‘Pandora’s Box of Problems’: Critics Raise Concerns About Conversion Therapy Bill

‘Pandora’s Box of Problems’: Critics Raise Concerns About Conversion Therapy Bill
The Peace Tower is seen above the fence that borders Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 20, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Shane Miller

Proposed legislation that seeks to amend the Criminal Code to crack down on conversion therapy continues to generate controversy, particularly regarding its potential impact on the Charter and the rights of parents and LGBTQ persons.

Tabled in the House of Commons on Oct. 27, 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.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which recently submitted a report on Bill C-6 to the House of Commons justice and human rights committee, says the legislation “will criminalize legitimate medical, psychological, and spiritual supports for people concerning their sexuality, their gender identity, or both.” Meanwhile, it “fails to prohibit or even define abusive and coercive practices” normally associated with the term “conversion therapy.”

Justice Centre lawyer Marty Moore tells The Epoch Times that if passed in its current form, the legislation will open up a “pandora’s box of problems” due to its broad definition of conversion therapy, which could criminalize counselling services to those in the LGBTQ community that other people are allowed to receive.

“Bill C-6’s problems stem from the fact that it is clear in its expansive prohibitions on even desired and beneficial services, while being very vague in exempting such services from being criminalized as ‘conversion therapy,’” Moore says.

“For example, a straight person can receive counselling to address an unwanted sexual addiction, while Bill C-6 would prohibit an LGBTQ person from receiving such counselling, unless it was both unadvertised and provided free of charge.”

On the other hand, the bill’s definition of conversion therapy does not apply to services and practices that relate to “gender transition” or to a person’s “exploration of their identity or to its development.”

In its report to the Commons human rights committee, the Justice Centre says the legislation “removes the ability of health professionals and parents to determine treatments in the best interests of children who are experiencing gender distress, [and] instead imposes a one-size-fits-all treatment of psychological, hormonal, and surgical gender transition.”

This provision is a cause for concern among parents, says Pamela Buffone, an outspoken parent against Bill C-6 who filed a human rights complaint against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for discrimination based on gender and gender identity due to the negative impact of related class lessons on her daughter.

Buffone has become an advocate for parents whose children have received referrals to gender clinics. She says assessments like autism screening and supportive but non-invasive services like psychotherapy will become very difficult to find if Bill C-6 is passed.

She also notes that it’s “unconscionable” that such legislation is being proposed at a time when the medical profession can’t explain why the number of young people suffering from gender dysphoria has increased exponentially.

“We’re talking a hockey stick curve with a 10- to 20-times change over the last 10 years that no one can explain. We need an independent and unbiased investigation. This is what other countries like Sweden and the U.K. have decided to do, and it's the only responsible course of action given the situation,” Buffone said in an interview.

“Bill C-6 is extremely dangerous given we don't know what's causing the massive increase in young people seeking medical transition—and it's clearly very easy for teenagers to get puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. … It's time to start asking serious questions about what's going on at Canadian gender clinics.”

Buffone’s website, the Gender Report, highlights a case at the gender clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto involving a teenage girl whose gender dysphoria manifested suddenly with the onset of puberty at age 14, with no prior confusion about her identity. Her parents said their daughter told them that her psychotherapist had coached her on how to talk to SickKids to attain hormone treatment right away. At the end of a one-hour appointment at SickKids, the specialists deemed the girl a good candidate for the puberty blocker Lupron but wouldn’t allow the parents any further consultation or disclose conversations with their daughter about the hormone treatment and transition.

Buffone says there are many such cases, where parents are shut out of the decision to proceed with medication and even surgery.

A mother in British Columbia resorted to legal action to try to stop a double mastectomy planned for her teenage daughter, deeming the surgery not in the best interests of her daughter. On Nov. 3, just days before the surgery was to take place, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the teen’s mother a court order delaying the surgery for almost a month.

The mother told Postmedia that she had no choice but to file the court order, as phone calls and emails from both her and her lawyer to the doctors involved in her daughter’s case went unanswered.

“Right now parents don’t seem to have any rights when it comes to this issue, and I’m happy to see that a mother in B.C. is challenging this,” Buffone says.

“Most people naturally trust that medical professionals are making evidence-based decisions, but on this topic the quality of evidence is very low or non-existent.”

The Justice Centre is calling on parliamentarians to make five amendments to Bill C-6 so that the personal choice of adults and the well-being of children are protected.

“In many significant ways, Canadian society had developed a consensus that government attempts to dictate inherently personal choices, especially on an ideological basis, should not be tolerated,” Moore says.

“Bill C-6 directly and seriously threatens that consensus and Canadians’ freedom and liberty, as it moves forward animated by radical activists, based on an ideological narrative promoted uncritically by mainstream media and compliant politicians.”