Viersen votes against ban on conversion therapy

Peace River – Westlock MP Arnold Viersen leads the weekly singing of O Canada in the House of Commons on Oct. 28.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen was one of only seven Conservative MPs who voted against a Liberal bill banning conversion therapy on Oct. 28.

Conversion therapy is the debunked practice of forcing children or adults into therapy that claims to change or “cure” a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

The Canadian Psychological Association says there is no scientific evidence that conversion therapy works, but instead there is evidence that it causes harm to LGBTQ individuals, including trauma, depression and suicidal ideation.

Methods used may include such extremes as using electroshock or other negative stimuli to make those in the therapy associate their sexuality or gender with discomfort or pain, a practice LGBTQA advocates have likened to abuse or torture.

The new bill will criminalize the practice across Canada and also make it illegal to profit from providing conversion therapy or advertising it as a service.

Ontario’s provincial legislature already unanimously passed a ban on conversion therapy in 2015.

New Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole allowed a free vote on Bill C-6, and although he voted in favour of the bill himself, other MPs who voted against the bill include Prince George- Peace River- Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer, Ontario MP Derek Sloan, Manitoba MP Ted Falk, and Albertan MPs Tom Kmiec, Damien Kurek, and Jeremy Patzer.

On Twitter, groundbreaking Canadian singer songwriter k.d. Lang responded, “How terribly sad for them. Ignorance is not an easy thing to live with.”

Former leader Andrew Scheer was not present for the vote, and neither was Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin. They were among 18 Conservatives who didn’t vote on the bill.

Three Liberal MPs didn’t vote, one of whom was the Speaker and one of whom was getting surgery. Of those who were present for the vote, two Conservative MPs abstained.

In a follow-up statement released on Oct. 29, Viersen wrote, “I want to be clear that I am opposed to the practice of conversion therapy and support efforts to eliminate it. Many of the conversion therapies used over the years were degrading, harmful and attack the very core of human dignity.”

However, Viersen wants the definition of conversion therapy in the bill to “ensure no one is denied the freedom of pursuing the help and counselling they choose and conversations with parents and councillors are not criminalized.”

The bill easily passed second reading with a wide majority.

All Liberal, New Democrat, Bloc Quebecois, Green and Independent MPs supported the bill.

“If the Liberals propose or adopt amendments at committee that ensure the legal definition says exactly what they claim it means, I would support this bill at third reading,” Viersen says.

Meanwhile, social media giant TikTok announced in a statement on Oct. 21 that it would be removing all content that harms the LGBTQ+ community, including conversion therapy videos.

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