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.