The Canadian federal government recently introduced a bill which would make it a criminal offence to subject people to conversion therapy against their will, and would ban the practice for all Canadians under the age of 18.
The legislation is an act to amend the Criminal Code to include conversion therapy. Specifically, it would make it a criminal offence to cause a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, cause a child to undergo conversion therapy, do anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention the child undergo conversion therapy outside of Canada, profit from providing conversion therapy, or advertise an offer to provide conversion therapy.
The legislation would also give courts the authority to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order the removal of the advertisements by those who placed them.
In their 2019 federal election platform, the Canadian Liberal government defined conversion therapy as “a scientifically discredited practice that targets vulnerable LGBTQ2 Canadians in an attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity” through counseling and medication or a combination of the two.
Furthermore, the platform says “there is international consensus in the medical community that conversion therapy is not founded in science and does not work.”
This comes a year after the federal government originally rejected a petition with 18,000 signatures calling for a national ban and provincial and territorial regulation of conversion therapy.
At a press conference held on March 10, David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, said conversion therapy has been discredited and denounced by professional and health associations around the world.
“It has no basis in science or health care practices. Rather, its devastating effects have been felt time and time again by those who have undergone it,” he said. “Contrary to what some might say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to who you are or who you love.”
Survivors have spoken out about their experience with conversion therapy in hopes of promoting awareness and change.
Joel Edgerton’s film Boy Erased is based on a memoir by Garrad Conley, who is the gay son of an Arkansas Baptist preacher. The movie follows Conley’s experience as he struggles to accept his sexuality and survive the conversion therapy program his parents send him to.
Carolyn Mercer, a retired trans teacher in New York, shared her story of surviving conversion therapy with BBC. She volunteered for shock therapy to try to “cure” herself in her late teens, believing something was wrong with her. Decades later, after being exposed by a reporter in the 1990s, and with support from peers, she learned to love her true self and “align [her] gender expression with [her] gender identity.”
Today, conversion therapy is still commonly practiced within Canada, but there are bans enacted in the city of Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. It is also banned in four provinces — Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario.