Federal Government Introduces Bill to Ban “Conversion Therapy”
The federal Liberal government, as promised in their election platform, introduced a bill this week to criminally ban “conversion therapy” nation-wide.
Bill C-8 defines conversion therapy as any “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,” but not services or treatments related to a person’s “gender transition” or to a person’s “exploration of their identity”.
Most of the legislation talks about how conversion therapy would be regulated. The legislation proposes to ban conversion therapy in five ways. It would prohibit:
- providing conversion therapy to a minor;
- taking a minor outside the country to receive conversion therapy;
- causing a person (minor or adult) to undergo conversion therapy “against their will”;
- profiting from providing conversion therapy; and
- advertising conversion therapy.
It would also give the police the same powers to seize and censor advertisements for “conversion therapy” that they have in relation to child pornography.
It is difficult to describe the scope of this ban with precision because the terms “practice, treatment, or service” are not defined. It seems plain, however, that it would apply beyond services provided by regulated health professionals or licensed counsellors (other parts of the Criminal Code speak of medical practitioners and medical treatment, but not Bill C-8).
Bill C-8 not only bans efforts to change someone’s (non-heterosexual) attractions or desires, but also to change someone’s (non-heterosexual) behavior. So, for example, this legislation not only forbids a counsellor from trying to help a same-sex attracted man to feel attracted to a woman, it also forbids the counsellor from helping a same-sex attracted man to reduce his same-sex sexual desires or to refrain from acting on them. But the same counsellor would be free to counsel a man to explore same-sex desires or behaviour, or to reduce his heterosexual desires or behaviour.
Similarly, the bill only bans efforts to change someone’s “gender identity” from “transgender” to “cisgender” (cisgender means that your “gender identity” aligns with your biological sex). But the opposite (encouraging change from cisgender to genderqueer, nonbinary, transgender, etc.) is permitted.
Justice Minister David Lametti explained his rationale for the ban, saying: “Conversion therapy is premised on a lie, that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is wrong and in need of fixing. Not only is that false, it sends a demeaning and a degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals.” And as Bill C-8 states in its preamble: “conversion therapy … is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity, including the myth that a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity can and ought to be changed.”
Christians recognize that same-sex sexual desires and conduct, like any sexual desires or conduct that does not conform to God’s norms, are wrong and that we must repent of them. We also know that human dignity, our intrinsic worth, does not depend on which sinful impulses we give in to (or not) or repent of (or not). We also recognize the plain and obvious truth that many people can change and have changed their “gender identity” or “sexual orientation”, sometimes more than once. For example, many people regretted adopting a “transgender” identity and have “de-transitioned” back to a “cisgender identity”.
Justice Minister Lametti also boasts that the proposed conversion therapy ban will be the “most progressive and comprehensive in the world.” But we know that true progress means growing conformity to God’s standards of right and wrong.
May we continue to pray and labour that God’s perfect will, not man’s fallen will, may be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
ARPA will have more analysis on this bill in the coming days, as well as action items.