Government wants to ban conversion therapy for adults and children | National
OTTAWA – The federal government is expected to reintroduce a bill banning conversion therapy on Monday, both to fulfill a campaign promise and to potentially close loopholes that emerged the last time such a law came before parliament.
The law, if passed, would prohibit practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The pending bill – a beefed up version of a bill that died on regulatory paper when parliament was dissolved before the September elections – would ban the discredited practice for both children and adults. The previous incarnation of the draft law banned conversion therapy for children, but only made it a criminal offense to force adults to undergo conversion therapy without their consent.
Conversion therapy practices in the past have included electroshock therapy as well as intense sessions designed to suppress non-heterosexual attraction and change people’s sexual orientation.
The government has stated that banning conversion therapy is a priority and has pledged to re-table a bill on the issue within the first hundred days of its new mandate, which began with the swearing-in of cabinet ministers last month. The latest version is expected to be unveiled by Justice Minister David Lametti and Minister for Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien.
The previous bill, known as C-6, was supported by most MPs, but it also met with strong opposition from more than half of the Conservative faction.
Opponents criticized the bill, which was heavily modified in parliament, on the grounds that consent to a harmful practice was invalid.
Young people who have agreed to conversion therapy do not understand what they are getting into, and often do so under pressure from family or faith leaders, according to advocacy group No Conversion Canada.
“Our advice is that this will be a much stronger law than last time,” said spokesman Nicholas Schiavo. “The fact that it will be presented this early in the session is very good news.”
The new bill is likely to have support from the NDP, the QuÃ©becois Bloc, the Greens, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and many of his party members.
But more than half of the Conservative faction opposed the government’s earlier attempt to crack down on the discredited practice. Schiavo believes more Tories will take part in the bill this time around.
Gemma Hickey, who is non-binary, received “faith-based” conversion therapy as a teenager in St. John’s.
Hickey sought out a doctor after becoming attracted to a girl in high school. The family doctor referred them to a therapist who told them that homosexuality was not natural and “against God”. The experience drove Hickey to attempt suicide by overdosing on pills and alcohol.
Hickey said they were pleased the government was making a ban a priority, saying that such a move “is a long time coming”.
“It’s time this was over,” said Hickey. “I support a total ban as this practice is inherently homophobic and transphobic and has no place in Canada or anywhere else.”
The LGBTQ activist said they had âbeen working towards this for nearly 30 years.
“Young people dealing with sexuality and gender identity are very vulnerable and this type of so-called therapy is harmful to vulnerable teens,” they added.
Conversion therapy is banned in several countries around the world, including Malta and Germany.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 28, 2021.
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