The B.C. government is asking the federal government to add conversion therapy to Canada’s Criminal Code.
In a letter sent to federal Justice Minister David Lametti, the B.C. government is calling for amendments to the code that would prohibit the full range of circumstances in which conversion therapy occurs.
“Conversion therapy is nothing more than ignorance and prejudice disguised as medical treatment,” Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said.
“This shameful, unethical exercise has no scientific basis whatsoever and is embedded in hateful, homophobic and transphobic ideologies.”
Conversion therapy, and how government’s should deal with it, has recently become a hot button political issue.
Lametti sent his own letter to provincial governments in June, urging the provinces to halt conversion therapy. The letter indicated the federal Liberals are exploring reforming the Criminal Code to “prevent, punish and deter” the discredited practice.
“There is a movement across Canada to restrict or condemn practices that seek to change sexual orientation. Addressing the availability of conversion therapy is a complex issue,” the letter, a version of which was sent to all provincial and territorial justice and health ministers, continues.
“No one jurisdiction can end this dangerous practice alone.”
WATCH: B.C. Green Party introduces legislation to ban conversion therapy
In British Columbia, the B.C. Greens introduced legislation to ban the practice. Manitoba and Ontario have already banned conversion therapy.
The proposed B.C. legislation would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy for anyone under age 19. It does not limit access to gender-confirming surgery or legitimate counselling and support services.
“This bill supports those with diverse sexualities, gender identities and expressions. It sends a clear message that it is OK to be who you are, that your elected officials and those in positions of power hear you and will act now to protect your human rights,” Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said at the time.
“All British Columbians deserve to be loved, supported, and accepted — not persecuted — for who they are. The time to act is now.”
WATCH: Amazon pulls conversion therapy books: report
The B.C. government insists the practice has never been covered under B.C.’s medical services plan, and that a health professional cannot bill the public healthcare system for the service.
If they billed for this under a different billing code, it would be considered fraudulent and the practitioner would be referred to the Medical Services Commission for inquiry, the province says.
None of the professional regulatory colleges in B.C. recognize conversion therapy as an appropriate or ethical treatment.
Any professional found to be offering the service would be referred for inquiry or discipline. According to the regulatory colleges, any professional offering the service would be investigated on a case-by-case basis.
The Canadian Psychological Association condemns the practice of conversion therapy or any therapy that attempts to “change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual,” the association states in its position paper on the matter.
In B.C.’s written response, the government says it “unreservedly rejects conversion therapy as nothing more than ignorance and prejudice disguised as a medical treatment.”
“If you are gay, you do not need to be fixed. If you are trans, you are accepted here in B.C. No matter who you are, you are beautiful, and we see you,” Chandra Herbert said.
“As communities throughout British Columbia celebrate Pride, we know there’s much more work to do and we won’t stop until the job is done.”
With files from Rachel Browne