Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that the House sits on the ancestral lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe.
It is a privilege to be here to take part in the second reading debate of Bill C-6, introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, on October 1.
The bill's intent is clear: to ban conversion therapy in Canada.
Conversion therapy is rooted in the wrongful premise that an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can and should be changed to a narrow ideal of what is natural or normal.
Conversion therapy is harmful and degrading, and it has no place in Canada.
Today, I again call on all members of the House to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ2 individuals who are subjected to one of the most heinous and violent attacks on their gender identity, namely, conversion therapy.
It is important we all do everything we can to protect the Canada we know and love. Our communities should be places where everyone is free to be authentically who they are, free from violence or discrimination. On behalf of all those who are being hindered in their ability to truly be themselves, to love who they love and to live fulfilling lives and fully contribute to our society, I ask all members to support the bill and send it to committee.
Too many people in Canada are still the innocent victims of conversion therapy. That is not the Canada we want. We must abolish this practice once and for all and we must do it quickly.
Everyone in the country is standing shoulder to shoulder right now, as we face one of the greatest challenges in our history, the COVID-19 pandemic. As a society, we are blazing new trails. There is no clear path laid out. As a government, we are more determined than ever to build on this collective solidarity to build a more inclusive Canada. The pandemic has opened our eyes. It has revealed unacceptable injustices. It has made the most vulnerable communities even more vulnerable, and it has hit the LGBTQ2 community particularly hard.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is still much work to be done to build a truly safe and inclusive Canada. Since March, we have been navigating this crisis together. We all remain cautious and follow the advice of local officials and public health authorities.
Faced with a crisis of this scope, we must rethink our laws and policies and expand our efforts to be inclusive. That is the commitment our government made in re-introducing bill.
The Speech from the Throne emphasizes that the country we are protecting against COVID-19 is a country that is proud of the contribution of its LGBTQ2 communities, an inclusive country. I am sure my colleagues in the House would agree that the best Canada is an inclusive Canada. We must do all we can to achieve equity and inclusion for all Canadians. I am dedicated to this objective and, as members likely know, it forms an important part of the mandate given to me by the Prime Minister.
My parents immigrated to Canada before I was born and worked hard to provide a good life for us. Their belief was that in Canada anything was possible. We all have the possibility of living free from prejudice and discrimination, of expressing our identity and exercising our rights. People deserve the freedom to be who they are, free to love who they love. We all have a role to play so that LGBTQ2 persons feel safe and welcome, to be their authentic selves.
One of our government's roles is to move towards this objective. By re-introducing this bill, we are taking a major step. We are moving towards the elimination of conversion therapy, which is unacceptable in Canadian society today.
The changes to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-6 will go a long way to protect the dignity and equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians.
The bill proposes to criminalize certain aspects of conversion therapy. This harmful and outdated practice seeks to change a person's sexual orientation by forcing them towards heterosexuality, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour and to change a person's gender identity to conform to their sex at birth.
It is important to note that the proposed changes are not intended to reach far beyond a rational scope. We recognize that it is crucial to protect those who offer affirming and supportive guidance or advice to anyone who has questions or is coming to terms with who they are. In the same spirit of wanting all Canadians to be true to who they are, we also want all Canadians to be free to follow their faith as they interpret it for themselves of their own volition. Our legislation aims to balance this to support and protect the rights of all Canadians.
We need to address the myth that gay, lesbian, queer, trans and non-binary identities are pathologies that can and should be changed. Diverse forms of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are simply part of human diversity. The proposed legislation aligns with our government's commitment to put an end to conversion therapy in Canada by amending the Criminal Code with new penalties for those who conduct the practice, in particular, against minors.
We must adopt legislation that protects the dignity and equality rights of all Canadians, especially those of LGBTQ2 individuals and youth. This legislation will ensure that every Canadian is not afraid to be who they are and to live a full life.
The types of changes we are now proposing to the Criminal Code are also aligned with approaches already implemented elsewhere, and I will offer here just a few examples.
Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have enacted legislation specifying that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and have banned health care professionals from providing treatment to minors unless they are capable of consenting. Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County have also banned businesses from providing conversion therapy within their city limits.
Internationally, Malta is the only other country known to have criminalized aspects of conversion therapy, while the United Kingdom and its LGBT action plan has committed to further explore the issue. In the U.S. several states have put in place bans that resemble provincial and municipal bans in Canada.
I would like to thank all those dedicated to building a fairer and safer society. I would like to especially thank my colleagues, our partners and stakeholders, who are working hard to ensure that Bill C-6's amendments to the Criminal Code are adopted.
The amendments that we propose in Canada are yet another step along the way toward a safer and more inclusive country. I am proud of the concrete actions our government has taken to date.
Our Prime Minister apologized to LGBTQ2 people in Canada for the past injustices experienced at the hands of their government. Our government passed legislation, Bill C-16, to protect against discrimination based on gender identity and expression. We transformed the former Status of Women Canada into a full department, the Department of Women and Gender Equality, with an expanded mandate to advance social, political and economic equality with respect to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
We made a historic investment of $20 million to help build the capacity of Canadian LGBTQ2 organizations to address the unique needs and persistent disparities facing LGBTQ2 communities, and, proudly, my appointment in November by the Prime Minister as Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, supported by Canadian Heritage, where the LGBTQ secretariat is now housed.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I led several round tables with key stakeholders from across the country to discuss LGBTQ2 issues. We spoke primarily about conversion therapy. The Minister of Justice also spoke about this issue with different stakeholders, in particular his provincial and territorial counterparts.
As members can see, the process leading to the proposed change to the Criminal Code to address the harmful practice of conversion therapy has been informed by the lived experiences of LGTBQ2 communities. This work has come from LGBTQ2 communities. It has come from advocacy. It has come from a place of struggle and pain but also of resiliency and strength. Most important, we are indebted to survivors for their bravery in helping and pushing this road forward for us and with us.
As I have mentioned a few times, our government is committed to continuing our conversations and working together until the full implementation of these proposed changes to the Criminal Code.
We also recognize the importance of continuing our work to prevent conversion therapy, to support the communities to make them even stronger and more resilient, and to deconstruct the myths about sexual orientation and gender identity. Together, we must end the stigmatization and discrimination of LGBTQ2 communities.
We are here today as a direct result of the collective strength of survivors and their steadfastness in the face of adversity. We honour them and those who came before them.
In our society, every individual has a unique and important role to play to make Canada inclusive and safe, a Canada where every person can thrive. Not so long ago, solidarity with LGBTQ2 communities was not part of any government agenda. Today, we are trying to promote LGBTQ2 equality, protect the rights of LGBTQ2 individuals and fight discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities. All these commitments require that our elected officials listen to the communities and work tirelessly to create the Canada that we want to leave to future generations.
We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it and do better. Like everyone else, I still have a lot to learn and a lot to do. Like everyone else, I am here to ensure that every human being is respected because I have hope that we will one day live in a country where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, period.
While the past has not always been easy, today is a hopeful day. By acting on historical injustices we are building a better future for all. It is our duty to do everything we can to make a better future for the children in this country. When children arrive in the world they are full of love. They have not learned to hate. A child is taught to hate or discriminate, taught to be ashamed of who they are, and taught there are only certain ways to live. We have to provide a better future, a different future, for the next generation. We know that with these proposed amendments to the Criminal Code we are helping LGBTQ2 people feel safe and enabling them to participate fully in Canadian society.
Our work does not stop there. We are determined to continue the dialogue and work closely with LGBTQ2 communities right across the country.
I have a mandate to consult with LGBTQ2 communities to lay the foundation of an LGBTQ2 action plan that will guide the federal government's work on important issues affecting them. My mandate also involves investing more in LGBTQ2 organizations.
This will offer future opportunities for community-led interventions, because one of my goals is also to build stronger and more resilient LGBTQ2 communities through local, regional and national organizations that can respond to the evolving needs of their communities.
Together, we can help create a country where everyone is free to be who they are, and where human rights are human rights for all. Our Prime Minister often says that, in Canada, diversity is our strength. We are a diverse country made up of people from all types of backgrounds. Our Canada includes everyone, of every colour, of every background, of every identity. LGBTQ2 people exist in our communities. They are our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families. They are people, people we love and cherish.
The proposed amendments help get us once step closer to equality and recognition for LGBTQ2 people. We need to ensure that Canada is a country where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, can live in equality and freedom. Our task is clear. The time to act is now. I urge all members to support this historic ground-breaking legislation as we advance protections for LGBTQ2 communities together.