Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti. CNS photo/Patrick Doyle, Reuters

Churches fear Bill C-6 could expose them to criminal sanction

  • February 11, 2021

OTTAWA -- Canadian religious organizations are concerned that a proposed bill to ban conversion therapy for youth in Canada could expose religious views on human sexuality to criminal sanction.

These concerns come even though the government and Opposition MPs dismiss those concerns. Conversion therapy, according to the federal government, is “a practice that seeks 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.”

Bill C-6 would make it illegal to advertise services, force someone to undergo conversion therapy, remove a child from Canada for therapy or profit from any such service. It bans all conversion therapy for youth, but “does not criminalize the provision of conversion therapy to a consenting adult.” 

Religious organizations fear the bill could lead to religious teaching on sexuality being criminalized.

“The protection of vulnerable Canadians from harmful acts is a necessary and important goal and one which the bishops irrevocably support,” the the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement, but added that the bill is “generic in its scope and ambiguous in its language, and thus its application could be overextended and interpreted to include what are and should remain lawful activities.”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada had similar concerns.

“We agree that there is no place in our communities or our country for coercive, involuntary or abusive practices,” the Evangelical Fellowship said in a brief submitted to Parliament. “At the same time, we have serious concerns with the very broad definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-6. The proposed definition goes beyond prohibiting involuntary, abusive or coercive change efforts and lacks critical clarity about what kinds of activities might fall within the bounds of the proposed legislation.

“We strongly urge amendments to the bill in order to clarify its provisions and ensure it is consistent with fundamental Charter freedoms. If unamended, this legislation would have a significant chilling effect on expression on matters of human sexuality and gender. Interpreted broadly, it could criminalize the expression of deeply held beliefs.”

Justice Minster David Lametti has repeatedly dismissed that possibility. And when Bill C-6 passed second reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 308-7, numerous Conservative MPs sided with the Liberal government in dismissing some of the concerns raised.

Michelle Rempel said concerns the bill will infringe on religious freedom are overblown.

“This bill proposes limits that are rationally connected to the goal of protecting LGBTQ2 Canadians,” the Alberta Conservative MP said, adding “it does not arbitrarily infringe on religious freedom.”

Rempel noted “that many other jurisdictions and municipalities have also... implemented similar measures,” yet “churches are still operating, as are mosques and gurdwaras.” 

Campaign Life Coalition has created a “Stop The Ban” website ( that calls Bill C-6 an “unprecedented assault on civil liberties, religious freedom and Christianity itself.”

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