Doug Ford should condemn a Progressive Conservative candidate seeking re-election in a riding outside Hamilton, opposition party leaders said Wednesday, after a report he oversaw a youth magazine from his church that promoted homophobia and conversion therapy.

Before winning his seat representing the Brantford–Brant riding in the 2018 election, Will Bouma headed a committee of the Free Reformed Church of North America that published a magazine calling on young people to reject the “homosexual lifestyle,” according to a report from Press Progress.

That magazine espouses the church’s view imposing one acceptable form of sexual attraction, that of a man and a woman in a monogamous marriage, and suggests people become gay because they suffered drug addictions or were “love-starved” as children, the report said.

During Bouma’s time overseeing the publication, the magazine ran an interview with a pastor who is now part of an Australian church accused of having practised conversion therapy, the report said. The practice, which involves seeking to change, suppress or eradicate someone's sexual orientation or gender identity as a perceived physical or psychological dysfunction, was outlawed in Canada earlier this year.

“Doug Ford must fire Will Bouma,” the Liberals said in a statement. The leader of the Ontario Greens, Mike Schreiner, called on Ford to condemn the candidate’s role, and the NDP’s Andrea Horwath said there was never an excuse for expressing homophobia.

"You have the support of the vast majority of people in our province," Horwath said in a message to young people. "There are some who espouse these hateful beliefs, (but) just know that you are loved, that you're special, that you're respected, and that you belong. And we will always be with you."

A lack of acceptance from family and stigma imposed by other community contributes to heightened suicide risk among queer youth, research shows.

Progressive Conservative candidate Will Bouma (third from left) poses with campaign volunteers. Photo via Will Bouma / Twitter

Bouma’s campaign manager did not respond to calls and email messages sent to his campaign office in Brantford, about an hour’s drive west of Hamilton. However, Bouma responded on Twitter, saying he “had no involvement in writing these articles” and that he was “a proud, loving, and supportive father” of an LGBTQ daughter.

“My views are clear, I support the rights of all of my constituents regardless of orientation,” he said.

Doug Ford defended Ontario PC candidate Will Bouma Wednesday after a report surfaced that Bouma oversaw a youth magazine at his church that promoted homophobia and conversion therapy. #ONpoli

Ford defended the first-term MPP to reporters Wednesday, stressing Bouma was not involved in writing articles promoting homophobia and conversion therapy.

“He just doesn’t believe in that and he didn’t do it,” Ford said in Hamilton, according to the Star. “I don’t know who’s making this stuff up.”

The Free Reformed Church of North America did not respond to a request for comment.

Bouma won the seat in his riding in 2018, collecting just over 600 more votes than second-placed NDP candidate Alex Felsky.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer