'A very good day' as Conservatives join other parties to support conversion therapy ban: Sask. MP

In a rare case of unity in the House of Commons, the federal government's updated bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy was adopted unanimously on Wednesday.

'We all want it banned in this country,' says Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, seen on April 13, and his party colleagues voted to fast track Bill C-4 on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal government's updated bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy was adopted unanimously by members of Parliament on Wednesday — a rare but welcome case of unity in the House of Commons, says one Saskatchewan MP.

Parliament voted to fast track Bill C-4, which resulted in applause, handshakes between Liberals and Conservatives, and even cross-party hugs.

"I haven't seen that very often in my six years of service here in Ottawa," said Kevin Waugh, the MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood.

"Indeed it was a very good day."

The bill would make it illegal to force someone to undergo conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice which tries to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

It now moves on to the Senate.

The unanimous support came as a surprise to the minority Liberal government, Newfoundland and Labrador MP Seamus O'Regan said following Wednesday's vote.

"We didn't see this [coming], but I'm delighted for it," O'Regan said.

WATCH | MPs unanimously pass conversion therapy bill:

House unanimously passes ban on conversion therapy

2 months ago
Duration 2:02
MPs shared a moment of solidarity after unanimously passing a bill that would ban conversion therapy, a practice meant to change an individual's sexual orientation. 2:02

The latest iteration of the bill was introduced after an earlier version died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called last September's federal election.

Sixty-two Conservatives, including 13 of Saskatchewan's 14 MPs, voted against that previous bill — called Bill C-6 — in June

One of them was Waugh.

"For me, it was never a doubt — it is a harmful practice," said Waugh. "We all want it banned in this country."

Waugh said he voted against the earlier bill because he wanted to see amendments, including more protection for parents, guidance counsellors in schools and clergy.

Conservatives had proposed some amendments to the earlier bill through their justice committee, which were not accepted, he said.

Justice Minister David Lametti, Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed the floor to shake hands with Conservative MPs, including party leader Erin O'Toole following the vote. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Saskatoon MP said he is now comfortable with the fact the amendments didn't make it into the latest version of the bill

"This was a polarizing bill from Day 1," said Waugh.

"Even in our caucus, you know, we had split opinions on the bill. But at the end of the day ... we decided to move on for the bill."

Several attempts at ban

Trying to ban conversion therapy has been a bumpy political pursuit in Canada. 

The bill MPs voted on Wednesday was the third try for the Liberals.

In 2020, a version of the legislation stalled because of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second version got tangled in the Senate and was eventually killed when the election was called.

"This has been months, if not years, in the making," said Waugh. "The Liberals called the unnecessary election, so the bill dies. So this time … we just felt it was time to move on."

The topic of conversion therapy came up throughout the election campaign when he knocked on doors in Saskatoon, Waugh said.

He said he hopes the bill will become law next year.

"People are suffering out there," he said. "We understand that."

With files from Radio-Canada