Outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer hopes to fix a Liberal bill to ban conversion therapy – a bill that’s been criticized by social conservatives for being poorly worded and excessively broad in scope.
Bill C-8, which is working its way through the House of Commons, would make it illegal to advertise conversation therapy, impose it on someone without their consent, or offer it to any minor, with or without consent.
In an exclusive interview marking his departure as Conservative leader, Scheer told True North’s Andrew Lawton that the Conservatives are against supposed treatments that aim to change one’s sexual orientation but noted that this bill goes beyond that.
“Let me first and foremost say that Conservatives are opposed to any so-called practice that would belittle, dehumanize, bully someone (or) coerce someone to try to change their sexual orientation,” Scheer said.
“But the way the liberals have drafted the legislation is the definition of that is very vague, and so what I don’t want to see is, conversations being criminalized or legitimate conversations that parents might have with with children and people might want to have with their friends or seek any kind of guidance or or counseling for any reason.”
Scheer said he’ll be supporting efforts to “fix the definition” in the legislation but noted that the Liberals have thus far not been receptive to making the changes. Scheer added it’s important that Conservative members have the right to vote freely as the bill works its way through the legislative process.
In the interview, recorded Wednesday, after Scheer rose in the House of Commons for the final time as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the Regina MP reflected on his time as leader, the Conservatives’ performance in the last election and his hopes for the Conservative party’s future after its new leader is crowned in the coming weeks.
Four candidates are in the race to replace Scheer, with mail-in ballots from Conservative members due on August 21.
In the interview, Scheer was asked what he thinks of the narrative that has been raised by journalists throughout the Conservative leadership race that his social conservatism cost him the election.
Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay infamously said days after the election that Scheer’s social conservatism was a “stinking albatross” around the Conservative campaign.
Scheer said the focus on his social views in the last election was a “media obsession” and not an issue that was being raised by his candidates or the voters during the campaign. Though Scheer was clear to point out that social conservatives are a significant part of the conservative movement in Canada, and must be acknowledged by the next Conservative leader.
“It’s important the next leader recognizes that social conservatives not only have a place in our party, but, you know, that they’re a valuable part of it,” Scheer said. “That’s my message to the next leader, to find those opportunities to make sure that every party member is part of the conversation.”
Scheer said it was social conservatives in the Conservative caucus who led the effort from Stephen Harper’s government to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16.