Members of Kelowna’s LGBTQ2S+ community are demanding that Kelowna-Lake Country MP is held accountable for voting against a bill that would effectively ban conversion therapy across Canada.
During a July 12 town hall organized by Kelowna Pride, several expressed disappointment, sadness and anger towards Conservative MP Tracy Gray for her June 22 vote against the passing of Bill C-6. Conversion therapy is an umbrella term that refers to dangerous and discredited practices that aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a harmful and traumatic practice.
Participants detailed a sense of betrayal, especially prevalent after Gray said that she is an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community despite her vote against the bill.
Many also demanded that Gray be a more proactive ally with Kelowna’s LGBTQ2S+ community, citing that Gray’s acts of allyship are “the bare minimum.”
“Moving forward, there will be deeper considerations on how (Kelowna Pride Society) engages with politicians to avoid rainbow and pinkwashing. Voting for a crosswalk and a parade is great, but allyship needs to be deeper-rooted than that,” said Bobby Bissessar, communications director for Kelowna Pride Society.
There were also calls for Gray’s resignation. The bill is a positive step for LGBTQ2S+ justice in Canada but Gray’s vote is incredibly harmful to the community she represents, said UBC student and Kelowna resident Casey Broughton.
“What would I like to see happen? Tracy Gray’s resignation. Barring that, the community coming together to express that her actions are unacceptable and to make it clear that she is unwelcome at our events and to make sure she isn’t given another chance come the next election,” said Broughton.
Participants also called on Kelowna councillors and local MLAs to be proactive allies and reinforce their support to ban conversion therapy in their communities. Wilbur Turner, an advocate for LGBTQ2S+ rights, said a coalition will be established to give community members an opportunity to actively participate in political action towards politicians and elected representatives. The coalition will utilize and liaise with Kelowna Pride’s resources but will be separate from the society itself.
“Because there is a possibility of a federal election in the fall, there will be a lot of action towards that… There is a big opportunity for us to be really engaged with the election process,” said Turner.
Gray and 61 other Conservative MPs who against the bill, some saying the wording of the bill makes it appear as if having a conversation between parents and their children about sexuality is illegal. Bill C-6 passed third reading in the House of Commons on June 22 in a 263-63 vote.
“I always take a thoughtful and pragmatic approach to decisions and simply without this legislation being better, I did not vote to send it to the next stage in the parliamentary process,” said Gray in a statement in June.
Kelowna Capital News tried to reach out to Gray’s office for comment multiple times following the town hall but did not receive a response in time for publication.