An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

Third reading (House), as of April 16, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-6.

Summary

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 without the person’s consent;

(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) promoting or 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.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Oct. 28, 2020 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)

April 16th, 2021 / 10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it I think you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, Special Order or usual practices of the House: (a) the report stage amendment to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), appearing on the Notice Paper in the name of the Minister of Justice, be deemed adopted on division; (b) Bill C-6 be deemed concurred in at report stage on division; and (c) the third reading of Bill C-6 be allowed to be taken up at the same sitting.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2021 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that I am joining the House from Waterloo, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Neutral people.

I also want to thank my dear friend and colleague, the member of Parliament for Don Valley West, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for sharing his time with me. Mostly, I thank him as a fellow Canadian citizen. I thank him as a fellow member of the human race. I thank him for being his true authentic person he was put on this Earth to be.

It is a privilege to rise in support of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code to abolish the destructive practice of conversion therapy in Canada. I rise today with someone else's words, words I have not been able to forget since I first heard them. They are the words of Peter Gajdics, a survivor of six years of conversion therapy, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in December. Mr. Gajdics said:

I still consider it a miracle I didn't die. I left these six years shell-shocked. It was not so much that I wanted to kill myself as I thought I was already dead.

Imagine being parents feeling like they cannot accept part of who their child truly is or who or how they love. That is deep conditioning at work, conditioning that imprisons people in the misguided belief that the only acceptable path is being cisgender or heterosexual, conditioning based on myths, stereotypes and underlying mistruths that are rooted in and perpetuate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

It is high time for us to take decisive action to end conversion therapy and to do everything we can to stop violence and discrimination in its tracks. LGBTQ2 rights are human rights.

My mandate letter as the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth asks me to promote LGBTQ2 equality, promote LGBTQ2 rights and address discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities.

A recent global survey tells us that four out of five people who undergo these damaging therapies are younger than 24 years old, and of those, roughly half are under 18 years old. This is far too many young people growing up being told they are invalid, shameful or unnatural, far too many young people being told that how they perceive themselves, who they want to be in this world or who or how they love is wrong.

Bill C-6 get us one step closer to that goal.

These young people are our future. We must protect them. We have to put an end to conversion therapy, especially for children and youth.

I would like to thank the witnesses who appeared before committee, those who contributed submissions and the standing committee members who came together to strengthen the legislation for Canadians. Further defining conversion therapy to include gender expression while making clear the heinous efforts to force people to be something they are not is the target of this legislation.

In addition to the five original prohibited offences, the committee's amendments clarify that conversion therapy performed without consent is to be criminalized and that promoting conversion therapy services or practices is also to be targeted.

Unlike some misguided narratives we have heard about the bill, it would not criminalize another person's values, opinions or beliefs. It does not criminalize a private conversation where these values or beliefs are being expressed. We recognize it is crucial to ensure affirming and supportive guidance and advice remains available to those coming to terms with who they are.

There is no question that these proposed amendments bring us one step closer to building the safer and consciously more inclusive Canada we all imagine. However, we know that achieving this vision will take more than legislation. It will take a transformation of our ideas about and attitudes toward LGBTQ2 communities, a transformation of our broader perspectives on diversity and inclusion. It will take nothing short of a revolution of the hearts and minds of all Canadians.

The Government of Canada is strongly committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ2 Canadians and ensuring full and equitable participation in society.

We are working with all levels of government and with partners from all sectors to bring about positive change across Canada.

As leaders, as legislators, as Canadians, as compassionate human beings, it is our job to ensure that Canada is a country for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, can live in equity and freedom.

Not long ago, six Conservative members voted against the bill at second reading in the House. Anyone who continues to oppose the proposals in Bill C-6 is in direct opposition to the community.

The bill and all our actions to recognize and protect the rights of LGBTQ2 Canadians are important and necessary steps in building a safer, more equitable and consciously more inclusive Canada we all want. Conversion therapy practices have no place in Canada.

When I think of the courage and resilience of the many survivors who gave their testimony in December, I know that we in the House have a duty to ensure that we do not let them down. We are indebted to their collective strength and steadfastness in the face of oppression of those who speak out.

When children arrive into this world, they are not innately born with prejudice or hatred. Children are taught to hate and to discriminate, taught to be ashamed of who they are and taught that there is only one correct way to live and be. We have to provide a different future for our next generations, an even better and consciously more inclusive future.

Our task is clear: The time to act is now. I urge all members to support this legislation, protect Canadians and uphold human rights for all. For members who oppose Bill C-6, do so in their right but not by speaking with fear or misinformation.

Tomorrow, we mark the anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let us all work to create and defend and build on these rights and freedoms. Let us protect these hard-fought rights and freedoms, because I know we can and must do better.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy.

Let me say at the outset that conversion therapy is absurd. It is wrong, and it is harmful. Conversion therapy should be banned. Individuals who perpetrate such harmful acts and seek to coercively change someone's sexual orientation or sexual identity should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law under the penalty of the Criminal Code. I unequivocally support the purported objective of this legislation, which is why I voted for Bill C-6 at second reading.

I did so notwithstanding the fact that I did have some concerns with the manner in which the bill was drafted. In particular, I had concerns that the definition of conversion therapy was vague and overly broad, and that it could capture not only those circumstances that involve coercive, abusive or otherwise harmful efforts to change someone's sexual orientation or identity, but could also more broadly encapsulate such things as good-faith conversations.

Nonetheless, because I unequivocally support the purported objective of the bill, I was hopeful, as a member of the justice committee, that we could come together at committee to study the bill in detail, hear from a wide range of witnesses and bring forward appropriate amendments where necessary to get the definition right.

It goes without saying that if we are to carve out any law in the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy, it is absolutely imperative that we get the definition right. At committee, many of the concerns I had with the way in which the bill had been drafted were expressed by a wide range of witnesses, including members of the LGBTQ community, lawyers, medical professionals and members of the clergy.

More specifically, with respect to the definition and some of the issues that arise therefrom, I would first of all note that in the bill, conversion therapy is defined as any “practice, treatment or service”. These terms are not defined anywhere in the Criminal Code, and it should be noted that nowhere in the bill are these terms qualified in order to provide the context in which the practice, treatment or service would apply. Although these terms are found in parts of the Criminal Code, they are not stand-alone terms as they are in Bill C-6.

It is true that the term “treatment” connotes a therapeutic context. However, “practice” or “service” could, without qualification, involve just about any activity. For example, a “practice” could involve a good-faith conversation, and “service” could involve a voluntary counselling session or a religious sermon.

I was concerned that witnesses were expressing concern about the lack of clarity with respect to those terms, but in addition to that, the definition, as provided in Bill C-6, provides that it would ban any practice, treatment or service designed to reduce sexual attraction or sexual behaviour.

The definition is clearly expansive. It goes beyond a clear and targeted definition. Without any qualification, it could arguably include counselling sessions or other supports provided on a voluntary basis by medical professionals and other professionals. It could, arguably, capture good-faith conversations between persons struggling with their sexual identity and medical professionals, parents and other family members, religious leaders and others.

It is important to note that this definition of conversion therapy is not used by any professional body. It is not used by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychological Association or their American counterparts. In the face of that ambiguity, which was supported by witness testimony, Conservatives sought to bring forward amendments to get the definition right.

Now, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and other members of the government have repeatedly said that the bill before us would not target voluntary, good-faith conversations. I do not doubt their sincerity when they say that is what they believe. Consistent with that, the website of the Department of Justice states the same.

However, what matters not is the minister's interpretation of the bill. What matters not is what is on the website of the Department of Justice. What matters is, in fact, what is in the bill, which is why Conservatives brought forward an amendment to simply incorporate into the bill the very language that was provided on the website of the Department of Justice. Such language would have provided certainty. It would have provided clarity that good-faith and voluntary conversations would not be the subject of the imposition of criminal charges laid against persons.

Let me be clear that it is a fundamental requirement of the rule of law that a person should be able to know and predict whether a particular act constitutes a crime. Here we have a definition that is vague and overly broad, and therefore is at risk of contravening fundamental justice. It could be deemed contrary to section 7 of the charter as a result.

In closing, the government's intention is a good one, and the intent of the bill is a good one, but it is important that we get the definition right. I am concerned that we have not achieved that in the bill before us.

Conversion TherapyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 16th, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition today concerning Bill C-6.

The petitioners recognize the need for a ban on harmful, degrading and coercive practices that seek to force people to change their sexual orientation. They also recognize, however, that the definition of conversion therapy used in Bill C-6 is not used by any medical body in the world and it is so imprecise that it will lead to the prohibition of forms of counselling that reduce unwanted sexual behaviour.

I am sure my colleagues can understand the damaging implications of this, and I remind them that committee witnesses testified that types of counselling this bill would ban actually saved their lives.

Conversion TherapyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 16th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I also want to present a petition brought to my attention in regard to Bill C-6. I will not read through all of the concerns, but I will highlight specifically two of today.

The petitioners say that Bill C-6 expressly allows counselling, medical and surgical efforts to change a child's gender, but prohibits support for a child seeking to detransition to his or her cisgender. The bill could restrict the choices of LGBTQ2 Canadians concerning sexuality and gender by prohibiting access to any professional or spiritual support freely chosen to limit sexual behaviour or detransition. Their is also a concern about the definition of conversion therapy. We all agree that conversion therapy is wrong, but the bill fails to outline it properly so people are not caught in the crossfire, specifically in this case of those who choose to transgender and then detransition. There is also the concern around a child seeking to detransition.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I continue with my comments from yesterday.

After listening to the debate yesterday, I wanted to highlight a couple of important points that were made. I believe the most important one is that people should feel free to be who they are. The consequences of societal pressures on people to conform to something they are not causes a great deal of stress and anxiety that leads to some very severe consequences. We heard about some of those consequences yesterday. The most extreme of these, of course, which is a sad reality, is that some people will ultimately commit suicide. This is not to mention the many other things that will take place as a result of society and attitudes that really need to change.

This is not to say we have not made progress. I am 58 years old, and in my generation there has been a great deal of change over the years. I am encouraged by that. Yesterday one of my colleagues said that we want to make Canada the safest place to fall in love, and that speaks of Canada's rich diversity. Diversity goes far beyond our wonderful ethnic diversity. It should incorporate all aspects of the human being and our society in general, and we should be very proud of it.

As I have indicated, I truly believe in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how important our standing in the world is regarding the degree to which we recognize the importance of freedom. I am therefore encouraged to see this legislation. What I found really encouraging yesterday, in listening to discussions on the issues of conversion therapy, is that it seems everyone inside the House opposes it and sees the type of harm it causes in society. A number of members have raised issues and wanted some clarification, but on principle, the House appears to be unanimous in its thinking regarding the dangers of conversion therapy. I hope we will see unanimous support for this legislation, because I believe it is worth being supported by all members of this chamber.

I will be specific with what the legislation would criminalize. We should all note this. It would criminalize causing a person under the age of 18, a minor, to undergo conversion therapy; removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad; causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will; receiving financial or other material benefits from the provision of conversion therapy; and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy. The essence of what this bill would do is protect minors from conversion therapy regardless of whether it is provided within or outside of Canada, protect adults who are vulnerable to being forced to undergo conversion therapy and protect Canadians from the commercialization of conversion therapy.

I see this as a positive step forward, and I want to reflect on some of the comments I made yesterday, and already this morning, on the degree to which things have changed.

I can recall my school days quite vividly, and I had no sense of what “gay” was. It was not even talked about in school. I had no sense, in terms of any type of behaviour, of what was being perceived or pushed on from the norms of society. It was not until the latter years of high school I started to get a sense there was a part of life that I was not privy to, or that was frowned upon.

When I went into the Canadian Forces, I really started to see discrimination against people who were gay, and the negative impacts of being gay. I suspect I do not need to cite specific examples for people to understand some of the things I am implying with that statement.

Once I entered the political realm in the mid-eighties, things were taking place that were actually fairly encouraging. For example, the Pride parade in Winnipeg was established in 1987. It was not meant to be a Pride parade, per se, but it was a gathering of people with respect to an action from the Manitoba legislature. The action would have included sexual orientation as part of the Manitoba Human Rights Code. Hundreds of people were gathering, either to protest the fact that it did not pass or to celebrate the fact it did pass. It turned into a parade. That was really significant back in the eighties.

Fast-forwarding 25 years, it is really encouraging to look at the Manitoba legislature. Located in downtown Winnipeg in a beautiful building, the chamber, with its horseshoe shape, is one of the finest debating chambers in Canada and possibly even North America. Huge Roman heritage pillars are at the very front of the building. It has a beautiful lawn. About 25 years after that first Pride parade, we saw a celebration and the different colours of the rainbow shining up the pillars. We recognized just how far we have come. It was part of a week of Pride celebrations.

We need to think of the impact that has on our community. It is very difficult for us to comprehend the pressures people are under when hiding their feelings. Because of my upbringing, it is very hard for someone like me to imagine that. I can only attempt to understand the difficulty of young people, in particular, dealing with a very difficult situation in their school, home or work lives. The least I can do is to encourage that freedom where I can. Bill C-6 is a good example. It sends a positive message, but the work is not done. We can still do so much more.

The other thing I am very proud of is the fact that Glen Murray was the first openly gay mayor of a major urban centre in Canada: my home city of Winnipeg.

I thank Glen Murray and Randy Boissonnault from the Liberal caucus, both people I have known over the years who have been such strong advocates, and my daughter to a certain degree, for making sure I am sensitive and have a better, more comprehensive understanding of an issue that is important to all of us.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

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

When the government said it was going to crack down on conversion therapy, the Bloc Québécois was very pleased, especially since the government had previously said it could do nothing following an April 2019 petition to ban the practice.

The Bloc Québécois views conversion therapy not as a medical procedure but as a barbaric practice designed to negate an individual's identity. Conversion therapy is pseudo-science. It is dangerous and degrading for those subjected to it, and it is totally ineffective to boot. People who provide sexual reorientation therapy are not health professionals. No self-respecting professional could provide this so-called service without realizing that it is essentially an affront to their profession.

This is 2020. It is about time we acknowledged that attraction to individuals of the same sex is a normal variation of human behaviour. It is therefore our duty to protect the victims of conversion therapy proponents, who tend to have very conservative religious views. We know the groups that promote conversion therapy are small and marginal, but we want to reaffirm that respecting beliefs goes hand in hand with respecting differences and ensuring the equality of all. Members of the LGBTQ2 community must get the respect they deserve as soon as possible.

Historically, Quebec has been a leader in human rights. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977. It should also be noted that the gay and lesbian community has made significant gains since 1999. For example, in June 1999, the Government of Quebec passed Bill 32 to amend various legislative provisions concerning same sex couples. Other bills followed. Bill C-23 passed on January 1, 2001, and Bill 84 passed in June 2002. The federal government passed Bill C-38 on June 28, 2005. Even public and parapublic sectors negotiated protections for the LGBTQ2 community into their collective agreements.

Just because certain rights were recognized, including the recognition of same sex spouses, it does not mean that every barrier of discrimination against homosexuality will come down over night. These were important gains, but members of that community might agree that despite these societal advances, there is still a lot of work to do to eliminate the discrimination they endure. For gay youth and adults, the path to equality is strewn with many obstacles including ignorance and prejudice, labelling and discrimination, harassment and aggression.

Not so long ago, epidemiologist Travis Salway found that suicide is the leading cause of death among gay and bisexual men in Canada and he tried to understand why. He believes this is related to what is known as minority stress, which often leads to persistent negative thoughts and a feeling of despair. What is more, Mr. Salway has officially spoken out against sexual reorientation therapy.

In Canada, 47,000 sexual minority men have undergone conversion therapy. We do not have the figures for women, but that is a significant number of men. In Quebec, Gabriel Nadeau, a former member of a Pentecostal Protestant community who went through conversion therapy not once, not twice, but three times, has been speaking out on behalf of people who are being asked to be heterosexual despite being strongly attracted to someone of the other sex. His testimony is chilling:

In my community, it was believed that homosexuality was an evil spirit...I knew that exorcisms were performed.

That sounds like a movie.

Mr. Nadeau now accepts himself for who he is. He says that he would never return to his religious prison. I commend him for his strength and resilience, and I wish him all the best.

Not all stories end well, however. Conversion therapy can leave deep scars, as explained by the Canadian Psychological Association. It notes that such practices can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, social isolation, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction.

The members of the Bloc Québécois are unanimously opposed to conversion therapy, because we believe that 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. We are pleased to see what is happening here, in the House of Commons.

In Quebec, respect for gender identity and sexual orientation is a value, and conversion therapy violates that value. That is why we will be supporting Bill C-6, which amends the Criminal Code to criminalize the following: causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person's will; causing a child to undergo conversion therapy; doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada; advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

The Bloc Québécois has always been deeply committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of citizens. We have always been quick to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, Quebec is following suit, as it is also looking at legislation. The Bloc Québécois is certainly very pleased that both parliaments are recognizing that, in a democracy, there is good reason to affirm collective values and regulate religious practices that go contrary to those values under the law.

I will end on a somewhat more personal note. I have always believed that what parents want first and foremost is for their children to be happy and for there to be no obstacles to this happiness. When my son told me he was gay, I felt sad. I was not sad because he was homosexual, but because I knew that he would face discrimination and have to endure insults. Like many others, he has been the victim of homophobia.

By passing Bill C-6, I believe that we will help create a society where the LGBTQ2 community will be better protected. I also believe that it is our duty to work with this community to help them to overcome the prejudices they experience.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-6, which amends the Criminal Code with regard to conversion therapy. I already had the opportunity to speak to this subject some time ago in response to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and that, too, was an honour for me.

My speech today will focus on three things. First, I will talk about the importance of this bill for the LGBTQ+ community. Second, I will show how Quebec is once again at the forefront on this issue. Third, I will conclude with what I hope to see in the post-pandemic era for the LGBTQ+ community, which has been hard hit by COVID-19.

We are debating this bill today because the government has finally decided to not only ban but also criminalize the practice of conversion therapy. According to several witnesses, some of these practices are more like torture than genuine therapy. Conversion therapy has also been described as being like witchcraft or something out of a bad dream. It is hard to believe this is still happening today, in 2020.

I think that we can all agree that this practice, which is promoted and supported primarily by religious groups, is based on the idea that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong, that it is one of the most serious sins and that it could lead a person straight to hell.

Unfortunately, homophobia still exists in 2020. Expressions of it can be seen practically every day. It is frankly unacceptable that religious groups continue to stigmatize homosexuality. People in this community should not have to live in fear any longer. Human beings should not be subjected to goodness knows what kind of therapeutic process to become someone they simply are not.

Many of us know people in our circles who have admitted how hard it still is to come out of the closet and affirm their identity. This bill does not solve all the problems of the LGBTQ+ community, but it is clearly an important step in advancing the debate.

Let's get back to the issue before us today, namely conversion therapy. The media has already shared the story of a boy from Quebec who underwent one of these so-called conversion therapies, and my colleague has referenced this case, too. Anyone who takes the time to really pay attention to his story cannot help but feel empathy for him. No one could condone inflicting such anguish on someone, or imagine that a child could feel such deep self-hatred.

As the aunt of a niece and nephew who I want to see grow up happy, I find it hard to believe that this boy's family did not have good intentions. However, his religion and his intense desire to not disappoint his loved ones or his God pushed him to use his own money to pay for so-called reparative therapy that would make him “normal”. He even went so far as to describe conversion therapy as social support for self-rejection. I have mentioned that powerful, sad turn of phrase before.

What is even sadder is that this story echoes that of many children and adolescents who just want to be loved and fit in. I appreciate this government bill for trying to prevent this type of situation from happening again.

The government can obviously count on my support and that of all my colleagues, including our leader. At a press conference I attended with him, he said that members of the LGBTQ+ community must get the full respect they deserve as soon as possible, just like anyone else.

Many countries have led the way in criminalizing conversion therapy. Quebec recently started the process too, when our Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, introduced Bill 70 in the National Assembly. Bill 70 is called “An Act to protect persons from conversion therapy provided to change their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression”.

I also want to mention that in 2018, Theresa May, the then prime minister of Great Britain, described conversion therapy intended to change an individual's sexual orientation as an “abhorrent practice”.

The awful thing is that the vast majority of gay individuals ended up estranged from their families. They went off to live their lives and tried to deny who they were. Some even went through conversion therapy against their will before finally deciding to be who they really are.

It is very hard to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine what it is like to go through conversion therapy. Eventually, people realize that they need to stop bowing to all the pressure and acknowledge that it is not working. Conversion therapy does not transform people. Instead, people realize that it does not reflect who they really are.

Many have spent decades trying to fight against themselves with therapy, fighting their true nature, and asking themselves a lot of questions, asking themselves why. Some even wonder why they were born in their body, why they feel as they do, why they have a given gender. They wonder who they really are. They end up hating or despising themselves. We do not want anyone to get to that point.

People who have gone through this kind of therapy are survivors. Now we can use Bill C-6, the conversion therapy bill, to send them a clear social and political message and take those first steps. My hope for every member of the LGBTQ+ community is not just to survive, but to be able to live in a way that is true to who they are, how they feel and who they love.

It seems that members of this community experience greater negative psychological impacts as a result of the pandemic than the rest of the population. Robert-Paul Juster, IUSMM researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal explained:

There is a consensus that the LGBT community is at a greater risk of experiencing problems in the context of the COVID crisis simply because they do not have access to the same resources as heterosexual or cisgender people...Yes, there is a greater vulnerability due to their minority status, but there is also a greater potential for resilience.

Resilience is what I wish for them.

I would like to add one last thing. Pope Francis's statement in favour of the civil union of same-sex couples is perceived as a great demonstration of openness by experts and groups that advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. The head of the Catholic Church defended the right of gay couples, the “children of God”, to live in a civil union that protects them legally, as we can hear in the documentary Francesco, which is about the Pope and was shown last Wednesday for the first time at the Rome Film Fest. He stated that homosexual people “have a right to a family. What we need is to legislate civil unions, as they have a right to be legally covered. I defended this.” The Conseil québécois LGBTQ considers this to be a significant step for the church, which needs to adapt to our societies.

As the Bloc's critic for seniors, I want to point out that LGBTQ+ seniors, who faced prejudice and were confined during the pandemic without any resources, experienced a form of sexual mistreatment. We need to be there for them as we move forward, and this bill is an important step. We are sending a message so that the community can assert itself. Psychologists do not recognize that conversion therapy works. We must take action to prevent more suicides and to protect their rights.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 11 a.m.
See context

Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, it is lovely to be in the House and listen to the reaffirmation of Bill C-6. Of course, I am in support of the bill.

I would like to read a quote, if I may, from Dr. Kristopher Wells from Alberta. He is the Canadian chair for public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth. He writes:

It's much more underground.... It might be happening after business hours. It might be happening in a basement, or unfortunately it's still happening in some faith communities and cultural communities, under the guise of praying away the gay. Or that homosexuality doesn't exist in that community, and anyone who shows same-sex tendencies or who's gender diverse needs to be fixed or cured in order to gain acceptance in their community.

When we hear things like this, the bill is clearly not enough to address the underground impacts of homophobia. Clearly, this bill cannot repair past damages. Clearly, this bill does not address hate and homophobia in our communities. Will the member and the Liberal government commit to funding support programs and capacity-building programs for the SOGI community?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in debate on Bill C-6, which seeks to ban conversion therapy in this country. Let us make no mistake; the proposed legislation is revolutionary. It would make Canada’s laws on conversion therapy the most progressive and comprehensive in the world.

Conversion therapy is a degrading practice that targets LGBTQ2 Canadians to try to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and can lead to life-long trauma. There is widespread consensus in the medical community that conversion therapy is extremely harmful.

A recent study in the United States found almost 30% of LGBTQ2 youth who had experienced conversion therapy had attempted suicide. Let us think about that for a moment. Let us think about our duty as legislators, our responsibility to prohibit practices that endanger the very lives of the people we aim to protect and serve.

As with other pieces of legislation, in favour of which I have spoken, Bill C-6, for me, is also about freedom: the freedom for everyone to be who they are, the freedom to express one's gender, the freedom to express one's sexual orientation, the freedom from being forced to change and the freedom from being enticed to change by others. It is the freedom to be ourselves and only we know who that is. This is the freedom we should want for all Canadians.

I hope the House will will stand firm and vote unanimously to support the bill, which will send a clear message to the LGBTQ2 community, to our young people and to the entire world.

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the many community organizations that have fought for the rights of transgender people and the entire LGBTQ2 community and continue to do so.

Back home in Mile-End, I have had the privilege of speaking with people from Fraîchement Jeudi, a community radio program that gives a voice to Montreal's LGBTQ2 community. I am also thinking of the Centre de solidarité lesbienne, located in my riding, which provides support to lesbians who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, grief, difficulty coming out or any other difficulties related to their well-being.

Montreal is home to many other organizations. Here are just a few: the Fondation Émergence, which combats homophobia and transphobia; RÉZO, which offers psychological support to LGBTQ2 men; and the Groupe de recherche et d'intervention sociale, or GRIS-Montréal, which works to raise awareness, especially in schools. We often think about Montreal's pride parade, which, under normal circumstances, draws millions of Montrealers. These organizations work day in and day out to ensure the inclusion of everyone in our society, no matter who they love.

Our laws and especially our Criminal Code are tools we can use to protect the most vulnerable and to prevent and remedy injustices. The bill before us is progressive and comprehensive. It bans so-called conversion therapy. It goes without saying that such therapy is not based on science. This harmful and unacceptable practice rooted in homophobia, biphobia and transphobia has no place in our society.

Bill C-6 would add five offences to the Criminal Code: causing a child to undergo conversion therapy; removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy; causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person's will; advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and receiving a financial benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

Before I move to the details of this important bill, I would also like to recognize the incredible advocacy of a member of my community in Outremont. Dr. Kimberley Manning is an associate professor of political science at Concordia University. She is also a fierce advocate for transgender rights and one of the directing minds behind the website GenderCreativeKids.ca, as well as a not-for-profit organization serving the parents of gender non-conforming children. We owe a debt of gratitude to her and to all parents who have advocated tirelessly for the rights of their children and for minors everywhere.

The bill before us proposes five new Criminal Code offences related to conversion therapy, including, first and foremost, causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy. It would also ban the removal of a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, make it an offence to cause a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, make it illegal to profit from providing conversion therapy, as well as ban any advertising for conversion therapy and authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy publicity or their removal from the Internet.

Conversion therapy can come in many different forms. It may last an hour, a week, months or years, and it is always incredibly damaging. Conversion therapy is designed to convince a person that they are living a lie and to renounce their homosexual or bisexual orientation, or gender identity, in the case of a trans or non-binary person.

I want to talk about the extent and impact of this practice. The statistics speak volumes. In February 2020, the Community-Based Research Centre, a Vancouver organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ men's health released interim findings of its Sex Now Survey. The findings of this survey of 7,200 people show the extent of this practice in 2020.

In Canada, nearly 20% of sexual minority men report having every experienced sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression change efforts. Of them, nearly 40% have experienced conversion therapy in Canada. Younger men, and two-spirit, trans and non-binary respondents are more likely to be targeted by coercion.

These therapies have many repercussions. Undergoing conversion therapy is associated with various psychosocial outcomes such as depression, anxiety, social isolation and delay in coming out. These are serious impacts.

A person who has undergone conversion therapy, especially a young person, will have experienced trauma and will live with the consequences their entire life, at the expense of their mental health. That person will feel that they are not authentic, that they should be ashamed of their identity, that they must live a lie or even that they do not deserve to live.

Many adults who survived this injustice in their youth have described how they are still unable to establish a relationship of trust with their family, peers and colleagues. In some cases, they even find it difficult to pursue their studies or get a job. They often say that they even find it difficult to have a healthy intimate relationship or live their gender identity to the fullest.

Even worse, we know that these practices can lead our children, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community to have suicidal ideation and even act on it. How can we tolerate this in Canada in 2020?

The practice of conversion therapy, indeed, cannot be tolerated. On the one hand, it causes such psychological trauma as to lead individuals, statistically, to much higher rates of depression and suicide. On the other hand, the underlying rationale for conversion therapy runs antithetical to our values as a country: our values of freedom and liberty, the premise that every Canadian should be free to love whomever they choose and to express their individuality however they choose. This is yet one more step in our visceral drive as human beings to express ourselves and our most fundamental identity the way that we decide.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker,

“You know, nothing makes God happier than when two people, any two people, come together in love. Friends, family, we're gathered here today to join Carol and Susan in holy matrimony.”

Twenty-six years ago now, 14-year-old me watched Ross Geller walk his ex-wife down the aisle to be married to her lesbian partner. At the time, it was quite the thing, one of the first mainstream television portrayals of a non-straight wedding. This episode of Friends was censored in parts of the U.S. and was aired nearly 10 years before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada.

For 40-year-old me to be standing here debating this bill, it makes me ask why, but it is necessary. I cannot believe that we need to debate the bill, yet here we are. Even though our society has made progress in removing barriers to equality of opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community, which I will refer to as “the community” throughout my speech, these Canadians still face significant discrimination and marginalization. The topic of the bill is one facet that reflects and contributes to this marginalization.

Today I want to describe what the bill would do, why it is important and why it should be supported, and clarify confusion on some issues that have arisen around its form and structure.

First, I want to discuss what so-called conversion therapy is. In the words of my dear friend and brother from a different mother, Brian Hearn, “it isn't therapy, It's abuse, it's torture.” Brian is right. It is abuse and it is a violation of basic human rights.

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, conversion therapy refers to “any formal therapeutic attempt to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual.” This definition has generally been updated to include methods that aim to change the gender identity or gender expression of an individual. This practice is rooted in the false and outdated assumption that homosexuality and other forms of gender and sexual diversity are mental disorders that can be “cured”. This is a position that medical practitioners around the world have rejected for some years.

Many leaders from conversion therapy organizations, sometimes called the ex-gay movement, have since denounced the practice as clearly harmful and many of their leaders have even come out as LGBTQ+ themselves.

There is no scientific evidence that these practices have medical merit. In fact, it is the opposite. The Canadian Psychiatric Association, for example, has called the practices “pseudoscientific.” While some people's understanding of their own sexual identity might change over time, there is no evidence that their sexual orientation, who they are sexually attracted to, changed.

The scientific and medical communities have confirmed what every member of the community already knows; that we are born loving who we are, loving who we love and that there is nothing to fix. That is where the bill comes in.

The bill would make illegal, via amendment to the Criminal Code, the following: forcing someone to undergo conversion therapy against his or her will; causing a child to undergo conversion therapy; doing anything to remove a child from Canada with the intent that the child would undergo conversion therapy outside of Canada; advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and receiving financial or other material benefit for from provision of conversion therapy.

Some may ask why the bill is necessary. First, there is overwhelming consensus by scientific and medical practitioners and organizations in Canada and around the world that conversion therapy is unequivocally harmful. From one Canadian survey of survivors of conversion therapy, 30% had attempted suicide following their intervention. All survivors who responded experienced harmful psychological effects, “ranging from mild distress to severe anxiety, self-hatred, and suicide attempts.”

The Canadian Psychological Association also notes distress, depression, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction as consequences of conversion therapy. Many survivors noted that recovering from this trauma was akin to recovering from any other trauma. It took years, to a whole lifetime, to deal with the pain and suffering caused by so-called conversion therapy.

Some so-called conversion therapy advocates, especially those in the United States, have claimed that conversion therapy might have positive effects for a small minority of participants. This is also categorically false.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association said of such so-called research, “nonexperimental studies often find positive effects that do not hold up under the rigor of experimentation.” It is important to note this, because these false beliefs are often held up as a reason for why the bill is not necessary.

For those who think it does not happen in Canada, think again.

Estimates range between 20,000 and 47,000 Canadians having been exposed to this vile practice. With a 30% suicide rate, think of how many Canadians have attempted to take their life because of this torture. On top of this, the systemic marginalization LGBTQ2 Canadians already face in general makes it even worse. They are more likely to experience poverty, homelessness and physical violence.

With respect to mental health, the stigma and discrimination against the community's youth produces what many researchers call minority stress, which leaves LGBTQ2 people at a higher risk of health issues.

For example, youth from the community face 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. They also face double the risk of PTSD than their heterosexual or cisgender counterparts. A 2013 study of trans people in Ontario 15 and older found that 77% had seriously considered suicide before and 43% had attempted suicide. Among the most vulnerable to suicide were trans youth, aged 16 to 24. Importantly, the study found that suicide risk for trans individuals decreased with social, societal and parental support.

We must also discuss the economic marginalization of members of the community. Among 40,000 young Canadians who are homeless each year, studies estimate between 25% and 40% are LGBTQ2. That is between 10,000 and 16,000 homeless people in Canada. One Ontario study also found that half of all trans Ontarians lived on less than $15,000 a year.

Then there are the overt acts of violence and discrimination against the community. Between 2014 and 2018, hundreds of hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation were reported to police, constituting 10% of all hate crimes during this period. We do not even know about hate crimes on the basis of gender identity and expression during this period because there was no category for it. As such, we do not even have statistics to describe the extent of violence against trans Canadians, which we know is large, given anecdotal reports. However, other reports paint a troubling picture. A 2011 Egale Canada reported that 74% of trans students faced verbal harassment and 37% experienced physical harassment.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has shown that positive mental health and well-being for members of the community more broadly is associated with family and friend support, supportive work environments, low levels of internalized homophobia and positive responses to coming out, which is why the bill is important.

To put this more bluntly, rejection from parents, family members, religious communities, workplaces and more that members of the community face present a clear and direct threat to their equality and dignity. People end up on the street if their families reject them for being gay or trans. They end up selling their bodies if they are on the streets with no option. They end up facing violence if people hate who they are. All this is to say that banning conversion therapy will not suddenly end homophobia and transphobia in Canada, but it can make things better and it can stop stigma. This bill is a very good step in the right direction.

Now I will clarify some confusion on certain issues with regard to the bill.

Some have expressed concerns that the bill could prevent a trans person from “detransitioning”.

First, this is a phenomenon that rarely happens. A U.S.-based survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that only 0.4% of respondents detransitioned after realizing transitioning was not what they wanted. The rest who reported detransitioning, 7.6% of the 28,000 people surveyed, reported the reason for that as another reason, most often because of pressure from parents.

Second, this argument is predicated on the belief that it is easy to transition. This is patently false and painfully laughable for the many trans Canadians who are in the midst of transition today.

Wait times for gender-affirming interventions are long processes with many required medical steps and interventions. It takes time for assessments, time for referrals and time on the waiting list. The idea that trans persons are able to medically transition without any time to reflect and, as a result, they might be coerced into it is patently bunk, as is the assumption that medical transition can happen without medical supervision.

I also want to be clear that not every trans person wishes to undergo a medical transition. However, for those who do, medical transition can involve multiple courses of actions that are discussed and guided by medical professionals. These include hormone therapy, genital or chest surgeries or other gender confirming surgeries.

If we take the case of genital surgery in Ontario, a person needs two assessments recommending surgery from a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, social worker or psychologist and both of these assessments must confirm persistent gender dysphoria, not transitional gender dysphoria. Therefore, it must be clear that this has been happening over a period of time and the person must have taken 12 months of hormone therapy already. This just does not happen overnight or on a lark.

My friend Hannah Hodson, here in Ontario, wanted me to share her experience. She first started speaking to a therapist, then met with many doctors and it took her over a year to first get her first hormone prescription. At the time, she was a 32-year-old adult living in the easiest province in Canada to do it, because Ontario operates on informed consent for adults. That is not the case in many other parts of our country.

The assertion that it is easy for a child to transition in Canada or that medical transition happens without rigorous oversight is also bunk. For children in Canada, they and their parents would first have to start by speaking to a medical professional and likely a gender therapist. For children transitioning, changes are usually 100% social; that is, how they act, how they dress. It is only under the strict oversight of medical professionals that someone could access even reversible interventions like puberty blockers. In terms of gender-affirming surgeries, by way of medical practice standards in Canada, they do not really happen before age 18 anyway.

These assumptions are also rooted in the basis of an overly simplified and scientifically rejected perception of gender as solely relating to sex or genitals. The concept of gender identity is about relating to the world, not just genitalia. Many trans people choose to live without those surgeries and it does not make them any less than who they are. However, for many people, that gender-affirming care is what they need to live as a fully functioning member of society.

Back to my friend Hannah, she said, “I always joke that there is no way I would willingly do this if it wasn’t who I am. I was living as a straight presenting white man, I had won the jackpot.” The decision to transition is not made on a lark because an out trans person still faces enormous challenges even in Canada. Trans people face incredible rates of abuse and harassment. According to a 2011 Egale survey, 74% of trans students report verbal harassment and 37% report physical harassment.

Hannah can maybe now go to 35 countries safely, maybe. In Ontario, even today, people send her threats or call her a freak when she is walking down the street, and she lives in one of the most accepting cities in Canada. If anyone ever does this to Hannah, she should tell them to come talk to me.

Another recent study showed that 45% of trans people in a survey sampled have committed suicide. However, there is hope. With strong family support, that rate drops by 93%. Therefore, to fully refute the notion that somehow the bill hurts trans persons in any way, it is the opposite. It will reduce the stigma they face and stop a form of violence against them.

It has also been suggested that the bill may criminalize private conversations, particularly between a parent and a child or a religious leader and a parishioner. I believe this to be false after reading the bill.

First, uncoerced conversations, including those with minors, are already protected by freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill would further protect this right by defining conversion therapy directly in the bill 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.”

Upon reading the bill, I believe that the phrasing “designed to” makes it crystal clear that the bill does not criminalize formal conversations between faith leaders or family members. If there are concerns regarding freedom of expression, people should rejoice. The bill would protect the values of freedom of expression, the right to expression of self and truth as it pertains to sexual orientation and gender identity, which are necessary given all the evidence of discrimination against the community that I have already presented.

It also has been suggested that the bill has the potential to criminalize prayer or religious belief. I also believe this to be a false assertion. Freedom of religious expression is an underpinning of Canada’s pluralism, which I strongly support. There is, however, a clear difference between a religious belief and a sustained effort made by somebody in a coercive setting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In the same way, there is a difference between a general prayer and this practice as well. I believe the bill already clearly outlines these differences, for the following reason.

Most members seem to agree that banning conversion therapy is a pressing and substantive objective. Protecting the health and well-being of LGBTQ2 Canadians from clear harm is of urgent concern. As such, this bill is proportional to any potential burdens on, for example, religious freedom claims.

This bill proposes limits that are rationally connected to the goal of protecting LGBTQ2 Canadians, but it does not arbitrarily infringe on religious freedom. It does not, for example, infringe on holding anti-LGBTQ2 beliefs, which I, for the record, do not have, and I do not believe anyone should have. It only prevents them from acting on them. In my view, the spirit and value of religious freedoms is to protect individuals so they may practise their faith. Many existing provisions in our Criminal Code, however, already limit what actions might be taken in the name of that. Religious freedom does not extend to harming others.

To be clear, this does not mean that Bill C-6 somehow infringes on parents' rights to talk to their children about sex and sexuality. It does not infringe on parents' rights to hold the belief that homosexuality is wrong, which is, again, a belief I fully reject. It does not infringe on those parents' rights to express that belief either. It does, as has been stated over and over, prevent any practice, treatment, or service, designed to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Bill C-6 draws the line at turning that belief into a practice designed to change fundamentally who someone is, and in so doing, prevents harm to their person.

Banning conversion therapy mitigates one fraction of the violence and marginalization directed at the community, but it does not stop hate crimes, bullying and harassment. Also, it does not fix all of the other issues that I outlined before.

For those who are worried that this could somehow be a slippery slope, I would also point members to the fact that many other jurisdictions and municipalities have also, within the tools available to them within their jurisdictional responsibilities, implemented similar measures. Churches are still operating, as are mosques and gurdwaras. Society is going on, but I feel those types of regulations have sent a message to the LGBTQ2 community that society is working on some of the systemic discriminations I outlined already.

I have spent a lot of time discussing my view as a legislator today, but I would like to take a minute and explain my view on this as a human being, so I will go back to my smart and effervescent friend Hannah. She wanted me to tell the House this on her behalf: “LGBTQ people are who they are. You can’t turn or fix us. There is nothing to fix. But you can choose to love and support us instead.”

That is really what I hope we can do as a country. No amount of legislation can change hearts and minds. Only an individual commitment to compassion, understanding and kindness will do that.

I remember standing on a windy patio in Banff in July 2019. In Alberta, members of Parliament can legally perform wedding ceremonies, and on that day I had the privilege of uniting two beautiful humans in marriage. They were surrounded by loving and excited friends and family members, and there was not a dry eye in the place, including mine, because their love for each other was so infectious we could not help but revel in it. For Spencer and Jeff Seabrook, that day was not about their sexual orientation. It was about a joyous celebration of their love for one another.

That is how I think it should be. In the same way, I have five people who I consider to be my family. The love they give me everyday, and I mean everyday, is not about the fact they are gay. It is about the fact they are amazing human beings who I deeply love in return. I do not want to fix them because they are already perfect.

Most days, it is more about them trying to improve me. They stood with me in my wedding party when I got married. They even bristled when former Prime Minister Harper tried to give them pointers on how to walk down the wedding runway, although Matt and I must admit he had a point. When two of those amazing people told me they were engaged, we celebrated with joy. I say to Dustin Franks, Miguel Arturo Possamai, Craig Sklenar, Craig Volkerink, Brian Hearn, Matt MacDonald and Garrett Ayers that this one is for them.

This morning Matt texted me and said, “Back when we were born, LGBTQ people were facing accusations that they were converting straight people gay. How ironic is it that 40 years later, you’re giving a speech in the House of Commons to prevent people from violating human rights and forcibly attempt to convert gays the other way. Get it together, people!” He has got a point.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / noon
See context

London West Ontario

Liberal

Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario)

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak in favour of Bill C-6. This bill represents an important step forward toward building a more supportive and inclusive Canada for all, specifically for the LGBTQ2 community.

Debate on this legislation has been very respectful and quite different from what we would have heard only a few years ago. I am heartened to hear most MPs stand up and say uncategorically that conversion therapy on minors is abhorrent and must be stopped.

We have heard stories about how damaging conversion therapy can be on young people who are struggling with their sexuality. However, it is important to remember that it is not just the person undergoing conversion therapy who is impacted by this form of torture, which I truly believe is torture. Family members and friends are impacted as well.

Many truly believe that if this therapy is available and advertised, it must be acceptable, but it is anything but. I realize this legislation falls short of a total ban on conversion therapy, but it is a start. The measures contained in this bill are the most progressive and comprehensive legislative response to conversion therapy in the world.

Some members of the official opposition are worried that the bill lacks clarity. They claim the passage of this bill risks criminalizing conversations between young Canadians discovering who they are and the individuals they may seek out for advice, such as parents, teachers, faith leaders and coaches. However, the language is quite clear. Nothing in this bill criminalizes these types of conversations. What this criminalizes is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition claims he supports: criminalizing forcing a young person to undergo conversion therapy against their will or removing them from the country to do so. We are criminalizing a discredited and deeply traumatic practice. We are also ensuring that individuals profiting off of conversion therapy or the advertisements to provide it can no longer do so.

Under this legislation, the following definition of conversion therapy is provided:

conversion therapy means 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. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates

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

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

In other words, these amendments would not criminalize those who provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as friends, family members, teachers, social workers, religious leaders and so on; nor would the amendment criminalize private conversations between consenting adults.

I have another definition for my colleagues. “Therapy”, according to Merriam-Webster, is the “medical treatment of impairment, injury, disease or disorder”. It means to fix or to heal something that is impaired, disordered or broken.

Conversion therapy assumes something is wrong with LGBTQ2 Canadians. Let us take note that the Canadian Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1982. Telling young people they are abnormal and need to be fixed, or trying to fix them, is the problem and why this bill is necessary.

I encourage all members, in their deliberations on this bill, to read first-hand accounts of what the survivors of conversion therapy go through. In Garrard Conley's memoir, Boy Erased, inspiration for a film of the same name, he writes about his experiences surviving in a conversion therapy camp. The sort of counselling they offered was to tell him, “Your thoughts are harmful to God. They're disgusting, unnatural. An abomination.” They are an abomination. I say that word again because it is not a descriptor that should be used for anyone. Can members imagine how traumatizing it would be for anyone, let alone people in a vulnerable state who are looking for love and support, to be told they are unnatural? That is not therapy. It is torture.

Canada is an accepting country, and we have come a long way in the 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalized, in the 38 years since it stopped being seen as a mental disorder and even in the 15 years since same-sex marriage was legalized. However, we still have so much further to go.

I represent the riding of London West, and our city has had its own history of denying the LGBTQ2 community its voice. In 1995, organizers of the gay pride march asked the mayor of the day to issue a city proclamation in support of the pride march. She refused. The decision led to a three-year legal battle that ended with the Ontario Human Rights Commission fining the mayor and the city $10,000. It ordered the city to make the proclamation.

Today, the gay pride parade is one of the best celebrations in London, bringing together people of all ages, ethnic origins and sexual orientations. It was one of the big disappointments this year that as a result of the pandemic, we could not have the usual parade. We can only hope that next year's pride parade will be able to move ahead as usual, because we need to remind the community how important it is to have a voice and for young people to know they are not alone.

We do not have to go too far back in our own history in this chamber to remember how far we have come. As we know, section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the equality rights, protects sexuality and sexual orientation from discrimination. However, we must remind ourselves that sexuality was not explicitly stated in the original document. The joint committee of Parliament established to review the charter rejected explicitly including sexuality by a vote of 15 to two. The committee heard from organizations representing LGBT Canadians as to why they thought sexuality should be included in the charter. The meeting was held just down the hall from this chamber, and the questions hon. members asked at that time make for discouraging reading.

I will share them with my colleagues, because I want to demonstrate how dated some of the language and arguments around this issue were. One member actually stormed out of the proceedings after denouncing the gay and lesbian witnesses for peddling what he called an unacceptable lifestyle and one that would corrupt children. Another member shared this view and told LGBT Canadians that they really should not complain about the persecution he acknowledged they experienced. To him, they deserved it.

Thankfully, these abhorrent comments are in the minority, and I know that Canadians recognize the need to value and love everyone, even those who are different from us. Thankfully, today, we can see that Canada has openly LGBTQ2 legislators, mayors, actors, musicians and athletes. Their mere presence shakes the barriers that the community continues to face and slowly and surely helps bring them down. Their voices help us realize how we have failed them in the past and where we must do better.

We know that despite the recognition of equality under the law, the out and proud role models and, most importantly, the growing support of LGBTQ2 Canadians, fear of being different remains. That fear is not unfounded. Unconscious biases still exist, as do attitudes that are not accepting and supportive. Some avoid coming out because they believe it may negatively affect their careers or wonder how their friends and family might view them. Some who have come out deal with the trauma of being rejected by friends, families and communities. Far too many LGBTQ2 youth, from Nova Scotia to London to Alberta to British Columbia, still do not find the love and support they need. It is heartbreaking to know that around 40,000 young Canadians are homeless right now. Up to 40% of them are homeless because of their LGBTQ2 identity. It is hard to come out, and it can be hard for a person to have someone they love come out to them.

Organizations like PFLAG London in my community are there to help individuals who come out and help their families and friends as well. There are countless other organizations, including many religious ones, that help persons who struggle with issues of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. These real supports will not be negatively impacted by this law. Supports that treat people with respect, love and dignity are very small asks. This is how all human beings should be treated. It is how we can have those difficult conversations with the ones we love.

Conversion therapy assumes that something is broken and needs to be fixed, but it has not fit the definition of therapy in Canada for almost 40 years. This bill is long overdue, and I am proud to support it because it is another step in the right direction. We cannot continue to pretend that the abusive, sickening practice of conversion therapy is okay in any way, shape or form for our communities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, I met with various clergy from different denominations. When we brought up Bill C-6, I thought they were going to say that through prayer they could actually change someone, but that was far from the truth. They were very concerned that, by having a conversation with someone who is gay, lesbian or transgender, they could be persecuted or prosecuted for a crime. They were concerned that if they spoke to them, they would be criminalized.

The member said this was false. Could she please explain how they came to the conclusion that they would be charged in some form or sent to prison? Why do they have this rationale? Could the member change it and explain to them why this is not the case?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2020 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy, a truly horrific practice. Bill C-6 specifically criminalizes transporting a minor out of Canada for the purpose of conversion therapy, subjecting adults to conversion therapy against their will and the “business of conversion therapy”: charging for, profiting from or advertising conversion therapy for both minors and adults.

We must be clear. Homophobia and transphobia kill. They are a side of the fascist and hateful coin that demonizes and attacks us all. As parliamentarians we must be clear: There is nothing wrong, or that requires fixing, with anyone in the LGBTQ2IA communities. Conversion therapy is a horrific practice that should never have happened. The fact that it did, has and does is shameful. Our families, doctors and communities should be sources of comfort and respite for everyone, not harm.

The first responsibility of members of Parliament is to stand up for the rights and dignity of their constituents. The bill is an opportunity to show that. It is an opportunity to say no to homophobia and transphobia, because homophobia and transphobia kill. Let us send a clear message to the bullies, the bigots and those who would harm the LGBTQ2IA communities that their harmful behaviour, their hate and demonization are unacceptable and unwanted. Let our voice of love drown out the hate. We must speak out against homophobic and transphobic jokes, because they are not jokes. It is hate. Every one of those hateful jokes does the same type of damage we are talking about here. It comes from the same type of hate we are trying to stamp out. If we see it, we must say something. We must make it clear which side we stand on.

The phrase “conversion therapy” does not really reflect the horror of the practice, so let us be clear about what we are talking about: electroshock therapy, forced vomiting, forced ingestion of psychotropic drugs such as ketamine, and exorcisms and beatings. Simply put, it is abuse. Trying to force people to be something they are not will never work. We should not try, because there is nothing wrong with who they are.

A recent study showed that roughly 20% of gay, bi or two-spirited men experienced some form of conversion therapy. Another said that 42% of survivors age 13-24 attempt suicide. Homophobia and transphobia kill. It is no surprise when people are told that they are lesser and they do not matter: when they are told they need “fixing.” To anyone listening who needs to hear it, let me be clear. They do not need fixing. They are fine just the way they are. It is the folks attacking them who need fixing, not them. It may not feel like it, but many people believe in them, want them to succeed and cannot wait to meet them.

This hateful message often comes from those closest to us: parents, neighbours and in some cases even elected officials. It is truly unacceptable. We must put an end to it. We must put an end to homophobia and transphobia because they kill. It is impossible to change someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression through conversion therapy, nor would it be desirable even if it worked. All we would be doing is contributing to further harm, sometimes leading to depression and social isolation and often to self-harm or death by suicide. This is true of traditional conversion therapy and so-called body affirming therapy. We must ban conversion therapy. We must say no to homophobia and transphobia because they kill.

As we get to this moment, I would like to recognize the work of those who got us here. In so many of these struggles, we do not always get to bear witness to the hard work of community members and survivors who lay the groundwork. I want to recognize the LGBTQ2IA advocacy groups, labour unions, members of the medical community and the movement builders. I think of trailblazers across the country like my friend, Cheri DiNovo; my colleague, the MP forEsquimalt—Saanich—Sooke; trailblazers like Svend Robinson and Bill Siksay, former members of Parliament for the NDP; and my provincial colleagues, like Janis Irwin, who speak out and have spoken out against homophobia and transphobia at any chance they had.

I think of every survivor who has shared their story, every person who has spoken out and every community member who has endured, and I think of those who did not. Not one more person should be murdered by homophobia or transphobia. We owe it to those who are not here to make sure it never happens again.

I am happy to see some really inspiring and amazing work happening at the municipal, provincial and territorial levels across the country to protect queer youth. No provincial health plans allow for conversion therapy as part of the public health care insurance system. No reputable health care provider should perform the practice, yet we know that it happens. That is why this legislation is so critical.

Only my home province of Manitoba has a formal and complete ban on health professionals offering conversion therapy. It was the first province to ban the practice. Today, nearly 80 per cent of Alberta is covered by conversion therapy bans, but the provincial government refuses to act. Its lack of leadership puts children in danger.

Ontario, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have made it illegal for health professionals to practice conversion therapy on minors. Yukon Territory is moving forward with legislation to ban conversion therapy as well.

However, there has been a lack of federal leadership until this point. In 2019, my former colleague Sheri Benson brought forward a petition by the Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, signed by survivors and allies, calling on the government to ban the practice. They shared their stories and their collective voice called on us as parliamentarians to stand with them.

At the time, the Liberal government used the tired argument of obstructionists to human dignity everywhere: state rights. After countless survivors and activists continued to raise their voices, the government relented. The government was wrong then, but I am glad it is moving now, because homophobia and transphobia kill.

Let us be clear on the Liberals' pink-washed record on LGBTQ rights more broadly. A government that believes in queer rights does not prop up the Saudi Arabian government: one of the worst abusers of LGBTQ rights in the world. It does not continuously deny the right of men who have sex with men to give blood, despite saying otherwise.

In 2020, being an ally must mean more than doing the bare minimum. It must mean more than attending Pride parades. It must mean giving communities the tools to live in dignity and in health, and to lead their own fights in their own way.

New Democrats support this legislation, but we believe it must go further. We must make sure we are not leaving trans people behind. We must make sure that when we talk about banning conversion therapy for sexual orientation, we also include the same harmful practice when it comes to gender identity and expression because, and it bears repeating, homophobia and transphobia kill.

We know that legislation alone is not going to keep LGBTQ2IA people safe, nor will it repair the damage brought. The government must ensure that adequate funding exists for community-led solutions. It is the only way. Whether it is speaking out against hate or against practices that are harmful to the LGBTQ2IA communities in Canada, or in Canada's foreign policy, we must be clear on our values of love and respect, and condemn the bullies and bigots.

When I was writing my speech, I read stories of survivors of conversion therapy. Many were living through their pain, and their voices must be heard. I want to share a few of those stories.

Conversion therapy is not therapy. It is just torture, abuse, and people still need to be educated.

These are the words of a survivor who was forced to take a cocktail of psychedelic drugs and told to smell his feces any time he felt attracted to another man. His story helped convince the City of Vancouver to ban the practice. There are other horrific stories, but out of these stories we know change has already taken place. Folks in the LGBTQ community deserve more. Their human rights matter, like everyone else's.

Today, let us support Bill C-6, but let us go further in ensuring respect and realization of rights for LGBTQ people across our country and around the world.