During the recent Canadian federal election, incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party courted LGBTQ voters with a promise to make conversion therapy illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Now, Trudeau has incorporated that promise into his government’s mandate.
In a public letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, Trudeau included the issue in a bullet-point list of twenty-one particular priorities he wants addressed during his government’s tenure:
Work with the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth to amend the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy and take other steps required with the provinces and territories to end conversion therapy in Canada.
The process is already moving forward, with Liberal Senator Serge Joyal submitting Bill S-202, a more limited version of a nationwide ban that would make it illegal to advertise or profit from providing conversion therapy to a minor.
Joyal has made a similar attempt in the past, but at the time the Senate determined that conversion therapy was a provincial and territorial issue because of its ties to health care, which is a provincial responsibility. However, with the issue still in the public consciousness and more localized bans increasing awareness of the harms of the practice, a nationwide ban is an idea whose time may have come.
Professor Kristopher Wells, an expert on the harms of conversion therapy who played a pivotal consulting role in Edmonton’s recent ban, encourages the government to hold out for a stronger bill than the one Joyal proposes, which does not address conversion therapy aimed at those over age 18 and permits organizations promoting the abusive practice to retain their charitable status.
It’s not [a bill] that we’d like to see move forward. It’s very limited in its scope. And I would expect the federal government to be much more comprehensive in its approach. Our united goal should be to produce the best, most comprehensive legislation in the country that will adequately and effectively protect all Canadians from this incredibly deceptive, dangerous, and fraudulent practice.
Predictably, Christian groups are taking talk of a conversion therapy ban incredibly personally. Campaign Life Coalition’s David Cook insists that a conversion therapy ban is tantamount to making Christianity itself a criminal offense:
If you publicly proclaim (‘advertise’) the message that homosexuals can be saved and changed, you will go to prison. And if a young homosexual (under age 18) is converted at your church and starts contributing to the offering (providing a financial ‘benefit’), your church leadership will go to prison. Christians could actually become criminalized for just being Christian. The Canadian government intends to make conversion efforts illegal if they are in any way directed at those who identify as LGBT.
Hopefully he did some stretching before making that reach. Conservative Christians are still allowed to speak their minds, as they always have been, even if their views are unpopular.
Campaign Life Coalition attempts to frame their objections in terms of the freedom of those “experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria” without considering the role their condemnation and bigotry plays in making such feelings unwanted. They describe the bill in terms of government intrusions on personal freedoms:
The government has no business telling people who want to experience change that they are not allowed to do so. The government has no business telling qualified doctors and psychologists that they cannot help their patients. The government has no business telling churches and spiritual counsellors that they cannot help their adherents.
But given that conversion therapy has been proven both ineffective and harmful, and has been condemned by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), it’s clear that it’s not the government telling doctors and churches that they cannot change LGBTQ people. It’s decades of scientific research and evidence.
Conversion therapy is clear and deliberate medical malpractice — and malpractice should come with legal consequences.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Lorne for the link)