If C-6, the government bill banning conversion therapy, dies on the order sheet this summer, it will be due to a combination of politics and circumstances.
But if it is still possible to save on the bill, then time is running out quickly.
“Bill C-6 is a common sense of the law. It’s basically about protection. It’s basically about prohibiting torture and child abuse,” said Nicolas Schiavo of the advocacy group No Conversion Canada.
“This should be a non-partisan slam dunk for all lawmakers.”
Schiavo is planning a last-ditch letter-writing campaign to call on the president of the Senate to recall the upper house to deal with the bill this summer.
“When I think of victims of conversion therapy practices, I think it is unacceptable not to be able to pass this bill,” said Sen. René Cormier, C-6 sponsor, in the upper chamber.
Cormier said he’s pretty sure the bill won’t pass this summer, but acknowledges there may still be time.
It is widely believed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will seek an election call ahead of the scheduled return of parliament in late September. The dissolution of Parliament would kill C-6 and force any future resolution to ban conversion therapy from the start of the legislative process.
But the government’s effort to impose the ban has met with bad timing from the start. An earlier version of the current bill was introduced on March 9, 2020. A few days later, the entire burden of the pandemic came crashing down on the country and Parliament. The only legislation passed in the next six months involved either funding the government or responding to COVID-19.
prorogation and adjournment
In August, when opposition lawmakers were chasing liberals over the WE charity case, the government prorogued parliament. The House reconvened on 23 September – two days after originally planned – and the government re-introduced the proposed ban on 1 October. C-6 quickly passed through a second reading that month and the Justice Committee completed its review of the bill in December.
But then it stopped. The government did not bring forward C-6 for further debate until April. Then there was a lengthy debate over the third reading as several Conservative MPs stood up to talk the legislation.
It has been argued that the blame for these delays is shared by all parties. All business in the House came to a standstill this spring (the parliamentary program has become a regular source of unnecessary conflict over the past decade). It is pertinent to ask whether the government could have moved faster to pass C-6. But it’s also fair to say that conservatives were ready to take things out.
View: C-6 fails to pass before Parliament’s summer break
On the second reading the bill found widespread support – only seven MPs, all Conservatives, voted. But when C-6 returned to the House, there were more to oppose. With some critics claiming the bill would criminalize interactions between children and parents or clergy, 62 Conservative lawmakers – more than half of Erin O’Toole’s caucus – ended up opposing the bill.
But by passing the bill on June 22, the House gave the Senate little time to deal with C-6 before Parliament’s summer adjournment. The government moved on a motion to have the Senate sit until June 29 — enough to pass the government’s budget bill and climate accountability legislation — but the C-6 was left behind.
Mark Gould, the government representative in the Senate, requested at the last minute to allow a Senate committee to continue meeting to study C-6. It was denied. Conservative Senate leader Don Pellett later accused the government Both “playing politics” and “incompetence”. (Palette shares concerns raised by some critics of the bill.)
Two days later, Sen came forward with a plan to study the gold bill and allow it to be voted on in July. But agreement between different Senate groups remains elusive.
“Unfortunately, it has been made clear to me that some in the Senate have no intention of starting a hybrid Senate meeting to settle on time, approve virtual committee meetings, or maintain health and safety standards for senators and staff. There is no pun intended, and Sen. Gould, said in a statement last week to “ensure fair and equal participation and voting for senators who do not appear physically in Ottawa.”
There is no immutable law that says Parliament must take about three months off each summer. Sen. Gould may at any time ask the President of the Senate to recall the senators. But Gold apparently wants an agenda agreed upon before doing so. Further complicating matters is the fact that a previous agreement that allowed the Senate to meet virtually during the pandemic ended on June 30.
In comments to the Toronto Star this week, the office of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominique LeBlanc blamed Conservative senators for the lack of a way forward. Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos has said that the fact that the Senate is not sitting is entirely the government’s fault.
It is always tempting to speculate about political motives. Maybe neither liberals nor conservatives will totally mind if the bill fails in a way that makes them point fingers at each other. It is also true that the election can only delay the banning of conversion therapy; If the Liberals stay in government, they could bring a new bill ahead this fall.
But it is difficult to see how the failure of the C-6 would be a clear victory for either party – and any short-term political gains would be dwarfed by the potential real-life benefits of the legislation.
In its new, independent form, the Senate is harder to control and more prone to close review of legislation. In a previous era, it would have been easy to argue that the Senate should have passed C-6 with little or no review.
“The Senate is not a rubber stamp,” said Independent Sen. Paula Simmons, who distributed C-6 . an emotional speech about When it came to the Senate.
That may be enough time to conduct a meaningful review and vote on the bill before the election. The House of Commons may have to be recalled to deal with any proposed amendments.
“If we were called back to vote tomorrow, the bill would pass,” Simmons said.
That makes it even more difficult to justify failing to deal with this bill over the next few weeks.
“For LGBTQ Canadians and survivors, honestly we are not interested in favoritism,” Schiavo said. “We’ve heard from every group in the Senate that nobody’s interested in playing the partisan game, nobody’s interested in politicizing it, and I think that’s a good message. But then get it done.”