HURON-BRUCE – Members of the Huron Bruce LGBTQ2S+ community were disappointed to discover Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb voted against Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to protect LGBTQ2S+ youth from undergoing conversion therapy.
On June 22, the bill passed the third reading in the House of Commons with a vote of 263 to 63. Lobb was one of the 63 Conservative MPs who voted against the bill. The bill will now have to pass through the Senate before it can receive royal assent.
Bill C-6 proposes five criminal offences related to conversion therapy. If the bill passes, it will be illegal to force a minor to undergo conversion therapy, force a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profit off of providing conversion therapy, advertise conversion therapy and take a minor out of Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad.
“Conversion therapy is an unscientific, unethical and harmful practice that puts our youth in danger and is a form of torture for LGBTQ2S+ people,” said Fort Papalia, president of Kincardine Pride.
“Seeing that a local politician does not support the ban on conversion therapy is troubling for our youth and our entire LGBTQ2S+ community.”
Lobb spoke with Midwestern Newspapers last week, stating he is against conversion therapy.
“I’m against conversion therapy,” said Lobb. “I’m against advertising for conversion therapy. I’m against all forms of conversion therapy, including coercion, including transporting a minor across the border to have conversion therapy … The amendment that we were looking for was for clear language around the ability for a parent, mentor, school counsellor, even a pastor to have the opportunity to have a conversation with a minor around the decision about their life. So that’s really the long and the short of it. I voted for C-6 at second reading to get it to committee … the amendments the Conservative Party put forward were not passed and there were over 60 MPs that voted against the legislation as it stood. That’s where it is at.”
LGBTQ2S+ community members say their gender identity or sexual orientation is not a “decision,” as Lobb stated.
“I would not be picking on words because it’s their decision,” said Lobb. “It’s the individual’s decision. That’s all I would say. Like if a – whether it’s a minor or an adult it’s their decision. That’s my point.”
Midwestern Newspapers asked for clarification that Lobb seemed to be stating that LGBTQ2S+ community members make a decision and are not born into their identities.
“I didn’t say that, but I’m just saying that when they make their decision to come forward, to make it known, whether it’s to their friend, to their family – whoever,” said Lobb. “At that time, it’s their decision and they want to make it known. That’s all I’m saying. I understand the point you are making about birth, I’m not arguing on that with you at all, but I am saying … that it is that person’s decision. It’s their life, right?”
Spencer Dempsey, an administrator of the LGBTQ+ Allies of Huron County Facebook group, said in his opinion Lobb isn’t well educated about the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“His opinions on the LGBTQ2S+ community come from a place of ignorance instead of education,” he said. “Had he spent any actual time with any members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and sat down and talked to some of us, I feel his decision may not have been the same.”
Dempsey admitted he does not know Lobb personally but said he cannot imagine that Lobb has surrounded himself with the local LGBTQ2S+ community enough to know what any of their struggles are.
“I think that for him to assume that it’s a decision for any of us to willingly make instead of something that we’re born with feeling natural to us is just a sign that he’s not properly educated on the subject,” he said. “He shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions as severe as the decision he did make without properly educating himself. That’s what is upsetting is that it seems almost unfair that he chose not to educate himself first.”
Based on his own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Huron County, Dempsey thinks that if you know where to look there is support in the community. He said there are supports on social media in Huron and Perth County.
“I think in the community as a whole there is a sense of tension,” he said. “I don’t think everyone necessarily feels safe enough to walk down the street holding their partner’s hand … I don’t necessarily feel like I could kiss my partner openly in public in Huron County, so I think there is a lot of room for growth and Ben Lobb’s decision didn’t surprise me because of conservative attitudes in [the region].”
Dempsey said he thinks that unless people are going to allow anger to take over their judgement the best way forward is to hope that Lobb educates himself on the LGBTQ2S+ community and makes better choices in the future.
“More than 50 per cent of rural LGBTQ2S+ individuals believe Conservative values and beliefs are the biggest barriers for the rural LGBTQ2S+ community,” said AJ Adams, a rural LGBTQ2S+ advocate, educator and advisor. “This action by MP Lobb is despicable and adds to the narrative that conservatives and rural communities are anti-LGBTQ2S+. This is a narrative we know isn’t true and needs to change.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner