On December 7 2021, Bill C-4 passed in the Canadian Senate and conversion therapy was formally banned. The bill took 30 days to come into effect, on January 7 2022.
This was the third time Canada attempted to ban conversion therapy nationally. However, this time, the bill went into the final reading. It was passed, now making it a crime for anyone to undergo conversion therapy, whether through consent or not.
What is conversion therapy?
The bill explicitly defines conversion therapy and describes any techniques from talk, behavioural, or medical treatments as illegal.
These claimed “medical treatments” have long been discredited by the World Health Organization and United Nations, among many others. It has been known that this practice causes severe physical and psychological harm as it is based on invalid premises surrounding sexual identity or gender identity being ‘cured.’
According to the Canadian Justice Department and a recent community research study, 1 in 10 LGBT2Q+ people reported experiencing conversion therapy. Among those numbers, 67 per cent experienced conversion therapy in religious settings and 30 per cent in licensed healthcare provider offices.
72 per cent of respondents started conversion therapy before the age of 20; 24 per cent attended for at least one year, and 31 per cent attended more than five conversion therapy sessions.
The prevalence of conversion therapy practices was more than 10 per cent among the following subgroups of survey respondents: Non-binary and transgender people (20 per cent), youth 15-19 years of age (13 per cent), immigrants (15 per cent), and Indigenous and other marginalized groups (11-22 per cent).
Conversion therapy already banned in certain areas
Some jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Quebec, have previously enacted legislation against certain aspects of conversion therapy, while others have entirely banned the promotion and practice within their city limits.
“The consensus demonstrated by Parliamentarians in Canada is a part of an emerging global consensus surrounding the real and life-long harms for conversion therapy victims and survivors,” Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement on Twitter. “In fact, with these changes to the Criminal Code, Canada’s criminal laws on conversion therapy are among the most comprehensive in the world.”
Apart from Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Albania, Germany, and Malta are the only other countries to have an outright ban on conversion therapies.
Some countries have banned the practice indirectly, such as Argentina, Uruguay, Samoa, Fiji and Naura, whereas the US, Australia, and Spain have only outlawed it in some areas. France voted to criminalize conversion therapy this week, including prison sentences and fines up to $50,000.
Many politicians and LGBTQ2+ rights advocates are applauding the bill’s passage and crediting the activists who shared their personal stories to make it possible.
Anyone convicted of causing another person to undergo conversion therapy faces a prison term of up to five years, while individuals who promote, advertise, or materially benefit from conversion therapy may face up to two years in prison, according to Bill C-4.