Catholic Union Briefing on Canada’s Conversion Therapy Ban

On 8 December 2021, Bill C-4 received Royal Assent in Canada. The legislation came into force on 7 January 2022, creating the following new offences:

  1. causing another person to undergo conversion therapy;
  2. doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that thechild undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;
  3. promoting or advertising conversion therapy; and
  4. receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

C-4 does not contain provisions to allow someone to give consent, therefore banning conversion therapy in all circumstances. If someone provides or causes another person to undergo conversion therapy, they may receive a custodial sentence of not more than five years.

Bill C-4 was the third attempt of the Liberal Government to ban conversion therapy. During debate on the previous attempts, several Conservative MPs raised concerns about how conversion therapy had been defined. For example, Cathay Wagantall MP argued that the definition would potentially criminalise conversations between LGBTQ2 individuals and family members, friends or faith leaders. She also criticised the Bill for conflating sexual orientation with sexual behaviour and explained the implications of such an approach. Michael Cooper MP said that the definition was “vague and overly broad”. Focusing on the terms “practice, treatment or service” used to define conversion therapy, he noted that the Bill did not provide any explanations of these words.

The current legislation was rushed through the Canadian Parliament following a motion by the Conservative Party to expedite the passage of the Bill immediately to the Senate. It received unanimous consent. On 7 December 2021, Bill C-4 came to the Senate for debate. Three Senators spoke in favour of the Bill before it was unanimously agreed that the Bill be read a second and third time and passed by the chamber. Given the extraordinary way the Bill progressed through Parliament, there was not an in-depth debate about its implications. As a result, previously voiced concerns about the definition of conversion therapy were unable to be raised.

Read the full Catholic Union briefing here.