Canada’s pioneering conversion therapy ban bill could have a major impact on LGBT+ rights around the world

Pride parade in Toronto, Canada

The UN’s LGBT+ rights expert has praised Canada’s bill to ban conversion therapy, which could set a new international standard on the issue.

The legislation, officially tabled in Parliament earlier this month (October 1) with the backing of prime minister Justin Trudeau, would amend the criminal code in a bid to end the practise once and for all.

Canadian bill hits at the core of conversion therapy industry

While 20 US states and a number of countries including Malta and Germany have passed bills to ban conversion therapy, most of the laws are based on a similar model, providing a narrow focus on preventing the provision of therapy for under-18s.

Canada’s bill goes much further in seeking to put conversion therapy practitioners out of work entirely, as well as making it a criminal offence to practise conversion therapy on under-18s — or on adults “against the person’s will.”

The bill would seek to cut off the flow of funding to conversion therapy, making it an offence to “receive a financial or other material benefit” from the discredited practise, to “advertise an offer to provide” it, or to attempt to remove a child from the country “with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.”

Practising conversion therapy would be punishable by a prison term of up to five years under the bill, while breaching the rules of advertising or obtaining material benefit are punishable by a term of up to two years.

Bill could provide a new international model for tackling the harmful practise

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, said the Canadian bill could provide a new international model for dealing with the practise.

Canada's conversion therapy bill was praised by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN's independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

The UN expert, who called for a global ban on conversion therapy in an influential report published earlier this year, told The Canadian Press: “In some cases, you have blanket bans, which I think, [is] close to what Canada is getting to.

“I find that this type of more encompassing disposition is probably the very best when it comes to the practices that I’ve seen around the world.

“These will have an impact in Canada but will also have a global impact when it comes to practices of other states that are currently having that discussion.”

Madrigal-Borloz said his work uses “real examples of real states that are actually working on these issues, to bring about what has been proven to work in other contexts,” and in the case of Canada’s law, “those practices and those parallels can be drawn to inspire other states.”

In a release as the bill was reintroduced, Canadian justice minister and attorney general David Lametti said: “Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that can lead to life-long trauma, particularly for young people.

“Our Government remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting the dignity and equality rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians, by criminalizing a practice that discriminates against and harms them.”

Diversity and inclusion minister Bardish Chagger added: “Conversion therapy practices are rooted in the wrongful premise that sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression can and should be changed to fit an ideal of what some believe is normal or natural.

“By reintroducing this legislation, our Government is standing up for LGBTQ2 people and reaffirming our commitment to ensuring Canada is a place where everyone is free to be their authentic selves.”