Many concerned readers will remember the federal government of Canada’s effort to ban conversion therapy throughout 2021. The Liberals began their efforts in the spring, with a bill that would ban any therapy that was intended to help change a person’s sexual preferences from homosexual or transexual to heterosexual. There were many hearings, some of which I watched, and I was astounded by the clear articulation by so many participants who spoke against the government’s broad definition of conversion therapy. The hearings included horrific stories of tortuous attempts of conversion therapy (and these tortures should indeed be banned), but it became clear that the legislation also sought to ban conversations and advice that, for example, a pastor might offer a parishioner who requested their help.
While it seemed inevitable that the legislation was going to pass, it would have to do so with much opposition. In June 2021, 62 Conservative MPs voted against this bill at Third Reading, and it moved on to the Senate. However, before they could deal with it, a federal election was called, and the business of Parliament came to an end. The next elected government would have to start all over. That meant there would be another opportunity to continue fighting against bad definitions, godless intentions, and government overreach.
Sadly, on December 1, a Conservative Party motion to fast track the government’s latest “conversion therapy ban” legislation (Bill C-4), was unanimously approved by the House of Commons. No debate, no discussion, no hearings, no fighting for care and caution. Mr. O’Toole was one of the 51 Conservative MPs that voted for the Bill originally, and he suggested that there were many different ways to expedite the legislative process for the Bill. What’s worse, as reported by the Globe and Mail, we learned:
Earlier this week, the Liberal government reintroduced a bill banning conversion therapy. The legislation was wider reaching than a previous version. It was intended to ban the practice entirely for children and adults. Before, the proposed legislation left open the possibility that an adult could consent to conversion therapy. The new bill closes that loophole. (Ian Bailey, Dec. 1 – Surprise Conservative motion sends conversion therapy ban bill through Commons).
There are so many different implications with this move that it is hard to comment on them all.
What is most disconcerting is the silence with which this Bill was passed. Three members of the Conservative Party, Arnold Viersen (Conservative MP clarifies his stance on “conversion therapy” ban | The Bridgehead), Cathy Wagantall (Second Conservative MP clarifies stance on unanimous vote for “conversion therapy” ban | The Bridgehead), and Ted Falk (Conservative MP explains what happened with unanimous Bill C-4 vote), have expressed regret in not speaking up at that moment, objecting to the unanimous passage of this Bill (can we anticipate more such commentary?). Had only one person done so, the Bill would have had to go through the regular legislative procedures. I appreciate the humility and transparency of Viersen, Wagantall, and Falk and I believe they are sincere in their expression of regret – they are consistent with their previous actions and comments on this topic.
Christians excusing silent MPs
Another disconcerting phenomenon flowing from this event has been the social media commentary by many Christians dismissing or even endorsing the silence of these and other parliamentarians as being “sheep in the midst of wolves” and thus, being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16).
I understand the very real challenge of being a Christian politician, and I would not want to be judgmental. However, if we won’t take a stand on this issue, with relatively little at stake, what issues do we stand up for? One person considered this a lost cause, so “pick your battles.” Sure, there is truth in both statements, but it isn’t that we were going to lose the battle that concerns us, but how we lost it – capitulation and silence; acquiescing and standing by. Today, it is officially the case that there is not a single Member of Parliament who objects to the definition of Conversion Therapy in Canada. A few months ago there were 61.
We are going to lose most moral battles moving forward – we don’t have a great track record of wins – but for righteousness’ sake we fight the battles. If we don’t fight because we know we’re going to lose, then whenever there is a Liberal government with support from the NDP and others, we may stop fighting altogether. Rather, let us recognize that some are fighting on the front lines, where the battle is most fierce, tiring, public, and hard – they need our support and encouragement. And when they lay down their weapons in a moment of weakness, we can still be behind them spurring them on to pick up the armory and keep on fighting – they haven’t lost all our support for such a moment. But neither should we say to the frontline fighters, “drop the weapons, stop fighting, late us take this blow so we can fight the next onslaught.” Such a strategy will not work. After repeated capitulation like this, it will only make those in the supporting roles look for others to support.
The ban on conversion therapy legislation passed in silence and was celebrated with loud clamor. This was a sad day in Canada’s history and we pray that the Lord will stem the growing tide of secularism that is filling our land. May he also continue to grant strong men and women who can fight these battles where they are placed, to his honor and glory. May he also forgive all of us when we fail to do so.
Postscript: Conversion therapy definitions
The Bill (needing only Royal Assent now to be law) defines Conversion Therapy thusly:
“Conversion therapy means a practice, treatment, or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth; repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour; repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth”
There is one point we need to understand. There is nothing in this law that would prevent a practice, treatment, or service designed to change person’s sexual orientation to homosexual; there is nothing in it banning attempts to change a person’s gender identity from heterosexual; it raises no objections to treatments, practices, or services intended to change a person’s gender expression so that it no longer conforms to their biological sex; it does not stand in the way of attempts to repress or reduce heterosexual attraction or heterosexual behavior, etc.
It becomes clear then, that this Bill is not about banning conversion therapy, it is about allowing conversion therapy in only one direction – the unbiblical direction. Being gender fluid, transgender, homosexually active, etc. are celebrated and promoted in so many different ways in public schools and communities. There is a strong effort to promote sexual conversions through SOGI 123, and other similar curriculum. This isn’t about creating a safe space for struggling youths – it is about creating a cultural revolution where the standards of God’s Word are continually being tossed aside.
ARPA Canada (C-4: Conversion Therapy) and others have commented on the implications of this legislation elsewhere. The next steps, as outlined by Cathy Wagantall, include “working with parents, pastors, and legal experts to develop legislation that protects parents’ and faith leaders’ ability to have conversations with individuals seeking clarity on their personal life decisions.” May the Lord bless these efforts!