Quebec’s Justice Minister Proposes (Another) Bill to Ban Conversion Therapy October 24, 2020

Quebec’s Justice Minister Proposes (Another) Bill to Ban Conversion Therapy

In 2019 Quebec’s National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the use of conversion therapy to make gay people straight and trans people cisgender.

Now, it seems, they’re ready to back it up by changing the provincial law to protect LGBTQ people from the discredited practice.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette proposed Bill 70, which would impose a hefty fine on individuals and corporations, secular and religious alike, offering either paid or unpaid conversion therapy. A violation could cost individuals as much as $50,000 (CAD); larger entities could be fined up to $150,000 (CAD). And that’s just for a first offense. Get caught a second time and watch the price double.

The bill would also allow those who’ve experienced conversion therapy in the past to seek redress for the “physical and moral” impact of the process, which is now recognized by the World Health Organization as abusive and harmful.

The bill is brief and to the point, with just ten articles, and it makes no exceptions:

Any conversion therapy is presumed to infringe the right to integrity [of the recipient].

Kudos to the governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the party behind Bill 70, for taking the evidence-based stance on the subject.

But this isn’t the first time the Quebec legislature has seen a bill that would penalize the practice of conversion therapy. In fact, it’s not even the first time this autumn. Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone put forward Bill 599 in late September. Presenting her version of the law to the assembly, Maccarone noted:

Many businesses and religious groups, whose donors benefit from tax credits, try to convince Quebecers that it is possible to treat or heal homosexuality through ‘therapy,’ and have been doing so for many years.

Like any bill against conversion therapy, Bill 599 had symbolic value beyond the legal protections it would afford LGBTQ individuals: it would place a government seal of approval on the idea that LGBTQ identities are not diseases to be cured.

But it’s the CAQ who’s in power right now, and they preferred to kill her version of the bill in favor of their own. Passing Jolin-Barrette’s version means the CAQ can take credit for championing fairly uncontroversial LGBTQ rights in an effort to woo more centrist voters in the next election.

It seems a bit of a petty political move to squash another member’s bill just to replace it with a bill of one’s own one month later, but there are in fact some key differences between the two bills. Maccarone’s is the more comprehensive, making amendments to the Health Insurance Act as well as the Civil Code to cut off health insurance as an avenue for funding conversion therapy attempts. It also defines conversion therapy as “an act derogatory to the dignity of the profession” of its provider. For that reason, health professionals engaging in conversion therapy are fined more harshly than other individuals.

Even then, though, Maccarone’s fines are pocket change compared to Jolin-Barrette’s. Even health professionals face a maximum fine of $20,000 (CAD), less than half of Jolin-Barrette’s proposed maximum for individual actors. And Bill 70 has the advantage of simplicity: everyone is equally responsible for knowing that conversion therapy is wrong and illegal, whether they’re a health-care professional or a Bible-thumping minister.

Quebec’s latest effort to ban conversion therapy also comes mere weeks after the federal Liberal party proposed its own bill that would ban conversion therapy nationally. With that legislation likely to succeed, and with more such legislation popping up at every level of government across the country, it seems like the conversion therapy ban is an idea whose time has come.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Samuel for the link)

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