Conversion Therapy Banned in Canada After Bill Passes in Senate
01:39 GMT 10.12.2021 (Updated: 13:36 GMT 06.08.2022)
Conversion therapy is a combination of medical and psychiatric methods of “changing” a person's homo- and bisexual orientation to heterosexual. It is based on the assumption that representatives of the LGBT community can be "cured."
The Canadian Senate passed on Thursday legislation banning conversion therapy. The new law establishes criminal liability for engaging in the controversial practice in Canada with a person of any age, regardless of whether they have given their consent or not.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called conversion therapy a "despicable and degrading practice," saying the bill "has received Royal Assent - meaning it is now law."
It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent - meaning it is now law. LGBTQ2 Canadians, we’ll always stand up for you and your rights.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 8, 2021
Aiding and promoting the practice will also be considered a criminal offense. In addition, parents are prohibited from taking their child to another country for the purpose of undergoing conversion therapy outside of Canada.
The law, which will enter into force thirty days after being signed, was harshly criticized for some of its provisions that were considered too radical, as they can be broadly interpreted.
In particular, the law prohibits consenting adults from seeking conversion therapy. The latter was defined in law as counseling aimed to "repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior."
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Other definitions describe the therapy as a tool to "repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity" and "repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth."
The Canadian bill was said by some to even contradict the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it goes far beyond the scientific definition of conversion therapy, seen as a “formal therapeutic attempt.”
"This piece of legislation is by far the most direct attack we've seen on freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and religion," said Marty Moore, an attorney with the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. "The Charter violations present in this bill are very concerning."
Moore pointed out how the bill's preamble describes as a "myth" the belief that heterosexuality and cisgender identity are preferable, which he warned has potential implications for Canadians whose religions promote sexuality exclusively between a married man and woman.
He noted that Canadian religious practices that see sexuality as possible only between a married man and woman may be classified by this law as a criminal offense.
"The teaching and the propagation of those faiths, if it comes into contact with an LGBTQ person, regardless of whether that LGBTQ person is seeking that counseling or not, […] run the risk of being classified as conversion therapy," Moore said.
According to him, the bill may play a harmful role “in many acrimonious situations between parents and children, between churches and parishioners, between married couples going through divorces.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, who introduced the draft law, stressed it does not prohibit "a simple, supportive conversation with someone about their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."
"This Bill targets something else entirely: people who are actively working to, and providing services designed to, change someone’s gender identity or gender expression to match the sex they were assigned at birth, or someone’s sexual orientation to heterosexual," Lametti noted as cited by Fox News. "These dangerous practices must end."
In 2016, a similar law was passed for the first time in Malta. In 2020, conversion therapy was declared illegal in Germany - if the patient is a minor or was forcibly involved in the practice. It is also banned in twenty US states.