Conservative delegates voted Saturday to add some new social conservative policies to their policy playbook, including a proposal to limit access to transgender health care for minors and another to do away with vaccine mandates.
Despite warnings that these policies could be weaponized by their political opponents to hurt their standing among more moderate voters, a strong majority of the delegates on hand voted for a motion that stated children should be prohibited from gender-related “life-altering medicinal or surgical interventions,” and for another that said Canadians should have “bodily autonomy” when it comes to vaccines and other health treatments.
About 69 per cent of the delegates agreed that young people should be barred from gender-affirming care, which sometimes includes hormone-related treatments that delay puberty or promote the development of masculine or feminine sex characteristics.
Michelle Badalich, an Edmonton delegate, said dysphoria is a “mental health disorder” and it should be addressed with treatment not “irreversible procedures.”
“Please protect our kids,” she said to thunderous applause.
It’s not clear precisely which medical treatments would be targeted by the proposed ban.
The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) has said that “gender-affirming medical interventions may be an important component of comprehensive care” for some transgender or gender-diverse adolescents.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is not bound to adopt any of the policies that were passed at this convention. Poilievre did not take questions from reporters after the votes.
‘Protect your wives and daughters’
Liam O’Brien, a Newfoundland and Labrador delegate, noted that “Canada is watching” as Conservatives debate controversial policies like this one.
“Canada is also watching our leader kick Justin Trudeau’s ass,” O’Brien said as he urged delegates to keep the focus on the high cost of living and “Liberal incompetence.”
On another transgender-related policy, delegates voted by an overwhelming 87 per cent to support a plan to demand single-sex spaces that are only open to women, which the party now defines as a “female person” with the adoption of the policy.
The policy is intended to keep transgender and other gender-diverse people out of women’s prisons, shelters, locker rooms and washrooms.
Badalich said it’s “not extremist” to demand that what she calls “biological women” have a space to call their own.
“Vote yes to protect your wives and daughters,” said another delegate, a 15-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta.
A dissenting delegate from Quebec who did not give her name said “the Liberals will love nothing more” than to see Conservatives pass policies like this one and use discriminatory rhetoric to describe sexual minorities.
“Please, let’s get the Liberals out. Let’s get elected,” she said.
The convention also adopted a proposal from the Alberta riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner to impose stiffer penalties on sex offenders and pedophiles.
“Children are little angels of the world,” a delegate from that riding named Logan said during the debate. He said there are nefarious actors who are trying to “assault, sexualize and traffic our children,” and a Poilievre-led government needs to crackdown on the practice.
About 86 per cent of the delegates agreed there should be “stronger legislation” to try and curb these activities.
On the issue of vaccines, an Ontario delegate and medical doctor pleaded with Conservatives to reject mandates so to avoid repeat of what transpired during the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Justin Trudeau’s coercive, divisive and ineffective vaccine mandate is a violation of the human right to bodily autonomy. Stand up for freedom, stand up for common sense,” said Dr. Matt Strauss, the former acting medical officer of health for Haldimand-Norfolk.
Delegates agreed with about 68 per cent voting to “affirm Canadians have the freedom and right to refuse vaccines.”
The delegates were in lockstep on most policy matters.
On the issue of preferential hiring for minorities by research institutions, delegates passed a policy that said federally funded jobs should go to a person who’s best qualified, “irrespective of the personal immutable characteristics,” stated the motion.
Adrian Dylianou, a Saskatchewan delegate who backed the policy, said “woke ideology” should be rooted out of Canada’s universities.
The “woke ideology whims of whoever is in power” is not the way to structure a workplace, he said.
Justin Vuong, an Edmonton delegate who identified as a visible minority, said all job choices should be decided on merit, not the colour of a person’s skin.
WATCH | Pierre Poilievre’s first leadership convention speech
About 95 per cent of members on hand for the vote agreed.
On a similar matter, 81 per cent of delegates supported a policy to end “forced political, cultural or ideological training of any kind” at a workplace, such as mandatory diversity training and other such programs.
Discussion about the motion focused on Jordan Peterson, a professor with a large following in right-wing circles who was ordered by the College of Psychologists of Ontario to take social media training in the wake of complaints about his controversial online posts and statements.
“Two words: Jordan Peterson,” one Alberta delegate said during the debate.
“Forced cultural or ideological training — none of us that support that,” he said.
Oil and gas
Virtually all those assembled agreed that Canada should have more “robust measures to counter foreign interference” amid alleged Chinese meddling, improve services for Canada’s veterans, eliminate the deficit, reduce the national debt to tackle “inter-generational inequity,” and streamline the natural resources regulatory approvals process.
In another vote, 84 per cent of delegates agreed there should be a “purposeful, gradual transition to a lower carbon-use future,” but the country should continue to use oil and gas.
A majority of voters also supported a renewed push to get more infrastructure built to move those fuels to market.
During a spirited debate on high-speed rail, an urban-rural divide became obvious as competing speakers weighed in on whether the Tories should back a new rail network.
A Nova Scotia delegate said that rural dwellers shouldn’t be forced to pay for proposed projects that would primarily benefit the country’s cities.
Trudeau blasted for passport redesign
Earlier Saturday, Daniel Hannon, a member of the British House of Lords and a prominent Brexit campaigner, delivered a speech to the convention blasting Trudeau for allegedly unpatriotic acts taken by his government.
A reoccurring theme of the Conservative convention is Tory disgust with the government’s redesign of the passport.
On Trudeau’s watch, the document was stripped of references to notable events in Canada’s history, including the country’s First World War victory at the battle of Vimy Ridge.
The government also dumped images of Terry Fox, who became a national hero with his Marathon of Hope, Quebec City’s historic old quarter and the Famous Five trailblazing Canadian women who helped advance women’s rights.
These changes have been interpreted by many Conservatives delegates as an attempt to erase Canada’s history.
“Who would want to efface the images of your history from the passports? Who would want to replace the pictures that tell your story with generic shapes and patterns that could come from anywhere?” Hannon said.
“Canadians are not a random set of individuals who happen to qualify for the same passport,” he said. “Canadians are a nation and not just any nation — they’re bound together by shared stories and shared dreams.”
Poilievre shares Hannon’s position that the country should embrace a more robust form of national pride. In his keynote address Friday, Poilievre said Trudeau’s trying to suppress Canadian patriotism.
“Justin Trudeau wants to cancel our proud history, erasing it from our passports,” Poilievre said. “Why? Because there can be no heroes but him.”
“This business of deleting our past must end. And this is a matter on which English Canada must learn from Quebec. Quebecers — and I’m saying this in English deliberately — do not apologize for their culture, language or history. They celebrate it. All Canadians should do the same.”