Calls for Gladu to resign in the wake of petition on conversion therapy bill

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole not about to weigh in on Sarnia-Lambton MPs actions

There are calls for Sarnia Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu to resign after advancing a petition on conversion therapy.

And she is facing criticism from a number of churches who say Gladu spoke for them without consulting them .

Gladu told The Independent in an email she presented the petition Dec. 9 in the House of Commons at the request of a constituent. It said the federal government should either amend or scrap Bill C-6, which would ban conversion therapy – a practice already illegal in Ontario. Gladu, in her statement to the House said Bill C-6 “prevents (churches from helping) people who, of their own free will, want counselling, advice or prayer about their sexual confusion.”

Gladu had said the bill was supported by the majority of her riding’s 91 churches. The petition bore 168 names which have not been released.

But a number of church leaders in the region have written letters saying their church was not consulted and if they were, they would not have signed the petition.

“We continue to be concerned that you choose to speak for the majority of Sarnia-Lambton churches without fully understanding that there are many communities of faith that not only strive to create a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ individuals but seek systemic change,” wrote Rev. Deena Gibson and Greg Bond of the Brigden United Church.

Courtright and Sixth Line United Churches also weighed in. “While you have stated that your petition carried the support of the majority of churches in Sarnia-Lambton, our voice was never sought nor considered. We affirm the value and dignity of all people and strongly denounce any practice or efforts that attempt to change a person’s sexual or gender identity. It’s not only our faith that guides us to this position but the overwhelming evidence of the psychologically damaging nature of these practices,” write Pastor Gabrielle Heidinger and Congregant Reid William Eyre.

There were also letters from churches in Sarnia, Bright’s Grove and Camlachie stating their opposition to Gladu’s stand.

And while Gladu stated the petition was brought to her to present, a letter on stationary from Gladu’s office dated May 27, is circulating on Twitter. In it, Gladu tries to enlist local churches to sign the petition. “I am writing you today because I am extremely concerned about an attack on our freedom of religion, conscience, expression, belief and our ability to speak in the public square,” she writes.

She goes on to say the bill would make it a criminal offense to be involved in any way in what is called conversion therapy. Gladu draws the conclusion that pastors wouldn’t even be able to counsel or pray for people under the new law.

Gladu’s office didn’t return a request for an answer if the petition was actually started by the MP.

By Feb. 1, Gladu posted a brief statement on her website. It reads “In response to many inquiries, let me clarify my position on Bill C-6: I vehemently oppose conversion therapy, and support the LGBTQ+ community. I support freedom of religion and speech.”

Meantime, the local NDP provincial riding association started its own petition on the issue condemning Gladu’s stand.

And a petition on Change.org calls for the MP’s resignation. Tyler Whetham’s petition says in part “Marilyn lied in Parliament, to her constituents, and is hiding behind the idea of religious freedom to promote conversion therapy. The damaging effects of conversion therapy, particularly in youth, is very well known.

“Gladu has eroded her community’s trust that she represents the people of Sarnia-Lambton. Her support for amending Bill C-6 shows that she does not support the LGBTQ+ community, and is actively seeking ways to allow religious leaders to cause further harm to an already vulnerable population. Marilyn needs to resign for lying and for seeking support for her own ideology that fails against the LGBTQ+ community.”

In less than two days, over 2,150 people have signed the petition.

The Independent reached out to Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to see if the Sarnia-Lambton MP would be reprimanded for her stand on the issue, however the leader’s director of communications, Chelsea Tucker, said “Questions around MP Gladu’s petition are best directed to her.”