Canadian officials call for federal ban on ‘hateful and harmful’ conversion therapy

Conversion therapy rally

Three British Columbia government officials are calling on the Canadian federal government to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and add it to Canada’s Criminal Code.

On Thursday (August 1) Attorney General David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert sent an open letter requesting that the “hateful and harmful” practise be made illegal.

Writing to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, they stated that “conversion therapy is nothing more than ignorance and prejudice disguised as medical treatment.”

The letter continues: “Attempting to treat or change an individual’s sexual identity is unethical, contrary to human rights and risks exposing those affected to life-long trauma.”

If you are gay, you do not need to be fixed. If you are trans, you are accepted here in BC

Eby, Dix and Herbet’s plea to the federal government ends: “We are committed to ensuring that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live without fear or discrimination.

“If you are gay, you do not need to be fixed. If you are trans, you are accepted here in BC. No matter who you are, you are beautiful, and we see you.”

A petition in support of a ban has been signed by more than 71,000 people so far.

Anti-LGBT+ sentiment in Canada

Although Canada is generally considered to be a progressive country, continuing the fight for LGBT+ rights is vital at a time when one in four Canadians now oppose same-sex marriage.

A recent Canadian survey found that 24 percent of respondents think LGBT+ people “choose” their orientation or gender identity, and 10 percent think same-sex couples should not have any kind of legal recognition.

In May, the United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta, cancelled a working group tasked with banning conversion therapies as there wasn’t “a need to address it specifically” — despite critics arguing that the practise was still happening.

The leader of the UCP, Jason Kenney, has also pledged to repeal protections for gay-straight alliance groups in schools.

Jason Kenney speaking into a microphone

Jason Kenney addresses media during a press conference. (Narinder Nanu/Getty)

Conversion therapies have no scientific basis

Medical experts consider interventions to change someone’s sexual orientation to be pseudo-scientific, ineffective and harmful, yet so-called gay conversion therapy persists throughout the world.

There are many different techniques — some of the more dangerous ones involve electric shocks and testosterone injections — but virtually no reliable scientific evidence that sexuality can be changed.

While Canada doesn’t have a national ban on ‘conversion therapy’, some provinces have restrictions.

Ontario made the practice illegal by initiating an outright ban, Manitoba outlawed health professionals from offering it, Vancouver has passed a law restricting businesses from offering it and Nova Scotia has made it it illegal for minors.

British Columbia has similar restrictions, but officials say this doesn’t go far enough. They are calling on the federal government to amend Canada’s Criminal Code to cover the full range of circumstances in which ‘conversion therapy’ occurs.