Conservative MP raising money from his opposition to conversion therapy law

Derek Sloan, Conservative MP and former party leader candidate, asks his supporters to send him money to “protect the children of Canada” against a bill banning certain aspects of so-called conversion therapy.

Sloan has previously expressed concern about the legislation passed by the House of Commons last month that would ban the discredited practice from using therapy to change someone’s sexual orientation. But today’s pitch shows Sloan is trying to raise money for an issue that sidelined him with party leader Erin O’Toole and the vast majority of the conservative caucus.

Sloan, who represents the driving of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in Ontario, was one of seven Conservative MPs who voted against the bill, told his supporters in the email that he wants to raise $ 25,000 this month for the next federal election.

Sloan, like O’Toole, has suggested that the proposed law could criminalize conversations about sexual orientation between a parent and a child, or between a religious leader and a young person.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has said he opposes the “ cruel ” practice of conversion therapy, but a handful of Conservative caucus members voted against a bill to ban the practice. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

O’Toole, however, is explicit about his opposition to the ‘cruel’ practice of conversion therapy and has proposed amending the law to clarify those private discussions. Sloan’s concerns seem to go much further.

The practice of conversion therapy – the use of psychological or spiritual counseling in an attempt to change the sexual orientation of someone who identifies as LGBTQ2, or change someone’s gender identity to cisgender – has proven to be both ineffective and harmful and has even been compared to torture .

Sloan said in the email that he is concerned about the effect of the government’s own legislation, arguing that it “would contribute to the tremendous increase we see in little boys and girls being chemically switched over because of their feelings. of gender dysphoria. “

“The vast majority of children who feel this way will grow out of it,” he wrote, claiming that under the new law, anyone who tries to “help a child feel happy with the body they were born with” can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The legislation itself would make it illegal for a minor to undergo conversion therapy, to advertise or benefit from conversion therapy, or to force anyone to act against their will.

‘He tries to politicize LGBTQ people’

Sloan’s comments are both imprecise and transphobic, said Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth and professor at MacEwan University.

“He characterizes gender-affirming care as physical mutilation and continues to propagate this rhetoric that denies especially young people the opportunity to seek care to improve their life chances, mental health and well-being,” he said.

Young people who struggle with gender identity are at higher risk for self-harming behaviors if they don’t get the care and support they need, Wells said.

He also pointed to what he called inflammatory language in Sloan’s money-raising talk, such as describing young people taking puberty-delaying drugs as “chemically switched.”

“He’s trying to politicize LGBTQ people and their lives for his own personal gain and benefit,” Wells said.

CBC News asked Sloan to explain his claim that donations to him would help protect Canadians’ children. He said in an email that by “donating towards my reelection, people can help ensure that my vote remains in Parliament”.

Sloan will not say whether he has raised the funds the Conservative party needs to qualify a Member of Parliament as a candidate in the next election, but said he plans to raise “multiple rounds” of money in the future. to collect.

On Tuesday, May 31, 2016, a rainbow flag will fly in Toronto City Hall in Toronto. (Eduardo Lima / The Canadian Press)

Asked why he would raise money for an issue where he is at odds with his leader, Sloan echoed many of the arguments in his fundraising email about the impact of gender reassignment on children.

O’Toole’s office said all questions about Sloan’s fundraising should be directed to the Conservative party.

“Mr. O’Toole believes conversion therapy is wrong and should be banned, so he voted in favor of the bill at second reading,” said a spokesman.

“We will propose a reasonable change so that all parties can support this important legislation.”

Wells rejects the suggestion that the bill could criminalize private conversations, including those between a parent and a child.

“There is nothing in the legislation, or any Canadian prohibition of conversion therapy that criminalizes private conversations,” he said.

The Conservatives have proposed to the government to make that point clear by adding specific assurances to the text of the legislation, stating that private conversations about the personal views of teachers, pastoral counselors, friends, relatives and others are not punishable.

Liberals who also raise money

Sloan’s comments also play a role in the Liberals’ own fundraising efforts in this area. They have tried to draw attention to Conservative MPs who voted against the bill and have asked liberal supporters for money to “protect and support human rights.” All 151 Liberal MPs who attended the vote on C-6 supported it.

Sloan was one of seven Conservative MPs who voted against the legislation. Two more abstained, and eight suggested they support the legislation only in the hope that it would someday be changed.

Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was among the MPs who simply did not show up for the vote.

However, in the pre-vote debate, many conservatives spoke in poignant terms about the damage done by conversion therapy – including the party’s first openly gay MP Eric Duncan.

Duncan told the House of Commons how surprised he was by the love, compassion and support he received when he came out in a Facebook post in 2017. He contrasted that reception with the experiences of some in and around the rural Ontario community. He was mayor before becoming a Member of Parliament, citing the case of a young man who took his own life.

Duncan also offered a message of comfort to young gay men and trans Canadians.

“It’s okay to be gay. It’s okay to be trans,” he said. “Canadians know it’s wrong to put someone on conversion therapy, and we need to protect those who are vulnerable.”

Wells said Duncan’s comments, along with others from Conservative MPs, were unprecedented in the modern Conservative party.

“I’ve never heard of this kind of supportive remarks against the LGBTQ community massively coming from the Conservative party,” he said. “It represents a real turning point.”

The conversion therapy bill has been referred to the Justice Committee of the House of Commons, which may consider possible improvements to the legislation.

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