Canada Just Banned Conversion Therapy – What Does This Mean?

Conversion Therapy: What Is It And Why Did Canada Ban It?

Understanding Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy, also called “reparative therapy”, is a range of practices done in an attempt to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices have often been found to be extremely dangerous and detrimental to the mental health of those who undergo them. 

Much of the scientific community have denounced conversion therapy as both ineffective and detrimental to the mental health of those who undergo them. As the American Psychological Association reports, “the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions” through conversion therapy.

Canada’s new law banning conversion therapy states that the practice “causes harm to society because, among other things, it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression”.

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims has gone so far as to call conversion therapy “torture”.

So what does conversion therapy look like? There are a myriad of approaches, from religious counselling to forced isolation and confinement to ritual cleansing to electroconvulsive therapy. Practitioners are often discreet and elusive, disguising their “treatments” as “self-help” or “religious interventions”.

What Canada’s Ban On Conversion Therapy Means For LGBTQ2S Canadians

Sadly, according to No Conversion Canada, as many as 10% of LGBTQ2S Canadians have experienced some form of conversion therapy, with 72% of those experiencing it before the age of 20.

And prior to the passage of Bill C-4, only a number of Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, B.C., Calgary, Edmonton, and Spruce Grove, Alberta (among others) have banned the practice and promotion within their jurisdiction. 

Thankfully, with Bill C-4 receiving royal ascent and becoming enacted on January 7, 2022, the dangerous act of conversion therapy finally becomes illegal across the entire country.

Under Bill C-4, the following acts are considered illegal:

  •  Forcing or encouraging someone to undergo conversion therapy
  • Bringing a minor outside of Canada so that they may undergo conversion therapy abroad
  • Making a profit from providing conversion therapy
  • Advertising conversion therapy

According to CTV News, causing someone to undergo conversion therapy can lead to five years in prison, while promoting, advertising, providing, or profiting off of the practice can lead to two years in prison.

The bill marks a step forward in protecting the already vulnerable LGBTQ2S community, who face higher incidences of gender-based violence, discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, and mental illness.

The bill’s passing, says Nicholas Schiavo of No Conversion Canada, “sends a clear message to LGBTQ2 Canadians: you are valid and deserving of a life free from harm.”

How To Support Victims Of Conversion Therapy

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing conversion therapy, here’s what you can do:

  • Get the right information: If you’re a minor experiencing conversion therapy, it’s possible that your parents or guardians have enrolled you in the practice out of a misguided attempt to “correct” your behaviour or “save” you from sin. 
  • However, many conversion therapy camps will hide the fact that their practices will often result in detrimental effects. Try to research and carefully present the facts to your parents about how conversion therapy can put you in serious harm.

  • Reach out to a supportive adult: If there is a relative or a friend of your parents’ who can intervene on your behalf, attempt to contact them. According to studies, having one supportive adult can protect a young person from the dangers of familial abuse and rejection. 

  • Seek help from LGBTQ2S organizations: Organizations like Born Perfect and the Trevor Project have 24-hour helplines dedicated to helping young LGBTQ2S people in need. 
  • The Bottom Line

    We hope you learned more about conversion therapy and the impact it has on LGBTQ2S Canadians. If you or someone you know is struggling with this form of abuse, please ensure to reach out for help. 

    To learn more about issues concerning the LGBTQ2S community, feel free to browse our blog.