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The streets of downtown Ottawa have been unusually quiet for months, with COVID-19 reducing travel to our nation’s capital and many employees – even politicians – working from home offices. Federal politics has been anything but silent however, with one party choosing a new leader, another party continuing to answer questions about the We controversy – and then the proroguing of Parliament until late September.
Prorogation meant an end to the business of Parliament and then a fresh start with the Speech from the Throne. There are exceptions, but when Parliament prorogues it means unfinished business, like bills making their way through the system, are terminated. Some are expected to be picked up again by the new Parliament.
Bill C-7 to expand euthanasia and Bill C-8 on conversion therapy are both bills that died when Parliament was prorogued. These were pieces of potential legislation that EFC worked on in various ways for months. We will continue to do so, as we expect the government to reintroduce them quickly.
The former Bill C-7 was the proposed law to expand access to euthanasia to those who are not dying, and to remove key safeguards from the process. We know broadening access to euthanasia in Canada remains a priority to the government. The justice minister hopes to have new legislation passed by December 18. The EFC will continue to speak into this crucial issue. We are urging Canadians to contact their local MPs, and our team has created resources to help us all communicate in the most effective way.
The former Bill C-8 was the government’s bill to ban conversion therapy, another piece of legislation the EFC expects to see reintroduced in the new Parliament. Coercive or involuntary efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our communities. However, the government’s definition of conversion therapy is overly broad and needs to be amended to protect freedom of expression and the ability of Canadians to live according to their religious conscience or personal convictions.
The government’s definition expands beyond discredited practices – which are rightly condemned – to include “any practice ... that seeks to … reduce sexual attraction or behaviour between persons of the same sex.” Our team is creating resources to help Canadians interact well on this issue, and they are also available on our website.
We also expect to focus on laws around prostitution in Canada, with the current law – passed in 2014 – past due for a scheduled review. The EFC worked hard advocating and educating around that law, which recognized commercial sexual exploitation as inherently harmful. The current law criminalizes sex buyers and pimps, rather than the individuals who are bought and sold. Our team is preparing resources now to help support the current law when it is reviewed.
Even as so much of our attention has rightly focused on COVID-19, and the very real difficulties and serious challenges it has presented to our churches, ministries, schools, workplaces and communities, the business of our country continues on. That includes passing laws that require our close attention and interaction. Our diligence and careful work, carried out together, is needed more than ever. Our families and churches need us, and so do the next generation of Canadians who will inherit the country we build today.
In Ottawa, where things certainly do feel more quiet than usual, the EFC is, with your help, hard at work in the task of public engagement in our parliamentary and judicial systems, right where we believe we are called to be.
How you can help
Take a few moments right now to brush up on these important pieces of legislation that we expect to be central to the new Parliament.
Also in this issue: Welcome to the Faith Today Podcast; Peace and Reconciliation Network developing resources; Welcome the Stranger: A Canadian Church Guide to Welcoming Refugees; Updating you on Canada’s most immediate issues; Message from the president; The EFC and the Stewarding Sacred Seeds Report; Heart and hands – Insights from the work of EFC policy analyst Beth Hiemstra.