Candidates for the 2020 Provincial Election in the Chilliwack-Kent riding met up for an All Candidates Meeting on Oct. 14. The first question for the panel dealt with LGBTQ+ legislation, a hot topic in the riding. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Throness defends himself on conversion therapy during Chilliwack-Kent meeting

BC Liberal candidate: ‘I decry and oppose any course of practice to try to change another’s identity’

An all candidates meeting for the Chilliwack-Kent riding kicked off with statements on LGBTQ rights and quality of life.

The four candidates vying for the seat in the provincial election were asked if they will “commit to supporting any legislation that further improves the recognition of rights and quality of life for LGBTQ individuals?”

But the meeting started with introductions, and Laurie Throness dove right into the issue of conversion therapy, and how he’s been portrayed by others.

“Some of my political opponents have tried to cast me as strong supporter of conversion therapy, but that’s just wrong,” he said. “In fact, I’ve never made a statement about conversion therapy and I decry and oppose any course of practice to try to change another’s identity.”

He added that he has “always publicly affirmed the dignity and worth of every British Columbian.”

The meeting was aired live on the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce’s Youtube channel, and filmed at Cowork Chilliwack with all four candidates participating. The public could send in questions via a website, and others could vote on whether the questions should be asked.

When asked the first question, Libertarian Eli Gagné said he would be “more than happy to look at” legislation that would uphold LGBTQ rights.

“I think that we should be in a world where we don’t have to have any segregation,” he said. “We’re all the same.”

“LGBTQ rights are human rights. Trans rights are human rights,” offered Jason Lum, a current Chilliwack city counsellor who is running as an independent.

“I think it’s telling that Mr. Throness has to start the debate in his introduction already defending some of his views and things that have been said about him,” he said. “People need to feel connected to their MLA, regardless of their faith, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity… I will fight for more inclusion at the decision-making table.”

Kelli Paddon, running for the BC NDP, also said “it’s telling that the people of Chilliwack-Kent have asked” the question.

“The reason we keep talking about this is because it keeps being an issue,” she said. “I would like to be very clear that I am an ally.”

She said her career has been “devoted to amplifying the voices of people who need to be heard” and that the issue is non-negotiable for her.

Throness once again stated he is for “equality for all.”

READ MORE: Liberal bill outlaws conversion therapy for kids, non-consenting adults

“I have affirmed quality for all and those are my personal feelings,” qualifying that by saying he has also read a lot of tabled legislation.

“You have to look at what is in the legislation. I don’t at all rule it out but I would have to look at it, and I look forward to the BC Liberals bringing it forward.”

But the BC Liberals haven’t tabled any LGBTQ-specific bills in the past.

In B.C. legislature in 2019, the BC Greens tabled Bill M218: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, 2019. It received one reading but then died when the NDP didn’t move it forward for discussion.

There are only a handful of provinces and cities that ban conversion therapy and there is no federal law against it.

A bill to ban conversion therapy was presented in March this year by the federal Liberals, just prior to the pandemic. It died during the prorogue of government. They re-introduced the bill on Oct. 1. The bill, which includes criminal punishment for those in contravention of the law, would not apply “to those who provide support to individuals questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as parents, friends, teachers, doctors, mental health professionals, school or pastoral counsellors and faith leaders.”

As for Throness’ history on LGBTQ issues, in July 2016 he spoke at the B.C. Liberal Caucus on Bill 27, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, saying “gender is not divorced from one’s identity.”

Bill 27 introduced legislation that made B.C.’s Human Rights Code more explicit in protecting transgender people in the province, adding “gender identity or expression” to the protected ground covered by the code.

Throness told the Liberal Caucus that his beliefs about gender identity are rooted in the Christian faith, that “biology is destiny” and “how we are born is who we are meant to be.”

He said at that time, that as a matter of law, “the bill was unnecessary.”

This summer, a push began to remove Throness from the BC Liberal Party due to his perceived lack of tolerance for all people. He was one of several Liberal MLAs who advertised in a Christian magazine that publishes anti-LGBTQ material.

Throness also spoke recently against the NDP platform promise to provide free contraception to everyone, saying it has an “odour” of eugentics.

READ MORE: NDP wants Chilliwack-Kent MLA removed from BC Liberal caucus for alleged homophobia

***

The Chilliwack-Kent meeting was the second of two in the evening, hosted by the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce and Chilliwack Healthier Communities.

The first was for the Chilliwack riding and included six candidates: John Martin (BC Liberals, incumbent), Diane Janzen (BC Conservatives), Dan Coulter (BC NDP), Tim Cooper (BC Greens), Josue Anderson (Independent), and Andrew Coombes (Libertarian). Martin called in via videoconferencing.

Jeff Hammersmark, who initially was running in Chilliwack-Kent under the BC Greens banner but has not been campaigning, did not participate.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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