Canada on Brink of Banning Conversion Therapy Nationwide

Canada is considering legislation to restrict conversion therapy nationally.

David Lametti, the nation’s justice minister, and Bardish Chagger, the minister of diversity and youth, introduced a bill to that effect Monday afternoon, CTV News reports. Lametti called the proposal the “most progressive and comprehensive in the world” seeking to limit the discredited and harmful practice of trying to turn LGBTQ people straight or cisgender.

The legislation, Bill S-206, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Conversion Therapy), would make it illegal to cause a minor to undergo conversion therapy; to remove a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy in another country; cause a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will; profit from providing conversion therapy; or advertise an offer to provide conversion therapy, according to a press release from Lametti’s office.

“Diversity and inclusion are among Canada’s greatest strengths,” the release says. “Canadians must feel safe in their identities, and free to be their true selves. That is why the Government of Canada is acting on its commitment to criminalize conversion therapy in Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made that commitment during his reelection campaign last year. The federal government had previously said it should be up to provinces and localities to regulate the practice.

The bill would not make it a criminal offense to “provide support to persons questioning their sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity,” the legislation states. The federal government also agreed to work with local and provincial governments on conversion therapy regulations; several of them have enacted their own bans.

“Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that can lead to lifelong trauma, particularly for young people,” Lametti said in the release. “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.”

“We all have a role to play to make sure LGBTQ2 persons feel safe and can fully participate in Canadian society,” Chagger added. “The progressive legislation we proposed today will help to ensure that everyone, everywhere in Canada can be who they truly are, and live full, healthy, and safe lives.”

The proposal received praise internationally. “Canada’s bill is a milestone for LGBTQ human rights and will help to bring families back together with their LGBTQ children,” said a statement issued by Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and cofounder of Born Perfect, a project of the U.S.-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Being subjected to conversion therapy drives many LGBTQ youth into hopelessness. A parent’s acceptance is make or break for an LGBTQ child’s future. Canada’s bill sends a powerful message that LGBTQ youth are born perfect.”

“Like Canada, countries across the world are taking active steps to address the devastating harms caused by conversion therapy,” added Shannon Minter, legal director at NCLR. “Other countries considering similar legislation include Chile, Mexico, and Germany, and grassroots movements to expose this abusive practice are growing in South Africa and many other African countries. This is now a global movement that is emerging as one of the most urgent and critical issues for LGBTQ people across the world.”

“So-called conversion therapy efforts hinge on the belief that cisgender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender identities and/or same-sex attraction not only fall outside the norm, but have to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, in a press release. “By introducing a bill which foresees a nationwide ban, the government of Canada has sent a powerful message — that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure. I commend the ministers in question for taking this important step, and urge authorities to bolster this effort with measures designed to promote understanding and inclusion of LGBTIQ people, thus tackling the root causes of these harmful, inhuman practices.”

“We’re proud to support Canada’s move to end the discredited practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors, and celebrate as it joins the growing number of nations preventing its citizens from conversion therapy’s harms,” said a statement from Troy Stevenson, campaign manager for the Trevor Project’s 50 Bills 50 States campaign to end conversion therapy in the U.S. “With Canada’s official introduction today, the country joins the U.S., Germany, Mexico, and Chile as we all seek to outlaw the practice among minors in our countries. This legislation will save countless LGBTQ young lives, and we’re grateful for Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership in showing young LGBTQ Canadians that they are worthy of love and respect.”

Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, and Taiwan have nationwide bans on conversion therapy. In the U.S., 20 states and more than 70 cities and counties have made it illegal for licensed professionals to subject minors to the practice, and some survivors of such therapy have successfully sued their former therapists under state consumer fraud laws.

The proposal is among several pro-LGBTQ moves by Trudeau’s government. In 2017, the prime minister apologized for the Canada’s efforts to purge LGBTQ people from government jobs from the 1950s into the early 1990s and offered financial compensation to those affected.