A united House of Commons passes a Liberal bill banning conversion therapy

Politics Insider for Dec. 2, 2021: Unanimous approval in the House; praise for Erin O’Toole; and a COVID boondoggle

Surprise move: Conservative justice critic Rob Moore moved Wednesday that a Liberal bill banning conversion therapy be adopted unanimously, which it was, which will ban the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation, CP reports. It was a surprise to see the Conservatives suddenly support the bill, because socially conservative Tory MPs had spoken against the bill, in a milder previous incarnation. The passage of the motion led to non-partisan hugging and dancing in the House.

Praise for O’Toole: The Globe’s John Ibbitson writes that it was a great day, and praises Erin O’Toole for handling it “beautifully.”

I suspect MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who has fought to advance LGBTQ rights within the party for years, and MPs Eric Duncan and Melissa Lantsman, who are gay, must have had some interesting conversations with their colleagues. They appear to have convinced the social conservatives within the caucus that they had already registered their opposition to the bill when they voted against its predecessor last spring, and that any further opposition would only typecast the party as intolerant.

See you in court: Elsewhere in the Globe, Robyn Urback writes, though, that the provisions of the bill that ban the therapy for adults likely violates the Charter.

Proponents of an outright ban will argue that it should not be legal to help people injure themselves. But in Canada it is legal for homeopaths, for example, to prescribe nosodes – which are essentially vials of water, infused with hope and dogma – in lieu of vaccines for illnesses such as whooping cough, measles and mumps. Health Canada even actually approves and regulates these “treatments,” though the agency has said that none are approved as alternatives to real vaccines. And there is real harm being done in these cases: Canadians are essentially being scammed into believing certain homeopathic remedies will protect them from a variety of illnesses, and as a result they leave themselves (and often, their children) vulnerable to infection. Yet the practice of offering, advertising and/or financially profiting from homeopathy has not been criminalized, even though it could cause lifelong, irreparable damage to those who voluntarily seek its service.

Test wait: Travellers arriving in Canada from outside the United States can expect to isolate for up to three days as they wait for COVID-19 test results, the Globe reports. The government announced the new testing regime on Tuesday in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

More boosters: The Globe also reports that Ontario and Alberta are planning to expand eligibility for third-dose COVID-19 booster shots.

We can do better: In the Star, Bruce Arthur writes that the booster change is “lightning fast,” and urges the province to do more, faster.

Hopefully the news on Omicron will be positive, but this pandemic remains a societal challenge, every day, and a personal one, too. A powerful public information campaign on boosters would be welcome. A more durable infrastructure on vaccine passports, mandates and delivery may be a must. We can do better to protect people.

Ban panned: Theresa Tam is defending Canada’s decision to ban travellers from some African countries but many experts aren’t buying it, Global News reports.

Same battle: In Le Journal de MontréalEmmanuelle Latraverse writes that the battle against COVID bears a resemblance to the battle against climate change (translation).

In either case, the same phenomena are at work: scientific consensuses sacrificed on the altar of partisan politics and disinformation, not to mention the failures of an international community increasingly withdrawn into herself. Think of anti-vaxxers, those skeptics of science who ruin our lives with insults and stubbornness. They are a bit like the oil lobby against the climate.

Slow track: The Conservatives and NDP won’t agree to fast-track legislation to extend pandemic supports, insisting on a review by the House’s finance committee, CBC reports.

“The government is proposing new expenditures without accountability,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre told reporters Wednesday. “We’re setting conditions in order to get our support for this bill. These conditions must be met or we will oppose it.”

The Conservatives say they want to see four conditions met before they’ll support the bill: an independent investigation into reports that organized crime received pandemic supports; a complete study of the bill at the finance committee — with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland appearing for four hours of questioning; amendments preventing people who could take jobs from taking benefits; and amendments to prevent prisoners and criminals from accessing benefits. The NDP also want to see Bill C-2 go before the finance committee. NDP House Leader Peter Julian told CBC news that his party will not support the bill in its current form and wants specific amendments to address their concerns.

Clerk scrutinized: The CPC  called for a parliamentary committee to probe claims of political bias made against Charles Robert, the clerk of the House of Commons, while Roberts was in the chamber, CBC reports. CBC News has reported three senior managers went on sick leave and left their jobs over concerns about Robert.

To seek compensation: Canadian telecom companies spent more than $700 million on Huawei equipment while the Liberal government delayed a decision on banning the company, Global News reports. With a rejection imminent, Global News has confirmed that the companies have asked the federal government for “compensation” if they have to replace Huawei equipment.

Tough Green: Interim Green Leader Amita Kuttner tells CP they will be ready to get tough on party members who “have been at each other’s throats.”

The astrophysicist, who identifies as nonbinary and transgender, said Wednesday they want to “listen and love” to “heal” the party, which has been riven by infighting and accusations of racism and antisemitism. But, if that does not stop a minority of Greens, Kuttner said they would “absolutely” be prepared to take tough disciplinary action under the party’s code of conduct.

COVID boondoggle: Ontario’s auditor general has found that businesses that weren’t eligible for pandemic relief programs received more than $200 million in provincial supports,  CBC reports.

Deer with COVID: The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease has detected COVID-19 in three apparently healthy Quebec deer, CTV reports.

Well deserved: Congrats to health columnist André Picard, who was awarded the 2021 Sandford Fleming Medal for excellence in science communication by the Royal Canadian Institute for Science on Wednesday!

Welcome to Ottawa: David Cohen, the new United States ambassador to Canada, has reported for duty.

— Stephen Maher

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.