With each version of the legislation, the EFC has recommended changes to add clarity to the definition of conversion therapy and to ensure protection for religious teaching and practice.
Bill C-4 would create new criminal offences relating to conversion therapy. In Bill C-4, conversion therapy is defined broadly as
change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;
change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;
change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;
repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity;
repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned at birth.
The legislation says conversion therapy does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to “the exploration or development of an integrated personal identity — such as a practice, treatment or service that relates to a person’s gender transition — and that is not based on an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.”
The bill would create new Criminal Code offences relating to conversion therapy. These are:
- Causing a person to undergo conversion therapy;
- Promoting or advertising conversion therapy; and
- Receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.
A key concern is that the definition of conversion therapy includes efforts to repress or reduce sexual behaviour. With previous versions of the bill, the Justice Department said the legislation would not criminalize
private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity [emphasis added].
In a media Q and A on previous Bill C-8 in March 2020, Justice Minister Lametti was asked if it would be legal for religious leaders to speak about homosexuality. He replied that if it’s an open-ended and exploratory conversation, it is not prohibited for religious leaders, parents or others. He went on to say: “What is covered by this legislation are practices that attempt to change one’s orientation towards a predefined goal.”
These qualifiers (private, personal, open-ended, exploratory) are not included in the legislation itself, and also raise serious questions about whether a sermon series or a youth Bible study or other programs on sexual ethics offered to those wanting to order their sexual lives in accordance with their religious conscience would be construed to fit the definition of a practice, treatment or service. And since the definition of conversion therapy includes reducing sexual behaviour, programs offered in a church or ministry setting that consider sexual behaviour could be considered as being toward a “predefined goal.”
The legislation would also criminalize promoting or advertising conversion therapy programs or receiving remuneration for conversion therapy.
Coercive or abusive efforts to a person’s 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.
- Bill C-4 has been passed by the House of Commons and the Senate and received royal assent. The EFC is preparing an analysis of the bill’s impact. See our blog post (Dec. 13, 2021)
- News report from ChurchForVancouver.ca (Dec. 8, 2021)
- Updated sample letter to send to your senator: pdf or docx (Dec. 3, 2021)
- Three questions on the status of former Bill C-6 (EFC blog, March 30, 2021)
- Updates to bill banning conversion therapy (Dec. 18, 2020)
- EFC brief to the justice committee (Dec. 5, 2020)
- Journey Canada and their concerns with former Bill C-6 on conversion therapy (video, Nov. 26)
- Letter to the justice minister on former Bill C-6 (Oct. 13, 2020)
- EFC analysis of former Bill C-6 (8-page pdf, Oct. 5, 2020)
- Submission on proposed Calgary bylaw banning conversion therapy (May 19, 2020)
- Video update from the EFC’s David Guretzki (2 min., March 12, 2020)
- Church guidance document on interacting with government around banning of conversion therapy (joint resource from EFC-CCCC-CLF, March 6, 2020)
- Q & A: former Bill S-202 and Conversion Therapy (Dec. 23, 2019)