OTTAWA — A Manitoba MP said he missed his chance to halt the fast-tracked ban on anti-gay conversion therapy, arguing his Conservative party “blindsided” him instead of hearing out concerns about the bill.

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This article was published 21/12/2021 (189 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A Manitoba MP said he missed his chance to halt the fast-tracked ban on anti-gay conversion therapy, arguing his Conservative party "blindsided" him instead of hearing out concerns about the bill.

"Before I could process what was happening, the motion had been passed," wrote MP Ted Falk, who represents the Provencher riding of southeastern Manitoba.

"I am deeply disappointed and troubled."

Ottawa enacted a ban on counselling people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity earlier this month, after the Conservative Party of Canada sought unanimous consent Dec. 1 to fast-tracking Bill C-4.

The move avoided a wedge issue that has hurt the Tories in debates on earlier versions of the bill.

A motion for unanimous consent means the House of Commons passes the legislation at all steps, unless a single MP voices their disagreement.

That avoided a repeat of previous debates, in which one socially conservative MP discussed "lesbian activity" and "unclean" people. Other MPs had attempted to amend previous versions of the legislation, to clarify it shouldn’t encroach on religious guidance or parental discussions.

The Conservatives said they decided as a caucus fast-tracking the bill was the best way to proceed.

Yet, Falk claims that decision "completely caught me off guard" and "blindsided many Conservative MPs."

Falk said he’s fine with banning coercive and abusive practices but had concerns about the legislation going too far.

He’s not alone — federal Justice Minister David Lametti had previously worried clauses in legislation barring consenting adults from the practice might not be constitutional, and would be fought over in court.

But Falk also suggested he had other issues with the legislation.

"My desire has always been to be a voice for the voiceless and vulnerable, to defend the religious freedom of Canadians, and protect the autonomy of the family," Falk wrote.

"I am sorry that I did not act quicker and voice my opposition to stop this from happening without debate or study."

In his Dec. 17 Facebook post, Falk said he had heard about fast-tracking the legislation and "regularly expressed my concerns about doing so" but had never heard about his party making a final decision.

Falk has been outside Ottawa ever since MPs beefed up the House of Commons vaccination policy and medical exemptions Nov. 25 — but his office said Monday he’s still been able to attend all Conservative caucus meetings virtually.

Aside from Falk, each of the other Manitoba Conservatives chose to keep attending the Commons and its committees in person this month. His office provided a Monday statement but didn’t answer why Falk chose to stop showing up in the House.

His party leadership argued this fall MPs must be physically present to do their jobs, and decried others for "phoning it in." The House recessed as the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 started to take hold.

Falk is the only MP among 338 to not specify whether he’s been vaccinated or has a medical exemption, arguing he is standing up for the principle of personal privacy.

In mid-2019, during a government consultation on how to ban conversion therapy, Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre said it wasn’t aware of it occurring within Manitoba, but knew of church groups sending a handful of children to a Mennonite colony in Mexico to undergo the practice.

Daphne Penrose, Manitoba advocate for children and youth, said in March 2020 she had investigated at least one case involving travel for conversion therapy.

 

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dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"