This article was published on December 4th, 2021
The federal government on Monday reintroduced a bill that seeks to ban the practice of conversion therapy and protect LGBTQ2+ Canadians from abuse.
The legislation, titled Bill C-4, is the fourth piece of federal legislation brought forward to outlaw conversion practices. It appears to be more comprehensive than the previous version known as Bill C-6, which died with the dissolution of Parliament before the September election.
Conversion therapy is the practice or attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, gender identity to cisgender, or gender expression to match the sex they were assigned at birth.
The bill, if passed, would make it a crime to make another person undergo conversion therapy, regardless of consent. The previous bill only deemed it a criminal offence if the practice was performed on an adult without consent. Bill C-4 would also make it a crime to send a child for conversion therapy outside Canada, advertise conversion therapy, or profit financially from the practice.
Make it law “as quickly as possible”
The government is determined to pass the new legislation, having pledged to reintroduce it within the first 100 days of a new mandate. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti, who tabled the legislation, urged his fellow MPs to make it law “as quickly as possible.”
Conversion practices are widely discredited as a form of torture proven to cause serious harm such as depression, anxiety, internalized shame and stigma, PTSD and suicide ideation.
Lucas Wilson, a survivor, and Sessional Lecturer at the University of Toronto said he is delighted to see the government determined to protect Canadians from the harmful practice.
“It is high time that LGBTQ2+ people across Canada are protected from the dangers and death-dealing effects of conversion “therapy” practices. Despite the setback of the 62 MPs decision to not protect the welfare of LGBTQ2+ persons by opposing Bill C-6 earlier this year, I am relieved that the Canadian government is taking steps to ensure that Canadians will no longer be subject to the abuse that are conversion ‘therapy’ practices.”
Fraudulent and dangerous
No Conversion Canada, a group focused on banning conversion therapy, welcomed the new legislation in a media statement.
“We are pleased to see this strong legislation introduced that has adopted many of the requests from survivors and community for a more comprehensive ban on these barbaric practices,” said Nicholas Schiavo, Executive Director of No Conversion Canada.
“It is critical that Parliament pass a complete ban on conversion practices – that are proven to be fraudulent and dangerous – so that all LGBTQ2+ Canadians are protected from abuse. We look forward to working with survivors and all Parliamentarians to see it through”.
Data from June 2021 shows that as many as one in ten (10%) gay, bi, trans, and queer men and Two-Spirit and non-binary people in Canada have experienced conversion practices. Of particular concern, the data published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE shows that 67% experienced conversion “therapy” practices in religious/faith-based settings, and 72% started conversion “therapy” practices before the age of 20.
The previous bill faced resistance from more than half of the Conservative caucus, who argued it could have criminalized voluntary conversations about sexuality.
Lametti is, however, confident in the new and improved bill, saying that it should get enough political backing to go through.
“I think it will get through quickly, without promising an actual date. I believe we have the political will to move this forward,” Lametti said of the new version.
Update: December 7, 2021
After the Conservative opposition party tabled bill C-4 in the Canadian House of Commons late last week, which passed unanimously across all parties, today, the Senate gave their full support and approval, with no changes, to the bill. The final step in the process to ban conversion therapy in Canada is for the bill to receive royal assent, which is expected to happen very soon.