Federal government announces blanket criminalization of conversion therapy

TRUSU joins other equity organizations in rejoicing the federal decision to criminalize the harmful pseudo-scientific practice

On March 9, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth announced that they will be introducing legislation to amend the criminal code to criminalize all conversion therapy-conduct federally.

The legislation proposes five new Criminal Code offences related to conversion therapy. These include causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting from providing conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy has been refuted as a pseudo-scientific practice based on the premise of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions. The Canadian Psychological Association and most medical institutions have condemned these practices and confirm that they do not work and cause significant harm and trauma to LGBTQ+ individuals that are subjected to these treatments.

These changes to the criminal code came from a call for action placed on the B.C provincial government by the Green party, Bill 218 the “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act”, to criminalize conversion therapy in the province to be on par with other provinces who have already criminally condemned the harmful practice.

The TRUSU Equity Committee played a role in helping push Bill 218 towards B.C Legislature with hopes that B.C could be on par with provinces like Ontario and Manitoba, who have already criminalized all conversion therapy conduct within there provinces.

TRUSU made it possible for TRU community members to sign and send an email voicing their support for the ban on conversion therapy to Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix. Over 2,000 emails were sent backing the call for action.

“The initial goal was to push the province and upon sending all these letters we actually got a response from the minister of health talking about how based off of what they’ve seen there’s a number of measures that bc already has to ensure that conversion therapy for minors doesn’t happen,” Brandon Hayashi, Vice President of the TRUSU Equity Committee said.

On Aug. 1, 2019, TRUSU received notice that a letter was passed on to the Federal Minister of Justice calling for a nation-wide criminalization of conversion therapy.

“Just the fact that we were able to play a small role alongside a number of equity organizations across Canada who have been advocating for this to happen for a very long time, it’s amazing to be a part of,” Hayashi said.

TRUSU shared that they wouldn’t have been able to gain the same leverage they did with their campaign if it wasn’t for the support of the B.C. Federation of Students provided.

“Through the leverage, the BC Federation of Students provided us and as well as the work we were able to do this ended up getting a response from the provincial government and maybe had some small but significant role in this widespread blanket criminalization on conversion therapy,” Hayashi said.