Canadian government introduces bill to make conversion therapy illegal

Mar 10 2020, 10:07 am

The Government of Canada introduced a bill on Monday to ban the practice of conversion therapy in Canada.

Conversion therapy refers to any treatment, counselling, or behaviour modification that aims to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Professional and medical associations have denounced the practice, claiming that it doesn’t work and can be painful and invalidating for individuals subjected to it.

A release from the federal government says the bill is intended to help Canadians “feel safe in their identities, and free to be their true selves.”

The government says the practice also reflects myths and stereotypes about the LGBTQ2+ community, in particular, that sexual orientations other than heterosexual, and gender identities other than cisgender, can and should be changed.

A release from the federal government says the bill is intended to help Canadians “feel safe in their identities, and free to be their true selves.”

The legislation proposes five new criminal code offences related to conversion therapy, including:

  1.  Causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy
  2. Removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad
  3. Causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will
  4. Profiting from providing conversion therapy
  5. Advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy

The bill would also allow courts to seize conversion therapy advertisements and order their removal from the internet.

“Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that can lead to life-long trauma, particularly for young people,” said Honourable David Lametti,  Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

“The approach we are proposing today demonstrates our government’s strong commitment to protecting the dignity and equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit Canadians, by criminalizing a practice that discriminates against and harms them. If passed, this bill would make Canada’s laws on conversion therapy the most progressive and comprehensive in the world.”

In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to the attorney general, asking him to end the practice in Canada’s provinces and territories.

According to the interim results of the 2019-2020 Community-Based Research Centre Sex Now Survey, one in five sexual minority men, including gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer have been subjected to sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression change efforts.

Some Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Edmonton, have already banned businesses that practice gay conversion therapy, while Manitoba and Edmonton have banned the practice on minors.

At the provincial level, governments are able to target regulated health and medical professionals and billing codes, while municipalities can implement fines

“Ontario, Nova Scotia, and PEI have enacted legislation specifying that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and banning health care professionals from providing treatment to minors, unless they are capable of consenting,” said the release from the federal government.

Manitoba has taken non-legislative measures, including issuing a position statement indicating that it expects health professionals to ensure that conversion therapy is not practised in the province.

Nova Scotia also banned conversion therapy in 2018.