Ottawa council moves to denounce conversion therapy, pressure feds to criminalize

A rainbow flag flies at Toronto City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Calgary city councillors have unanimously voted to ban conversion therapy. Hundreds of LGBTQ community members and their supporters were at Calgary city hall for the vote. Eduardo Lima / The Canadian Press

The City of Ottawa could put pressure on the federal government to move forward on criminalizing conversion therapy with a formal denunciation at city council.

Mayor Jim Watson is planning a motion that would see conversion therapy, an attempt to forcibly alter or repress an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity to align with cis and heterosexual norms, denounced at the municipal level.

He says he’ll give notice of the motion during Wednesday’s city council meeting amid Pride Week in Ottawa.

Health officials from the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society have deemed the conversion therapy harmful, especially to children.

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City staff have cautioned council that any attempts to prohibit or regulate conversion therapy at the municipal level is likely to face judicial challenges, but Watson’s motion, backed by Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, would seek to put pressure on the federal government to resume efforts to outlaw the practice.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government introduced Bill C-8 in March, which would have seen elements of conversion therapy outlawed in an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa introduces ban on LGBTQ2 conversion therapy'
Ottawa introduces ban on LGBTQ2 conversion therapy

But the novel coronavirus pandemic disrupted the previous session of Parliament and attempts to ratify the bill, which would have to be reintroduced when the House resumes sitting in September.

Watson’s motion would include plans to send a letter to Trudeau and his associated ministers to reintroduce the bill “as soon as possible” in the upcoming session of Parliament.

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Bill C-8 would outlaw causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting from providing conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

Other municipalities in Canada have moved to ban conversion therapy practices, but city staff has advised council that provincial legislation differs in B.C., Alberta and other jurisdictions where councils have been empowered to take action.

The use of conversion therapy on children in Ontario was banned at the provincial level in 2015.

Under Canada’s criminal code, conversion therapy does not refer to an individual transitioning genders of their own free will or general activities in exploring their sexual identity.

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council votes to ban conversion therapy'
Calgary city council votes to ban conversion therapy

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