Politics

Liberals introduce bill to 'eradicate' conversion therapy

Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill that would crack down on the practice of conversion therapy by outlawing its use on minors and making it illegal to engage in it for profit.

NDP says it supports the legislation and will work to move it through House of Commons quickly

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan ( far left), NDP MP Randall Garrison (second from right) and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti (far right) look on as survivor Matt Ashcroft hugs Cheri DiNovo during an announcement on "eradicating" conversion therapy. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill that would crack down on the practice of conversion therapy by outlawing its use on minors and making it illegal to engage in it for profit.

"Today, I am happy to share that we have made significant progress in addressing an issue that is close to the hearts of many Canadians, our promise to protect Canadians from conversion therapy," Lametti said Monday.

"We're telling doctors and professionals that we want to see this act eradicated. I'm not sure I can make that more clear."

The justice minister said that conversion therapy — the pseudoscientific practice of using psychological or spiritual counselling to change the sexual orientation of someone who identifies as LGBTQ2 to heterosexual — is immoral.

"Conversion therapy is premised on a lie — that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is wrong and in need of fixing," he said. "Not only is that false, it sends a demeaning and degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals and the LGBTQ2 community as a whole.

"There is no right or wrong when it comes to who you are and who you love."

Lametti said that conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced in many countries and has no basis in science.

The bill he introduced proposes five new Criminal Code offences that would make it illegal to:

  • Cause a minor to undergo conversion therapy;
  • Take a minor out of Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad;
  • Force someone to undergo conversion therapy against their will;
  • Profit from conversion therapy;
  • Advertise conversion therapy as a service.

The legislation, if passed, would also give the courts the power to seize conversion therapy ads and to order their removal from computers or the internet.

The legislation does not cover private conversations between individuals about sexual identity.

NDP supports the bill

"I'm very happy to see that the government has advanced this bill quickly. We will work with them to ensure it achieves the goal of being the most comprehensive bill banning conversion therapy in the world," said NDP MP Randall Garrison.

Garrison, who is gay, said the bill is important because it acknowledges that no one who is LGBTQ2 needs fixing and that the practice of conversion therapy is harmful.

"It leads to depression, social isolation and often to self harm," he said.

Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti details why conversion therapy is destructive. 0:54

The NDP MP said his party will work with the government to make sure that it moves through the House of Commons swiftly.

The Conservatives have said they are open to considering the legislation, while the Bloc Québécois said it would support the bill as long as provincial jurisdiction is respected.

During the 2019 federal election, the Liberal Party committed to bringing forward the changes, noting that conversion therapy is "scientifically discredited."

So far, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Manitoba and Ontario have adopted measures to bar the practice from their province's health care systems. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton have also blocked the therapy.

Some religious groups are opposed to the change. If the law is passed, Campagne Québec-Vie, an anti-abortion organization, said it would challenge the changes in court in the name of religious freedom.

"If a person feels uncomfortable with their sexual orientation, who is the government to tell them … [they] have no right to change their orientation?" the organization's president Georges Buscemi told Radio-Canada in French.

 

Corrections

  • This story has been updated to use the word: trans. An earlier version of this story used a gramatically incorrect word.
    Mar 12, 2020 3:14 PM ET

With files from Radio-Canada's Louis Blouin