that is about 7% of the legislature again and ties the U.K. This is compared to a mere 1% in the House. That is a hint to both SOGIE individuals and parties when it comes to nominations for the next election, and as someone who is always recruiting, as the gay stereotype goes, I know this remains a challenge.
Why is there a long preamble on representation? I firmly believe that the most diverse parliaments make the best legislation. It is not only that diverse parliaments are likely to have more MPs with lived experience on the topics at hand, although that is true, but that, perhaps more importantly, they will have the networks in the communities they represent and in Canada as a whole to bring those diverse experiences and voices to bear on the matters at hand. Besides, it is also important to remember, as one wag once said, “If you're not at the table, you're much more likely to be on the menu.” Clearly, in this Parliament we have more work to do to make sure diverse voices are heard on the topic of conversion therapy.
When it comes to Bill C-6, which seeks to end the practice of conversion therapy in Canada, I want to start by saying three things, at least two of which should be obvious to all but clearly are not.
The first is that no one in the SOGIE community needs to be fixed because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The prevalence of homophobia and transphobia makes it hard enough for many of us to live authentic lives as who we are, at home, at work and everywhere else in our daily lives. The very idea that we can or need to be fixed, which is fundamental to the concept of conversion therapy, only serves to reinforce homophobia and transphobia. The idea that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity could possibly be changed is especially problematic for those who, early in their lives, are still working their way toward figuring out exactly who they are. For queer youth, the idea they need to be fixed can and does contribute to both self-hate and fear of rejection by family and friends, both very damaging to mental health.
The second thing that should be obvious, which I think is to most people, is that certain sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions are not better than others. It is certainly not appropriate for governments to prefer some sexual orientations and gender identities over others. Nor is it appropriate to disadvantage or fail to protect some of our citizens because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. All of us are equally deserving of equal protection under the law, and that is the essence of the issues raised in Bill C-6.
Finally, the third thing I want to raise at the outset of this debate is apparently less well understood, though it is a clearly established fact. It is impossible to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and as a result, conversion therapy is harmful to those who are subjected to it.
As for the outcomes of these practices, whether they are called conversion therapy, reparative therapy, aversion therapy or gender affirming therapy, those names do not really matter: The results are always the same. There is no change, and those who are subjected to therapy suffer from outcomes that include guilt and shame, depression, social isolation and often self-harm or even death by suicide.
Fortunately, I was never subjected to conversion therapy, though some in my own family were anything but accepting. I recognize now, ironically, that attempts to beat the gay out of me may have been actually less harmful in the long run than being subjected to conversion therapy. That is because the overt violence allowed me to focus the resulting anger and hostility outward rather than inward on myself.
Frankly, it is hard to imagine that some of the torture that was carried out in the past, under the name of therapy, ever actually took place. Far too many Canadians were subjected to barbaric practices, such as electroshock therapy, chemical castration and even exorcism, as we heard today. It is equally hard for me to accept the idea that conversion therapy should still be going on in Canada to this day, no less harmful in its results, even if somewhat less brutal sometimes in its means.
The fact that conversion therapy is harmful to those subjected to it is the reason this pernicious practice has been condemned internationally and domestically by health professionals. More than eight years ago, on May 17, 2012, on the 22nd anniversary of the removal of homosexuality from the list of recognized mental disorders, the World Health Organization issued a statement labelling conversion therapy to be “a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.”
Eight years ago, the World Health Organization called for action at the national level to ban and place sanctions on conversion therapy. No organization of health professionals in Canada currently approves of or allows the practice of conversion therapy. No provincial health plans allow for the practice of conversion therapy as part of the public health care system.
Conversion therapy is no longer supposed to be taking place within the formal health care system in this country, yet we know that it still goes on in the shadows. Not only is it taking place in Canada, but some Canadians are still being sent for conversion therapy in the United States. A report on conversion therapy in Canada was published in February of this year. It surveyed over 7,200 gay, bisexual and two-spirit men. More than 20% reported being subjected to some form of conversion therapy. When it comes to transgender and non-binary Canadians, the numbers approach 50%.
It is one thing to know from formal studies that this is still taking place, but it is quite another to hear the brave survivors who have come forward to tell their stories of the harm they suffered as a result. I encourage all MPs to listen carefully to those stories.
When it comes to Bill C-6, let me say again, as we did last March and when the bill was reintroduced recently, the New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-6 at second reading. What the bill does can briefly be summarized as follows. It specifically criminalizes subjecting minors to conversion therapy and transporting minors out of Canada for the purpose of conversion therapy. It criminalizes subjecting adults to conversion therapy against their will, and it criminalizes what we call the business of conversion therapy.
The main strength of Bill C-6 is its focus on youth, for it is young people who conversion therapy is almost always directed against. It is young people who suffer the greatest harm from the attempts to force them to be someone they are not.
Its second strength is the suite of comprehensive measures to ban the practice or promotion of the business of conversion therapy, which would help ensure the practice is actually shut down by making it illegal to charge for, to profit from or to advertise conversion therapy for both minors and adults. The bill contains significant power to seek court orders to remove offending materials from online platforms.
Let me stop here for a moment to address the reddest of red herrings concerning this bill. This is the “what about” argument: “What about the rights of others?” and in particular, “What about the rights of others whose religious freedoms might be infringed by this bill?” For me, it is always a red flag when I hear arguments that start with “what about”. The resort to what about-ism is rarely about promoting real dialogue, and is instead usually a diversionary tactic to take the argument onto grounds that what about-ers think will make it easier for them to win the argument. What I am saying is that arguments that start with “what about” are most often exercises in distraction rather than attempts to confront the real issues before us.
Clause 5 of Bill C-6 says clearly that the definition of “conversion therapy” in the bill does not refer to “a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.” This means that there is nothing in the bill that prevents parents from talking to their children about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nothing in the bill prevents spiritual leaders from discussing these topics with their followers. Nothing in the bill prohibits anyone from holding bigoted and outdated ideas about sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. What it does prevent is taking those beliefs and ideas and turning them into hateful and harmful practices disguised as “therapy”. How the bill is an appropriate bill for a free vote is a question that I will continue to have for my Conservative colleagues.
Returning to the NDP position on the bill, again, as I have said, we will support it at second reading. However, we do believe the bill can and should be improved. What are those improvements we are looking for?
First, we would like to see the government respond positively to the demand from the SOGIE community for a full ban on conversion therapy, a ban for adults as well as for children.
The minister has made the argument previously that his goal here is to have a bill that is charter challenge proof. His solution has been to design Bill C-6 to avoid possible charter challenges by focusing on non-consenting adults, minors and the “business” of conversion therapy. It sets aside the question of so-called “consenting adults.”
This is a good argument in that I do believe the bill would survive a charter challenge as the provisions around the business of conversion therapy included will result in an effective ban on the practice for consenting adults, at least when it comes to paid services. However, a total ban would also survive a charter challenge. I would very much like to see any legal opinions that the government might have saying that it would not.
In brief, my argument here is that there is an equally compelling charter argument that it is a reasonable limit on fundamental rights to prohibit anyone from giving consent to a practice that is clearly harmful to those subjected to it. Without going too far down the legal rabbit hole here, there is parallel jurisprudence that has upheld restrictions on things like fight clubs, which leads me to conclude that a full ban would also be found charter compliant.
The second and perhaps more significant area in which the bill can be improved is in the language used to define what conversion therapy is. The language in Bill C-6 is actually pretty good when it comes to the traditional conversion therapy practice directed at sexual orientation. I am also glad that there is language in the bill attempting to ensure it covers banning conversion therapy directed at trans and non-binary Canadians.
This kind of practice is often styled as “gender-affirming therapy” or “transition treatment” or other such positive-sounding names. However, this is where the language in the bill is not so good. The committee will need to have a close look at this clause of the bill to ensure it is as comprehensive and up to date with current practice as possible when it comes to so-called therapies aimed at transgender and non-binary Canadians.
Now let me address a bit of revisionist history that has crept into the discussion of the bill. I want to take a moment to remind the House how we got here to second reading on a bill to ban conversion therapy. Of course elected officials have played a role, but not everyone who is on side now was always there.
Former Saskatoon West NDP MP Sheri Benson, the only out lesbian in the previous Parliament, sponsored petition e-1833 in the last Parliament, which called on the government to ban conversion therapy. That petition received nearly 20,000 signatures. When the petition was presented to the government in March of 2019, the Liberal government said it would take no action as it argued conversion therapy was a provincial responsibility.
In his 2019 Pride message, the NDP Leader, the member for Burnaby South, called for a ban as part of the NDP Platform. The Liberals still refused to budge. Then on September 29, in the midst of the election campaign just over a year ago, the Prime Minister suddenly changed course and promised a federal ban on conversion therapy. His December 2019 mandate letter for the justice minister included instructions to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy. I thank the minister for doing so and I welcome this conversion. I have no doubt also in the sincerity of his intentions to get a bill through this Parliament, which will end this practice.
However, let me stress today as always that no progress on SOGIE rights has ever taken place that has not been fought for by courageous members of our community and no place has that role been more important than in the case of brave conversion therapy survivors who have stepped up to tell their stories. Without them, the rest of us might have gone on blithely assuming that formal professional condemnation of conversion therapy was enough and had actually stopped this practice.
I cannot name all those who have spoken up, but let me quickly point to two who have helped deepen my understanding of how harmful this practice can be and how it continues to go on. I thank Erika Muse and Matt Ashcroft for speaking boldly and publicly.
There are days when the younger me is still surprised that I can stand in the House of Commons and speak as an openly gay man, and even more surprised that I do so as an official party spokesperson on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. However, there are also days when I am discouraged about the long distance we still have to go to reach full equality and acceptance, especially for transgender and non-binary Canadians. There are also days when I am hopeful that we will soon see more MPs from my community, including trans and non-binary representatives. We need those diverse voices in the House and young Canadians need to see those role models.
It is time to act and in fact long past the time to bring an end to this harmful practice. As welcome as new laws banning the practice are, new laws alone will not be sufficient to repair the past damage from conversion therapy nor combat the hate that underlies these practices. The government will need to fund capacity building within the SOGIE community so these challenges can be addressed by our community ourselves. Unfortunately, for some from our community it is far too late and they will never be able to be brought back to us.
I look forward to the speedy passage of the bill so we can get on with the important work of healing. I look forward to the day when we can say that all forms of conversion therapy have been banned from Canada and are no longer practised. I look forward to the day we can fully celebrate the full range of sexual and gender diversity in our country.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2020-10-26 13:46 [p.1216]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for a very strong and principled speech. I would expect nothing less from him on this topic, in fact on virtually every topic he stands on. He challenges us in his comments. I am not going to ask a question about his comments; they stand for themselves and are well reasoned.
My question for him is simply this. Those of us who want to see the day realized have work to do with him. I would like to know from his perspective what the next steps Parliament, in fact Canada, needs to take to realize that vision and dream of his of full equality and what he challenges us as Parliamentarians to take up in battle with him to ensure that all members of his community enjoy the full rights to which he speaks.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, I know we do not have time enough in response to really answer that question. It is one of the reasons I focused on representation in my speech today. I look forward to the day we have a more representational House on all grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Conversion therapy is an urgent matter because unfortunately these harms are taking place regularly within our society. I would like to see the bill pass expeditiously and be in force by the end of the year, if we can possibly manage that.
View Scott Aitchison Profile
View Scott Aitchison Profile
2020-10-26 13:48 [p.1216]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his advocacy, his bravery and his words today. I really do appreciate it.
I wanted to give the member an opportunity to provide a bit more to his comments relating to a charter challenge and ensuring this important legislation, which bans something truly heinous and wrong, is not the subject of a charter challenge in the courts. I felt he had to speak to it too quickly and wanted to give him an opportunity to speak a bit more about the importance of protecting this from a charter challenge.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, unfortunately I believe that no matter what we do the bill will be challenged in court because of the prevalence of homophobia and transphobia. Yes, I agree that it is important we write the best bill we can, but we cannot write a bill that deals with the questions of the whataboutisms to which I referred.
The bill is about ending a harmful practice directed at members of my community. To put it in the most simple terms, the charter is subject to reasonable limits. One of those reasonable limits is the rights of others stop at the harm that is done to me. Therefore, I believe this bill will ultimately survive any charter challenge.
View Denis Trudel Profile
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-10-26 13:50 [p.1216]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent, very moving and very eloquent speech on this issue.
I have to admit that until just a few weeks ago, I did not even know that conversion therapy was allowed in Canada. I did not think that such a barbaric practice could exist. I am so glad that we are passing legislation today to prohibit it, or at least moving in that direction. I do not even find this to be an especially progressive bill. Today we are simply bringing Canada into the 20th century. Now we need to go even further.
My colleague mentioned something that was very interesting, picking up on something my colleague across the aisle asked about. In New Zealand, 20% of elected representatives are homosexual; in Canada, it is only 2%. Is there something we can do about that from a legislative standpoint? Are there any measures we could bring forward? How did New Zealand achieve that level of representation?
I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, again, the member's belief that this was not taking place in Canada is representative of the beliefs of many Canadians. I want to thank the conversion therapy survivors, both in Quebec and in English-speaking Canada, who have told their stories and allowed us to realize this actually goes on.
As for New Zealand, about 10% of the new parliament is representative of the SOGIE community. How did they do that? Again, I am always recruiting. What I say is that the best protection for any community in Canadian society and the best way to get representation is to be out and proud of who we are, at work, at home, in all the social groups, in our church, wherever. If we are presenting ourselves as who we really are, that will help Canadians understand that all of us share the same basic humanity.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for having this voice that needs to be represented. I could not agree more that it needs to be more represented. I welcome all people of diverse backgrounds to engage in politics. It is important that we do this work so we make the space for them.
I wonder if the member could talk a bit more about how secretive this can be. One of the things that concerns me is this terminology of body affirming therapy, which really is a way of hiding the toxic nature. Can we be talking more about how that does not happen to anyone from this community?
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, that is an important question. The first thing we need to do is listen to those transgender and non-binary Canadians who have been subjected to what is often labelled with these positive sounding names like “gender affirming” or “transition therapy”, which sound like they will be helpful when they are actually quite harmful. I am hopeful that in committee we will be able to hear from those brave survivors who can help us understand how this takes place.
The question of the shadowy nature is very important. As I said in response to the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry on his comments concerning private conversations. This concerns me. Conversion therapy goes on in the shadows. I worry that if we open the door to protecting so-called private conversations, we are opening the door for this conversion therapy to continue in those shadowy areas.
We will have those discussions at committee, but I would like to see a stronger bill that has a complete ban of conversion therapy in it.
View Pat Kelly Profile
View Pat Kelly Profile
2020-10-26 13:54 [p.1217]
Madam Speaker, the member touched on part of my question, so I will let him continue. I completely support what the bill says that it would do and the remarks from the minister this morning.
However, I would like the member to comment further on the suggestion by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. The member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke said that he considers some of the whataboutisms to be red herrings, yet would it not be better to craft a bill that is stronger and better and that would just undercut some of the red-herring arguments that have been made?
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, the thing about red herrings is that they take us away from the harm we are trying to address. They bring in lots of theoretical problems and theoretical discussions about rights that are not the real topic of the bill.
I say yes to a strong bill, and yes to a clear bill. However, I am not wanting to qualify this bill in order to respond to the people raising what I believe are somewhat extraneous concerns.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, it has been a pleasure to work with my colleague on a variety of issues. We share a strong opposition to conversion therapy. I have some concerns about the definition of the bill as written. I want to clarify the member's views on this point.
Let us say that an Orthodox rabbi, an imam or a Catholic priest expresses the sincerely held view that sexual activity should be limited to within a heterosexual marriage. I understand many of us in the House might disagree with that view. However, if someone expresses that view, should that person be subject to criminal sanction?
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, the hon. member's question brings a very large red herring into the room. Nothing in the bill would criminalize comment on sexual orientation or gender identity by spiritual leaders. When we take those outdated ideas of what it means to be gay or transgender and try to turn them into a so-called therapy that is applied to people, that is what we are criminalizing in the bill. We are not criminalizing people's thoughts or opinions. We are criminalizing a practice that is harmful to Canadians.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Randeep Sarai Profile
2020-10-26 13:57 [p.1217]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne. I also want to thank the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who gave a very passionate speech on this and shared his own life experiences. I really appreciated it and received a lot of insight from that.
It is my pleasure to voice support for Bill C-6, which proposes Criminal Code amendments aimed at ending so-called conversion therapy in Canada. The bill proposes the same reforms as those proposed in former Bill C-8. They underscore the government's continuing commitment to ban an inherently discriminatory practice. Conversion therapy harms the well-being, dignity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians by proposing that they can and should change their sexual orientation or gender identity, a fundamental and immutable part of their identity.
Diversity is what makes Canada a great country. Respecting and valuing differences defines us as Canadians. I am proud to support a bill that reflects these fundamental Canadian values. Conversion therapy's origins explain why it is an inherently discriminatory practice. The practice comes from a time when any sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and any gender identity other than cisgender, would have been considered a sickness or a disease that required repairing. It just seems obvious to say that a therapy founded on ignorance and prejudice toward the targeted recipients also harms them.
We need to acknowledge these harms because they are documented by the evidence. Not only does relevant research show that conversion therapy causes significant harm to those subjected to it, it also shows that the practice disproportionately harms children. That is why Bill C-6 proposes comprehensive protections for children.
Bill C-6 would define conversion therapy as any “practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour”. This means that gender affirming therapies or interventions, including for children whose identity is not congruent with their biological sex, do not constitute conversion therapy. This is primarily because the objective is not to change anything about the person receiving the therapy, but rather to support their identity exploration and development.
To be clear, we want to protect children from illegitimate treatments, not prevent them from accessing treatment that provides them with the support they need. Supporting children who may not conform to heteronormative standards also means protecting them from practices that harm their development and exploration of self. That is precisely what Bill C-6 does.
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2020-10-26 14:00 [p.1218]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to state that I hosted the third annual Hindu Heritage Day on Parliament Hill, virtually, last Saturday.
Hindu Heritage Day on the Hill is done to highlight the contribution of Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world known to mankind. This is also an opportunity to educate Canadians on Hindu heritage and its importance in the fields of art, culture, science, astronomy, medicine and many other areas.
Hindu Heritage Day is also an occasion to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the contributions of Hindu Canadians to our great country. Hindus arrived in Canada from different parts of the world and have immensely contributed to the socio-economic development of Canadian society and economy.
View Robert Kitchen Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise today to highlight the incredible work being done right here in Canada and around the world on carbon capture and storage technology, CCS. CCS is being utilized to significantly reduce emissions created by power-generating stations and industrial emitters through the capturing and sequestering of CO2 underground.
This innovative green technology can be utilized by numerous industries, such as cement and steel, to drastically cut their emissions while also creating jobs. Indeed, many other countries have recognized the value of CCS. In September, the International Energy Agency released a special report, which is said to be the most comprehensive global study of CCS to date. It stated, “Carbon capture is critical for ensuring our transitions to clean energy are secure and sustainable”.
The government needs to make sure that Canada is providing the right incentives for industry investment when it comes to CCS. An investment in CCS is an investment in the future of Canada's environment and well-being.
My thanks to the Boundary Dam Power Station for being a great leader in this technology.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mike Kelloway Profile
2020-10-26 14:02 [p.1218]
Madam Speaker, it is with great sadness that I speak in the House today in honour of Harvey Lewis, a strong community leader in Cape Breton—Canso, who passed away this month.
A proud citizen of Louisbourg for all of his life, Mr. Lewis knew what it meant to be community-minded. He served as mayor from 1979 through 1988 and held many other positions of leadership within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. He co-chaired the Louisbourg ’95 Commemoration Society, served as chairman of the Cape Breton school board and held regional positions on boards serving vulnerable populations. Mr. Lewis even worked in Ottawa at the National Research Council during the Second World War, before returning to Louisbourg to join his family business.
On behalf of Cape Breton constituents and members of the House, I offer my sincere condolences to his family and to the community of Louisbourg. Those who knew Mr. Lewis well knew him as a kind, generous and patient man, and as somebody who always thought deeply about what was right. He held firm to those principles. It is my hope that we can carry forward Mr. Lewis's principles about putting community first and thinking deeply about what is right for our communities.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-10-26 14:03 [p.1218]
Mr. Speaker, after teaching a lesson on freedom of expression, history and geography teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist. France was justly outraged, and this vile and barbaric act was vigorously and roundly condemned. A national memorial service was held for Mr. Paty, and all of France showed its solidarity. Banners stating “I am a teacher” could be seen at many candlelight vigils.
By murdering Samuel Paty, the terrorists were attacking freedom of expression. The Quebec National Assembly lowered its flag as a sign of support for France, and Quebec parliamentarians observed a minute of silence at the instigation of Liberal member Marwah Rizqy.
On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Paty's friends and family and to our friends in France.
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2020-10-26 14:04 [p.1219]
Mr. Speaker, branches of the Canadian Legion have been in serious financial difficulty since the start of the pandemic. The poppy campaign will get under way on October 30. I encourage all my colleagues to support their local branch by purchasing a poppy and wearing it proudly. On Saturday, October 31, my team and I will be at one of the booths of Orléans Legion Branch 632 to help with its fundraising campaign.
To comply with health guidance, the legion has changed how it sells poppies by setting up four outdoor sales locations over four days. People will be able to drive up to the booths to purchase poppies or lawn signs, a featured item this year.
In closing, I wish to thank our Canadian Legions for their strength, resilience and community spirit.
View Dan Mazier Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise to thank and recognize the constituents of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for their extraordinary response to the challenges of COVID-19. As I have said before, it is an honour and a privilege to represent them in the House each and every day. This was further proved by their flexibility, willpower and commitment to protecting their families, friends and communities by slowing the spread of COVID-19. Over the past few months, they have demonstrated exceptional leadership, working together as rural Canadians always do. They have saved lives, protected the most vulnerable and supported our front-line workers like never before. For that I sincerely commend them.
Going forward, it is critical that we continue to do our part. We must remain vigilant and follow the advice of our public health officials in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is not a time to relax our commitment and forfeit our tremendous hard work.
View Ramesh Sangha Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ramesh Sangha Profile
2020-10-26 14:07 [p.1219]
Mr. Speaker, in recognition of the brutal killing of youth by the Nigerian authorities, and on behalf of the Canadian Nigerian community, I would like to express my deep concern here today in the House.
This act of brutality has shaken the entire Nigerian community not only in my riding but all over Canada, and they have expressed their concern to me. In 2017, during my visit to Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, and upon interacting with youth, I realized that they wanted their country to flourish for the better.
Abuse of power has no place in the global community. Those responsible for cruel human rights violations must be brought to justice and held accountable.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 14:08 [p.1219]
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to recognize a very special group of people. I am talking about live-in caregivers: our home-care service providers.
Over the year, they perform all sorts of tasks that enable people to remain in their homes, improving the quality of life for Canadians in all regions of our country. They often provide the type of care that is necessary for people to be able to go to work. In general, they make our communities a better place, because of their sense of dedication and love of caring for people.
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation, and appreciation on behalf of the Government of Canada, for the fine work that they do, day in and day out, for all Canadians.
View Ted Falk Profile
View Ted Falk Profile
2020-10-26 14:08 [p.1219]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is drowning in ethics scandals and conflicts of interest, such as SNC-Lavalin and WE Charity. Most recently, it awarded a $237-million contract for ventilators to a shell company for a former Liberal MP. There was no call for bids and the price per unit was $10,000 more than it should have been. That is a $100 million signing bonus for a Liberal insider.
What else bothers me is just how little coverage this has been given by the CBC: a single passing reference in a single article. The CBC already receives $1.2 billion from taxpayers. Now the Liberals are teeing it up for an additional $34 million. Despite the obvious public interest in investigating this latest Liberal ethics lapse, the CBC is nowhere to be found. This is both frustrating and concerning. Taxpayers deserve value for their money. They do not need another broadcaster propping up the corrupt Liberal government.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, last fall, the Hon. Frank McKenna made a generous contribution of $1 million to the University of Moncton in order to create the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership. On Friday, this centre celebrated its official opening.
The centre's mission is to build the next generation of leaders in Acadia by enabling students to take part in a training program that explores very important themes such as leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. The centre will also give them the opportunity to complete their university degree while participating in activities to prepare for the job market and gain unforgettable experience on the ground in civic and social engagement.
As a University of Moncton alumna, I want to thank Frank McKenna's family for all their contributions to our university.
View Damien Kurek Profile
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-10-26 14:10 [p.1220]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to Stan Schumacher, who passed away this past month at the age of 87. Stan was a political institution from east central Alberta, who served as both a member of Parliament and a member of the Alberta legislative assembly. He also served as speaker in the Alberta legislature, where he could always be counted on to stand up for our parliamentary institutions and democracy. Stan was also a veteran, having served in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. After retiring from elected politics, he continued his law practice and remained a constant voice for his community and grassroots politics. This was where I got to know and appreciate Stan, where we could always count on his voice of experience.
Today, on behalf of the people of Battle River—Crowfoot, I want to pay tribute to Stan's life of service and the impact he made on our region, Alberta and Canada. I share condolences with his wife, Virginia, his family and friends, and the communities he spent his entire life serving.
View Tracy Gray Profile
View Tracy Gray Profile
2020-10-26 14:11 [p.1220]
Mr. Speaker, entrepreneurs across the country are struggling just to get by during the pandemic, with female entrepreneurs being hit particularly hard and with Liberals continually getting emergency programs wrong. These are women like Angie, who is a professional hairstylist. In order to meet safety protocols, her salon is using a three-day work week rotation. She also has to now work 12-hour days, taking her away from her family, to bring in revenue that would normally take eight hours. This is because stacking is not being allowed, which is when one rotates between two clients at a time for efficiency. Women like Heather, who is a professional registered massage therapist, similarly have to work longer days to due to client distancing and cleaning protocols. She is a self-employed health care provider whose hourly rates are regulated, and she receives no PPE assistance. Both of these self-employed women are not eligible for any programs unless they dramatically reduce booking their long-time loyal clients.
It is obvious the Liberals do not understand the working environments of these entrepreneurs. Instead of focusing right now on ways to avoid scrutiny for their scandals, they should be focusing on fixing programs so Angie and Heather, and other Canadian women like them, can stop falling through the cracks.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
Mr. Speaker, this past summer I sent a letter to the people of northwest B.C. asking them what concerned them most. A huge percentage listed the climate crisis as an urgent concern. The throne speech promised a climate plan immediately, yet it has been over a month. The Prime Minister promised two billion trees would be planted, yet a year later we have zero. Now he seems to think Canada needs an election. Time is ticking. We need every day, every hour and every minute to fight the climate crisis.
While other countries invest heavily in a sustainable pandemic response, Canada is being left behind. We have the people we need. We have the ideas we need. We are only lacking the political will on the part of the government for urgent climate action: action that measures up to the magnitude of the challenge before us and that allows us to look our kids in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could with the time that we had.
View Louise Charbonneau Profile
View Louise Charbonneau Profile
2020-10-26 14:14 [p.1220]
Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge Michel Letarte for his exceptional contribution to the Trois-Rivières community.
Mr. Letarte was a police officer for nearly 30 years and became known for his community involvement and his infectious humour and kindness. He owns an eco-friendly cycling company and has stepped up to help the Artisans de la paix en Mauricie with their food deliveries. He has also been a professional singer for 20 years. Mr. Letarte is also a founder of a growing movement in Quebec. The events industry is a cultural tool whose primary purpose is to promote this sector, which has been hit hard by the public health crisis. Mr. Letarte is a model of perseverance and generosity.
On behalf of the people of Trois-Rivières, I want to thank Michel.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
Mr. Speaker, we have seen Canadians all across this great country step forward to help out with responding to COVID-19. Businesses have adapted, with many of them retooling and refocusing on producing the PPE and medical equipment our country needs. Sadly, there are people in my riding and region who are ready for the job, but they were not picked for the Liberals' team Canada approach.
My constituent, Brad, wanted to manufacture PPE. While bidding for a contract, he first had to prove his production capacity. Then he was left with no deal and $300,000 worth of equipment lying around. Meanwhile, companies with Liberal connections are having no problem. Former MP Frank Baylis only had to prove he was a Liberal before he was part of a $237 million contract. His is not the only questionable case of a Liberal insider who was offered a massive contract.
Canadians are struggling, and they are sick and tired of seeing a Liberal government prioritize its friends and supporters in business. Canadians deserve better.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2020-10-26 14:17 [p.1221]
Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of Sudburians and all Canadians in many ways, including their mental health.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month. As Canadians, we must take care of our mental health just as we take care of our physical health. The three pillars of mental health are sleep, nutrition and exercise. We must eat healthy food at regular times, incorporate regular physical activity into our day and make sleep a priority. As all northern Ontarians know, getting outside for fresh air improves both physical and psychological well-being.
Small changes can play a big part in reducing stress, building confidence and increasing energy. Instead of focusing on what they cannot control, people should focus on what they can control.
If help is needed, one can look up cmha.ca for mental health services and supports nearby. There is no health without mental health.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Following discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, I understand that there is an agreement to observe a moment of silence in memory of teacher Samuel Paty, who was killed in France on October 16, 2020.
I invite hon. members to rise.
[A moment of silence observed]
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2020-10-26 14:18 [p.1221]
Mr. Speaker, on Friday the government put out an urgent news release on the fisheries crisis at 10:18 p.m. Nova Scotia time. It appointed a former Liberal politician to cover up its inaction on the fishery issue. The only thing the two sides agree on is that the fisheries minister is failing Nova Scotia.
We are months into this crisis. When is the government finally going to take the lives and livelihoods of Nova Scotians seriously?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia and, I believe, the people of all of Canada strongly agree on one thing, and that is that all of us want a peaceful, constructive solution to the fisheries dispute in Nova Scotia. All of us appreciate the huge priority of honouring the rights of indigenous people and first nations in our country. All of us also understand the importance of conservation. That is the approach our government will take.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2020-10-26 14:20 [p.1221]
Mr. Speaker, the rights of indigenous Canadians are important. That is why it is disappointing the Prime Minister once again walked back a promise to end all boil water advisories on indigenous reserves by the end of 2021. Test results have revealed harmful substances in the water at Neskantaga, which has led to a full-scale evacuation of the community. As winter begins to set in in northwestern Ontario, the people of Neskantaga have been forced to flee their homes. All of this after having lived with boil water advisories for 25 years.
How many more walk backs will there be from the Prime Minister? To show that he cares, will he get it done?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to hear the leader of the official opposition talk about the importance of ending boil water advisories. I noted that he spoke about how this problem has been going on for 25 years. That is a time of both Liberal and Conservative governments.
I would say we have a shared responsibility, all members in this House, to address the huge historical injustices against indigenous people. We are working hard to end the boil water advisories, and we will end them.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2020-10-26 14:21 [p.1222]
Mr. Speaker, the government's new tone on China always comes with conditions. In the House the foreign minister is all bluster, but he then issues a statement claiming his change in tone is the result of political cycles. On Sunday the health minister said that if China misled the world about COVID-19, it should be held accountable. The rest of the world knows Beijing held back critical information. Only the minister seems to have some doubt.
Why does the government find it so hard to face the facts when it comes to communist China?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I do not find it hard to face the facts about authoritarian communist regimes. I have lived in one, and I have reported on them extensively. When it comes to China, let me say a few things.
First and foremost, our government is standing up for the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. Let me say to them that we are with them. They are Canadian and our government will always support them. Let me also say how appalled our government is by the treatment of Uighurs. We are going to speak up for human rights everywhere in the world.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2020-10-26 14:22 [p.1222]
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health always took the Chinese communist regime at its word regarding its handling of the pandemic. All of our allies say that the figures from China are false. Because of this inaccurate information, our country was not prepared for the pandemic. Now, the minister says that China must be held accountable if the figures are incorrect.
How much longer will the minister keep defending China, and when will she admit she was wrong?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important for all members of the House to be aware of the difference between a democracy and an authoritarian country. Democracies are more transparent.
I want to stress the importance of the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong right now. We are with them, and our government will always be with them.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2020-10-26 14:23 [p.1222]
Mr. Speaker, in French, the Deputy Prime Minister just informed us that the difference between a democracy and a communist country is transparency.
This is from a government that was about to force an election rather than answer some reasonable questions on the WE scandal. This is from a government that suggested the health committee looking into the pandemic would shut down our economy.
My question is this: Is the Deputy Prime Minister going to vote in favour of transparency and democracy later today, or will she follow the leader's basic admiration for dictatorship?
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