Conversion therapy ban receives royal assent, now law in Canada

Click to play video: 'Bill C-4, a ban on conversion therapy, passes in the House with unanimous consent'
Bill C-4, a ban on conversion therapy, passes in the House with unanimous consent
WATCH: Bill C-4, a ban on conversion therapy, passes in the House with unanimous consent – Dec 1, 2021

The bill banning conversion therapy in Canada received royal assent on Wednesday, making it into law.

Bill C-4 makes providing, promoting or advertising conversion therapy a criminal offence.

The bill defines conversion therapy as the “practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, or to change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.”

It has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association, among others.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called conversion therapy “despicable and degrading.”

“LGBTQ2 Canadians, we’ll always stand up for you and your rights,” he said.

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The Conservatives fast-tracked the bill through the House of Commons last week and the Senate did the same on Tuesday.

It is the first royal assent Canada’s new Governor General, Mary Simon, has given.

It is the third time the Liberals have made an attempt to ban the practice. The last shot died when Trudeau called an election in August.

Bill C-4 was introduced after Parliament returned and included tougher measures, such as expanding the ban to consenting adults in addition to children and non-consenting adults.

The new law creates four new Criminal Code offences: causing a person to undergo conversion therapy, subjecting a minor to conversion therapy abroad, profiting from the provision of conversion therapy and advertising or promoting the practice, with penalties of two to five years in prison.

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The law will allow courts to authorize the seizure or removal of online content advertising the practice.

Click to play video: 'Canada one step closer to banning conversion therapy'
Canada one step closer to banning conversion therapy

Stories of trauma from conversion therapy have emerged over the years.

One Regina woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Global News that efforts by an evangelical church to forcibly change her sexual orientation began 30 years ago when she was 19 in small-town Saskatchewan. She said it has left her with decades of trauma.

“They were saying I was demon-possessed and going to hell. ‘Get this demon out of her, I command you in Jesus’ name to leave her. You have no right over her,’” she said.

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Some Conservatives had voted against the ban in the past, saying it could criminalize conversations about sexuality between children and their parents or religious leaders.

Anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, which has ties to the Tories, has said preventing consenting adults from receiving the practice is unconstitutional and will be struck down.

But last week, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his caucus would accelerate the bill’s passage, likely in an attempt to make it no longer a wedge issue used by the Liberals.

The Senate then did the same.

“The Trudeau government has been using LGBTQ2S Canadians as political pawns and conversion therapy as a political weapon. Long enough,” Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos tweeted Tuesday shortly after the Senate passed the new bill.

“That’s why today we gave the govt a clear path forward in banning conversion therapy.”

— with files from Amanda Connelly, The Canadian Press and Connor O’Donovan

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