Canadian lawmakers have passed a motion banning the discredited practice of “conversion therapy”, in a rare show of unanimity in the country’s parliament.
A surprise motion on Wednesday by the opposition Conservatives to fast-track the legislation prompted applause in the House of Commons. A handful of Liberal cabinet ministers hugged their Conservative colleagues after the vote.
“I dream of the day when LGBTQ2 issues are no longer political footballs. And we are one day closer to that future,” said Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who is gay.
Canada’s justice minister, David Lametti, praised the Conservatives for bringing the motion forward.
“There are clearly people in the Conservative caucus who exercised a great deal of leadership on the issue, and I thank them,” he said. “This is what we can do when parliament works together.”
The governing Liberals had made repeated attempts to pass legislation banning the practice, which aims to change individuals’ sexual orientation or gender identity, and has been deemed harmful by health experts globally.
The Liberals first introduced the bill in March 2020, but it died after the government prorogued parliament. Trudeau’s party reintroduced the bill again but it died when parliament dissolved ahead of the September federal election.
The Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, has become an outspoken proponent of LGBTQ rights since taking control of the party. By voting to fast-track the bill, lawmakers avoid having to record their vote. Previously, 62 Conservatives voted against the motion in June.
The bill will now go to the senate for a separate vote before it becomes law.
A recent UN report found that conversion practices are performed in at least 68 countries, although experts say some version of conversion practice is still found in all nations.
Aversion therapy, where a person is subjected to a “negative, painful or otherwise distressing sensation”– including electric shocks – to create a negative association, has been used in many countries.
The vote puts Canada one step closer to joining a small number of nations – Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta – that have outright banned the practice. A recent bill in the UK has proposed restricting, but not banning, the practice.