Ontario Independent

Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Senate has passed a bill banning conversion therapy

The Senate has passed a bill prohibiting conversion therapy

Key takeaways:

  • Conversion therapy will be illegal in Canada after the Senate decided on Tuesday to speed up the passage of Bill C-4.
  • It builds on the previous plan, which prohibited the practice of conversion therapy against children and non-consenting adults.  

After the Senate decided on Tuesday to speed up the passage of Bill C-4, conversion therapy will be outlawed across Canada.

After two earlier attempts to enact legislation against the dangerous practice failed in recent years, the measure has now passed both the House of Commons and the Senate in just over a week, with no revisions or committee hearings. The bill will become law once it wins royal assent.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos rose in the upper chamber on Tuesday after just a brief time of the debate on the bill to seek unanimous approvals Bill C-4 through all legislative stages, echoing the sentiments of his Conservative colleagues in the House. The latter led MPs to fast-track the bill through the House last Wednesday.

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“I think we have to get to the point in this institution where we don’t generate unnecessary duplication and participate in unnecessary discussions when something is in the universal interest, public interest,” Housakos said, adding that politicians should not use the law to divide or as a political instrument. The motion was easily passed amid cheering; thus, there were no objections.

Bill C-4 intends to explicitly prohibit both adults and children from being subjected to harmful conversion therapy techniques by creating four new Criminal Code crimes, including causing another person to undergo conversion therapy, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

It builds on the previous plan, which prohibited the practice of conversion therapy against children and non-consenting adults. It provides a broader definition of conversion therapy than the federal government tried to pass during the last Parliament.

Conversion “therapy,” as it is known, aims to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity from heterosexual to cisgender. It can include suppressing a person’s non-heterosexual attraction or gender expression, or non-cisgender identification.

Numerous health and human rights organizations have spoken out against these methods, including counseling and behavioral modification.

This bill was taken up in the Senate at the end of the 43rd Parliament and died when the federal election was called. Conservative Senators raised reservations about the plan at the time, claiming that it deserved a thorough examination in the fall.

After campaigning on a promise to reintroduce the law within the first 100 days of a new mandate, Justice Minister David Lametti filed the updated measure on Nov. 29.

House of Commons unanimously passes bill banning conversion therapy
The Senate has passed a bill prohibiting conversion therapy. Image from Daily Hive

The administration told the LGBTQ2S+ community that this time would be different and expressed hope for bipartisan support on that day. If elected, both the Conservatives and the New Democrats pledged to pass the bill, which became a political flashpoint in June when more than half of Conservative MPs voted against it.

Lametti said he’d be working closely with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rene Cormier, to see the law get to the finish line during an emotional post-passage press conference in the House last week with several of his colleagues.

Cormier tweeted Tuesday evening, “A big milestone just passed for the rights of LGBTQ2+ populations in our country, and I am beyond proud.”

The government asked the Senate not to re-traumatize survivors of conversion therapy who had previously testified about the results it had on their life, assuming the Senate would want to undertake a more thorough investigation.

“If we can now work hard to get this through the Senate swiftly,” Lametti said last week, “fewer Canadians will suffer, and fewer Canadians will be tortured.”

However, because the bill was passed without hearing from any witnesses, anyone concerned about the legislation may seek to contest it once it takes effect.

Lametti said he was confident in the bill’s constitutionality in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Tuesday, recorded before the bill’s passage, and that if the bill faced a potential Charter challenge down the road, he’d be prepared to defend it, despite previously expressing concerns.

Lametti noted both survivors’ testimonies, in which they stated that no one could consent to what they had gone through, and mounting worldwide calls to end the practice.

“Those kinds of arguments assist us in justifying and defending what we’re doing, according to the structure of our Canadian Charter.” I believe we can now defend it, and I believe we can do so successfully. And I’m pleased with where we’ve arrived,” he remarked.

Measure C-4 has now become the 44th Parliament’s first fully passed bill.

Source: CTV News

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