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Bill proposing nationwide ban on ‘conversion therapy’ introduced in Canada

Amendments to the Criminal Code proposing to ban so-called “conversion therapy” practices to change, suppress, or divert one’s sexual orientation or gender identity were introduced in Canada by its ministers of Justice and Diversity, Inclusion and Youth.

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Amendments to the Criminal Code proposing to ban so-called “conversion therapy” practices to change, suppress, or divert one’s sexual orientation or gender identity were introduced in Canada by its ministers of Justice and Diversity, Inclusion and Youth.

“Conversion therapy” practices are already illegal in a number of provinces and cities around Canada, including Ontario, Manitoba, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. The “Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)” goes a step beyond regional bans and proposes nation-wide criminalization of the practices, naming specifically the prohibition of causing minors to undergo “conversion therapy” at home or abroad, as well as criminalizing advertising of and profiting from “conversion therapy”.

David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the 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 behaviors, 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.

If passed, Canada will join Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan, becoming only the 5th country in the world to ban “conversion therapy” at a national level.

International attention on so-called “conversion therapy” has grown in recent months and years. The UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is working on a report on the topic due to be issued in June. A nationwide ban is pending in Germany; bans have also been considered in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Chile and elsewhere.

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