Liberals will propose a tougher version of the law banning conversion therapy


BIll C-6 failed to make it through the Senate and eventually died when the Liberals called a federal election

Article content

OTTAWA – The Liberal government is set to propose a tougher version of its previous bill banning conversion therapy, which was not passed before the dissolution of parliament for the elections.

advertising

Article content

No Conversion Canada’s advocacy group Nicholas Schiavo says he has been told by government officials that the new bill will “leave less room for loopholes.”

The upcoming bill would make it illegal to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through a discredited practice known as conversion therapy.

  1. Members of a working group charged with banning conversion therapy for gays in Alberta acted as marshals for this year's Calgary Pride Parade in downtown Calgary on Sunday, September 1, 2019.  Gavin Young / Postmedia

    Adam Zivo: Trudeau’s cynical policies are why conversion therapy is still legal in Canada

  2. Justice Secretary David Lametti holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 1.

    Barbara Kay: The Arguments for Deep Sixing by Bill C-6

An earlier bill known as C-6 would have made it a criminal offense to force adults into conversion therapy without their “consent”. But it outright forbade conversion therapy for children.

The House of Commons passed the bill, but it didn’t make it through the Senate until the Upper Chamber stood for the summer, and it eventually died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the August election.

advertising

Article content

The Liberals pledged to reintroduce a version of the bill within the first 100 days of a new mandate that began with the swearing-in of cabinet ministers last month.

Chantalle Aubertin, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister David Lametti, said the government is committed to a “total ban” on conversion therapy.

Schiavo said his organization expected the new version of the bill to be stronger than the last and would be introduced within weeks of the start of the new parliament.

“Our expectation – what we’ve heard – is that upcoming legislation will introduce a total ban on conversion practices with no loopholes for age, gender, or belief,” he said.

Bill C-6 was heavily amended last time and was rejected by more than half of the Conservative parliamentary group. It received strong support from other parties.

advertising

Article content

Critics said it was flawed because “consent” to conversion therapy was invalid on the grounds that the practice was causing harm and discredit.

Many young people who have “consented” to the practice do not understand what they are getting into or do so under pressure from family or faith leaders, No Conversion Canada said.

The new law is expected to have a broader scope, making the use of coercion or persuasion techniques to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity illegal across Canada.

Conversion therapy included electroshock therapy and intense sessions to suppress non-heterosexual sexual attraction.

“Last time, C-6 was a good start, but one of the biggest problems was that they created these big adult loopholes: adults could agree to that. Our refutation was that you cannot agree to a fraud, ”said Schiavo.

advertising

Article content

“We are very optimistic to see a stronger law than last time, and a stronger law would completely and utterly ban these harmful practices. We spoke to several legal experts who say a ban would stand up to any charter challenge. “

The Liberals have consulted other parties in an attempt to gain political support before the bill is presented. The Quebecois Bloc, the NDP and the Conservative leadership are expected to support the bill.

Erin O’Toole has said he supports and ends conversion therapy, as have many of his MPs. But others voted against previous attempts to stop the practice, saying Bill C-6 risked criminalizing conversations with faith leaders and therapists.

Conversion therapy is banned in many countries around the world, including Malta and Germany. New Zealand is about to finalize a ban.

advertising

Article content

The bill is expected to include provisions to ensure that freedom of speech, including private discussions and sermons in religious settings, is not banned as a side effect, as well as discussions about gender identity.

LGBTQ rights critic Randall Garrison, NDP MP, said he would look carefully to see if there were loopholes in the small print of the bill that would allow conversion therapy to continue.

Garrison said it was “no longer time to ban the extremely harmful practice of conversion therapy that has harmed thousands of Canadians”.

“Justin Trudeau and the Liberals promised to ban this practice, but instead made a selfish choice that killed the law and put more Canadians at risk. From day one, Justin Trudeau had a clear and willing partner to hasten this legislation to outlaw this barbaric conversion “therapy” and bring justice and peace to those who suffer, “he said in a statement.

advertising

Article content

Schiavo said he hopes the Tory leader ensures that all of his MPs vote for the new law. “I don’t think there should be a conscience vote on unscrupulous issues,” he said.

One conversion therapy survivor said the experience drove her to attempt suicide.

Gemma Hickey, who is non-binary, received “faith-based” conversion therapy as a teenager in St. John’s. They came from a strictly Catholic family and were given the female sex at birth. When they became attracted to a girl in high school, they sought advice from a family doctor.

The doctor referred Hickey to a therapist who convinced the teenager that they were attracted to girls because they wanted to be like them and that homosexuality was not natural and “against God”. The trauma from the experience drove Hickey to intentionally overdose on pills and alcohol.

advertising

Article content

“The first people I told (about my sexuality) were medical professionals and they sent me down a path that led me to try to kill myself. I was 17 years old, ”said Hickey.

The therapist did not advertise a “conversion therapist,” said Hickey, but she was “very Catholic” and her therapy was largely faith based.

“It had mostly to do with prayer and reading a lot of literature that supported your analysis of me. She told me it wasn’t natural. “

After the overdose and hospitalization, a psychiatrist reassured Hickey that there was nothing right with them and that the “therapy” they received was wrong. Today, Hickey is a well-known LGBTQ rights activist.

Another survivor recalled that he was 19 years old when, with his family’s encouragement, he became involved in a Protestant church in Kingston, Ontario.

advertising

Article content

Ben Rodgers, now an HIV activist, said he went through rituals that left him starving for days before church members laid hands on him and spoke in tongues to drive out the demons.

As an active member of the Church, he was told that if he continued to be gay, he would not be able to attend Bible school or serve a mission. He was told that ending his gay life “could make my mother love me again”.

“You fed on insecurities. I had to cut everything out of my old gay life, ”he recalls. “You prayed for me, and I remember having hands on my shoulders and yelling at myself in these tongues and casting out demons. I’ve had couples from this church who said to me, ‘This is a real relationship, read this and find out what love really is.’ I had to live a non-gay life for a little over a year and a half. “

“One of the biggest things I hated about it,” added Rodgers, “is that religion and belief were supposed to be a place of comfort and peace, and instead became a place of fear, hate and hate.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 18, 2021.

advertising

Comments

Postmedia advocates a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their thoughts on our articles. It can take up to an hour for comments to be moderated before they appear on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We turned email notifications on – you will now receive an email whenever you’ve received a reply to your comment, there’s an update on a comment thread you’re following, or when a user follows a comment. Please refer to our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to customize your email settings.


Comments are closed.