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PFLAG York Region 'encouraged' by MPs' approval of federal bill to ban conversion therapy

'Incredibly disappointing' one York Region Conservative MP voted against Bill C-6, Tristan Coolman says
Tristan Coolman
Tristan Coolman, president Pflag York Region.

The approval in the House of Commons of a bill that would ban "the physical and psychological torture" of conversion therapy is encouraging, but there is still work to do to ensure Canadians are protected regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, according to the president of PFLAG Canada York Region. 

Bill C-6, which would make it a criminal act in Canada for adults to force minors or non-consenting adults in the LGBTQ2+ community to undergo conversion therapy, passed in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon by a vote of 263 to 63, with all but one York Region MP voting in favour.

Tristan Coolman said he had expected that York Region's MPs would vote unanimously in favour of the bill and that Markham-Unionville Conservative MP Bob Saroya's vote against it is "incredibly disappointing."

The majority of the votes against the bill came from the Conservative caucus.

Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen voted in favour of the bill, which is now headed to the Senate.

Prior to the vote, Coolman sent a letter to the local MPs urging them to vote in favour of the bill.

"These practices are happening in Canada as you read this letter. A vote against this bill is a vote to allow these practices to continue through forms of physical and psychological torture that may be unimaginable for some but is an unfortunate reality for many. A vote against this bill is a vote to allow these torturous practices to continue within the (borders) of this country," he wrote.

Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as reparative therapy, is a practice aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of those in the LGBTQ2+ community.

Therapy can include spiritual prayer, electric-shock treatment or medication.

The bill defines conversion therapy as: “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. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates: to a person’s gender transition or; to a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.”

"Conversion therapy is a fraud, said Coolman. "It's individuals who think that they can change the sexual orientation and gender identity of individuals and they take advantage of the uncertain feelings these individuals have growing up in a cis-heteronormative society."

Ontario banned the use of conversion therapy in 2015 but it is still practised throughout the nation.

A national research study reported that as many as 20,000 Canadian men have been subjected to conversion therapy.

The bill must pass in the Senate before receiving royal assent.

PFLAG is a volunteer-led LGBTQ2+ support, resource and education network.