Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining the House from the riding of Kitchener—Conestoga, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabeg and Neutral peoples. I also wish to reflect the historical acceptance of gender-variant peoples and diverse sexual identities within indigenous communities in pre-contact times.
The last two initials that have been added to a long string of letters that we now identify as communities stand for “two-spirited”. The sense that a person can have two spirits and is therefore regarded within a community as exceptionally spiritual is something that I believe we can learn from. In most indigenous communities, two-spirit people are seen, loved and respected as unique individuals.
I rise today in the House for the third reading of this important bill. I am proud to speak in favour of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy. The bill proposes to put an end to this damaging practice. The bill sends a clear message to any person or organization advocating or practising conversion therapy that conversion therapy is unacceptable in Canada.
Today, I will be speaking on the importance of this legislation, how this so-called therapy has no place in our society and how we need to protect the health and safety of everyone, most importantly, our youth. I will speak about what the legislation will do, and I will address the fact that this bill will not prohibit conversations or criminalize people's thoughts or opinions. Rather it would ban a practice that says one's identity is wrong and therefore needs to be changed. That is what would be banned. It is critically important that we do so.
Respecting equality means promoting a society in which everyone is recognized as deserving of respect. It is about creating a culture that allows people the freedom to be who they are, to love who they love, to love themselves and to be loved and accepted by not just their families but also by society. That is the message we are sending with Bill C-6.
Conversion therapy is a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit communities. This so-called therapy refers to misguided efforts to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual; change a person's gender identity to cisgender; or repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.
It suggests that a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and that a gender identity other than cisgender, can and must be corrected. This type of discriminatory message stigmatizes LGBTQ2 individuals and violates their dignity and their right to equality. The idea that someone can and should be changed is rooted in homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Simply put, this is a discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values.
Conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced by professional associations as harmful, especially to children. The Canadian Psychiatric Association has stated it opposes the use of conversion therapy. The Canadian Pediatric Society has identified the practice as “clearly unethical”. The Canadian Psychological Association opposes the practice and notes, “Scientific research does not support [its] efficacy”.
In fact, no organization of health professionals in Canada currently approves the practices of conversion therapy, though provincial health plans will allow for the practice of conversion therapy as part of the public health care system.
People and organizations who do advocate for these kinds of practices believe the misconception that some people are of lesser value because of their non-heterosexual orientation or their non-cisgender identity or expression. The idea that they should be forced to change is deeply misguided.
The bill would define conversion therapy as a practice, treatment or service 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.
I note that Bill C-6's proposed definition of conversion therapy is restricted to practices, treatments or services that are aimed at a particular process that is changing a fundamental part of who a person is. The bill would criminalize causing minors to undergo conversation 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.
I have had many conversations with constituents about their ideas and their concerns. The people I spoke with who were not supportive at first were appreciative when I explained what the bill does not do. Here is what the bill is not. The bill does not prohibit conversations about sexuality between individuals and their parents, family members, spiritual leaders or anyone else. Nothing in the bill limits a person's right to their own point of view on sexual orientation and gender identity, nor the right to express that view including, for example, in private conversations between individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity with counsellors, family members, friends or religious officials.
I repeat that nothing in this law bans these kind of legitimate discussions about one's identity or finding one's identity. Rather, it would criminalize a practice that is harmful to Canadians and that has no place in our country. It is young people who suffer the greatest harm from the attempts to force them to be someone they are not. For queer youth, the idea that they need to be fixed can and does contribute to self-hate and fear of rejection by family and friends, which are both very damaging to mental health.
There are many negative impacts associated with conversion therapies. They are linked to a variety of psychosocial outcomes, including depression, anxiety and social isolation. The impacts are profound. A person who has undergone conversion therapy, especially a young person, can experience lifelong trauma. A person will feel like they are not worthy or that they must be ashamed of their identity. They will feel like they must live a lie or even that they do not deserve to live, leading to suicidal thoughts or behaviours. We cannot and will not tolerate this in Canada as we move forward.
I want everyone in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga and throughout Canada to know that they are accepted. I will do everything in my power to make sure they are safe and have the opportunity to have their voices heard. It has been important for me not only to listen, but also to understand, learn and share what I have learned. I have attended seminars and festivals, spoken at pride events and held multiple virtual town halls to further discussions about our LGBTQ2 community. I have also taken the voices and ideas of my constituents to Ottawa.
Respecting equality means promoting a society in which everyone is recognized as equally deserving of respect and consideration. I am proud that our community here in Waterloo region is moving forward together. The fact that pride flags will be flying in both public and Catholic schools for the first time sends a strong message of support for our youth.
Arts organizations have been on the forefront of acceptance and advocacy, and I am sure our artists will continue to led their voices for equality. A memory I am especially grateful for was the day that I proudly drove to Wilmot township with my own pride flag in hand to donate it to the ceremony last June. It was publicly raised and unfurled for the first time in the township's history.
In closing, we have come a long way as a society, but there is still much work to do. Let us set an example for Canadians and do this work together. Today's debate is important because, the sooner society accepts everyone's rights, the sooner we let people know we accept them for who they are, not who we think they should be. That will lead to empowering individuals to contribute their talents and their ideas to our community. When we celebrate our children for who they are, they do better and we become better as a nation. I urge all members of this House to support this important bill.