An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 18, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2021 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, conversion therapy has been found by all experts to be fraudulent and harmful. It is not sanctioned by any professional organization and many Canadians are surprised this practice still goes on in Canada. However, we heard powerful testimony at the justice committee, documenting the fact that conversion therapy still took place in both what I would call its traditional form, focusing on sexual orientation, and in a new form that argues that those who are transgender, non-binary or gender diverse ought to be talked out of their personal identity.

The New Democrats and almost all members of the SOGI community have long been calling for a complete ban on conversion therapy in all its forms. What we have before us, after amendments at the committee, is a bill that comes close to a complete ban, as close as possible without actually being one.

The Minister of Justice has repeatedly said that the reason for not going ahead with a complete ban is his fear that it would not survive a charter challenge on the basis that it would restrict the rights of consenting adults to freely choose to subject themselves to conversion therapy.

There is an alternative argument that says a complete ban would indeed likely survive a charter challenge because there are strong legal precedents that argue that no one can actually consent to being defrauded or injured. The clearest parallel in the Criminal Code is the case of fight clubs, which remain illegal, as one cannot consent, no matter how freely, to being physically injured. Therefore, if the evidence is undeniable that conversion therapy is inherently fraudulent and harmful, the same legal principles should apply.

What is banned in Bill C-7? The strongest provision in the bill is a complete ban for minors, including the offence of transporting a minor outside the country to undergo conversion therapy, which is a much more common practice than most Canadians would assume.

Growing up in a society that remains heteronormative and intolerant of any challenges to the binary cisgender norms is challenging enough for queer youth without ending up being pressured into therapy whose goal is to get them to deny who they actually are.

Though Bill C-6 does not institute a complete ban on conversion therapy, it will establish an effective ban on the practice as it prohibits generally what might be called the business practices around conversion therapy. This means there will be a ban on charging for, or profiting from conversion therapy and a ban on paid or unpaid advertising of conversion therapy.

Working together at committee, we did strengthen Bill C-6, although the Conservatives are acting like no amendments actually took place at committee. One of the most important improvements was to alter the original language in Bill C-6, which proposed banning conversion therapy “against a person's will”. This was vague language with no parallel elsewhere in the Criminal Code of which I know. My amendment was adopted to change this language to a ban on conversion therapy “without consent”.

Using the language of without consent clearly situates the ban on conversion therapy within the well-understood and well-developed Canadian jurisprudence on what does and does not constitute consent. I was disappointed that a second amendment, which sought to spell out the specific limitations on consent that would apply in the case of conversion therapy, was defeated. The testimony we heard from survivors about the kinds of duress they were almost universally under to subject themselves to conversion therapy would clearly obviate any claim of consent.

The second important improvement made at the justice committee was to expand the scope of the definition of conversion therapy to include gender identity and gender expression. This makes the language in Bill C-6 consistent with our existing human rights legislation and the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code as amended by Bill C-16. This is important as the new forms of conversion therapy I mentioned are directed at transgender and gender diverse individuals and at the attempt to get them to deny their gender identity under the guise of helping individuals “adjust”.

A third change to Bill C-6 made at committee was to add to the definition of what was in effect a for greater certainty clause stating what was not covered in the ban, something the Conservatives say they wanted and something they are certainly ignoring as it is now in the bill.

Bill C-6 now makes clear that it does not ban good faith counselling. Let me cite the specific definition again, as I did in my question earlier, as it could not be more clear. This definition “does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” That is specifically in the bill.

Opponents of Bill C-6 continue to insist that the bill will somehow prevent conversations between parents and children or pastors and their faithful on the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no truth to this claim. The only way these conversations could be captured is if, in fact, they were part of a sustained effort to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity that constitutes a practice or service under the bill. It would be a giant stretch to characterize efforts of parents or pastors to “try to talk their kids out of it” as a practice, service or therapy.

The vehemence of the debate on Bill C-6 around gender identity certainly reflects the fact that trans and gender-diverse Canadians face the highest levels of discrimination of any group in Canada. That discrimination results in high levels of unemployment, difficulties in accessing housing and high levels of violence, including the murder of two transgender Canadians in the last year alone, just for being trans.

During hearings in committee there was a wave of hatred expressed toward me as an individual on social media, which showed me the level of hostility generally toward trans and gender-diverse people in our country. The insults thrown at me ranged from interfering with parental rights to supporting mutilation of children and, most absurdly, being in the pay of big pharma, apparently because transitioning involves hormones. That is a particularly ill-informed charge against someone who has fought all my time in public life for reducing the power of pharmaceutical companies through shorter patents, expanded use of generics, bulk-buying to bring down costs and, ultimately, the establishment of universal pharmacare.

Those insults also included direct threats of violence directed at me, but, again, I remind myself that the hatred I saw, and will inevitably see again after this speech today, provided only a small glimpse into what transgender and gender-diverse Canadians face every day of their lives.

Many of those objecting to the bill have used what I call a “false detransitioning narrative”. To be clear, I am not rejecting the validity of the stories of individuals who may have chosen to detransition, but opponents of Bill C-6 have adopted those stories to construct a false narrative about the number who choose to detransition and their reasons for doing so. Professional, peer-reviewed studies from the U.K. and Scandinavia tell us that very few transgender people actually later detransition. Both major studies cite a number of fewer than five in 1,000 who detransition, and, even more interesting, both studies report that most of them say they detransitioned not because it was not right for them, but because they did not get support from family, friends and the community they live and work in.

The implication by critics seems to be that there is something in this bill that would prevent counselling concerning detransition, when this is absolutely not the case. Using the detransition narrative to detract Bill C-6 is false, in that I am pretty sure this argument often actually has nothing to do with the ban on conversion therapy being proposed; it is an argument about the very validity of transgender Canadians.

Let me say that I find these arguments against the bill, and being at my most charitable, are at a minimum parallel, if not identical, to those that continue to cause harm to trans and gender-diverse Canadians, and they indicate why we need this ban. At some point, some might ask why have a bill at all, when CT is universally condemned as fraudulent and harmful. Again, as many members have pointed out, studies show that literally tens of thousands of Canadians have been subjected to this practice.

It is important to listen to the voices of survivors of conversion therapy; only then can we understand the need for this bill. Once again, I want to extend personal thanks to two survivors, Erika Muse and Matt Ashcroft, who spent a lot of time with me trying to give me a better understanding of the horrors they faced and their own challenging roads to recovery.

On a personal note, let me say again that I have seen progress in my lifetime for some in the sexual orientation and gender identity community, but we have a much longer road to follow when it comes to those who are transgender and gender-diverse. What a ban of conversion therapy really says is this: we know it is impossible to change someone's sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and trying to change or repress one's identity is harmful. Let's stop literally torturing young Canadians for being who they are. Let's put an end—

December 10th, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have absolutely no objection, particularly in a minority Parliament, with members of this committee or any committee having discussions with members from parties other than their own. That is the spirit of co-operation and I think that's good. My problem is with selecting those you speak to and leaving others out of the equation, so that they are surprised by what is coming before them. That is a problem. Out of respect for all of us trying to grapple with a difficult piece of legislation, we should all be included in those kinds of discussions, or at least be given some notice, as opposed to a select person or persons being given notice and the rest of us being left to figure it out.

On that note, yes, I am aware that the term “gender expression” is in Bill C-16. What I was trying to understand—and this is probably a question for the Department of Justice officials—is that I don't believe the term “gender expression” is, in fact, defined anywhere in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is used in Bill C-16, but I see no definition there. In fact, I believe it was expressed at the time that it should be left to courts and tribunals to define it.

My question is whether or not the term “gender expression” is defined in the Criminal Code of Canada. Is the term “practice” defined in the Criminal Code of Canada? If they are defined already, that gives us something to go on. If they are not already defined in the legislation, then I have a problem with inclusion in this bill when, in the testimony we have heard from many witnesses.... We all heard the same testimony. Some people wanted it included specifically. Others didn't want it included specifically because they weren't sure what it means.

We are not talking about just any legislation. We're talking about amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada that carry with them criminal sanctions. That is the whole point of contention in this bill. I don't even think it's the overall idea of the bill. It's the fact that we are dealing with criminal sanction against certain behaviours that are in this bill without sufficient definition.

My question is for the Department of Justice officials. Where in the Criminal Code of Canada is “gender expression” defined? Where is the term “practice” defined? I would appreciate those definitions being pointed out to me.

Thank you.

December 10th, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Chair, I have a couple of points.

The language “gender expression” was injected into Canadian statutes in Bill C-16 in the last Parliament, of which Mr. Cooper, among others, was a member. Again, to purport that people aren't familiar with the term “gender expression” or what it denotes or defines is completely and patently inaccurate.

I reiterate that “gender expression” is used in the actual motion that we're debating right now, which is NDP-2 and my suggested changes to NDP-2. It's also used in NDP-3 and in the final amendment to the preamble. Again, to purport that there is somehow some element of surprise here is patently inaccurate in terms of the documents that are before the committee.

The third point is that somehow it has been imputed that having discussions with other members of Parliament and other parties is somehow untoward. I would put it as a bit of a straightforward fact that in a minority Parliament there are always discussions, as there should be, with other members of Parliament and other parties with respect to where consensus can be achieved.

What has transpired here is that we, as government members—my Liberal colleagues and I—saw an amendment, NDP-2, that referenced “gender expression” but also went beyond that. What we tried to do was find some common ground as to how to ensure that gender expression and the protections that follow therefrom are entrenched in this important piece of legislation, but all the time maintaining the careful balance that this legislation seeks to strike.

If there are those in this committee who have trouble with that sort of approach, I would put it to them that this violates the spirit of co-operative parliamentary functioning in a minority Parliament. Second, the bottom line is—and I hope that all of us believe this—that the rights of trans and non-binary Canadians are as important as those of all the other groups we seek to protect through this bill. That's the motivation behind proposing the amendment.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

December 3rd, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.
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Lawyer, Adrienne Smith Law

Adrienne Smith

I think that importing the words from Bill C-16 on gender expression and identity would be helpful in the current bill. I don't think there's currently a conflict, because this bill is about the federal government's exercise of the criminal law power in restricting a harm.

Regulating what counts as health care is the role of the provinces, and they are fairly unanimous about the fact that conversion programs are not health care; but the kinds of helpful counselling and the entire medically sanctioned process of gender-affirming transition care for trans people is validly medically supported health care. I see no conflict.

December 3rd, 2020 / 12:25 p.m.
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Adrienne Smith Lawyer, Adrienne Smith Law

Thank you, Chairperson.

My name is Adrienne Smith.

I'm joining you today from the unceded territories of the Musqueam, the Tsleil-Waututh, and the Squamish people as well. As an uninvited settler in occupation, I'm committed to a decolonization that involves reparations and the return of land.

I am a social justice lawyer and a non-binary person. I use they/them and their pronouns.

In French, the masculine or neuter pronoun is “il”.

I could answer your questions in French.

In support of my submission today, I am submitting a written brief. I'm grateful to appear in support of Bill C-6, which seeks to regulate, by criminal sanction, practices that seek to convert queer and trans people by force or coercion.

Having listened carefully to other witnesses in the debate on this bill, I have three main points. The first is about the definition. The second is about the charter compliance of the bill. The third is about the necessity to protect transgender people in the sanction that is sought.

First, with respect to the definition, all parties have agreed about what we're talking about and all have expressed their will to stop it. Still, I note, the committee is encountering challenges to the scope of the bill from those who would seek greater certainty. With respect, the practice of conversion is abusive and fraudulent, and in no way bears any similarity to the distracting hypotheticals that you are hearing about or the kinds of counselling that people have witnessed to today that have been helpful to them. Those practices will still be allowed.

Again, with respect, I see people who are raising concerns repeatedly and are doing so for political reasons, based possibly on their opposition to the core of the bill and not in good faith. I work as a criminal lawyer. I have no concerns about what this bill says. I dispute that there would be a chill on legitimate care.

This bill would end coercive programs that seek to undermine the sexual orientation and gender identity of two-spirit, queer and trans people. It would not unduly limit spiritual and parental guidance unless that guidance seeks by force to convert, in which case it should be captured by the prohibition.

I agree that importing the terms of “gender identity and expression” from Bill C-16 would clarify.

I think that would be a helpful clarification.

With respect to the charter, I would recommend a brief amendment. I think, to start, the bill is charter-proof as it stands. I would recommend that the committee consider an amendment that would close the dangerous loophole with respect to adults. As drafted, the bill would allow adults to consent to conversion practices. It seems to me that the drafters of the bill have left this loophole out of fear that there would be a charter challenge.

I heard Minister Lametti ask for input, and I have some. I think the prohibition on this dangerous activity would be charter compliant for adults because it is a valid practice of the criminal law that's not in conflict with provincial power. The provinces agree this isn't valid health care. The harm is clear. The bill is carefully tailored to capture the harm. There would be a minimal infringement on religious practices that would sanction this type of abuse. Benevolent religious practices would not be captured by the scope of the bill.

Finally, the minister knows that the charter is not unlimited and is restricted by section 1, which sets out limits that are reasonably necessary in a free and democratic society. The protection of people standing farthest from justice is a reasonable limit. Sound medical care would still be allowed if you prohibit consent to abuse by adults, as I recommend. If you do not insert such language, we should tighten up the language around what consent means in this setting.

Finally, trans people need to be included within the wording of this bill. You've been urged by some witnesses, who are not friends of my community, to peel back protections for non-binary people. I think these folks seek to draw Parliament and this committee into an unhelpful debate about the merits of gender-affirming health care. That question is not before you. To be clear, many of these arguments unmasked of artifice deny the inherent dignity of queer and trans people.

As a result, I strongly recommend a slight amendment and that you adopt this bill.

Thank you.

December 1st, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Minister Lametti and Minister Chagger, for your appearance here today at the justice committee.

Minister Lametti, I want to jump right into the definition, because we're trying to get a bill here that does what you, in your press conference, said it would do and what your department has said it would do, but there is uncertainty around the definition. This bill hangs on the definition. I heard you say five minutes ago that your best minds put together this bill, and then I heard you say a minute ago that you missed something there in syncing up with Bill C-16.

In the early discussion on this bill, much was said about your comments and the justice department's website, which laid out what the bill did not do. It said, “personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.”

There have been some—today I saw a brief from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs—who have said, “Look, we're 100% against conversion therapy, but for greater certainty”—I know you believe in “greater certainty” clauses, because there are two of them in this very bill—“would you include the language that you've spoken in this bill?”

I do want to give you the opportunity to answer a question that was put to justice department officials. Once it became public that people said “Please put this in the bill”, the department website changed. Instead of saying “friends or family members provide support”, the word “affirming” was added in there.

I want to know what the background on that is. Why was the website changed? I think this plays into some of the fears that people have around this bill. Just two years ago, your government said this bill wasn't necessary because it was handled at the provincial level, and you said you didn't have clear statistics on it, but we now have a Criminal Code amendment. The Criminal Code is the highest sanction we as a government can bring against people, so we want to make sure that this bill does what you said it would do.

Why was that changed on the website, Minister?

December 1st, 2020 / noon
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Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

That's what the action plan and survey are all about. They are opportunities to contribute, for us to....

What I have gained from my conversations with members of communities is that there are certain harms that we're not going to be able to undo, but we need to try and we need to make sure that the next generation does not have to undergo this. That's why we will continue consulting and working with communities. This legislation was informed and developed by communities. That's why I think it is quite powerful.

I once again will thank Minister Lametti for actually recognizing the discrepancy between this and Bill C-16 from a former government and for making sure that we do include that. Yes, let's work together to make sure that we are consciously building inclusivity in Canada.

December 1st, 2020 / noon
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

We thought it was, but you rightly point out Bill C-16 and the difference in language in there. I would be open to suggestions from the committee if you feel that we didn't adequately harmonize those two definitions.

We do think gender expression ought to be included. In an ideal world, the language would be consistent, so we're open to an amendment in that regard.

December 1st, 2020 / noon
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to turn to a question that many in the community have been asking about this bill, and that is whether it adequately covers the practices that are sometimes directed at people who have a different gender expression than others. While the bill is quite clear on the traditional attempts to convert or change someone's sexual orientation, when it comes to gender identity and gender expression, there is a concern that the bill does not capture the full extent of those questions.

I would be happier if the bill used language consistent with Bill C-16, which specifically protects gender identity and gender expression. I wonder if the minister can tell me if he does believe that gender expression is covered by the bill as written.

Transgender Day of RemembranceStatements by Members

November 20th, 2020 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Madam Speaker, trans rights are human rights. That is why I was proud to vote in favour of Bill C-16, which entrenched trans rights in the Canadian Human Rights Act in the last Parliament. It is also why I was proud to vote in favour of banning conversion therapy by voting in favour of Bill C-6 at second reading last month. However, despite the tremendous progress we have made toward ensuring the protection of the rights of trans Canadians over the past five years, we still have much work to do to ensure that we eradicate transphobia in Canada.

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us reflect upon the lives that have been lost as a result of transphobia, and the hatred, violence and discrimination it fosters. Let us redouble our commitment to tackling the scourge of transphobia and ensuring that the rights of all trans Canadians are protected.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 11 a.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Outremont.

I would like to start by acknowledging that I am speaking from the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

I am proud to speak today in favour of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to conversion therapy. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to criminalize conversion therapy related conduct. The proposed amendments would protect minors from conversion therapy both within and outside of Canada, adults who are vulnerable to being forced to undergo conversion therapy and Canadians from the commercialization of conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy refers to alleged treatments that seek to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual, a person's gender identity to cisgender and to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or non-conforming sexual behaviour. This outdated and much maligned practice comes in many forms including counselling, behaviour modification and talk therapy.

In our 2019 platform, the government made a commitment to protect the dignity and equality of LGBTQ2 Canadians by ending the dehumanizing practice of conversion therapy. The bill supports that promise and builds on other related measures, including those from the last Parliament when we strengthened protections for transgender people in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, through the former Bill C-16.

I had the pleasure of joining the health committee in the last Parliament for the study on the health of LGBTQ2 Canadians. A number of witnesses spoke about the negative impact that so-called conversion therapy has. I always hesitate to use the word “therapy” because therapy to me implies something positive while there is nothing at all positive about this discriminatory practice.

While many witnesses spoke about this issue, I want quote Dr. Travis Salway, post-doctoral research fellow at the school of population and public health at the University of B.C. who testified at committee. He said:

Conversion therapy is an umbrella term for practices that intend to change an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity. It is among the most extreme forms of psychological abuse and violence, leaving those exposed to manage the stress associated with a severe form of withholding for many years. ...conversion therapy has been unequivocally denounced by the Canadian Psychological Association and multiple other professional bodies.

Despite those denouncements, in a recent Canadian survey, 4% of sexual minority men reported having attended conversion therapy. On this basis, as many as 20,000 sexual minority men and countless more sexual minority women and transgender people have been exposed. Exposure to conversion therapy was associated with numerous health problems in the study we conducted. Most notably, one-third of those who had completed conversion therapy programs attempted suicide.

Sexual minority youth are especially vulnerable to being enrolled in conversion programs against their will, yet in Canada we lack federal policies to protect our youth from these harmful practices. Many, if not most, conversion programs are practised outside health care providers' offices. Thus, the current situation in which some provinces ban conversion practices by a subset of providers is insufficient and inequitable....

Suicide attempts, suicide ideation, treatment for anxiety or depression and illicit drug use were all higher in those who had attended conversion therapy. The health consequences are quite large. That suggests to me that as an infringement, as an assault, putting someone into conversion therapy, especially youths who aren't able to choose for themselves, is quite a serious offence....

Dr. Salway's testimony was echoed by other witnesses, which led the health committee to recommend, “That the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories to eliminate the practice of conversion therapy in Canada and consider making further modifications to the Criminal Code.” The bill we are debating today fulfills this recommendation, as well as the calls from advocates and the medical profession and our own commitment to end the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy.

Yesterday, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke spoke eloquently and passionately about the bill. He quite accurately described a number of red herrings that are circulating to discredit the bill and create confusion in the public. The bill would in no way criminalize affirming support to those struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, given by friends, family members, teachers, social workers or religious leaders.

I have seen a flyer circulated by Campaign Life Coalition claiming that the bill would “deny spiritual guidance and pastoral care for people who identify as LGBT even if they ask for it”, and “that many Canadians have seen their lives turned around by turning to clinical therapy, prayer and spiritual counselling to overcome unwanted same sex attraction”.

There were more absurd and troubling claims made, but I am not going to justify them by repeating them here in the House of Commons. I am deeply disturbed by these claims, which are fundamentally based on the belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are a choice that an individual makes. They ignore the very real harms of conversion therapy: self-hatred, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

These claims and the practice of conversion therapy as a whole also perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes about LGBTQ2 people, in particular, that sexual orientation other than heterosexual and gender identities other than cisgender can and should be changed. This type of discriminatory messaging stigmatizes LGBTQ2 persons, undermines their dignity and goes against our shared goal of equality.

Given conversion therapy's proven harms and its impact on the most marginalized among us, this bill would define conversion therapy for Criminal Code purposes as “a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.”

Secondly, this legislation will criminalize causing minors to undergo conversion therapy, removing minors from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting or receiving a material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

Our government's approach will protect all minors from conversion therapy because we know that minors are disproportionately impacted by this harmful practice. The offences I listed above, taken together, fill a gap in the criminal law by specifically addressing conversion therapy conduct. They respond to the evidence and, together with existing offences that address aspects of conversion therapy such as assault and forcible confinement, create a comprehensive criminal law response to the harms that conversion therapy is known to cause.

The proposed offences in the bill would not include legitimate therapies, primarily because gender-affirming practices, treatments and services do not aim to change a patient's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, nor are they aimed at repressing or reducing non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. For greater clarity, the legislation also states that these types of practices are not captured by the definition of conversion therapy.

I want to emphasize that this legislation does not seek to, nor would it, ban open-ended conversations between an individual and a parent, another family member, faith leader or anyone else about their sexuality. Despite the claims of the Leader of the Opposition and organizations like Campaign Life, this legislation would not ban talking, but it would criminalize a heinous practice that inflicts very real and documented harms to LGBTQ2 Canadians.

We want a country that respects the differences between us. In Canada, everyone must not only feel safe to be who they are, but actually be safe. Bill C-6 would assist in ensuring that everyone feels considered, accepted, respected, valued and safe. I urge all members of this House to support this important bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2020 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Fundy Royal.

I want to start by saying that there is nothing more important in life than being true to oneself. People only live once and there are no mulligans or do-overs. During one's short time on this earth if one can find love and, in return, be loved back, there are no words to appropriately describe that partnership. Likewise, little is as important to the core of one's being than the ability to express who one truly is.

At this very moment, there are LGBTQ2 Canadians who are listening to us debate this legislation while they are struggling to be who they are. Some are afraid of what others will think or say. Some are concerned people will disown them or think less of them. Some think there is something wrong with them. Here is the thing: There is nothing wrong with them.

Just two weeks ago, it was National Coming Out Day. Every year, people across the country come out and say they are proud of who they are. When many people shared this with their closest family and friends, they did something brave, which was to tell the world who they were. It has not always been that way. During the 19th century, same-sex activity between consenting adults was considered a crime punishable by imprisonment. The mental health professionals of that era deemed homosexuality as a mental illness. If we fast-forward to modern times, it was not too long ago when people had to live in the shadows. Many were targeted. They were discriminated against because of who they dated or fell in love with. Some lost their jobs or were looked over for a promotion.

While we have made tremendous strides toward equality, there is more work to be done. As a Conservative, I have advocated for fundamental freedoms my entire life: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly and association, and that every individual has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. Those are not just words. They are in our Charter of Rights.

I support the end goal of the legislation before us today because I am a Conservative. Back in 2016, I voted in favour of Bill C-16, which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. We know that transgender Canadians face elevated levels of sexual violence. They have been bullied and have had to face discrimination in applying for jobs and securing housing. Many within the transgender community have taken their own lives due to depression and feeling that there was no future.

I believe in the right of individuals to live their lives as they see fit. Liberty as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is:

The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.

The spirit of liberty must be renewed in all of us, for if we waver or deny our fellow citizens the same freedoms that we so cherish, we will have failed to protect them in their time of need. If we are free to decide where we work, go to school, practice our religion and whom we vote for, then it is within that spirit that people must be free to be who they are. We must protect them from those who wish they were someone else.

In almost every other example of trampling on one's fundamental freedoms, such as forcing someone against their will to change religions or their political allegiances, there would be an uproar and rightfully so.

At its very core, the end goal of this legislation is to defend freedom. As a Conservative, I believe that we as parliamentarians have a role to do just that.

During this debate, and inevitably at the justice committee, we will get into the finer details such as the definition of conversion therapy, as explained in the bill. For those who worry that this legislation would criminalize private conversations, spiritual guidance or infringe on religious liberties, the best approach to resolve those concerns is to specifically carve out what the legislation does not do. When there are concerns about the clarity or implications of a bill, the obvious remedy is to provide them those reassurances.

For example, back in 2016, when we were debating Bill C-14, the government's medical assistance in dying legislation, the phrase “does not” was used six times to provide clarity for what the legislation covered and what it did not cover. If we take that same approach to this legislation, we immediately resolve many questions while improving the bill. In fact, we do not have to look too far as the government's own press release contains some of the language that we could insert into the bill to alleviate concerns.

When the original legislation was tabled on March 9, the Liberals' press release stated that the legislation “would not criminalise private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members”.

Inserting this clarification in the bill would go a long way to better clarify what would be fenced off from the five new proposed Criminal Code offences. It is my sincere hope that the Minister of Justice reaches out to his fellow MPs and incorporates their views and insights, particularly when he needs the support of opposition parties.

If the Liberal government is determined to ignore the following advice, it was due to its own political calculations, as I believe there is a path to garner even further support from all MPs regardless of their political persuasion. As the leader of the official opposition said, we will put forward amendments. We want the legislation to be crystal clear in its intentions and ensure that it meets its intended goal, which is to ban the practice of forcing individuals and minors to undergo conversion therapy.

Since my good friend from Durham became the leader of the official opposition, I have been impressed with his message and how he is building bridges to those who have not traditionally seen themselves as Conservatives, which includes those in the LGBTQ2 community. I know he is sincere in getting this legislation right. He wants to ensure that no Canadian is ever forced to undergo this dangerous and discredited practice that has already hurt so many.

According to a study released by the Community-Based Research Centre, as many as one in five sexual-minority men has experienced sexual orientation change efforts. The long-lasting harm done to survivors is real and far too many Canadians have taken their lives. Both the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Psychological Association oppose any therapy that tries to change a person's sexual orientation. Expert after expert has proven that conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide. No longer will people be forced against their will to change who they are.

When this legislation is referred to the justice committee, I know the members will hear the horror stories from Canadians who have been unjustifiably subjected to this harmful practice. They will hear how close people went to the very edge of committing self-harm.

Let me be clear: For the millions of Canadians who are part of Canada's LGBTQ2 community, being who they are is not a defect, it is not an illness and it is certainly not something that needs to be changed. The expression of their identity and uniqueness is welcomed and celebrated in Brandon—Souris, throughout Manitoba and across Canada. This bill is not merely symbolic. It is an important step forward in protecting and upholding Canadians' charter rights. This is about ensuring that all Canadians can live their lives as they see fit.

It is with that in mind that we must turn our efforts to making sure we get this right. I urge every MP to review the legislation and to put our collective heads together to ensure the definition of conversion therapy as defined in this legislation is succinct and will meet its intended goal for the benefit of all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2020 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that the House sits on the ancestral lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe.

It is a privilege to be here to take part in the second reading debate of Bill C-6, introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, on October 1.

The bill's intent is clear: to ban conversion therapy in Canada.

Conversion therapy is rooted in the wrongful premise that an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can and should be changed to a narrow ideal of what is natural or normal.

Conversion therapy is harmful and degrading, and it has no place in Canada.

Today, I again call on all members of the House to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ2 individuals who are subjected to one of the most heinous and violent attacks on their gender identity, namely, conversion therapy.

It is important we all do everything we can to protect the Canada we know and love. Our communities should be places where everyone is free to be authentically who they are, free from violence or discrimination. On behalf of all those who are being hindered in their ability to truly be themselves, to love who they love and to live fulfilling lives and fully contribute to our society, I ask all members to support the bill and send it to committee.

Too many people in Canada are still the innocent victims of conversion therapy. That is not the Canada we want. We must abolish this practice once and for all and we must do it quickly.

Everyone in the country is standing shoulder to shoulder right now, as we face one of the greatest challenges in our history, the COVID-19 pandemic. As a society, we are blazing new trails. There is no clear path laid out. As a government, we are more determined than ever to build on this collective solidarity to build a more inclusive Canada. The pandemic has opened our eyes. It has revealed unacceptable injustices. It has made the most vulnerable communities even more vulnerable, and it has hit the LGBTQ2 community particularly hard.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is still much work to be done to build a truly safe and inclusive Canada. Since March, we have been navigating this crisis together. We all remain cautious and follow the advice of local officials and public health authorities.

Faced with a crisis of this scope, we must rethink our laws and policies and expand our efforts to be inclusive. That is the commitment our government made in re-introducing bill.

The Speech from the Throne emphasizes that the country we are protecting against COVID-19 is a country that is proud of the contribution of its LGBTQ2 communities, an inclusive country. I am sure my colleagues in the House would agree that the best Canada is an inclusive Canada. We must do all we can to achieve equity and inclusion for all Canadians. I am dedicated to this objective and, as members likely know, it forms an important part of the mandate given to me by the Prime Minister.

My parents immigrated to Canada before I was born and worked hard to provide a good life for us. Their belief was that in Canada anything was possible. We all have the possibility of living free from prejudice and discrimination, of expressing our identity and exercising our rights. People deserve the freedom to be who they are, free to love who they love. We all have a role to play so that LGBTQ2 persons feel safe and welcome, to be their authentic selves.

One of our government's roles is to move towards this objective. By re-introducing this bill, we are taking a major step. We are moving towards the elimination of conversion therapy, which is unacceptable in Canadian society today.

The changes to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-6 will go a long way to protect the dignity and equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians.

The bill proposes to criminalize certain aspects of conversion therapy. This harmful and outdated practice seeks to change a person's sexual orientation by forcing them towards heterosexuality, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour and to change a person's gender identity to conform to their sex at birth.

It is important to note that the proposed changes are not intended to reach far beyond a rational scope. We recognize that it is crucial to protect those who offer affirming and supportive guidance or advice to anyone who has questions or is coming to terms with who they are. In the same spirit of wanting all Canadians to be true to who they are, we also want all Canadians to be free to follow their faith as they interpret it for themselves of their own volition. Our legislation aims to balance this to support and protect the rights of all Canadians.

We need to address the myth that gay, lesbian, queer, trans and non-binary identities are pathologies that can and should be changed. Diverse forms of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are simply part of human diversity. The proposed legislation aligns with our government's commitment to put an end to conversion therapy in Canada by amending the Criminal Code with new penalties for those who conduct the practice, in particular, against minors.

We must adopt legislation that protects the dignity and equality rights of all Canadians, especially those of LGBTQ2 individuals and youth. This legislation will ensure that every Canadian is not afraid to be who they are and to live a full life.

The types of changes we are now proposing to the Criminal Code are also aligned with approaches already implemented elsewhere, and I will offer here just a few examples.

Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have enacted legislation specifying that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and have banned health care professionals from providing treatment to minors unless they are capable of consenting. Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County have also banned businesses from providing conversion therapy within their city limits.

Internationally, Malta is the only other country known to have criminalized aspects of conversion therapy, while the United Kingdom and its LGBT action plan has committed to further explore the issue. In the U.S. several states have put in place bans that resemble provincial and municipal bans in Canada.

I would like to thank all those dedicated to building a fairer and safer society. I would like to especially thank my colleagues, our partners and stakeholders, who are working hard to ensure that Bill C-6's amendments to the Criminal Code are adopted.

The amendments that we propose in Canada are yet another step along the way toward a safer and more inclusive country. I am proud of the concrete actions our government has taken to date.

Our Prime Minister apologized to LGBTQ2 people in Canada for the past injustices experienced at the hands of their government. Our government passed legislation, Bill C-16, to protect against discrimination based on gender identity and expression. We transformed the former Status of Women Canada into a full department, the Department of Women and Gender Equality, with an expanded mandate to advance social, political and economic equality with respect to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

We made a historic investment of $20 million to help build the capacity of Canadian LGBTQ2 organizations to address the unique needs and persistent disparities facing LGBTQ2 communities, and, proudly, my appointment in November by the Prime Minister as Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, supported by Canadian Heritage, where the LGBTQ secretariat is now housed.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I led several round tables with key stakeholders from across the country to discuss LGBTQ2 issues. We spoke primarily about conversion therapy. The Minister of Justice also spoke about this issue with different stakeholders, in particular his provincial and territorial counterparts.

As members can see, the process leading to the proposed change to the Criminal Code to address the harmful practice of conversion therapy has been informed by the lived experiences of LGTBQ2 communities. This work has come from LGBTQ2 communities. It has come from advocacy. It has come from a place of struggle and pain but also of resiliency and strength. Most important, we are indebted to survivors for their bravery in helping and pushing this road forward for us and with us.

As I have mentioned a few times, our government is committed to continuing our conversations and working together until the full implementation of these proposed changes to the Criminal Code.

We also recognize the importance of continuing our work to prevent conversion therapy, to support the communities to make them even stronger and more resilient, and to deconstruct the myths about sexual orientation and gender identity. Together, we must end the stigmatization and discrimination of LGBTQ2 communities.

We are here today as a direct result of the collective strength of survivors and their steadfastness in the face of adversity. We honour them and those who came before them.

In our society, every individual has a unique and important role to play to make Canada inclusive and safe, a Canada where every person can thrive. Not so long ago, solidarity with LGBTQ2 communities was not part of any government agenda. Today, we are trying to promote LGBTQ2 equality, protect the rights of LGBTQ2 individuals and fight discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities. All these commitments require that our elected officials listen to the communities and work tirelessly to create the Canada that we want to leave to future generations.

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it and do better. Like everyone else, I still have a lot to learn and a lot to do. Like everyone else, I am here to ensure that every human being is respected because I have hope that we will one day live in a country where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, period.

While the past has not always been easy, today is a hopeful day. By acting on historical injustices we are building a better future for all. It is our duty to do everything we can to make a better future for the children in this country. When children arrive in the world they are full of love. They have not learned to hate. A child is taught to hate or discriminate, taught to be ashamed of who they are, and taught there are only certain ways to live. We have to provide a better future, a different future, for the next generation. We know that with these proposed amendments to the Criminal Code we are helping LGBTQ2 people feel safe and enabling them to participate fully in Canadian society.

Our work does not stop there. We are determined to continue the dialogue and work closely with LGBTQ2 communities right across the country.

I have a mandate to consult with LGBTQ2 communities to lay the foundation of an LGBTQ2 action plan that will guide the federal government's work on important issues affecting them. My mandate also involves investing more in LGBTQ2 organizations.

This will offer future opportunities for community-led interventions, because one of my goals is also to build stronger and more resilient LGBTQ2 communities through local, regional and national organizations that can respond to the evolving needs of their communities.

Together, we can help create a country where everyone is free to be who they are, and where human rights are human rights for all. Our Prime Minister often says that, in Canada, diversity is our strength. We are a diverse country made up of people from all types of backgrounds. Our Canada includes everyone, of every colour, of every background, of every identity. LGBTQ2 people exist in our communities. They are our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families. They are people, people we love and cherish.

The proposed amendments help get us once step closer to equality and recognition for LGBTQ2 people. We need to ensure that Canada is a country where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, can live in equality and freedom. Our task is clear. The time to act is now. I urge all members to support this historic ground-breaking legislation as we advance protections for LGBTQ2 communities together.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2020 / noon
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

moved that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to commence second reading debate on Bill C-6, which proposes to criminalize conduct related to conversion therapy, a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit communities.

Bill C-6 is identical to former Bill C-8, which I introduced on March 9, 2020. Bill C-6 and former Bill C-8 signal our government's continuing commitment to eradicating a discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values.

Our government is committed to protecting the human dignity and equality of members of the LGBTQ2 community by ending conversion therapy in Canada.

The bill delivers on that commitment and complements other measures, including former Bill C-16, which provides increased protection for transgender Canadians in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I am pleased to present another initiative that will further protect LGBTQ2 people from discriminatory practices.

So-called conversion therapy refers to misguided efforts to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual; change a person's gender identity to cisgender; or repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. Conversion therapy can take many forms, including counselling, behavioural modification and talk therapy, and may be offered by professionals, religious officials or laypersons.

This practice is a manifestation of the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 individuals. More specifically, it suggests that sexual orientation other than heterosexual and gender identity other than those genders can and must be corrected. This type of discriminatory message stigmatizes LGBTQ2 individuals and violates their dignity and their right to equality.

Conversion therapy has also been discredited and denounced by many professional associations as harmful, especially to children. For example, in its 2014 position paper on mental health care for people who identify as LGBTQ2, the Canadian Psychiatric Association stated that it opposes the use of conversion therapy given that the practice is based on the assumption that LGBTQ2 identities indicate a mental disorder and that LGBTQ2 people could or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Canadian Paediatric Society has identified the practice as “clearly unethical”, and the Canadian Psychological Association, in its policy statement on conversion therapy, opposes the practice and takes note of the fact that “Scientific research does not support [its] efficacy”.

The position of these professional associations and of many other Canadian and international associations reflects the scientific evidence that people subjected to this practice must deal with its negative effects such as anxiety, self-hate, depression, suicidal ideation and attempted suicide.

Studies indicate that children are particularly susceptible to these negative effects. For example, research shows that negative mental health outcomes among youth who have been exposed to conversion therapy include, in addition to the negative impacts I have already mentioned, high levels of depression, lower life satisfaction, less social support and lower socio-economic status in young adulthood.

What do we know about conversion therapy in Canada?

Thanks to the community-based Sex Now survey, we have a better picture of who is most affected by conversion therapy. The survey's most recent results, from 2019-20, indicate that as many as 20%, or one in five, of respondents had been exposed to the practice, so we know that this harmful practice is currently happening in Canada. Moreover, a recent Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article that interpreted the Sex Now survey's previous results indicates that transgender, indigenous, racial minority and low-income persons are disproportionately represented among those who have been exposed. It also notes that transgender overrepresentation “may be explained by the ‘double stigma’ experienced by those who simultaneously occupy sexual minority and gender minority social positions.”

This data is significant cause for concern. Not only does conversion therapy negatively affect marginalized persons, but it negatively affects the most marginalized within that group.

Given the inherent cruelty of conversion therapy and the evidence of its effects, which are not only harmful but also discriminatory for the most marginalized, Bill C-6 proposes amendments to put an end to this practice.

First, the bill would define conversion therapy, for the purposes of the Criminal Code, as a practice, treatment or service to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.

I note that Bill C-6's proposed definition of conversion therapy is restricted to practices, treatments or services that are aimed at a particular purpose, that is, changing a fundamental part of who a person is. Accordingly, practices, treatments or services designed to achieve other purposes would not be captured by the definition, such as treatments to assist a person in realizing their choice to align their physical appearance and characteristics with their gender identity, and therapies that assist a person in exploring their identity, known as gender-affirming treatments.

However, out of an abundance of caution, the bill contains a “for greater certainty” clause, which clarifies that the definition would not capture certain practices, services or treatments, specifically those that relate

(a) to a person’s gender transition; or

(b) to a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.

This clause comprehensively responds to any concern that the definition could be misinterpreted to include legitimate gender-affirming practices that help people explore their identities or realize their choice to gender transition. It is also consistent with the 2009 report of the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which describes affirmative therapeutic interventions for those experiencing distress, for example, because of same-sex sexual attraction. Specifically, the report notes that legitimate interventions involve exploring and countering the harmful impact of stigma and stereotypes on the person's self-concept and maintaining a broad view of acceptable choices. To be clear, legitimate gender-affirming interventions do not share the same purpose as treatments that are designed to change or suppress who a person is.

Consequently, the offences proposed by Bill C-6 do not apply to recognized therapies, first, because the main objective of gender affirming treatments is not to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or to restrict their gender identity to cisgender only, or to repress or reduce attraction or sexual behaviour. In case this is still not clear, the proposed legislative measures specific to these types of practices are not included in the definition of “conversion therapy”.

Since this seems to be very important to the Leader of the Opposition, I want to explicitly reassure him. This bill does not prohibit conversations about sexuality between an individual and their parents, family members, spiritual leaders or anyone else. The legislative measure we are debating today does not prohibit these conversations, but criminalizes an odious practice that has no place in our country.

Building on its clear definition of conversion therapy, the bill would also create five new Criminal Code offences to criminalize causing minors to undergo conversion therapy, removing minors from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting or receiving a material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

This approach will protect all minors who are disproportionately affected by conversion therapy, whether it be provided in Canada or elsewhere. No one would be able to provide conversion therapy to minors, and no one would be authorized to take a person who is ordinarily resident in Canada abroad to receive conversion therapy.

The approach would also protect persons who are at risk of being forced to receive conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to cause another person to undergo conversion therapy.

The approach would also protect all Canadians from the commercialization of conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to profit from the practice, regardless of whether it is provided to minors or adults.

Finally, the approach would protect all Canadians from public messaging suggesting that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. No one would be allowed to advertise conversion therapy, regardless of whether a fee is charged for it. Courts would also be authorized to order the seizure and forfeiture of conversion therapy advertisements or their removal from the Internet, which is similar to existing powers with respect to hate propaganda.

I cannot emphasize enough that telling someone they cannot be who they are is wrong and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The balanced approach in this legislation factors in the interests of every implicated person.

To be clear, the bill's main purpose is to protect the equality rights of marginalized people in Canadian society, but we know that conversion therapy not only causes individual harms to those subjected to it, but also causes harm to all of society by sending the message that a fundamental part of who a person is, their sexual orientation or gender identity, is a transitory state that can and should be changed. Such messaging is anathema to Canadian values, as reflected in our charter, which protects the equality rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ2 people. Respecting equality means promoting a society in which everyone is recognized at law as equally deserving of respect and consideration. This starts with promoting a society in which everyone can feel safe to be who they are. The law must provide the same protection for LGBTQ2 people as it does for others.

To promote these values, we need legislation to discourage and denounce a practice that hurts LGBTQ2 people and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 people.

As stated in the preamble of the bill, it is our duty to discourage and denounce the provision of conversion therapy, in light of all of the social and individual harms it causes. It is our duty to protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians. That is precisely what we are doing with Bill C-6.

We recognize the proposed amendments limit certain choices, including, for example, for mature minors. We made this policy decision because research shows us that all minors, regardless of their age, are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy's harms. Moreover, if mature minors were allowed to consent to receive conversion therapy, it would be the providers who would have to determine whether the child is mature enough to consent, but most so-called conversion therapy providers are not medical professionals and are not in a position to assess whether a minor is truly capable of making their own treatment decisions. That is why we have drawn a hard line at 18 years of age. That is the best way to protect the most vulnerable among those who are at risk of being subjected to this abhorrent practice.

We also recognize that criminalizing profiting from conversion therapy means that consenting adults would be prevented from accessing conversion therapy unless it is available free of charge. That is because deterring this harmful practice requires placing limits on its availability, and these limits assist in avoiding psychological harm to the individuals who may be subjected to it, as well as harm to the dignity and equality rights of a marginalized group.

Criminalizing advertising conversion therapy furthers that same important objective and reduces the presence of discriminatory public messaging.

Significantly, nothing in the bill limits a person's right to his or her own point of view on sexual orientation and gender identity, nor the right to express that view, including, for example, in private conversations between individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity and counsellors, family members, friends or religious officials seeking to support that individual. Ensuring everyone's ability to express his or her point of view is fundamental to a free and democratic society, and this is true regardless of whether there is agreement on that point of view.

Now that I have described the proposed amendments and what they will and will not prevent, I would like to commend former Senator Joyal for his work on this issue. He introduced former Senate public bill, Bill S-202, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy, which was taken over by Senator Cormier after Senator Joyal retired. This bill had previously been known as Bill S-260.

The proposed offences in the legislation fill a gap in the criminal law because we currently have no offence directly targeting the heinous practice of conversion therapy. Together with existing offences, the new offences would create a comprehensive criminal law response to the harms posed by conversion therapy.

Let us not forget that criminal law responses would complement existing provincial and municipal responses as well. Three provinces, Ontario in 2015, Nova Scotia in 2018 and Prince Edward Island in 2019, have enacted legislation under their responsibility for health-related matters. This legislation specifies that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and bans health care providers from providing conversion therapy to minors.

Significantly, other Canadian jurisdictions are following suit. Earlier this year, both the Yukon and Quebec introduced bills that would implement similar reforms. Although Bill C-6 is an exercise of criminal law because it would amend the Criminal Code, it is consistent with provincial health regulation.

Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, have also prohibited companies from providing conversion therapy in their cities. All levels of government have roles to play in eliminating this harmful practice. I was pleased to get the support of my provincial and territorial colleagues when we met in January to discuss Criminal Code reforms to address conversion therapy.

There is no reason for anyone in the House to oppose this bill.

We are proud that so much is being done in Canada to address this destructive practice. Our efforts place us at the vanguard of the international community. For example, Malta is the only jurisdiction known to have criminalized various aspects of conversion therapy. Its approach criminalizes conversion therapy to vulnerable persons, which is defined as persons under the age of 16 years, persons with a mental disorder or persons considered by the court to be at risk. Malta also criminalizes advertising conversion therapy as well as involuntary conversion therapy.

The approach that we are proposing goes even further. We are proposing to protect all children under the age of 18 from conversion therapy in Canada or abroad. We are also proposing to protect all Canadians from the negative messages associated with the advertisement of this harmful practice and those profiting from it.

We hopefully will be joined by others soon. For example, in March of 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning conversion therapy and urging European Union member states to ban the practice. Shortly thereafter, in July of 2018, the United Kingdom government announced that it intended to bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy. I understand that work is ongoing.

In short, there is growing recognition worldwide of the destructive nature of this practice and acknowledgement that the criminal law is an appropriate way to address that harm.

June 18th, 2020 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Chair, I thank the member for her commitment to Canada's vibrant and diverse populations, especially in her wonderful riding of Davenport. This pride season we reflect on the resilience, spirit and solidarity inherent in LGBTQ2 communities who have long fought injustice and oppression.

It should be known that pride events were started as a protest against injustice by black and racialized trans women, yet we still continue the battle to fight anti-black racism and other forms of oppression in our country. Our government is committed to supporting LGBTQ2 communities and to achieving equality and inclusion for all.

In 2017, Bill C-16 received royal assent. It enshrines gender identity and gender expression into the Canadian Human Rights Act and tackles discrimination against LGBTQ2 people. This year we tabled Bill C-8 to combat the destructive practice of conversion therapy, and for those who are working relentlessly on the ground, we invested a historic $20 million in community organizations to build capacity.

This pride season, although we are celebrating and reflecting more virtually, we honour the people who have brought us to where we are and we look to where we want to go.

Madam Chair, while I'm on my feet, I'd like to wish all celebrating a happy pride.