An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2020.


David Lametti  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of March 9, 2020
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, create the following offences:

(a) causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person’s will;

(b) causing a child to undergo conversion therapy;

(c) doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;

(d) advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and

(e) receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

It also amends the Criminal Code to authorize courts to order that advertisements for conversion therapy be disposed of or deleted.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, what a joy it is to be back in the House and be here for the rare occurrence of hearing the member for Winnipeg North speak. It happens about as often as a full eclipse of the sun. It is amazing. I am going to tell my grandkids that I was here to hear the member speak. It is actually disappointing that the Liberals have so many new members, yet time and again it is the same chap who stands up, as much as I do understand.

I will be sharing my time today with the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who is one of the new members we are allowing to speak.

We are talking about Bill C-3 today. I am glad to get a chance to get a word in edgewise, with the member across the way, but also to speak before the Liberals perhaps prorogue Parliament, call another snap election or use any other of their usual ploys to avoid accountability.

Bill C-3 is probably a needed bill, but it is an odd bill. Half is related to justice and the other half to the Canada Labour Code. I am not sure why the Liberals have put the two of them together instead of presenting them to the House separately. I hate to think doing it this way is a typical Liberal ploy, or that they are hoping someone will object to part of it, so they can scream and yell and say we are anti-health care workers. I know I am being cynical because there is no way in the world they would ever consider doing that. They would never try to wedge folks.

We have heard repeatedly from the government, and our colleagues from the NDP and the Bloc, about how much this bill is needed. Why now? Why not a year ago? Why not six years ago with the Canada Labour Code? Why have the Liberals waited? They have had the backing and support of all the parties during the COVID crisis to put through almost everything with unanimous consent. Why would they wait so long?

The labour changes the bill mentions easily could have been brought in before. Their delay reminds me of a great Seinfeld episode in which Newman, the postal worker and Seinfeld's nemesis, helps to kidnap Elaine's neighbour's dog and eventually gets caught. When a policeman comes to arrest him, he, à la son of Sam, asks what took him so long. I have to ask the same of the government. If it was such a priority, why would it wait?

We could have had this before the House, debated it and sent it to committee long ago. The election took place on September 21 and we waited two full months to sit in the House again. In the U.K., Boris Johnson was able to re-form the House and get its Parliament back to work in six days. It took the government two months just to get us here.

We could have easily dealt with Bill C-2. In the House today during question period, we heard the Liberals tell the Conservatives to get on side and pass Bill C-2. We heard them say in debate that we should help small businesses and pass Bill C-2. Why did they not convene Parliament to get us back to work immediately so we could pass Bill C-2? It is the same with Bill C-3.

With respect to Bill C-4 on conversion therapy, people thought it was Bill C-6 or Bill C-8, because it was brought to the House several times. It was killed when the government prorogued Parliament. It was killed again when it called an early election, which no one really wanted and was not needed, as we ended up the same. If it were that important, why did the Liberals not try to pass the conversion therapy bill earlier? They had six years to bring it in.

One bill I remember they brought through in 2017 as a higher priority than the conversion therapy was Bill C-24. At the time, and I was using another Seinfeld quote, I called it “a bill about nothing”. Basically, the bill changed the bank account the old ministers of state were paid from in the estimates process. I think it also changed the official name on the cheques from Public Works to PSPC.

This was a bill we debated in the House and tied up the committee with. Somehow the government decided that was more important than a conversion therapy bill. They had been paid that way since Confederation. The ministers of state were paid out of one small bank account, and the other ministers, technically the government, were paid out of another. We could have continued doing that and brought the conversion therapy bill then.

The reality is this: The government is not serious about how it puts forward its legislation. It delays, obfuscates, throws it out and then demands that opposition parties get on board and hurry up to pass it, when it could have done that a long time ago.

Generally, everyone supports the first part of the bill, on criminalizing threats toward health care workers. We have all seen, during the election, the blocking of ambulances from getting to hospitals and the harassing of health care workers. We have heard the horrible stories from my colleague for Timmins—James Bay, where a small-town doctor, vitally needed, was chased out of his community by these threats. We just heard from him about the single mother who was horrifyingly harassed just for getting a vaccine.

Therefore, perhaps we need this legislation, but I would like to hear more details. Apparently, a lot of this is covered already under provincial or other laws. I would like to see how the bill would strengthen the protection for our doctors and nurses and, as my colleague mentioned, for people who are just going for a vaccine. There are the doctors and nurses we have to protect, but we also have to protect Canadians who are trying to access health care facilities.

During the election, we Conservatives had, as part of our election plan, the critical infrastructure protection act. This would provide additional security from those protesting vital infrastructure, such as our hospitals and our rail and pipelines. We saw what just happened in B.C., with its supply chain devastated because of the cuts to the CN and CP rails. That was obviously an act of nature as opposed to protests, but protests can be just as devastating, and we have seen it be just as devastating to our health care when we do not have consequences. I hope my colleagues in the House will eventually adopt a law that would protect other vital infrastructure besides our hospitals, and also our supply lines.

Unfortunately, from day one, we have had mixed messaging from this government regarding vaccines and the COVID crisis, and it has led to confusion, fear and anger. None of this, nothing this government or anyone else has done, excuses the violence and harassment of our health care workers, doctors and people trying to access health care. However, what the government has done has not helped. When Canadians needed certainty, leadership and consistency, we got false information from the government, like we saw with the Deputy Prime Minister being admonished for fake news on Twitter.

It is funny. We heard earlier that my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, when he was out door-knocking, was surprised by the anger from the vax versus the anti-vax people. I felt the same thing. We had people threatening us with a shotgun if we dared come with that. We have all felt it, but he was surprised. I want to read something from the National Post for the member. It said that in January, the Prime Minister had argued against mandatory vaccines as “divisive” in our “community and country”. It said that in March, he mused about the inequality and inequity of vaccine passports. In July, he said there would be no mandatory vaccines. However, two weeks later, apparently led by internal polling that showed he could divide the country for political gain, he announced a mandatory vaccine, cynically just in time.

The article goes on to say that the Prime Minister's “flip flop on vaccine mandates” exemplifies “a governing philosophy based on political calculus”.

This is not governing based on bringing us together, or on trying to get the unvaccinated vaxxed by convincing them of how good vaccines are and how they will lead us out of the troubles we are in. There is nothing about that. It is using it based on polling to create divisiveness in Canada for political gain.

The Prime Minister, when speaking out against protesters, used the term “you people” when describing the protesters. Now, I might perhaps, against some of the people who are blocking hospitals, have used harsher language, but he used the term “you people”. Now, I note for our feminist Prime Minister that the website says “you people” is a racially coded phrase. Again, nothing the Prime Minister has done excuses the protesters and their actions, but nothing the Prime Minister has done has gone to alleviate the divisions in Canada. He has used this to divide the country.

Apparently I am out of time, so I will let it go and perhaps leave it open to questions and comments to address the second part of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2021 / 6:35 p.m.
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Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, which proposes a ban on conversion therapy. I want to say at the outset that I too am opposed to conversion therapy.

Coercive and degrading practices should be banned, and I think my colleagues in the House would agree with me on that. We would not find anybody in this place who is supportive of conversion therapy. However, this bill proposes to criminalize much more than coercive and degrading practices, and we need to protect people from being victimized.

I have spoken and consulted with, and received feedback from, many of my constituents and Canadians from across the country regarding this bill. In a recent mailer, I polled my constituents, and the vast majority of them were not happy with Bill C-6. They are opposed to conversion therapy; however, many are concerned about the definition given in the bill. They fear that it is overly broad and that many conversations would be criminalized.

The voices of the people of Peace River—Westlock echo those of many Canadians who are concerned that this bill might and will criminalize certain types of voluntary counselling and conversation. There are concerns that this overly broad definition of conversion therapy will criminalize different supports, and that this will hurt the people we are trying to protect.

The bill seeks to ban counselling that is related to managing sexual behaviour. My colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands described that nowhere else in the world has the same definition of conversion therapy that is presented in this particular bill, which would ban counselling for sexual behaviour. No individual should be prevented from getting the mental or behavioural supports they want.

A Nanos poll conducted earlier this year found that 91% of Canadians support the right of Canadians to get counselling of their choice, regardless of their sexual orientation. Canadians are concerned about the lack of clarity and the broad scope of the bill regarding what constitutes conversion therapy, and this has led them to petition the government to fix the definition.

As a member of Parliament, I have tabled many petitions in the House on this very topic to raise their concerns about the legislation. Some of their concerns include that pastors and religious educators might be thrown in jail for teaching or holding traditional views on sexuality. There are also concerns that this bill would restrict the choices and freedoms of the LGBT community by limiting their access to professional services based on their orientation or gender identity.

As legislators, it is of utmost importance that our bills and definitions are clear. We should not write bills that are imprecise or overbroad and that would be quick to lead to court challenges. I note that the Bloc member who sits on the committee repeatedly brought this point up. He said that we should get this definition right, and I commend him for his work on the committee.

When most people talk about conversion therapy, they think of coercive, harmful, degrading practices such as electroshock therapy, chemical castration and forced lobotomies, among others. These horrific practices should, and have been in many cases, banned. However, this bill would very well criminalize counselling and conversations that are freely sought if they seek to limit or change a person's behaviour, orientation or expression.

The bill before us was first tabled as Bill C-8, but as a result of the prorogation of Parliament, it was reintroduced as Bill C-6. For Bill C-8, there were concerns that the definition of conversion therapy was overly broad, and because of the prorogation there was time for the justice minister to offer greater clarity and a precise definition. However, the bill was retabled without the definition being fixed, and after being introduced and having a short amount of time in debate at second reading, Bill C-6 went to committee.

Many members of this chamber voted to send the bill to committee so that the definition could be amended and given more precision. In its meetings, the committee heard from many witnesses and made some amendments to the bill, but it did not fix the definition. Furthermore, gender expression was included.

There are indeed concerns that people have expressed with the bill before us, including many Canadians who want to maintain the freedom and ability to make their own choices.

We heard recently from my colleague for Provencher about Emmanuel who had shared his story about how he was engaged in a lifestyle where he was bullied and shamed by his school peers, because he was gay. Because of this, he hated himself and even tried to kill himself. After his failed suicide attempt, Emmanuel decided to embrace his identity. Throughout this, Emmanuel's family supported and loved him, and because his Christian faith was a big part of his life, he sought counselling in this area. While he found a diversity of approaches, he finally found a counsellor who became a real mentor for him. Emmanuel said that the mentor counselled him in ways he wanted to be challenged, and he credits his counselling for being alive today.

Now, Emmanuel is clear that he is firmly opposed conversion therapy and supports laws to prevent it, but he is also clear that anyone seeking answers on their sexuality should be free to choose the support that they want. He is concerned that the current definition, unless fixed, would prevent this. In the justice committee he said that:

I stand with you in your efforts to see LGBTQ+ individuals protected and loved. Therefore, I ask that you create a well-written bill that truly bans coercive and abusive methods while respecting the individual's freedom at any age to chose the type of support they want and their desired goal. I trust you will make a decision that will benefit and protect the citizens of Canada while upholding fundamental rights and freedoms.

With the passing of Bill C-6, there are many fears that religious counselling would be banned. Many different faith traditions have teachings about human sexuality. Several teach that there is a difference between behaviour and orientation and that they are not the same thing. There is a variety of reasons why someone might not want to act in a particular way, including their personal faith tradition or just not wanting to do something. If a religious leader offers counselling, sharing their experience or a teaching on sexuality, there is a fear that Bill C-6 would criminalize that conversation.

Canadians may have a variety of reasons of why they might want to reduce a particular behaviour, which may be unwanted or undesired. I know people who have porn addictions, and reducing their sexual behaviour is something that they desperately want to do. It is important that we do not remove or eliminate the tools and resources that enable people to be able to seek the support that they want—

Conversion TherapyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 9th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.
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Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am presenting addresses Bill C-6 or what was Bill C-8 before the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to cover up the WE scandal.

The petitioners recognize that in Bill C-6 conversion therapy is vaguely defined and overreaches established safeguarding principles by criminalizing therapies offered by medical professionals and normal conversations between children and parents, counsellors, caregivers and educators.

The petition, which received 1,293 signatures, calls on the House to address that issue by fixing the definition and asks that the government complete and make public a gender-based analysis of the impact of the legislation that it could have on women, children, professionals and families in health education and caregiver roles.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
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Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code, in relation to conversion therapy.

It is my belief that harmful conversion therapy practices are wrong and have no place in Canadian society. No person should be forced or coerced to change their sexual orientation or their gender identity. As we consider this legislation, it is incumbent upon us to examine the actual text of Bill C-6. We must review what is in it or, in this case, what is not in the legislation, because at the end of the day laws will be interpreted and applied based on their written text and not on an expressed intent. It is for that reason that I have serious reservations about the bill.

The legislation lacks a clear definition of conversion therapy. Its definition is so general that it leaves room to be applied broadly. There is very reasonable concern that the legislation could criminalize voluntary conversations and efforts to seek support. It also leaves the door open to infringe on religious expression and parental rights.

As we know, the bill has been reintroduced after it was cleared from the legislative table when the Liberal government unnecessarily prorogued Parliament. It was originally introduced in the first session of this Parliament as Bill C-8. Concerns about the broad definition were raised with the original introduction of the bill. With the clearing of the legislative slate, the Liberal justice minister had the opportunity to fix the definition. It is disheartening that this legislation was reintroduced without addressing these serious concerns.

The justice minister was fully aware of these concerns and made the decision to ignore them. In fact, after the first introduction of the legislation, the Department of Justice put the following disclaimer on its website. It reads:

These new offences 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 provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

That statement would not have been offered if there were no need for it. By providing that clarification, there is an implied acknowledgement that the legislation is not clear. Unfortunately, a disclaimer on the department's website is not the same as legislation. That statement takes a position that is not explicitly stated in the bill before us.

There is nothing in Bill C-6 that clearly states that private conversations in which a person expresses their views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity would not be criminalized. When a person is struggling or wrestling with life's issues, regardless of what that might be, it is very common to voluntarily turn to a trusted person for support. In fact, we would probably all encourage a person to reach out for help and not go through it and struggle alone. For each person, a trusted person is different. It could be a counsellor, a faith leader, a parent, a teacher, a friend or any person with whom they may feel comfortable.

To have the space for open, honest and real conversation, there cannot be a cloud of legal uncertainty around that conversation. There should not be fear of repercussions for expressing a certain viewpoint, offering counsel or even just having an informal conversation. That does not serve the individual seeking support or the individual offering it. There must be freedom to openly talk to those whom we trust. We must be cautious not to undermine support networks.

In introducing this legislation, the Liberal government has spoken about protecting LGBTQ rights, and it is so important that their rights are protected. I would agree that we should stand up to protect those who have been degraded or dehumanized by harmful conversion therapy practices. That is why, as legislators, we should be committed to getting this bill right and, in that effort, we also have the responsibility to be mindful of the rights of all Canadians.

Without a clear definition, it leaves room for the infringement of other held rights. Parental rights in the guidance of children must be part of this debate, just as freedom of religion and freedom of belief are also a part of this debate. Parents not only have the right but the responsibility of raising their children. That responsibility includes providing food, shelter and clothing for them.

However, parenting goes well beyond providing material needs for a child. Parental guidance is key to a child's development. Moms, dads and guardians help protect the physical and psychological well-being of a child. They also help a child understand and unpack the world around them. We often hear parents of infants and toddlers talk about reliving the world through their child's eyes. A child learns about the world around them and a parent is there to help guide and navigate them.

As a mom, I know first-hand that kids from a very young age will ask their parents an abundance of questions and sometimes they never stop. It does not matter if it is the most basic of questions or something incredibly thought-provoking. Parents are there to offer response and insight.

It is healthy for parents and their children to have open and honest dialogue, and for parents to help children in their understanding of their own emotions. A loving and open relationship between parents and children helps foster self-worth and self-esteem. It is important for children to feel comfortable in coming to their parents when they have questions, struggles or want to talk through or about their feelings.

In a world where we live more and more of our lives online, where kids are exposed to so many outside influences, where kids can be inundated with oversexualized content from a very young age and have access to so much information, whether it is credible or not, we need to have more real conversations between children and their parents, not fewer.

The other concern with the broad definition of conversion therapy in this legislation is its relationship to religious expression. A code of conduct around ethics, morality and sexuality is common among major religions. These are often strongly held beliefs that are studied, instructed and practised by all persons of faith. Faith groups have expressed their worry about how this legislation will be applied to them. Will they remain free to teach and encourage members of their faith community to practise their faith in accordance with their religious teachings, or will this legislation and its application go well beyond criminalizing involuntary, harmful and discriminatory conversion therapy practices?

As I have said, it is my belief that the practice of involuntary conversion therapy is harmful and should be banned, but we cannot ban or police thought and expression. We cannot infringe on religious freedoms and we must respect parents. In an effort to ban the practice of conversion therapy, we cannot needlessly criminalize normal and healthy conversations.

As it is written in the current legislation, the definition of conversion therapy is overreaching, in my view, and it is flawed. It does not strike the right balance between protecting people of the LGBTQ community, parental rights and freedom of religion. By providing a clear definition of conversion therapy, we can provide needed clarity on the scope and intent of the legislation.

I will personally be supporting the bill at the second reading stage so that it can be sent to committee where amendments can be put forward in good faith to improve and fix the current legislation's shortfalls. It is my sincere hope that the Liberal government will be open to amendments so that we can get this right for all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join second reading debate on Bill C-6, which proposes to criminalize conduct pertaining to conversion therapy, a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's LGBTQ2+ communities.

Bill C-6 proposes the same amendments as a previous bill, Bill C-8. We are committed to ending conversion therapy in Canada and we continue to advocate for that. Conversion therapy is a destructive and discriminatory practice that serves to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, the fundamental part of who they are.

Relevant evidence shows individuals have experienced a range of harms. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of conversion therapies and transgender, indigenous, racial minority and lower-income individuals are disproportionately exposed. This bill promotes the equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited Canadians by targeting the conduct of the hazardous practices that sends a message that they can and should change who they are, which is wrong.

Canadians value diversity, equality and human dignity. This bill reflects and reiterates those fundamental values. We must move ahead and eradicate this discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values. Many studies have catalogued the harms experienced by people who have been subjected to conversion therapy. In 2009, the American Psychological Association noted that conversion therapy originated in a time when homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic and statistical manual.

More recent research shows a wider variety of interventions, including gender role reconditioning, support groups and psychotherapy, as well wide varieties of providers, including both licensed and unlicensed mental health providers in various disciplines, pastoral counsellors and laypersons. Not surprisingly, the science shows that conversion therapy is incapable of achieving this discriminatory end. A person can no more change their sexual orientation or gender identity than they can their ethnicity or other characteristics that define who they are.

As with any bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, it negatively affects mental health and causes a wide range of serious harms, including decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, confusion, depression, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidal ideation, increased substance abuse, feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, loss of faith and sexual dysfunction.

Conversion therapy has also been discredited and denounced by many professional associations as a harmful practice, particularly to children. For example, in 2014, the Canadian Psychiatric Association expressed its opposition to the use of conversion therapy, stating that the practice assumes 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 also indicated the practice is 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. I would like to emphasize that conversion therapy is a very harmful practice to our children, and it is our duty to protect them against such harmful practices.

To be clear, the evidence tells us the persons exposed to conversion therapy have experienced its harmful impacts regardless of whether they were compelled to undergo the practices or sought it out themselves.

Both groups experienced the very same harms, because conversion therapy is aimed at changing a person and not exploring the harmful impacts of stigma and stereotype on a person's self-conduct, which is the foundation for legitimate interventions. Conversion therapy can take many forms, including counselling, behavioural modification and thought therapy and may be offered by professionals, religious officials or laypersons.

Bill C-6 defines conversion therapy 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.” To be clear, this definition does not capture practices, treatments or services designed for other purposes, such as those aimed at supporting individuals without trying to change them. Furthermore, the legislation clarifies that gender-affirming therapies and treatments are not captured by the definition.

Conversion therapy is predicated on lies and falsehood, such that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is somehow wrong and needs fixing. Not only is this belief false, it signals a demeaning and degrading message, which undermines the dignity of individuals and the entire LGBTQ community. In contrast to what others may say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to who one is or who one loves. As mentioned earlier, conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced by professionals and health care associations in Canada, the United States and all around the world. It has no scientific basis or grounding in health care practices.

Bill C-6 proposes to create five new Criminal Code offences targeting conversion therapy. These proposed offences would prohibit: first, causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy; second, removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad; third, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will; fourth, profiting from providing conversion therapy; and fifth, advertising the provision of conversion therapy. If passed, this bill would make Canada's laws on conversion therapy the most progressive and comprehensive in the world.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, has said that this bill could provide a new international model for dealing with such practices and that this type of more encompassing disposition is probably the very best when it comes to the practices that he has seen around the world.

I implore my colleagues across all party lines today to ensure that we are clear: There is a clear difference between asking someone who they are and telling someone that who they are is wrong and needs fixing.

Supportive teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends and family members do not need to fear engaging in the important discussion about someone's identity. These discussions are often critical to personal development. However, what is being targeted here are those who are actively working and providing services designed to change someone's identity based on preconceived notions of who someone ought to be or how someone ought to behave. This bill represents important progress toward ending conversion therapy in Canada and reflects a harmony between progressive policy and constitutional consideration. We must stand together in support to curtail this unscientific and dangerous practice.

In closing, Canada is a country where everyone, regardless of their gender, their gender identity or their sexual orientation can live in equality and freedom. As parliamentarians, this is exactly the legacy we should leave for all of our children, grandchildren and so on. I sincerely hope that all parliamentarians will support this important piece of legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great humility that I decided to speak to Bill C-6 today. For the benefit of anyone watching our proceedings in the House, I would like to remind everyone what Bill C-6, which we have been debating since this morning, is about.

The bill aims to discourage and denounce conversion therapy by criminalizing certain activities related to it, with the further intention of protecting “the human dignity and equality of all Canadians.” It amends the Criminal Code in order, among other things, to prohibit anyone from advertising services related to conversion therapy; forcing persons or causing a child to undergo conversion therapy; removing a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad; and receiving a material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

Why did I decide to speak to this today? It is simple: because I am a father. I have three amazing children, a beautiful family, and I want what is best for their future. I love them for who they are, not who I wish they were. I love them because they are complete, autonomous individuals who make their own choices. Of course, as a father, I can try to influence their choices. I can help them make the right choices and help them get back on track when they make the wrong choices. I can be there for them at all times. However, as a a father, I could never change what they are or who they are. Never, ever would it have occurred to me to pay for them to undergo therapy to change who they are.

I will be clear. A person can make poor choices, but they cannot choose who they are. A person's sexual orientation and gender are not a matter of choice. As I prepared my speech, I read the testimony of young people who had been subjected to conversion therapy. As a father, I never would have subjected my children to such treatment. Those are the values I hold and they are based on the knowledge I have and what I intrinsically believe to be the right thing to do. Many Canadians and Quebeckers share those values.

I wanted to know more about conversion therapy. I found this report from the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, which issued a statement about conversion therapy in 2012. I will read an excerpt so that members and all Quebeckers and Canadians can understand my position.

Research on these issues has shown that it would be unethical to offer homosexuals wishing to undergo psychotherapy a procedure designed to change their sexual orientation as a treatment option. Not only is this practice unproven, but it also runs the risk of creating false hope and could cause more suffering when the treatment inevitably fails.

Furthermore, offering conversion therapy, especially if the individual did not explicitly request it, may reinforce the false belief that homosexuality is abnormal, worsen the distress or shame some feel about not conforming to expectations, and undermine self-esteem. Research shows that procedures designed to change sexual orientation may have a significant negative impact and cause greater distress than that for which they originally sought psychotherapy.

The report then lists some mental health issues.

Instead, psychotherapy should focus on treating the depression or anxiety, relieving stress, building self-esteem and helping the individual face any challenges they may encounter. In other words, the treatment should help them grow without consideration for their sexual orientation.

This report was from 2012, and I think it is very clear. It is a good introduction and helps set the stage for Bill C-6, which would criminalize the practice of conversion therapy in Canada.

Had the Liberal government not prorogued Parliament, conversion therapy would probably be on the verge of being banned in Canada. The debates would have been held, everyone's views would have been heard, and the majority of the House would have already voted to ban this offensive practice, which, I must humbly admit, I did not even know about before I became a member of Parliament.

I also want to share the position taken by the Government of Quebec, which just announced that it plans to ban conversion therapy in the province. This reflects how the majority of Quebeckers feel about this practice. The practice of conversion therapy will be banned in Quebec.

It will soon be against the law in Quebec to offer a homosexual person heterosexual conversion therapy. Bill 70 will ban anyone from soliciting another, whether free of charge or for payment, to engage in a process of converting their sexual orientation. Once the bill becomes law, an offender could be fined up to $50,000, or even $150,000 in the case of a corporation. That is significant, and it speaks to the importance of this issue.

Across Canada, an estimated 47,000 men have been subjected to conversion therapy. Unfortunately, I did not find any statistics on women, but I am sure that many women have been affected. There are little to no statistics on the number of cases in Quebec, because the phenomenon is under-reported there. That probably explains why I had never heard of conversion therapy before being elected a federal MP.

No Canadian should be forced to change who they are. We know that far too many Canadians have been victims of this practice. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. That includes members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been victims of degrading or dehumanizing practices intended to change their sexual orientation against their will.

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We need to do things properly. That is why we are going to propose a reasonable amendment to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to ensure this bill does a better job of protecting Canadians.

The government could have chosen an approach that would have garnered the support of even more MPs if it had taken into account comments received when the first version of the bill to ban conversion therapy was introduced. Again, for those tuning in, an identical bill, Bill C-8, was introduced during the first session of the 43rd Parliament, but it died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued on August 18, 2020.

I had an opportunity to speak to the House during that session, and I emphasized the fact that, unfortunately, the form and the content were different and needed clarification. Although the Department of Justice's website makes it very clear that private conversations between parents and children are protected, the bill did not. The Department of Justice's website states the following:

These new offences 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 provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

However, this explanation is not included in the section of the bill with the definition of conversion therapy. Adding it would provide greater clarity.

We know that the member for Winnipeg North talks a lot, but sometimes he makes good requests. Today, I heard him request, perhaps unusually, that an hon. Bloc Québécois member tell him what amendments would improve Bill C-6 so it would garner greater support from members of the House and Canadians.

I am taking this opportunity to humbly submit this small improvement to Bill C-6. We will propose an amendment that will seek to guarantee that voluntary conversations between these people and their teachers, school counsellors and all those I mentioned will not be criminalized, as indicated on the department's website.

I do not mean to imply that the Liberals or the minister asked that this part of the description of the bill be removed so that they could play petty partisan politics on this important issue. If such is the case, then that is unacceptable. If it was an error, then it can be fixed. I would prefer that it be fixed than to speak about partisanship and petty politics.

However, these words, which come from the government itself and are found on the department's website, open the door to greater support from Canadians for this bill. That is important for our country and for the LGBTQ+ community. The government wants to be honest, open and transparent. Now it has a unique opportunity to show that the Liberals are able to rise above the fray for once and give more Canadians the opportunity to see themselves reflected in Bill C-6, which has the vital objective of putting an end to conversion therapy in our country once and for all.

In closing, I do not identify with an LGBTQ+ group. I cannot claim to understand how a person who has been ostracized, bullied or mocked because of who they are must feel. However, as a father, a Quebecker and a Canadian, I know that it is high time that this country put an end to conversion therapy.

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October 26th, 2020 / 5:05 p.m.
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Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, every country is dealing with its own lived experiences. Here in Canada we have a Canadian-made approach. Bill C-8, which was brought forward before, has now been brought back as Bill C-6, and it is really a Canadian approach.

I know that some people would say that it does not go far enough in terms of protection, especially of those who are vulnerable, such as our children, who are facing incredible discrimination and horrors, which we have heard of in this House and through our history. What may work in Malta, Ireland and the U.K. may not work here, and that is why we made a point of bringing forward legislation that will work here in Canada.

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October 26th, 2020 / 1:55 p.m.
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Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne. I also want to thank the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who gave a very passionate speech on this and shared his own life experiences. I really appreciated it and received a lot of insight from that.

It is my pleasure to voice support for Bill C-6, which proposes Criminal Code amendments aimed at ending so-called conversion therapy in Canada. The bill proposes the same reforms as those proposed in former Bill C-8. They underscore the government's continuing commitment to ban an inherently discriminatory practice. Conversion therapy harms the well-being, dignity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians by proposing that they can and should change their sexual orientation or gender identity, a fundamental and immutable part of their identity.

Diversity is what makes Canada a great country. Respecting and valuing differences defines us as Canadians. I am proud to support a bill that reflects these fundamental Canadian values. Conversion therapy's origins explain why it is an inherently discriminatory practice. The practice comes from a time when any sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and any gender identity other than cisgender, would have been considered a sickness or a disease that required repairing. It just seems obvious to say that a therapy founded on ignorance and prejudice toward the targeted recipients also harms them.

We need to acknowledge these harms because they are documented by the evidence. Not only does relevant research show that conversion therapy causes significant harm to those subjected to it, it also shows that the practice disproportionately harms children. That is why Bill C-6 proposes comprehensive protections for children.

Bill C-6 would define conversion therapy as any “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”. This means that gender affirming therapies or interventions, including for children whose identity is not congruent with their biological sex, do not constitute conversion therapy. This is primarily because the objective is not to change anything about the person receiving the therapy, but rather to support their identity exploration and development.

To be clear, we want to protect children from illegitimate treatments, not prevent them from accessing treatment that provides them with the support they need. Supporting children who may not conform to heteronormative standards also means protecting them from practices that harm their development and exploration of self. That is precisely what Bill C-6 does.

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October 26th, 2020 / 12:55 p.m.
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Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to an important bill, Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to conversion therapy. In my opinion, this bill should be passed quickly to ensure that LGBTQ2 individuals receive all the respect they deserve.

Bill C-6 proposes to amend sections of the Criminal Code in order to create offences related to the practice of conversion therapy. It is identical to Bill C-8, which was introduced in March 2020, before Parliament shut down. I hope it will pass unanimously in the House in this 43rd Parliament.

Historically, Quebec has been a leader in human rights protection. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977, and same-sex marriage was legalized by the National Assembly of Quebec in 2002, under the PQ government of Mr. Landry, when it instituted civil unions. Equality between Quebeckers is a fundamental value and an inalienable right in Quebec. Practices that deny the existence of a person's core identity must be condemned.

What is conversion therapy? It is 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. That is appalling.

I want every member to put themselves in the shoes of a vulnerable person and imagine just how much this can violate their identity and how much distress it can cause. I find it inconceivable that this type of treatment is still being used today because of a lack of acceptance by parents or any organization.

In Quebec, respect for gender identity and sexual orientation is an incontrovertible value, and conversion therapy violates that value.

Who are we to judge what is good for a person and to attempt to convince them that they should be different, in a society that is so inclusive and respectful of human rights? Experts say that conversion therapies are pseudoscience. Not only are they dangerous and degrading, but many studies show that, obviously, they do not work.

According to the World Health Organization, these practices represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people. Furthermore, according to the Canadian Psychological Association, conversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, and even difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction. That is very serious. Unfortunately, it is happening here, in the shadows. I personally was appalled to learn that these practices are still being used in 2020. I am ashamed.

Let us look to the example of the courageous Gabriel Nadeau, a former member of a Pentecostal Protestant community who spoke out publicly about his painful experience undergoing conversion therapy three times. I would respectfully like to share what happened to him. Describing his therapy sessions, Gabriel said:

Four people physically held me down while the “prophet” shouted into my ears for 30 minutes, calling for the demon to get out, and they made me drink “holy olive oil”.

He added:

In my community, it was believed that homosexuality was an evil spirit, a demon. That is what I was taught, and I believed it myself. I knew that exorcisms were performed.

Here is what he said about how this kind of therapy affected him:

I think that the hardest part for me, harder even than the exorcism, was the self-rejection that followed, the feeling of being completely disgusted by myself, wanting to change completely, and being so desperate every day.... It was truly awful.

This gives me shivers. It is terrifying. As a mother, it breaks my heart. This must change, and it needs to change as fast as possible. Fortunately, as distinct as they are, Quebec and Canadian societies have a lot in common, particularly in terms of values. We agree on a number of issues and adopt similar policies that translate into progress when it comes to rights.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for living together, I want to highlight the Quebec government's initiative in protecting human rights. We welcome Bill 70, which was introduced by the Quebec justice minister with the goal of outlawing conversion therapy.

In closing, here is what Gabriel said in an interview in July 2019:

I found self-acceptance, and I realized that I didn't always have to conform to what other people wanted or thought, when it came to my sexuality or anything else. It is wonderful, and I would never go back to that religious prison.

I want to tell Gabriel and everyone watching right now that, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, they are seen, they are loved and they are beautiful.

I am happy to say that the Bloc Québécois has always been deeply committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of the people of Quebec. I am very proud to belong to a political party that shares my values and that has always been an ally in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois supports the Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-6. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill.

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October 26th, 2020 / 12:30 p.m.
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Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today as the first speaker at second reading from our caucus on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy, formerly Bill C-8 before COVID-19 changed our model here and we lost a few months on this legislation.

I am honoured to stand in the House of Commons today to provide some comments and feedback on the bill and at times a personal perspective, as we all share a common goal to eliminate the harmful practice of conversion therapy across Canada.

I want to start on a personal note about the debate in this chamber. In the last few weeks many colleagues have stood to ask questions and offer commentaries in the debate around Bill C-7, on medical assistance in dying. As I mostly watched that from my office on television, I want to commend members on the tone and the civility of the debate. The questions and the debate going back and forth have been very civil, constructive and very worthy of the House and the debates that we hope to have similarly on a piece of legislation such as this.

I want to acknowledge the work of the provincial partners, as the minister mentioned in his comments, that did work in provincial jurisdictions before we were dealing with this piece of legislation in Ottawa. In Ontario in 2015, a law was passed, and in Manitoba in 2015 and Nova Scotia in 2018.

I may be a bit biased, being from Ontario, but I want to acknowledge the work that was done at Queen's Park in the provincial legislature. It is my understanding that it was the first in Canada, but also that all the parties worked together to get unanimous support for that bill, which proceeded to ban conversion therapy in the province of Ontario.

It shows how legislatures and parliamentarians from different parties can work together on issues of common concern. I believe we can achieve the same goal here in Ottawa. We all agree with the common goal, calling out conversion therapy for what it is: a terrible, inhumane, dangerous practice against the LGBTQ community that needs to be eliminated in Canada.

As I start my comments here today, I want to acknowledge the many organizations that have worked for years to raise awareness of this issue. As we debate and discuss the details of the legislation, we need to always remember the stories and the scars of those who have suffered through some form of conversion therapy.

There are many who have come forward to share their stories, to help educate us and to bring light to this issue. Unfortunately, there are some who have not been able to share their stories with us, because they are not with us anymore. The torture, the pain that they faced was too much to handle. Many suffered in silence. Too many have taken their lives because of the harms that conversion therapy caused them.

We often talk in the House about making our Parliament more diverse and reflective of Canada, by gender, by race, by profession, by sexual orientation and by lived experiences. As we debate this legislation, this is exactly why we aspire to that goal: to bring perspective from across the country, and to share stories and experiences that could help guide us all. I want to do that today for a few moments.

I have said a few times over the last year that I have talked more about my sexual orientation this past year than I have in my entire 33 years. I am a proud gay man who lives in rural eastern Ontario, and I have come to realize that my story matters. If I could get personal here for a moment, I want to talk about my story and my coming out.

It was back in 2017, in my hometown of Winchester, Ontario, a small town with lots of churches and a mix of bedroom community people working in Ottawa and people who have called the rural community home for their entire lives. People coming out maybe was not as common as it would be in downtown Ottawa or downtown Toronto or other places. I served as the mayor of my community at that time. I was out to my family and friends, and I had decided that it was important for me to let my community know that I am a proud gay man so that I could live my life openly, happily and freely.

I wrote a letter on a Sunday morning at about nine o'clock, posted it on Facebook and it went viral. I was not expecting the reaction. It was the lead story on the news channel the next day, and it went viral on Facebook.

What I was hoping from that was indifference, that people would just move on and not care, in a good way, showing how far we had come. However, what I got was the absolute opposite. The love, compassion and support I got from people was overwhelming, people from all different backgrounds and different life experiences. I find that as more people share their stories, it becomes a degree of separation.

I went to bed that night very happy and on a high. Unfortunately, it did not last too long. A couple of days later, in a community just south of my hometown, a young gay man only a couple of years younger than I was took his life. The high I had felt a few nights previous was equally emotional a couple of days later in the struggles he had faced, a variety of struggles. If that were not enough, there was a further degree of separation that broke my heart.

A friend of mine had let me know that a friend of his was a closeted gay man who had married a woman but was actually gay and struggling with his sexual orientation. He was nervous about coming out to his family, friends and community, and he hid it. He suffered and suffered in silence until he could not take it anymore.

I share these stories not because I know that any of the individuals were subject to conversion therapy, but it shows the struggles that people still face. Even with the positive experience I had with my family, friends and community, we need to acknowledge that it is not the same for everybody. We need to show compassion and care and understanding, whether someone is coming to terms with their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

Adding on something like conversion therapy to a child, any sort of therapy in that regard to change somebody, would be devastating for them to go through. What they would have to go through and what they are subjected to is so fundamentally wrong and dangerous. Subjecting a child to it to change them to be who they are not is wrong. It is dangerous and it must end.

I want to talk about the first speech our new leader gave here in the House when there was an opportunity to speak to this legislation when it was tabled by the minister. I have to say I am really proud of his response, his compassion and his understanding of the issue. He spoke of his military service. He spoke about how a fundamental part of his job, of that service, was to defend the rights of all Canadians wherever his service took him. He did that proudly in our military and he has done that as a member of Parliament here in this chamber when legislation has come forward. The NDP legislation a few years ago on gender identity was a key example of that.

I want to reflect on and put back on the record a quote from what our leader said that day, which really stuck with me. He said:

I stood and was counted for rights that day. As a parliamentarian, I am here to secure the rights of every Canadian, including those in the LGBTQ community, and to build an inclusive and prosperous country for all. Now, as leader of the Conservative Party, I pledge to continue this work.

Conservatives agree that conversion therapy is wrong and should be banned. No Canadian should be forced to change who they are, whether it be their sexual orientation or their gender identity. We know that too many Canadians have been harmed by this practice and, as parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That includes members of the LGBTQ community, who have been the target of degrading and dehumanizing practices in an effort to change their sexual orientation against their will. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

The bill states:

This [legislation] amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, create the following offences:

(a) causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person’s will;

(b) causing a child to undergo conversion therapy;

(c) doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;

(d) advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and

(e) receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

I want to talk briefly about the details of the legislation and something that I have been able to speak about with many colleagues on different sides of the House, and even my constituents back home in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, as they have questions and comments about the legislation. I will use a specific quote. The bill says, “repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour” as part of the definition of conversion therapy.

I want to talk about the difficulty sometimes, in my opinion and my own life experiences, of trying to come up with a definition of conversion therapy that acknowledges how conversion therapy has changed in what it is over the years. Many people think of it as electroshock therapy, a terrible, horrible practice that I hope and believe is mostly eradicated in our country. I am not saying it is completely gone, but there has been an evolution over the years of what conversion therapy is, from that visual of electroshock therapy to what is more of a repression. It is some sort of therapy session to suppress feelings: It is okay to be gay but just do not act on it, or it is okay to have a different gender identity but just do not act on it. The suppression of that thought is equally as damaging as anything else.

When we talk about that, I want to acknowledge that the latest unfortunate trends and those who promote or offer conversation therapy are not so much the vision of something we saw decades ago, but something that is treated more as a therapy, when in fact it is anything but that.

As we move forward in the debate on this legislation and when the bill hopefully gets to second reading and into committee where the bill can be studied and discussed further, my Conservative team has noted that we will be proposing a reasonable amendment that will bring even more support to this legislation. I believe it to be fair, reasonable and bipartisan. I believe it should have the support of the government. That is because I believe we can simply add the words of its own news release earlier this year to confirm what the minister has said before.

As I am not a legal expert, the words the minister acknowledged in his comments could be put into the legislation for greater certainty, saying that private conversations are not subject to criminal prosecution. I will read the quote because I believe it. It is the intent of the legislation and I believe the legislation would be better off if the minister's words in the news release were put into the legislation. He stated:

These new offences 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 provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

I believe that to be the intent of this legislation, in my own personal view. It would be reasonable and appropriate if we could work, as the minister said, in good faith, which he has from myself and members of my party, to bring that forward and get it included.

I am happy to see that Parliament is tackling the issue of banning conversion therapy. The sooner that we put a stop to it, the more lives we will save and the better quality of life and promising future we can give young members of the LGBTQ community.

I mentioned earlier that I talk a bit more often about my sexual orientation and being a proud gay man, but something I have talked less about is my faith. I know for many Canadians in every part of this country their faith guides them in the decisions they make and values they have.

As I reflect on my own personal faith, I will say this. My faith and the values my church taught me have not guided me away from this legislation, but the opposite. They have taught me to support it, to stand up for vulnerable neighbours and friends, to show empathy and compassion, to be there and stand up for those who cannot do it on their own. That is what my faith has taught me and where it has guided me. It is guiding me to be behind this legislation and seeing it enacted as we work together through committee, third reading and eventually on to the Senate.

I will end my comments today not with debate on the specific legislation, but with a message to young gay or trans children. It is okay to be gay. It is okay to be trans. It is right for them to live their lives as who they are and be who they are. Canadians know that subjecting anyone to conversion therapy is wrong and we must protect those who are vulnerable.

I am grateful for the time today to offer my support for ending conversion therapy, for working together here in second reading, in committee and in the Senate to make this happen and get the job done together. We need to do this for the young children I mentioned and for those who are tragically not with us anymore. We must act on their stories and struggles to do better. Let us continue this work and get it done for them.

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October 26th, 2020 / noon
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


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.

Conversion TherapyStatements By Members

October 2nd, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.
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Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition leader is correct in saying “the importance of respecting the rights of my fellow citizens was paramount” and that we as parliamentarians secure the rights of every Canadian, including the LGBT+ community.

I too will be clear. Harmful and coercive conversion therapy that seeks to demean and denigrate people for who are they are is reprehensible, is wrong and must be banned.

In March 2020, the government introduced Bill C-8 to ban the practice. However, the definition in Bill C-8 was so poorly worded, so unsound, that any rational individual would recognize it as an empty virtual signal.

Yesterday, instead of listening to feedback on how to improve the bill's sloppy wording, the government chose to reintroduce it verbatim as Bill C-6.

Ending conversion therapy must be done responsibly, with the spirit of compassion, wholeheartedly in good faith rather than cynically giving token recognition to a community asking for help.

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2020 / 10:20 a.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, this morning I want to start by congratulating the government on the prompt reintroduction of this bill to ban conversion therapy in Canada, despite some members being in their early days in the House.

At this ungodly hour in British Columbia, I want to stick to three simple points.

First, this is very welcome legislation. No one in the SOGIE community needs fixing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, attempting to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is impossible, and the attempts themselves do great harm to those fearing or already suffering from rejection by family, friends and their community. Again, this is welcome legislation, and I am glad that the Liberals in this Parliament have changed their position to support the ban on conversion therapy.

The topic was first brought before Parliament by Sheri Benson, former NDP member for Saskatoon West, with an e-petition more than two years ago that received more than 18,000 signatures. The government's response at that time was that this simply was not a matter for federal jurisdiction, so I was glad to see the Liberals change their position during the last federal campaign, and I was glad to see Bill C-8 introduced on March 20, which I know to all of us seems an eon ago. Now COVID, combined with prorogation, has put us back to square one on this bill today. When it comes to the practice of conversion therapy, which attempts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling or aversion therapy and does great harm to those subjected to it, we need protection from harmful attempts to get us to deny who we are. The practice must end. Again, no one in the SOGIE community needs fixing.

Second, on all issues of importance to the SOGIE community, progress has been achieved as the result of brave advocates from our community stepping forward. In terms of protecting our rights, nothing has ever been given to my community without a struggle. I want to give a particular note of thanks to conversion therapy survivors who have stepped forward to tell their stories, two of whom have had a particular impact on me in terms of focusing my attention on this issue. They are Matt Ashcroft and Erika Muse. Just a couple of days ago, three conversion therapy survivors organized an online summit entitled End Conversion Therapy. I want to thank the co-founders of CT Survivors again for their important work: Rocky Tishma, Michael Ferguson and Matt Ashcroft. The conference focused on preventing anyone else from having to suffer the harm of conversion therapy by discussing how to defend, strengthen and heal our communities. Participants heard first-hand accounts of the damage that conversion therapy does, from people who had lived it, and heard how conversion therapy survivors are now working to support each other.

Third, I want to emphasize again that the NDP will support the bill before us, but I have said all along that we need to listen carefully to the SOGIE community, and in particular to conversion therapy survivors, as we work to strengthen the bill at committee. The Liberals have suggested a legal strategy that falls short of the real demand of survivors and the SOGIE community: a complete ban on conversion therapy in Canada. There is also concern that the ban does not capture the full range of conversion therapy practices and that there needs to be more attention to those practices directed at the transgender and non-binary community. Thousands of Canadians have been subjected to the harmful practice of conversion therapy, and it is something that is still with us. Studies have shown that, even more than the minister suggested, nearly 50% of trans and non-binary Canadians have been subjected to some form of conversion therapy, instead of being affirmed and celebrated for who they are.

It is past time to ban this practice in Canada, but as we do so, we must also remember that it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of the SOGIE community to work with survivors to repair as much of that harm as possible. I will be watching to make sure that the federal government makes a significant contribution to that effort.

I look forward to working with the government to make sure that we get both parts of this job done soon.

June 18th, 2020 / 1:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario


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.

June 15th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Chair, I have four petitions to present today.

The first petition reflects the outrage of my constituents at the ever-expanding order in council from the government banning more and more firearms. In particular, the petitioners highlight the failure of the government to act on the issue of illegal guns. The petitioners note that virtually all violent crimes committed in Canada, including the recent shooting in Nova Scotia, involve illegal firearms in the hands of those who are already not permitted to possess them. The petition has two asks. First of all, it asks that we reverse the order in council banning certain firearms, but also that we propose measures that will effectively address the illegal use of firearms by criminals while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. It also asks that we ensure that substantial changes to firearms laws in future actually be made by Parliament, not by the government acting in an unaccountable manner.

The second petition deals with Bill C-8, which is the government's bill around conversion therapy. The petitioners support efforts to ban conversion therapy. They express concern about problems in the wording of the definition used in the legislation. They're asking the government to support amendments to fix the definition to address the issue of conversion therapy and ensure that the definition is correct and doesn't criminalize certain forms of counselling that individuals may voluntarily enter into.

The third petition is regarding Bill S-204, a bill in the Senate that seeks to make it a criminal offence for a person to go abroad to receive an organ without consent, dealing especially with the horrific practice of forced organ harvesting and trafficking in China. The petitioners are supportive of Bill S-204 and want to see it move forward.

The final petition is with respect to Bill C-7. There's been much discussion in this House about the need to do better in terms of long-term care. Rather than working to do better in long-term care, unfortunately we've seen the government removing vital safeguards in the area of euthanasia. I think our focus should be on assisting life rather than removing safeguards that are required in association with the euthanasia regime. The petitioners are particularly concerned about the government's plan to remove a 10-day reflection period that normally takes place. That period can already be waived under certain circumstances, but Bill C-7 proposes to remove it entirely as well as reduce the number of witnesses involved. The petitioners are quite concerned about what's going on in Bill C-7 and call for it to be stopped or amended.