Conservatives dump candidate touting therapies to turn gay youth straight

OTTAWA – The Conservative party says a candidate who defended therapies that attempt to turn gays straight is no longer their official representative in a suburban Toronto riding, although it is too late to remove him from the ballot.

Jagdish Grewal, who is running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial entitled “Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” that referred to homosexuality as “unnatural behaviour” and heterosexuals as “normal.”

A party spokeswoman said Tuesday night that Grewal’s comments “are not reflective of the views of the Conservative Party of Canada.”

“We believe that all Canadians – regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation – deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” Megan Murdoch said in an email.

Because the deadline has passed for candidates to withdraw or be put on a ballot, Grewal’s name will continue to appear as a candidate for the Conservative Party. He will not be able to participate in official party events, but his signs can stay up since they were paid for by his campaign. A party source said he would not be a caucus member if he won.

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Grewal is running in a region where there is a particularly fierce battle between the Liberals and Conservatives for seats.

In the Punjabi Post editorial earlier this year, Grewal describes an NDP private member’s bill passed in the Ontario legislature in June that removed public funding for services designed to “change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient.”

Grewal writes in the piece that some psychologists blame a “shock” during childhood for causing a person to become gay, but that the change “can be corrected.”

“The political competition of today raises the question of whether any person’s wish to become a normal person is wrong?” Grewal wrote in Punjabi.

“If it is a parent’s right to set guidelines for their children in terms of their education, career and health, then why is it illegal for them to strengthen their natural heterosexuality?

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Grewal said in an interview Tuesday that he was attempting to educate readers about an issue in the news and lay out the positions taken by the provincial parties and psychologists. He said he did not recall the names of the psychologists he mentioned.

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In the editorial, he points to the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, an American group that offers therapies to people who have “unwanted homosexual attractions.”

“Yes, there’s children who have tendencies, who are attracted,” Grewal said in the interview. “If that child wants to come back or tell the parents that he wants to get out of this life, then parents should have the right to bring them back to their straight life.”

Grewal’s editorial does not address professional criticism of so-called reparative or conversion therapies. The Canadian Pediatric Society’s position on adolescent sexual orientation states that such treatments “should not be provided because they do not work and have the potential to heighten guilt and anxiety.”

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High-profile Ontario Progressive Conservatives supported the private member’s bill when it came to a vote.

In Surrey, B.C., NDP Leader Tom Mulcair held a unscheduled media availability late Tuesday to call for Grewal’s removal as a candidate.

“That type of statement is so totally inadmissible there’s only one possible outcome: Mr. Harper has to fire that candidate,” said Mulcair, who had earlier taken to Twitter to denounce Grewal’s “homophobic” comments.

Grewal is just the latest in a series of unacceptable comments by Conservative candidates, Mulcair said, noting that Harper has signed the nomination papers of Tory incumbents John Williamson and Larry Miller. Williamson complained last March that “brown people” were taking white people’s jobs and Miller told a call-in radio show that Muslim women who don’t want to remove their face-covering veils during citizenship ceremonies should go back to where they came from.

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“Mr. Harper’s got to start getting it right and it starts by firing this candidate who said those things that are totally unacceptable about gays,” Mulcair said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also called for Grewal’s removal.

“There is no place for offensive and homophobic statements. The Conservatives should apologize and Stephen Harper needs to remove this candidate,” Trudeau said in a statement issued by the party.

Grewal is running against Liberal Navdeep Bains, a former MP who is also an organizer for the party in the Toronto area. Dianne Douglas, a former municipal executive assistant, is running for the NDP.

A campaign pamphlet recently spotted in the riding, with the fine print, “Authorized by the official agent for Jagdish Grewal,” features a picture of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Toronto Pride parade. The slogan reads, “Are these the priorities of your family?”

In another picture, a piece of paper is superimposed onto Bains’ hand. The paper reads “Liberal priorities: Sex Education, Gay Marriage, Legalize Marijuana and Prostitution.”

Grewal says the flyer is not from his campaign.

There has been opposition to the Ontario government’s new sexual education curriculum from within some ethnic communities. The new content addresses sexual orientation and gender identity and homophobia. Children in Grade 1 will be taught the correct names of body parts.

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Earlier this year, Wynne said she believed the federal Conservatives were using sex ed as a political wedge issue in the province in advance of the election.

Grewal says he’s been getting an earful from people in the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities upset by the curriculum.

“There are families who are keeping their kids at home, they’re not sending them to school they’re so frustrated with this,” said Grewal. “They don’t talk about any other issues. This is their biggest issue at the time at the door.”

Bains disagrees, saying people understand that a federal MP has no power to shape a provincial education plan.

“Unemployment is high, higher than the national average, youth unemployment is high and people are worried about the economy, worried about jobs,” Bains said of the riding. “Those are the issues that matter.”

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