Bill C-4 received Royal Assent from the Canadian Governor General on Wednesday, December 8th, 2021, officially banning conversion therapy in Canada. Conversion therapy is defined as the “practice, treatment, or service to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, or to change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.“ According to Canadian federal law, advertising, delivering, or administering conversion therapy to individuals of any age is now a criminal offence.
Four new Criminal Code offences will be added to Canadian law. Under Bill C-4, it is now a federal crime to 1.) cause a person to undergo conversion therapy, 2.) subject a minor to conversion therapy in Canada or internationally, 3.) profit of the industry of conversion therapy, and 4.) advertise or promote the practice of conversion therapy. Criminal Code violations go into effect one month after the bill received Royal Assent on December 8th, 2021.
Trudeau‘s Liberal government has attempted to pass a ban similar to Bill C-4 in the past but encountered opposition from Conservative party members. Bob Zimmer, the Member of Parliament for the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies region, voted No on Bill C-6 in October 2020. However, Bill C-4 was successfully passed on December 8th when O’Toole’s Conservative caucus fast-tracked the voting process. Some Conservative MPs have spoken about the Liberal government’s reliance on 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians as political pawns, so the accelerated bill passage and lack of opposition from the Conservative caucus could be O’Toole’s attempt at appealing to the 2SLGBTQ+ demographic.
Conversion therapy practises have been widely discredited by medical and psychological organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. Despite the expert denouncement, conversion therapy continues around the world. According to research from Dr Travis Solway at the University of British Columbia, an estimated 20,000 Canadians have been exposed to conversion therapy since the 1950s. Conversion therapy asserts that 2SLGBTQ+ people harbour a disorder, sin, or disease that must be cured, removed, or corrected. Indeed, conversion therapy has proven ineffective in changing sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, individuals who undergo conversion therapy are more likely to have low self-esteem, high self-hatred, depression, anxiety, problematic substance use, and suicide ideation or attempts.
Bill C-4 in Canada hopefully marks the beginning of international recognition of the damaging effects of conversion therapy on 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.