In a landmark move, Canada’s federal government has proposed legislation to criminalize forced conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. The legislation would also prohibit conversion therapy for minors.
“Conversion therapy” is a range of abusive practices performed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices, based on the antiquated idea that LGBTQ identities are curable mental illnesses, have been condemned by national health associations and widely debunked. In the United States, about 350,000 LGBTQ people underwent conversion therapy as minors, typically in the form of talk therapy. It can have detrimental effects on those who are subjected to it, including depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.
The proposed legislation would amend Canada’s Criminal Code to make it illegal to force someone to undergo conversion therapy against their will, advertise or profit from conversion therapy, subject a minor to conversion therapy, or take a minor out of the country to do so. It would also give courts the power to order the removal of digital and physical conversion therapy advertisements.
“Conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced by professionals and health associations in Canada, the United States and around the world,” said David Lametti, Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “It has no basis [in] science or facts.”
Beginning with Ontario in 2015, four Canadian provinces have banned or restricted conversion therapy. In 2018, the federal government rejected two petitions for a nationwide ban put forward by the public.
If this legislation passes, Canada will join Ecuador, Brazil, Malta, Germany, and Taiwan to become the sixth country in the world to ban conversion therapy. Nearly half of all US states—including California, Rhode Island, and most recently Virginia—have passed legislation banning or limiting conversion therapy.
Sources: NBC News 3/3/20, 3/10/20; BBC News 3/9/20; EuroNews 11/22/19