Worldwide, Canada enjoys a reputation as a progressive country regarding 2LGBTQ+ rights, and in many respects, it’s well deserved.
We were the fourth country worldwide to legalize marriage equality, sexual orientation and gender identity are considered grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, and adoption between same sex couples has been legal nationwide since 2011 when Nunavut became the last province to do so.
However, the legal stalling of Bill C-6 is causing many 2LGBTQ+ Canadians anxiety, and if Trudeau calls an election this month, the resulting death of this bill will be an unfading blight on the country’s sunny reputation.
Bill C-6 is the bill to amend the Criminal Code to ban “conversion therapy,” the practice of using various religious and pseudo-psychological methods to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Under Bill C-6 it would be considered a criminal offence to send a minor to conversion therapy, force an adult to undergo conversion therapy against their will, send a minor out of the country to attend conversion therapy, or advertise or profit from offering the practice, making it some of the most comprehensive legislation on the subject internationally.
“It’s a historic piece of legislation,” says Nicholas Schiavo, the leader of the advocacy group No Conversion Canada.
“What this bill would do is create a tangible impact, in the sense that…our judicial system and our government that who you are and who you love and how you express yourself is valid in the eyes of the law, and that someone does not have the right to try to change or deny or suppress that.”
Schiavo says that if passed before an election is called, the bill would have a legal impact for survivors wanting to seek justice and send a powerful message to the 2LGBTQ+ community that they do not need to change who they are.
Peter Gajdics, an author and advocate from Vancouver, shared his own experiences with conversion therapy in his memoir The Inheritance of Shame. The book details the bizarre and downright horrifying methods used by a rogue psychiatrist to try to “cure” Gajdics’s homosexuality, along with the homophobia Gajdics experienced in his upbringing.
It has been stories from survivors like Gajdics, combined with increased public attention on the subject, that has resulted in growing pressure on the federal government to ban conversion therapy on a national level.
The most recent contribution to both the testimonies and the public conversation is the recently released Netflix documentary “Pray Away,” in which former leaders of the “ex-gay” movement (among others) detail their experiences attempting to suppress their own same-sex attractions and the changing political climate that resulted in them coming out as LGBTQ+ and denouncing the movement they helped create.
In Canada, Generous Space Ministries, a Christian organization working to affirm 2LGBTQ+ persons in the church, originally began as an organization offering conversion therapy called New Directions.
This changed with the arrival of Wendy VanderWal Gritter in 2002, which resulted in a shift in the mission towards affirmation and acceptance, culminating in the group formally denouncing conversion therapy and severing ties with the now-defunct Exodus International in 2008.
When you have conversion therapy survivors, 2LGBTQ+ advocates, and even former “ex-gay” leaders denouncing the practice and the harms it causes, you’d be pressed to find a more compelling argument for stalling the election and passing Bill C-6. Let’s hope our Senate and our new Governor General agree.