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Minister of Justice David Lametti. Wikipedia

Proposed legislation bans conversion therapy for minors

  • March 13, 2020

OTTAWA -- The federal government has proposed legislation that would make it a crime to force anyone into conversion therapy or provide the controversial therapy to minors.

But the bill introduced March 9 will not prevent consenting adults from seeking the procedure. The bill also exempts teachers, school counsellors, faith leaders, family members and medical professionals who “provide support to persons questioning their sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity.”

“Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that can lead to life-long trauma, particularly for young people,” said federal Justice Minister David Lametti.

Bill C-9 would not only ban conversion therapy for minors, but also make it a crime to remove a minor from Canada to undergo the therapy abroad, profit from providing conversion therapy and advertise an offer to provide conversion therapy.

According to the federal government “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.”

Conversion therapy has become a controversial issue, with numerous medical and psychological organizations denouncing the practice. But others contend there is little scientific evidence to support a ban or that banning conversion therapy is an infringement on religious freedom.

“There is a growing hostility to Christianity in our government and media. This is especially apparent when the discussion turns to the topic of sexuality and gender,” said David Cooke, national campaigns manager for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), on the CLC website.

In an opinion piece published last year in The Catholic Register, retired Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry said there has been “a rush to advocate for legislation that would not only restrict a practitioner’s ability to offer conversion therapy but to ban it totally despite some compelling evidence to the contrary.”

He said it was “hard to object” to providing conversion therapies for people who seek it “which rely on professional therapy and counselling, often in a religious context, to assist those struggling with unwanted homosexual inclinations, who would like to diminish their same-sex behaviours.”

A number of U.S. states have banned conversion therapy and in Canada the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have taken steps against conversion therapy through legislation or statements. Some cities such as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton have banned or are in the process of banning the practice within their city limits.

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