Canada’s conversion therapy ban is back. Will it finally pass?

On Monday, Canada’s House of Commons tabled a bill to ban LGBTQ2S+ conversion therapy

UPDATE: On Wednesday, MPs gave unanimous consent to fast-track Bill C-4 through the House of Commons and on to the Senate. Conservative MP Rob Moore first raised the motion, and no further recorded votes on the legislation will be held in the House. After moving through the Senate, the Bill will require royal assent before it becomes law. Justice Minister David Lametti thanked the opposition Conservative caucus for “showing leadership” in moving the bill forward.

Canada is once again on the precipice of officially banning LGBTQ2S+ conversion therapy practices.

On Monday, Justice Minister David Lametti introduced Bill C-4 in the House of Commons. If passed, the bill would amend the Criminal Code to see LGBTQ2S+ conversion therapy practices banned in Canada for both adults and children.

If passed, the legislation would make forcing someone to undergo conversion practices punishable by up to five years in prison.  

“Canada is a country where everyone should be able to live in equality and freedom, where everyone deserves to live a true, authentic life, regardless of who they are or who they love,” Lametti said in a press conference.

If this all sounds like déja vu, you’re right to be confused. The issue of a federal ban on conversion therapy has been languishing in Parliament since NDP MP Sheri Benson first tabled a petition related to it back in 2019. But is Bill C-4 finally the one that breaks through? The government certainly hopes so—as do opposition parties.

“Today, New Democrats stand ready to help make sure this bill proceeds through the House as quickly as possible,” said NDP MPs Randall Garrison and Blake Desjarlais in a joint statement. “We hope to get this bill to the Senate before Christmas so we can avoid a repeat of the Liberal’s failure to get this done.”

Third time’s the charm

This is not the conversion therapy ban’s first rodeo. 

The original version of the bill was tabled shortly following the Liberals’ 2019 election—and days before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It went through several amendments and additions and then stalled out when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August 2020. 

The bill was re-tabled in October 2020, and made its way through two readings in the House without incident. But when it finally hit its third reading last spring, debates became marred in interparty fighting, such as the memorable “lesbian activity” moment from a Tory MP. As a result, 62 Conservative MPs voted against the bill.

Still, the bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons during Pride month, prompting plenty of international media to gleefully report that Canada had officially banned conversion therapy.

 

But the bill did not pass through the Senate in time before Parliament dissolved at the end of June. With an election called, the legislative table was wiped clean.

And that means the government has to start all over again. 

Maybe this time

But with Bill C-4, they aren’t starting from scratch. During the 2021 federal election, the Liberals pledged to add details around banning conversion therapy for adults to the bill, and Monday’s legislation reflects that.

During a news conference, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien said the new bill reflects all of the changes that came through the development of C-6. 

“It also considers the lived experience of LGBTQ2 communities from coast to coast to coast who courageously shared their stories while continuing to advocate for much-needed change,” Ien said. “This is about righting the wrongs of our past and ensuring we continue to build a more pregressive and inclusive canada for everyone.”

When asked about possible resistance to the bill from opposition parties, Randy Boissonnault told reporters the Liberals are ready to fight. Boissonnault, minister of tourism, was formerly Trudeau’s LGBTQ2 special adviser, and is one of four openly gay Liberal MPs elected in 2021. “We know what we’re up against. We know the falsehoods and half-truths that are going to come up,” he said. “These same people will try to scare Canadains again…. It won’t work.”

With files from Dale Smith

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

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