C-4 Blew Up (and Other Letters to the Editor)



December 14, 2021 | Daniel Zekveld

In the wake of the unanimous passage of C-4 (conversion therapy) through the House of Commons and the Senate, a number of ARPA staff took to the keyboard and submitted letters to the editor decrying this development. Here’s what five staff had to say…

C-4 Blew Up

Published by Daniel Zekveld in the Ottawa Sun

C-4 is an apt bill number for the conversion therapy bill that blew up in the House of Commons and more recently in the Senate, leaving our democracy suffering as a result. Last I checked, democracy meant that we Canadians choose people to represent us. But, apparently, it makes no difference when it comes to conversion therapy, a bill that was controversial in the past session of Parliament and remains controversial among many Canadians today.

The reason we have opposition parties is to oppose government legislation. Even if it isn’t opposing the principle, opposition parties are supposed to improve legislation through the parliamentary process.

But this has all changed. Supposedly legislation can pass every step in the House of Commons within 48 hours with all-party unanimous consent, and likewise in the Senate. No need for debate. No need for improvement. No opposition. In fact, hardly enough time for constituents to provide input to their representatives. This is problematic in the context of Bill C-4, but also sets a dangerous precedent for other pieces of legislation.

Democracy in Canada briefly exploded over Bill C-4. That doesn’t mean it’s broken forever, but it’s time for our MPs and senators to seriously consider their roles in passing legislation for the good of all Canadians.

Many Canadians have reason to be concerned with the wording of Bill C-4, even if it contains some good. Does our government care anymore?

O’Toole’s Tories do not understand the role of the Opposition

Published by Mike Schouten in the Toronto Star

Did MPs shirk their responsibilities in this instance?

You bet they did.

In a speech to the Empire Club of Canada in 1949, one of the greatest Conservative leaders John Diefenbaker said this about the role of the Opposition: “If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution, His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends. … [The Opposition] finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and moulds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the shortcuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.”

Diefenbaker would consider his party’s passivity on Bill C-4 to be a dereliction of duty.

The fact that it was the Opposition who moved to pass this bill without scrutiny amplifies the neglect.

Parliamentary Procedure in Laypersonese

Submitted by Ed Hoogerdyk

So, on December 1, 2021, the Opposition presented this motion in the House of Commons:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-4, an act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

The masked members of the House passed the motion, hugged, shook hands, and danced.

In laypersonese the motion reads:

We have a great idea! Let’s forget that lawmaking is one of our most important responsibilities. It’s almost Christmas and we don’t want all this legislative stuff to take up most of our time. Think about it: no study, no debate, no work! So, let’s put democracy on hold, skip all this needless process hoopla, and just pretend that it all happened anyway! We say pass C-4 and dance on the floor!

Dear Canadians, isn’t this embarrassing? Let’s hope the Senate takes at least an extra half hour in their deliberations to make up for it, before body-affirming counseling becomes illegal for children, teens, and consenting adults who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender.

A New Kind of Conversion Therapy

Submitted by Anna Nienhuis

Mere days into the new session of Parliament, all political parties collaborated to fast-track Bill C-4, a bill to ban conversion therapy. This move, instigated by the official opposition (many of whom voted against a similar bill earlier this year), eliminated any possibility of debate, study, amendments, or voting – basically all the steps we have a House of Commons and opposition party for.

Bill C-4 bans any practice that has a goal of changing someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual or gender identity from transgender to cisgender. It remains legal to counsel a cisgender or heterosexual individual to become transgender or homosexual, but it is illegal to try to persuade in the opposite direction.

Coercing or forcing people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong. But counseling those who wish to be comfortable and confident in their biological bodies should not be wrong. And subjecting those struggling with their gender identity to invasive and often irreversible treatments to change their God-given bodies should be wrong.

We are trading one type of conversion for another. Coercion, shaming, force, and silencing are not being eliminated, simply shifted to another group: those who believe in the biblical truth that God’s creation of male and female is a beautiful thing and that people should be helped to be comfortable in their bodies, regardless of whether their interests or personalities align with unnecessary gender stereotypes associated with their biology.

Bill C-4 effectively bans counselors from offering body-affirming counseling to LGBTQ2S+ children, teens, and adults seeking to address their gender dysphoria or unwanted sexual behaviours. It’s bad legislation, and our democratic system completely failed to make it better.

Conversion Therapy Bans Go Too Far

Submitted by Levi Minderhoud

It seems these days that everyone is opposed to conversion therapy. Almost every media article I’ve read on the topic defines conversion therapy something like this: “conversion therapy is a widely discredited and harmful practice that tries to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” The House of Commons recently passed a bill – unanimously – that bans conversion therapy.

But even if you agree with the main thrust of these bans, this conversion therapy ban goes too far. We don’t ban people from trying to change other identities; Christians are free to evangelize to Sikhs and Liberals are free to convince New Democrats to change their political identities. Our identities often change naturally through life. Why should it be a criminal offence to try to persuade someone to change their sexual or gender identity?

Even more concerning is the fact that conversion therapy bans also prohibits conversations that try to change someone’s behaviour. Even if you think that aspects of your identity can’t change, surely it should be legitimate to try to influence someone’s behaviour? Canadians are free to try to convince their neighbour to mow their lawn more frequently, vote for the Green party, or get their COVID shot. Why should it be a criminal offence to try to persuade a friend not to look at gay pornography or a son not to wear a dress?

The most concerning part of conversion therapy bans is that it tries to criminalize not only outward actions but internal beliefs, the belief that one sexual orientation or gender identity is better than another. This attempt to criminalize beliefs runs completely counter to the pluralistic, multicultural nature of our country. It seems that Canadians value a diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities over a diversity of beliefs.

And that’s a concerning state of affairs.

Have you had a letter to the editor published recently? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

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