The federal government today announced new legislation that would effectively ban the practice of conversion therapy in Canada.
Marci Ien, the minister for women and gender equality and youth, told an afternoon news conference that the proposed legislation — titled Bill C-4 — will be “among the most comprehensive in the world.”
Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change an individual’s gender identity to cisgender, or to change their gender expression to match the sex they were assigned at birth.
The Liberal government had tabled similar legislation to outlaw the practice earlier this year, but the late summer election wiped out the proposal before it could become law.
The new legislation appears to be stricter and more comprehensive than the version that was lost with the dissolution of Parliament before the election.
The new version would make “causing another person to undergo conversion therapy” a criminal offence. The previous version, known as Bill C-6, called for a criminal penalty only if conversion therapy was performed on an adult without consent.
The change suggests that no person will be allowed to participate in conversion therapy if the bill becomes law — regardless of consent.
WATCH | Minister of Justice David Lametti speaks to CBC’s Power & Politics about conversion therapy legislation
“No matter your age, torture is something you can’t consent to,” Justice Minister David Lametti said.
Bill C-4 would also make it a crime to send a child for conversion therapy outside Canada, to advertise conversion therapy or to profit financially from the practice.
Practice can amount to torture: UN
A 2020 report to the United Nations called for a global ban on the practice. The report said the practice can amount to torture.
Conversion therapy is often sold as a form of counselling or behaviour modification, Ien noted.
“These seemingly innocent titles are meant to distract people from what is actually happening during these so-called therapies,” she said.
No Conversion Canada, a group pushing to end 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, the organization’s executive director.
“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.”
Government expects bill will ‘get through quickly’
Minutes after the legislation was tabled, the NDP issued a media statement indicating that the new proposal will have enough support to proceed in the House of Commons.
“Today, New Democrats stand ready to help make sure this bill proceeds through the House as quickly as possible,” said New Democrat MPs Randall Garrison and Blake Desjarlais in a joint statement.
“We hope to get this bill to the Senate before Christmas so we can avoid a repeat of the Liberal’s failure to get this done.”
The previous conversion therapy bill was met with resistance both in the House of Commons and in the Senate. Of the 63 MPs who voted against the bill in the House of Commons, 62 were Conservatives.
Some Conservative senators also opposed the bill, arguing that it did not adequately define conversion therapy and could have criminalized voluntary conversations about sexuality.
“I think it will get through quickly, without promising an actual date,” Lametti said of the new version.
“I believe we have the political will to move this forward.”
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