December 8th was a historic day for Canada and the LGBTQ2SAI+ community. Bill C-4, the legislation to ban the practice known as conversion therapy, officially received royal assent after having been unanimously supported in both the House of Commons and the Senate. With conversion therapy now banned, it will ensure that members of Canada’s queer community will now be protected from harm, be free to be who they are on the inside without fear of being hurt, and be able to organize around other issues such as taking action on climate change. 

We applaud all MPs and Senators who came together across partisan lines to pass this legislation to ensure that LGBTQ2SAI+ folks will not have to undergo the harmful practice anymore. This has been a wonderful example of just how effective Canada’s parliament can be when everyone works together towards common goals. 

The goal of conversion therapy is to change someone’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender. These dangerous practices can take many forms, such as counselling, and behavioural modification, while more extreme cases can include hormone injections, electric shocking, food deprivation, and isolation.

There is no evidence that any of these harmful practices work. In fact, data shows the opposite. Not only does it fail to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, but it is also very likely to make a person feel more anxious, depressed and to consider self-harm. 

A recent survey put out by the scientific journal, PLOS  which surveyed 9,000 people, found that 10% of respondents reported experiencing conversion therapy. It also unfairly targeted youth, with 72% saying it started before the age of 20. Research also found that conversion therapy practices were more common among non-binary and transgender people, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities.  

Prior to Bill C-4 passing in the House of Commons, many provinces and municipalities led the way with banning conversion therapy and we want to highlight the crucial work that they did at the provincial and municipal levels while waiting for federal legislation. There were 5 provinces and territories that had already passed their own legislation with those being Ontario, Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia and Yukon. In addition to this, 19 municipalities also passed their own bans on conversion therapy, including Vancouver, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Thunder Bay, Kingston, and Saint John. 

When folks are dealing with issues such as personal safety, not feeling a sense of belonging, and feeling like they are not in control of their own bodies, they cannot give time and attention to other issues that may be important to them, such as fighting climate change. We must be able to provide safe and welcoming spaces for people from all walks of life so that we can continue working together to provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. 

As an organization that has 10 LGBTQ2SAI+ identifying members on our staff, we welcome this legislation and applaud everyone who made this happen. To those who pledged years of grassroots activism and advocacy, to the scientists who voiced their opinions backed with data, and the political organizers who helped push this issue, we say thank you!