News Analysis

Trudeau government's criminalization of conversion therapy could overstep parental rights

Conservative lawmakers worry that the bill as it's written could conflate sex and gender and make it illegal to stop a minor from transitioning, since that could be labelled "conversion therapy."

Nicole Russell Texas, US
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The Trudeau government reintroduced a bill that would criminalize the practice of conversion therapy in Canada. C-6 proposes legislative amendments to the Criminal Code and, if it passes, "this Bill will make Canada's laws on conversion therapy the most progressive and comprehensive in the world."

However, Conservative lawmakers worry that the bill as it's written could conflate sex and gender and make it illegal to stop a minor from transitioning, since that could be labelled "conversion therapy."

C-6 passed by a nearly unanimous vote of 308-7. The handful that opposed the bills are Conservatives who oppose conversion therapy but didn't like the way the current bill was written— although the CBC reported Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole "allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue, part of his bargain with social conservatives that helped him secure the Conservative leadership in August."

O'Toole voted for the bill as did most of his party. Conservative MP Eric Duncan, who is openly gay called conversion therapy a "terrible, inhumane, dangerous practice" that needs to come to an end. Former leader Andrew Scheer was not present during the vote.

The Conservatives who voted against the bill are concerned it might ban therapy for gender issues parents or religious leaders deem necessary. O'Toole said "reasonable amendments'' to the bill are necessary to make sure that is not the case.

Bob Zimmer, MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, said while he opposes the conversion therapy, he also doesn't like the way the current bill is worded.

"Make no mistake, I am opposed to the practice of conversion therapy," Zimmer said in a statement. "However, I am concerned that the current wording of Bill C-6 leaves open the possibility that voluntary conversations between individuals and their parents, family members, pastors, teachers, or their counsellors may be criminalized."

Canadians of faith are also wary of the bill. On their web site, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada posted a lengthy description of the bill and the definition of conversion therapy, then concluded with this warning:

"Coercive or involuntary efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our communities. However, we have serious concerns with the legislation as worded.

"The EFC is seeking assurances that religious instruction, parental guidance and supportive services for individuals wishing to order their sexual lives in accordance with their religious conscience, faith identity and personal convictions will not be captured."

Pros and cons of the bill aside, it's unclear if such an antiquated practice, deemed cruel and unnecessary by political parties, constituents, and the LGBT community alike, needed to be banned as it's rarely, if ever, used.

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