Reintroduction of Conversion Therapy Bill Raises Concerns

Bill blocks attempts to align with anatomic sex before 'extreme measure involving gender transition is attempted,' says expert
October 6, 2020 Updated: October 7, 2020

The Liberal government has reintroduced legislation to ban conversion therapy across Canada—a move that concerns some Conservatives as well as some legal and medical experts.

Bill C-6 seeks to create criminal offences for “a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour” by amending the Criminal Code.

New criminal offences include causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against the person’s will, causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, taking a minor outside of Canada for such therapy, advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy, and receiving a financial or other material benefit for providing such therapy.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused the Liberals of deliberately introducing a potentially divisive piece of legislation right when he returned to the House of Commons as Leader of the Opposition. He told the media that Bill C-6 has the same “drafting failures” of C-8, which was introduced in March but died when Parliament was prorogued.

“Clarity is one of the goals of legislative drafting, but the Liberals know that clarity and sincerity don’t always make for good wedge politics in the age of Twitter,” O’Toole said.

“On this side of the House, we believe that acceptance and diversity are absolute,” Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger said as she reintroduced the bill, calling conversion therapy “destructive, harmful, and deadly.”

Marty Moore, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, co-authored a paper in May that called Bill C-8 “unconscionable and unconstitutional.” He believes the legislation remains “overbroad” and violates Charter rights and freedoms for children and parents.

“The Liberal government is quite clearly, in my opinion, targeting beliefs and religious practices of people about sexuality and gender identity. And there is some really concerning breadth to the language in Bill C-6,” Moore told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.

“These are very real concerns that I don’t think the federal Liberal government can address with simply pithy statements.”

Moore said the bill “limits the ability of medical practitioners, of parents, to act in the best interests of children over arbitrarily set criteria. For example, this bill would prohibit gender detransitioning while allowing a gender transition.”

Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters in March that the legislation doesn’t make it illegal for those such as parents or religious leaders to speak about homosexuality if the conversation is open-ended and exploratory.

“What is covered by this legislation are practices that attempt to change one’s orientation towards a predefined goal,” he said.

Ray Blanchard was a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto from 1980 to 2010, spending the first 15 years at the Adult Gender Identity Clinic. He told The Epoch Times that in similar legislation that has been introduced in various jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, “everything to do with sexual orientation is a façade.”

“It’s not the intent or the actual consequence of these bills in most cases. These are not really about attempts to change sexual orientation in adults. That hardly happens anywhere anymore. I won’t say never, but it’s very rare,” he said.

“These bills are largely Trojan horses intended to prevent clinicians from helping children to make an adjustment to their anatomic sex before some kind of extreme measure involving gender transition is attempted.”

After a ban on conversion therapy was legislated in Ontario, Dr. Kenneth Zucker, Blanchard’s former colleague at CAMH, was dismissed.

Zucker, who was head of CAMH’s Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic for more than 30 years, was fired in December 2015 and his clinic closed after an external review launched by CAMH into whether he had been practising conversion therapy on young people who identified as transgender.

CAMH later apologized to Zucker and paid him a financial settlement after one of the complaints in the review was found to be false.

“His position was that the physician’s first line of attack should be helping a kid to become comfortable with their anatomic sex,” Blanchard said.

“Only if that turned out to be impossible after having given it a serious attempt, then the clinician could consider helping the child change genders or referring them for puberty-blocking hormones.”

Religious groups have also raised concerns about the legislation to ban conversion therapy. A posting published Oct. 5 on the website of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) regarding Bill C-6 states that while “coercive or involuntary efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our communities … we have serious concerns with the legislation as worded.”

“The EFC is seeking assurances that religious instruction, parental guidance, and supportive services for individuals wishing to order their sexual lives in accordance with their religious conscience, faith, identity, and personal convictions will not be captured,” the posting said.