'Cause of sexual orientation' is 'scientifically unclear,' Tory leadership hopeful says
OTTAWA -- Science right now doesn't show there's a biological component to being gay, rookie Tory MP and prospective Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan said in an interview on Tuesday.
"Whatever the cause of sexual orientation, which I still maintain is scientifically unclear. That is the position of science right now," Sloan said.
"Science right now is saying that, yes, there’s biological components, but there's many other factors that play into it and they don't even know how they all work together."
His comments during an interview on CTV Power Play were a response to fellow leadership hopeful Richard Décarie's recent remarks that being gay is a "choice."
His platform would not touch the issue of same-sex marriage, Sloan said, but he told Power Play host Evan Solomon that he would not have voted for Bill C-16, which enshrined the rights of transgender people into law in 2016.
He also said that while he disagrees with Décarie's comments, they were "blown into a bigger situation than it needed to be" because "people missed the nuance."
When Solomon pressed Sloan on his comments about sexuality, he said that "if you actually look into the research surrounding sexuality, there's a lot going on there."
"The idea that there is a specific biological etiology or cause is not true," he later added, saying that he was "borrowing" words from the American Psychological Association.
The APA's website says that while there is "no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation…most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."
Solomon then asked Sloan if this means he supports conversion therapy, which parliamentarians are currently working to outlaw through legislation.
Sloan replied that the concept of conversion therapy is "broadly defined." He said that the practice of "body affirming counselling," which Sloan said could fall under that banner, should not be banned.
"I don't think anybody should be forced to do anything they don't want to do. But if somebody wants to receive gender-affirming, or body-affirming counselling when they're going through a position of 'What's going on with me?' they should be able to have that," Sloan said.
"We know a lot of kids that go through these feelings grow out of them by the time they're adults."
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner defines conversion therapy as any "purported treatment having the objective or presenting itself with the objective to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity."
One-third of men who have undergone conversion therapy have attempted suicide, according to a report the Health Committee tabled in the House of Commons in 2019.
In an opinion piece for Macleans magazine, Peter Gajdics, who experienced conversion therapy in Canada in 1988, recounts the impact it had on him.
"Conversion therapy, I now know, is nothing more than sexuality abuse: the locus of attention no longer remains on the lies and hatred of the helping professional, but on the person whose sexuality is now under direct attack," Gajdics wrote.
"Legislative intervention helps prevent torture."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has mandated Justice Minister David Lametti to move forward with a ban on conversion therapy during this Parliament.
In the time since it aired, Sloan's comments have been criticized – including by a fellow member of the Conservative caucus.
“While I respect the rights of all Canadians to freely express their personal views, some comments are beyond unhelpful,” said Marilyn Gladu, who is also seeking the Conservative leadership.
Leadership candidate Erin O'Toole's team refused to comment, choosing instead to point to a 2013 vote in which he voted against the majority of his party to try to enshrine trans rights in the criminal code. The bill did not become law.
CTVNews.ca reached out to leadership candidate Peter MacKay's team, it did not provide a statement on Sloan's comments by the time of publication.
In response to Sloan’s appearance on Power Play, former NDP leader and CTV News political analyst Tom Mulcair said the rookie MP has complicated matters with Décarie.
“Mr. Sloan is going to make it very difficult for the vetting committee to reject Richard Décarie’s very fringe candidacy because [Sloan]’s so close to him. It would have been easy to say to Richard Décarie ‘You don’t represent our core values including equality rights, you’re not in as a candidate,'" Mulcair said.
Lisa Raitt, who is a co-chair of the Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee, did not respond to an interview request.
Egale, a Canadian LGBTQ advocacy organization, also did not reply to a request for comment at the time this article was published.