Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have a speech in front of me this morning, because, like my colleague, I am very emotional and find this topic very upsetting.
I am pleased to rise today at third reading stage to speak to Bill C-6, which amends the Criminal Code with regard to conversion therapy. I think that there needs to be a consensus on this bill to give LGBTQ+ people the respect and protection they deserve. Equality for all is a fundamental value in Quebec, and I hope it is in the rest of the country as well. It is an inalienable right.
Practices that deny the existence of a person's core identity must be condemned. It is 2021. Historically, Quebec has been a leader in human rights protection. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination since 1977, and the PQ justice minister got the National Assembly of Quebec to legalize same-sex marriage in 2002, when it instituted civil unions.
The bill that we are debating today proposes to amend sections of the Criminal Code in order to create offences related to the practice of conversion therapy. The term “practice” is very important here. This bill is identical to Bill C-8, which was introduced in March 2020 and died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued. I hope that Bill C-6 will be passed by all members of the House in this 43rd Parliament, because we cannot afford to waste any more time.
What is conversion therapy? It is a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or their gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or any behaviour deemed abnormal. That is appalling.
I want every member to put themselves in the shoes of a vulnerable person, if only for a few moments, and imagine just how much this can violate their identity and how much distress it can cause. I find it inconceivable that this type of treatment is still being used today in an attempt to please parents or any organization and obtain their approval. For goodness' sake.
In Quebec, respect for each person's gender identity and sexual orientation is a value that the practice of conversion therapy violates. In our society that is so inclusive and respectful of human rights, or so I hope, who are we to judge what is good for a person and to try to convince them to be otherwise?
As experts are saying, conversion therapy is pseudoscience. Not only is it dangerous and degrading, but, as many studies have shown, it does not work. According to the World Health Organization, conversion therapy practices “represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people”. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, “[c]onversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction”. That is very serious.
Conversion therapy has already been banned in five Canadian provinces and one territory: Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Yukon. The cities of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary have banned it as well. Around the world, Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Fiji, Germany, Malta, Switzerland and Taiwan have all banned this type of therapy, as have more than 20 states and 80 cities in the U.S. Conversion therapy does, sadly, happen in Canada, but it is done behind closed doors. When I tell my constituents, they are surprised to hear that this practice still exists. We must speak out against these types of therapy and take action.
I would like to talk about the high-profile case of Gabriel Nadeau.
Gabriel was a member of a Pentecostal Protestant community and underwent conversion therapy three times.
I want my colleagues to feel what I did when I heard his story, so I will to quote Gabriel. He said:
Four people physically held me down while the “prophet” shouted into my ears for 30 minutes, calling for the demon to get out, and they made me drink “holy olive oil”.
Everyone around me was saying that my sexual orientation could be changed. I tried everything...but of course nothing was successful. I had a breakthrough between the ages of 18 and 19.... Now, I accept my orientation and am proud to be gay.
It is hard to imagine everything he went through.
The members of his group believed that homosexuality was a malevolent spirit, a demon. Gabriel said he was aware of that and believed it himself. Exorcism was one of the therapeutic techniques used.
He went on to say:
I think that the hardest part for me, harder even than the exorcism, was the self-rejection that followed, the feeling of being completely disgusted by myself, wanting to change completely, and being so desperate every day.... It was truly awful.
Gabriel Nadeau also added:
I found self-acceptance, and I realized that I didn't always have to conform to what other people wanted or thought, when it came to my sexuality or anything else. It is wonderful, and I would never go back to that religious prison.
I applaud him for having the courage to share his story and his experience, as traumatizing as it was. By sharing his story, he gave society and elected representatives like us an opportunity to reflect and the words and images to understand the violence that Quebeckers and Canadians who undergo conversion therapy may experience. I want Gabriel to know that we are grateful to him and we are thinking of him.
Fortunately, Quebec society and Canadian society, distinct though they may be, have a lot in common, in particular in terms of values. Quebec and Canada agree on certain matters and adopt consistent policies to enhance human rights.
As Bloc Québécois critic for living together, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the Quebec government's human rights protection initiative, Bill 70, which prohibits conversion therapy in Quebec.
May 17 was International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This year's theme was “For some, showing their colours isn't a choice”. Around the world, LGBTQ2S+ individuals are still the victims of psychological, physical and sexual violence.
The aim of the bill is to put an end to conversion therapy, which is a form of terrible psychological violence unsupported by science.
I would therefore invite all of my colleagues, especially my Conservative colleagues, who are trying to make amendments that could be made at a later date, to act before the end of the session. We must stop postponing the issue and vote to defend and protect LGBTQ2S+ individuals in Quebec and Canada. We must not postpone the adoption of the bill, but vote in favour of it. That is what I ask. No one deserves to suffer needlessly and bear the scars for the rest of their life.
It is our duty to protect the vulnerable. That is why I chose to go into politics. I would also like to mention that, not so long ago, on June 15, the Conservative leader tweeted, “Let me be clear, conversion therapy has no place in Canada and should be banned. Period.... I am committed to fighting this unacceptable and harmful practice. I will not compromise on this issue.” We will see if his word is worth anything when it comes to taking action.
According to a recent official survey, 47,000 Canadian men belonging to a sexual minority have been subjected to conversion therapy. We are not talking about 2,000 men or 5,000 men, but about 47,000 men.
The Bloc Québécois is proud to be a long-time ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community. All of my colleagues were prepared long ago to put an end to the violence of conversion therapy, here and now, so that no sexually or gender-diverse person has to convert, since we love them and celebrate them.
In conclusion, I do not know if my colleagues have seen the movie Boy Erased, but it really helped me understand what conversion therapy is like and the impact it has on individuals and their families. It was so terrifying that it gave me goose bumps. It really opened my eyes. I asked my children to watch it, and then we talked about it. The first thing they said was, “Mom, it is based on a true story. When did it happen?” I answered that it was not very long ago and that this sort of thing is still going on. This 2018 movie is based on the memoirs of Garrard Conley, a 35-year-old author and activist. He recounts the traumatizing and violent experience of the conversion therapy forced on him by his parents. He did not want the therapy. I urge my colleagues to watch the movie, because it was a powerful awareness-raising experience for me and my family.
In the end, that is what it is all about: education, information and understanding others. Regardless of our gender identity or sexual orientation, we are all beautiful in our diversity.
I am pleased to be able to say that the Bloc Québécois has always been resolutely committed to protecting and promoting the rights and freedoms of Quebeckers. I am very proud to belong to a political party that shares my values and that has always been an ally in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender or gender expression.
I asked my colleagues to stand up and dare to take action. We need to pass Bill C-6 before the end of the session. It is already late, in my opinion. However, as we say, it is never too late.