Canada bans ‘conversion therapy’ and threatens therapists with jail

The Canadian Senate passed a sweeping ban on conversion therapy on Tuesday after senators agreed to speed up the legislative process without full debate, committee study or a vote.

Bill C-4, which received royal assent on Wednesday, amends the Canadian Criminal Code to criminalize inducing someone to undergo conversion therapy, removing a child from Canada for the purpose of conversion therapy, profiting from providing conversion therapy and advertising or promoting the practice.

Penalties for new offenses range from two to five years in prison.

Previous versions of the bill have failed in parliament, but the current bill goes further than other editions by prohibiting consenting adults from seeking conversion therapy, which it defines in part as counseling intended to “suppress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior”.

Also prohibited is therapy intended to “suppress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity”, as well as “suppress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to their assigned gender”. person at birth”.

Critics of the bill claim that its definitions are too broad to the point of violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), which supported the bill, defines conversion therapy as “any formal therapeutic attempt to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian people to heterosexual”.

Marty Moore, a lawyer with the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms in Calgary, said Bill C-4’s definition “goes much deeper than that.”

“This bill is by far the most direct attack we have seen on free speech and freedom of conscience and religion,” Moore said. “The Charter violations present in this bill are very concerning.

Moore pointed out how the bill’s preamble describes as a “myth” the belief that heterosexuality and cisgender identity are preferable, which he warned has potential implications for Canadians whose religions promote sexuality exclusively between a married man and woman.

“The teaching and propagation of these religions, if they come into contact with an LGBTQ person, whether or not that LGBTQ person seeks this advice, the propagation, teaching and dissemination of these religions risks being characterized as conversion. therapy,” he said.

Because the bill consolidates the “promotion and advertising” of conversion therapy into the same parts of the Criminal Code dealing with child pornography, he said Canadian courts would now have the power to seize and prohibit such expressions as if it were child pornography.

It remains to be seen how courts will enforce the new criminal offenses, Moore said, but he anticipates enforcement will be complaint-driven.

“You can only imagine how these kinds of allegations could find themselves very present in many acrimonious situations, perhaps even acrimonious situations between parents and children, between churches and parishioners, between married couples going through a divorce,” did he declare.

Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, who introduced the bill, denied claims that the Criminal Code amendments would effectively criminalize “just a supportive conversation with someone about their orientation. sexuality, gender identity or gender expression”.

“This bill targets something else entirely: people who are actively working and providing services intended to change someone’s gender identity or gender expression to match their assigned gender at birth, or someone’s sexual orientation as heterosexual,” Lametti told Fox News. Numeric in a declaration. “These dangerous practices must stop.”

Jose Ruba, whose Calgary-based organization Free to care advocated for adult LGBTQ Canadians to be allowed to seek whatever therapy they want without government interference, said Canadians across the country are still “very concerned that this is a reach extreme”.

“The government claims it won’t affect private conversations between a child and their parents, for example, but no such exemption exists in the law,” Ruba said.

“The only exemption they have is this disclaimer that says as long as you’re not trying to favor one sexual orientation over another, you’re still allowed to have advice and discussion. The problem is, c does that mean?

Ruba’s main concern is that the Criminal Code amendments will have a chilling effect.

After Calgary adopted a municipal decree banning conversion therapy in 2020, he said members of his organization called a dozen local psychologists and posed as patients seeking treatment for gay pornography addiction.

When they learned what the regulations said, he recalls, several of the councilors were reluctant to have a conversation with them.

“At least three counselors, psychologists told us, we could come for porn addiction counseling, except we weren’t allowed to mention it was gay porn addiction because they couldn’t help us with that,” he said.

“And that’s why we think it’s actually a violation of Charter rights, because it discriminates, ironically, against the very people it purports to protect,” he added.

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