Proposed changes to Canada’s Criminal Code relating to conversion therapy

Infographic: Proposed changes to Canada’s Criminal Code relating to conversion therapy

On November 29, 2021, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced a bill to criminalize so-called conversion therapy practices in Canada. Conversion therapy is a practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change an individual’s gender identity to cisgender, or to change their gender expression to match the sex they were assigned at birth.

This bill is similar to former Bill C-6, which was adopted by the House of Commons in the previous Parliament, but with one important difference. It expands on the previous proposed legislation to protect all Canadians—regardless of their age—from the harms of conversion therapy practices and to promote the dignity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2) persons.

These strengthened protections would reflect what the Government heard throughout the parliamentary process for former Bill C-6.

Scientific evidence

Professional associations such as the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society have denounced conversion therapy as it is a practice that is harmful to LGBTQ2 persons, especially minors. The 2019-2020 results of the Sex Now Survey indicate that 10% of sexual minority men who responded to the survey were subjected to conversion therapy. Results from the survey also showed that lower income, Indigenous, racialized and gender-diverse persons are disproportionately represented among those exposed. Compared to those who were not exposed to such practices, those who were exposed reported greater experiences of isolation. According to the 2011-2012 results of the Sex Now Survey, exposure to conversion therapy practices is positively associated with negative psychosocial health outcomes such as loneliness, regular illicit drug use, suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.

Conversion therapy in Canada’s Criminal Code

Proposed Criminal Code offences related to conversion therapy

The proposed legislation would define conversion therapy as any practice, service or treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, gender identity to cisgender, or gender expression to match the sex assigned at birth, or designed to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour, or gender expression that does not match the sex assigned at birth, or to repress non-cisgender gender identity.

The Bill proposes to create 4 new offences that would prohibit:

This bill would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or their removal from computer systems or the Internet.

These proposed new offences would not criminalize interventions that assist a person in exploring or developing their personal identity, provided that they are not based on the assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is preferable to others. This includes interventions that relate to one’s gender transitioning. They also would not criminalize activities that do not amount to practices, treatments or services, such as expressions of personal views on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.