Politicians could have ‘better’ worked on ban on conversion therapy, says first openly gay Conservative MP – National


Eric Duncan has spoken more about his sexuality in the past two years than he has said in his 33 years.

The Tory MP spoke openly in the House of Commons about being gay while pushing the Liberal government to honor a two-time campaign pledge to end the ban on blood donation from men who have sex with d ‘other men.

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This session of Parliament has taken on a highly partisan atmosphere that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently called toxic, escalating speculation that Canadian voters could go to the polls before MPs return from the summer recess.

In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, however, Duncan described his ability to bring to light an issue that touches him deeply, with encouragement from a caucus colleague, as an example of how Parliament can work.

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Canada introduced a lifetime ban on gay men in 1992 and amended it in 2013 so that blood would be accepted from a man who has refrained from having sex with another man for at least five years.

The waiting period was then increased to one year, to become three months in 2019.

That year Duncan became a rookie MP – the first openly gay man to be elected under the banner of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Duncan is not the first MP to call for the ban to be lifted, but he did so in a particularly personal way last November. He repeatedly asked Health Minister Patty Hajdu during a committee hearing in the House of Commons if she would accept his blood, which he said he could not donate despite the need created by the COVID pandemic. -19.

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Hajdu agreed the policy was discriminatory, but ultimately controlled by independent Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec.

Duncan later said a few Liberal MPs thanked him for raising it.

He credits the idea of ​​doing it to the person behind him: longtime Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner.

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Improving equality for members of the LGBTQ community is something Rempel Garner says she’s been working on for a long time.

“I said to Eric, would you be willing to push (Hajdu) on this?” Because I know you feel it passionately. Would you like to push her on it and push her hard, like, and I’m talking about asking her if she would take your blood, ”she said.

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“And he’s like, ‘Wow.’

Duncan says that at first he didn’t feel confident, being a novice MP ready to take on a high-ranking minister. He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share his personal story either.

Rempel Garner said it takes courage for him to do so.

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Duncan laughs and says he owes her a drink or two.

“To be able to go out and share a story, share a life experience and try to make a change, that’s why we all go there,” he said. “There is more to me than being a gay man. But it’s an important part of who I am.

Recently, Canadian Blood Services said that by the end of 2021 it would recommend that Health Canada end the waiting period and introduce screening for all donors based on sexual behavior.

Duncan finds it unacceptable that a review could mean the ban stays in place for another year or two, but can view the situation through a “half-full glass” due to the renewed spotlight on it.

“It shows how Parliament still has such a useful function where a man from a small town in rural eastern Ontario can stand up and we can get an issue on the national radar.”

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Things did not go so well with the government law banning conversion therapy, which has divided the Conservative caucus.

The government seeks to criminalize the widely discredited practice of attempting to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill, known as Bill C-6, passed the House of Commons with 62 of 119 Conservative MPs opposed. Most of them come from Western Canada, where many of the party’s social conservatives live.

Liberal MPs were quick to condemn the split as proof that the party is not standing up for LGBTQ rights.

After the vote, the Conservative Party vowed to legislate a ban on conversion therapy if the government fails, mirroring Leader Erin O’Toole’s efforts to broaden support for a party that has seen its track record on such issues be a source of attacks.

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Some of its MPs who voted against Bill C-6 issued statements, insisting that they opposed the coercive practice, but had a problem with how it was defined.

They argued that the bill was worded too broadly and threatened the ability of parents and religious leaders to speak freely to children about sexuality and gender, which the government called a distraction.

Duncan supported Bill C-6 and said some colleagues asked him about it. As for how the caucus voted, he thinks “common sense work” with amendments could have helped bridge the gap, which is how O’Toole argued it.

“At a higher level, I think there was an opportunity for the better side of Parliament to show up.”

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It is now unclear whether the bill will become law, given that the Senate adjourned for the summer without passing it and Parliament could dissolve for an election.

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The Liberals once again blame the Conservatives for the bill that hit a roadblock.

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos has argued that Trudeau has six years to propose such a ban, which needs time to be considered as it would amend the Criminal Code.

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The Liberals introduced an earlier version of the bill in March 2020, but it died on the Order Paper when Trudeau prorogued Parliament last summer. The Liberals reintroduced it in October.

“They introduced this legislation so late that they knew full well that they did not have time to get it passed through Parliament,” Housakos said.

Government representative in the upper house, Senator Marc Gold, issued a letter to other Senate leaders on Friday proposing a way to meet this summer to move the bill forward.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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