Canada is continuing its efforts in improving LGBT equality across the nation by proposing additions to the Canadian Criminal Code that will forbid an ongoing pseudoscientific practice that is potentially harmful to LGBT people.
The Liberal government announced today (March 9) that proposed legislative amendments that will criminalize controversial and discredited practices known as conversion therapy—or attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity to heterosexual or cisgender—in Canada.
Bill C-8 proposes five new offences to the Criminal Code, including 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, and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.
This legislation would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion-therapy advertisements or the removal of such ads from computer systems or the internet.
The maximum punishment would be five years in prison for some offences, with up to two years in prison for others.
Conversion therapy has been conducted in forms such as spiritual or psychological counselling or behavioural modification techniques.
A government news release explains the negative impact the practice has upon LGBT people.
“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,” the news release states. “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.”
Manitoba, Ontario, PEI, and Nova Scotia have all banned the practice from provincial healthcare systems.
Vancouver became the first Canadian city to ban the practice in June 2018, followed by cities such as Calgary and Edmonton.
A 2019 Canadian survey conducted by Vancouver-based national queer male health organization Community-Based Research Centre found that an estimated 47,000 men in Canada experienced conversion therapy, an amount higher than the previously estimated 20,000 Canadians.