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Conservative MP Derek Sloan arrives to a meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A proposed bill seeking to make it illegal to force someone into therapy to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity is turning into a political fundraising tool.

Conservative MP and failed leadership candidate Derek Sloan is asking his supporters to help him raise $25,000 for his re-election bid on the strength of his effort to fight against the bill.

Sloan has long been opposed to the legislation, and used it during his leadership campaign to rally supporters in the social conservative wing of the party by suggesting it amounted to child abuse.

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In a letter sent to supporters Thursday, he said the Liberals’ bill amounts to an “insidious ideological approach to gender identity, potentially harming many children for the rest of their lives.”

He also alleges that most children questioning their gender or sexual orientation will just “grow out of it” and the bill would criminalize private conversations aimed at trying to help kids feel happy with the body they were born with.

The Liberals have insisted the bill will do no such thing, and is focused on ending the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy. Numerous studies have said it does not work and leaves those who undergo it suffering from long-term psychological wounds.

The bill is currently before the House of Commons justice committee after passing second reading last month in a vote of 308-7.

Sloan was among the seven Tory MPs who refused to back the bill, a fact the Liberals noted in their own recent fundraising pitch based on the proposed legislation.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole may say he wants more Canadians to “see a Conservative when they look in the mirror, the Liberals noted.

“But when Canadians look at Parliament, they keep seeing Conservatives voting against their fundamental human rights.”

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O’Toole did vote in favour of the bill, after giving a lengthy speech about his party’s belief in LGBTQ rights, Still, he suggested it does need amending.

A sticking point for caucus remains a sense the bill isn’t clear enough on the issue of allowing people to seek counselling without fear of reprisal for those who offer that support.

“Mr. O’Toole believes that conversion therapy is wrong and should be banned, that is why he voted in support of the bill at second reading,” said spokeswoman Chelsea Tucker, by e-mail on Thursday.

“We will be proposing a reasonable amendment so that all parties can support this important legislation.”

Eight other Conservative MPs also suggested in their votes that they were only supporting it in the hopes it would be amended.

Two Tories abstained from the vote and some just didn’t show up, either in person or virtually.

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O’Toole did, however, recently vote against a bill that would expand eligibility for medical assistance in dying, another piece of legislation causing consternation in the social conservative ranks.

The Liberals took that as proof that O’Toole is more beholden to social conservatives than the rights of all.

“We will always protect and support Canadians’ human rights, but especially in a minority Parliament, we know that we can never take our progress for granted,” the Liberals said in their Oct. 30 fundraising e-mail.

Sloan finished fourth in the leadership race O’Toole won in August. The party uses a ranked ballot, and in the end it was Sloan’s supporters, as well as that for candidate Leslyn Lewis, that put O’Toole out ahead of rival Peter MacKay.

Lewis and Sloan are both avowed social conservatives. Lewis will be running for the party in the next federal election in the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk. Sloan represents the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington.

O’Toole has promised to respect their views, and as a show of faith in that direction, allowed his caucus to vote freely on both recent bills.

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His office would not comment directly on Sloan’s fundraising e-mail Thursday and the party itself did not return a request for comment. . Still, the Liberals have suggested that Sloan be booted out of caucus over a number of inflammatory comments he made during his leadership campaign.

Sloan said Thursday they are trying to silence his voice and those of people who agree with him.

His e-mail also warned of the possibility of an election, saying the Liberals are already getting ready for one by smearing him and others.

“You know that I will never back down, no matter the cost,” he said.

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