Evidence of meeting #15 for Justice and Human Rights in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was therapy.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Colette Aikema  Speaker, As an Individual
Nicholas Schiavo  Founder, No Conversion Canada
Peter Gajdics  Writer and Advocate, No Conversion Canada
Joan Davis-Whelan  President, Canadian Association of Social Workers
Alexandra Zannis  Social Policy and Communications Coordinator, Canadian Association of Social Workers
Lisa Bildy  Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
Jane Dobson  As an Individual
Daniel Santoro  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
Michael Whitman  As an Individual
Eminence Cardinal Thomas Collins  Archbishop, Archdiocese of Toronto
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

I now want to involve Ms. Whelan and perhaps Ms. Zannis with the association for social workers.

We've heard this discussed a bit before and I personally have some reticence about enumerating a list. Some people have said, “Well, let's make it clear that it doesn't apply to a conversation with a parent or a teacher or a pastor.” The second you enumerate a list, I think you might be faulted for not including a coach, a music instructor, a mentor, or a Boy Scout leader—you have your pick.

What are your views on the definition as it's entrenched right now in the legislation versus zooming out and creating a list of the types of conversations that are not meant to be caught?

Ms. Whelan.

11:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Social Workers

Joan Davis-Whelan

I'm going to defer to Alexandra Zannis on this question.

11:35 a.m.

Social Policy and Communications Coordinator, Canadian Association of Social Workers

Alexandra Zannis

Thanks, Joan.

Yes, thank you for the question; that is an excellent question.

We do not believe that it should be amended to include a list. To be very clear, this legislation isn't necessarily with the goal of targeting health care professionals such as social workers. Social workers and other health care professionals adhere to very strict codes of ethics, guidelines and regulatory bodies, and all of these practices, including talk therapy or the gentlest forms that we have been discussing here would already be a deep violation, and they would already face deep, deep code of ethics violations there. The point of this legislation is really to get at those unregulated individuals, like you said, who have the goal to change, alter or deny an individual's identity.

We think leaving it the way that it is would be the most beneficial in this scenario. Once you start to get into the list, exactly like you're saying, we're starting to create loopholes, and what we need is a federal ban on this practice to get at those unregulated individuals who adhere to no regulatory body when providing practices under the guise of therapy or—

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Ms. Zannis, I'm just conscious of my time.

Ms. Bildy, I presume we're not going to agree on certain things, but can we agree that you mentioned the best interests of a child and that it is not in the best interests of a child to be forced into a therapy to which they are being coerced or taken against their will? Do we agree on that point?

11:35 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Lisa Bildy

Well, yes, except for the fact that what we heard from the court in the U.K. last week is that children are not competent to give informed consent to what follows after a course of puberty blockers. You have to bear that in mind. Children should not be forced to.... I certainly believe with respect to children's sexual orientation that they should not be forced to undergo anything that makes them try to change that. I agree with you completely on that, but gender identity is a totally different kettle of fish. It's being strung along here in a bill that really should focus on sexual orientation only.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Thank you.

I will now move to Monsieur Fortin.

Sir, you have six minutes. Go ahead.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank the witnesses for being here. Conversion therapies are a pretty hot topic. The more testimony I hear, the less I know how we should limit the bill. I feel like we are walking on eggshells. It's not simple.

I would perhaps like to begin with Ms. Aikema, who told us about her experience with receiving therapy at a young age.

Here is my question for you, Ms. Aikema. Are you not worried about pastors or religious groups having too much of a bias, in either direction, to be effective with young people who are using conversion therapies?

11:35 a.m.

Speaker, As an Individual

Colette Aikema

I absolutely agree with you that it's very possible that that.... Let me rephrase that. Could you rephrase the question?

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What I have understood from your testimony is that, in your earlier days, you were involved in conversion discussions or therapies—whichever one—with a priest or a pastor.

This is what concerns me. Aren't priests or pastors, regardless of their religion, too biased on those issues to be able to objectively help a child searching for their identity or their sexual orientation?

11:40 a.m.

Speaker, As an Individual

Colette Aikema

Right. Regardless of the influence that faith leaders have, every person influences other people with their speech. Even you are influencing me right now with the things that you are saying, so absolutely, I would argue that the help and support that I got from the faith-based support group that I attended to deal with my sex addiction issues.... The impact that they had was absolutely monumental in saving my life and helping me heal from trauma. The impact that is there is absolutely true, and we need to make sure that the impact of this law is not going to be to restrict faith-based organizations and faith-based ministries, support groups and counsellors who are trying to help individuals like myself to meet our goals and our outcomes.

Conversion therapy is wrong because it forces an outcome on someone, and so I agree with you. We should never force an outcome on someone, and if that's what a pastor is doing, then they should be held responsible for that. The issue is that what we're talking about is that the government is trying to mandate the outcome of counselling and trying to mandate what a faith-based group should or should not be doing, which is a direct infringement on religious freedoms.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Ms. Aikema.

I would now like to put a question to you, Ms. Bildy.

Ms. Bildy, my understanding is that you are somewhat concerned about the definition set out in clause 5 of the bill that would potentially appear under section 320.101 of the Criminal Code. I would like you to summarize your understanding of that definition.

What is allowed and what is not if we keep to the current wording of the bill?

11:40 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Lisa Bildy

Sorry; I'm just trying to find the clause that you're referring to. Bear with me for a moment.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I am talking about the definition of conversion therapy under section 320.101, or clause 5 of Bill C-6.

11:40 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Lisa Bildy

Thank you.

My concern is that gender identity should be removed entirely.

It's interesting. We heard people say that we should ensure that gender expression is subject to this bill as well. There are a lot of convoluted inconsistencies in all of this. When you think about it, gender expression allows children, for example, to express themselves outside of what we would consider stereotypical gendered behaviour.

Typically now, we find that when kids do act, perhaps, as a very tomboyish female or a very effeminate male, despite the fact that we should be embracing their expansion of gender categories, they often get put on a transition bandwagon and it's suggested to them that perhaps they're in the wrong body.

Even what people are asking here, to include both gender expression and gender identity, are mutually exclusive. You really need to go back to the drawing board on this. I think the easiest thing to do is to get rid of gender identity entirely. It just doesn't belong here.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Okay.

If I understand correctly, you agree with the proposal to ban potential conversion therapy in its broadest form. It's a matter of banning the intervention of a professional who may be looking to change the gender identity of an adolescent searching for their identity, of a therapist who would be trying to change their identity or influence them in one direction or another. For example, the adolescent could be told that he is a homosexual man, or that he is actually a woman in a man's body, or that she is a lesbian woman.

If I understand your testimony correctly, all those debates with minors should be banned. Did I understand correctly?

11:40 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Lisa Bildy

The bill actually says that you cannot change a person's gender identity to cisgender—

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Ms. Bildy, I'm sorry. Mr. Fortin is out of time.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Chair, I did not understand the answer because you were talking at the same time as the witness.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

It's because the time is up, Mr. Fortin, and I was just alerting you to that.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I understand, Madam Chair, but I am appealing to your sense of fairness.

The interpretation makes us lose many seconds. I think that, while the witness is answering, they could be given the five or 10 seconds they need to provide their answer. If we take into account the time we lose through interpretation, I think that would be fair.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Absolutely.

Go ahead, Ms. Bildy, for a very short response, please.

11:45 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Lisa Bildy

Thank you.

The bill, though, only allows the transition in one direction. When you say that people could be influenced either way, only one is banned under this legislation. Only one way, to change a person's gender identity to cisgender, is banned. If somebody is trying to change them in another direction, that's okay. In fact, it's specifically allowed as a treatment of service that relates to a person's gender transition. It's a one-way street.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Thank you.

That's all the time we have for Mr. Fortin. We'll now go to Mr. Garrison for six minutes.

Go ahead, sir.

December 8th, 2020 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to start by thanking the witnesses for being here today and in particular, Ms. Aikema and Mr. Gajdics. To tell your personal stories in public is quite difficult. I thank you for having the courage to do so.

I also want to say, as the author of the bill that originally provided protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, I'm always disappointed when transphobic arguments are brought before the committee in public, even if they're dressed up in legal language, and especially when they're connected to a false narrative about detransitioning and stated as a false concern for children.

On the basis of that, I'd like to ask the Canadian Association of Social Workers why they believe it's important for both gender identity and gender expression to be included in the ban in this bill.

11:45 a.m.

Social Policy and Communications Coordinator, Canadian Association of Social Workers

Alexandra Zannis

Yes, thank you for that excellent question, as well.

As it stands right now, we are seeing that the loopholes in the legislation will allow for these practices to continue, and that by not including gender expression we will continue to see these harmful practices that lead to overrepresentation in homelessness, mental health crises, substance abuse, poverty and addiction.

If we want to get this right for the things that we know are already happening, not the things that we think may happen if this legislation gets introduced, we need to include gender expression and we need to include transpeople within this bill through gender expression specifically. If we continue to leave out gender expression, we will continue to see these practices, which will continue to lead to the overrepresentation of 2SLGBTQ2+ people within the social workers' offices.