By: Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News
LGBTQ2S+ rights in Canada have taken a step forward as conversion therapy has been made illegal in Canada, years after the initial tabling of Bill C-6 to amend the criminal code as it pertains to the practice.
On November 29, Bill C-4 was tabled and MPs unanimously agreed to swiftly pass the bill in time for December 1, it was then unanimously approved by Senate on December 7.
Going forward, anyone who looks to subject someone to any form of conversion therapy, “consenting” or not, will face up to five years in prison.
In a statement, No Conversion Canada’s Executive Director Nick Schiavo says the organization is happy to see the progress made on this bill, and looks to work with Parliament to ensure it meets its’ intended goal.
“We are pleased to see this strong legislation introduced, that has adopted many of the requests from survivors and community for a more comprehensive ban on these barbaric practices,” said Schiavo.
“We look forward to working with survivors and all Parliamentarians to see it through.”
Ben Rodgers, a survivor of conversion therapy who has advocated for both this Bill and a ban at the municipal level in Kingston, says he’s happy that there is finally a bill in place, but there remains plenty of work to be done.
“It’s still just a starting point though because one of the issues that I personally had is that it went through so quickly that this time they didn’t really take the time to listen to survivors,” Rodgers said.
“I’ve heard nothing since then or even during the process of them actually doing something for survivors, and that’s really disturbing.”
Many survivors say the lack of support systems for conversion therapy survivors and the LGBTQ2S+ community as a whole remains a significant issue.
In September, Kingston City Council voted to defer a bylaw that would prohibit conversion therapy locally, send official letters of support for Bill C-6 and strengthen the local support network for LGBTQ2S+ people.
Council said they would review the bylaw by the end of January 2022, giving the city’s legal staff time to review the language and strengthen the bylaw as much as possible.
Councillor Bridget Doherty says with how comprehensive the federal ban is, it’s not yet clear what role a municipal ban would play, though she expects council to once again open the discussion this month.
Doherty also acknowledged that supports for survivors are needed and should be a part of the bylaw.
Rodgers says he still wants to see this bylaw pass in Kingston and other municipalities, and says survivor support should be at the forefront of those discussions.
“Right now one of my biggest concerns is survivor support,” Rodgers said.
“Now that we have a bill in place I’m not as angry and upset to have to fight for the bill, now I need to make sure that the government at all levels put their money where their mouth is.”
In August Rodgers started the support group CT Survivors Connect, he says to his knowledge it’s the only group of its’ kind, and access to/awareness of resources for the LGBTQ2S+ community is sorely lacking.
Data from June asserts that as many as 10% of gay, bi, trans, and queer men and Two-Spirit and non-binary people in Canada have experienced conversion practices, 67% of those at the hands of religious institutions.
In December, the bill became the first to receive royal assent from current Governor General Mary Simon, going into effect on January 7.