A bill to ban conversion therapy has passed unexpectedly in the House of Commons and the Senate in just over a week. This is a process that usually takes months. In both houses of Parliament, a motion to pass the bill immediately without debate or study or change was passed without opposition.
Bill C-4 was passed in the House of Commons
just two days after it was introduced by the justice minister. An unusual motion to pass the bill through all the stages of debate and votes – without study or amendment – was passed unanimously in the House of Commons on Wednesday, December 1.
The bill then moved to the Senate, where it was passed on Dec. 7 at the motion of a Senator, without the usual stages of debate and study.
The bill will come into force on January 7, 2022.
Coercive and abusive practices have no place in our communities. However, as with previous versions of the bill, the EFC is concerned the definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-4 is so broad it could criminalize legitimate activities that are not harmful and have nothing to do with forcing someone to change their orientation or identity.
There is new language in this version of the bill in both the preamble of the bill and the definition that specifically rejects “an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.” This adds to an already existing lack of clarity around what will be considered criminal.
The biggest difference between the new bill and previous versions is that Bill C-4 bans conversion therapy for any person, adult or minor, while previous bills banned the practice outright for minors and banned forced conversion therapy for adults. This may mean an adult would not be able to receive support to align their sexual behaviour with their personal convictions.
The EFC remains very concerned that the definition of conversion therapy, as currently worded, risks criminalizing religious expression, teaching, belief and practice around sexuality.
The bill will take effect on January 7, 2022.
Given the lack of clarity in the bill, its understanding and application are likely to be fleshed out in court proceedings.
The EFC has advocated for much-needed clarity in Bill C-4 as well as earlier versions of the bill. See the EFC’s briefs to committees, sample letters and information on these bills at TheEFC.ca/C-4
The EFC is working with partner organizations to prepare a more detailed analysis of Bill C-4 and its impact on churches and ministries. The analysis of the bill will be made available as soon as possible.
What you can do
Pray for Christians to be faithful to the gospel, following our calling to love God and neighbour.
Please pray for Christian action and expression on this issue to be characterized by wisdom and grace. It’s crucial that any communication of genuine concerns on this topic and the bill’s impact be respectful and filled with grace. All of us are called to communicate with wisdom and grace, in a way that shows the love of Christ for all Canadians.
Please pray for us as we work on this bill and this sensitive topic.