Central Alberta Pride Society is calling out Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen and Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins for voting against legislation banning the controversial practice of conversion therapy. (Advocate file photo)

Central Alberta Pride Society is calling out Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen and Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins for voting against legislation banning the controversial practice of conversion therapy. (Advocate file photo)

Central Alberta MPs who voted against conversion therapy ban criticized

MP Earl Dreeshen says party supports a ban but proposed legislation was flawed

Central Alberta Pride Society is calling out two central Alberta MPs who voted against bill banning conversion therapy.

Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen and Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins were among 62 Conservative MPs and a former Conservative MP turned Independent who voted against the legislation that would ban the widely condemned practice of trying to change someone’s LGBTQ identity to heterosexual.

Dreeshen said the party supports a ban on conversion therapy but the proposed legislation did not adequately protect Canadians’ rights.

The final vote was 263-63 in favour of Bill C-6. Conversion therapy can include talk therapy, hypnosis, fasting and even the use of electric shocks.

Bobbi-Jo L’Hirondelle, vice-chair of the Central Alberta Pride Society was pleased that the legislation passed which will make forced conversion therapy a criminal offence.

“This is a win for the youth of tomorrow, they may not have to face some of the horrors that our community has seen and endured,” said L’Hirondelle in a statement.

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“It also speaks volumes to know that MPs from our own backyard do not support our safety or well-being, it makes me feel like the LGBTQ+ community is seen as less than and not equal, not as their neighbours, friends, or family.

“We have been in a fight for our rights for many years and it’s still a fight today, but it’s a fight that we are not willing to give up on as we deserve the same rights as the next person.

“We are all equal. We are all human.”

Dreeshen said in a statement that he and the other members of his party “have been clear in our opposition to conversion therapy and attempts to forcibly change a person’s sexual orientation.

“From the beginning, we advocated to ensure the bill properly bans those practices. At committee, we introduced an amendment to Bill C-6 that would better clarify the definition of conversion therapy in the bill to target coercive practices, based on language from the Department of Justice’s own website.”

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Dreeshen said the party heard from Canadians, including members of the medical community, who were concerned about the broadness of the definition of conversion therapy.

“Unfortunately, the Liberals ignored reasonable efforts to build a consensus and strengthen the bill. That is the sole reason why I voted against passage of Bill C-6 at third reading,” adding amendments were designed to protect the rights of Canadians.

Amendments proposed by the Conservatives were designed to protect the rights of Canadians “by not criminalizing private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed.

“This would include cases where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

 “Canada’s Conservatives are committed to ensuring protections are in place to ban conversion therapy in Canada and that the law targets coercive practices, and not conversations, as the Justice Department says the bill is intended to do.

“We know conversion therapy needs to be banned. After six years, the Liberal government could not properly achieve this goal in a way that protects the rights of all Canadians. But I want to assure you that Canada’s Conservatives will do so.”

Calkins was not available for comment Thursday.

Red Deer city council voted to condemn conversion therapy in March 2020 following a divisive debate. Councillors opposed to the motion argued it could be seen as government overreach and potentially infringed on rights of free speech and expression.

This is the same position Alberta government has taken by making conversion therapy illegal in the province.

Rocky Mountain House banned conversion therapy within town limits in February 2020.



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