Diversity and inclusion are among Canada’s greatest strengths. 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.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, announced the introduction of proposed legislative amendments to the Criminal Code.
The legislation proposes five new Criminal Code offences related to conversion therapy. These include:
- causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy
- removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad
- causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will
- profiting from providing conversion therapy
- advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy
The legislation would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order their removal from computer systems or the Internet.
Conversion therapy aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual’s gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth. It harms and stigmatizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) persons, undermines their dignity and negatively impacts their equality rights. It reflects myths and stereotypes about LGBTQ2 persons, in particular that sexual orientations other than heterosexual, and gender identities other than cisgender, can and should be changed. The practice can take various forms, including counselling and behavioural modification.
Criminal law reform is an important step toward protecting LGBTQ2 persons and promoting their rights, but more remains to be done. The Government of Canada is committed to working with provinces, territories, municipalities and stakeholders to ensure that Canada is a country where everyone – regardless of their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation – can live in equality and freedom.
“Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that can lead to life-long trauma, particularly for young people. 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.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“We all have a role to play to make sure LGBTQ2 persons feel safe and can fully participate in Canadian society. 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 Honourable Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
According to the interim results of the 2019-2020 Community-Based Research Centre Sex Now Survey, 1 in 5 sexual minority men have been subjected to sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression change efforts. The 2011-2012 results of the Survey also showed that lower income, Indigenous and trans persons are disproportionately represented among those exposed to conversion therapy.
Under their responsibility for health-related matters, 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. Other jurisdictions have implemented non-legislative measures, such as Manitoba, which issued a position statement indicating that it expects health professionals to ensure that conversion therapy is not practised in the province.
Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Lethbridge, Wood Buffalo and Spruce Grove, Alberta, are banning the practice and promotion of conversion therapy within their city limits.
These new offences would not apply to those who provide support to persons questioning their sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity (such as teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members).