On Wednesday, December 1, Bill C-4, which criminalizes conversion therapy, passed the House in a single motion.
What is Bill C-4?
Bill C-4 adds a new offence to the Criminal Code that prohibits conversion therapy. What is conversion therapy? Bill C-4 defines conversion therapy as a “practice, treatment or service designed to”
- Change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;
- Change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;
- Change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
- Repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;
- Repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or
- Repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth
Why does it matter?
Any time the government introduces a new crime, it is important for Canadians to be aware of what behaviour or conduct is prohibited.
In this case, insofar as Bill C-4 eliminates abusive, involuntary or coercive practices from our communities, that is a good thing.
However, in its current form there is a real concern about the broad definition of conversion therapy. The concern is that, without clarifying amendments, the definition could readily criminalize legitimate expression and activities.
What is the status of Bill C-4 now?
As of Friday, December 3, Bill C-4 is at the Senate. It has passed first reading, and will be dealt with “two days hence”… That means next week, Tuesday, December 7.
When the Senate looks at the bill, it will be at second reading. Second reading is usually when there is debate about the bill and when the bill is referred to a committee for further study, to hear from witnesses, and to receive public input. It is possible that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and pass the bill in a single sitting.
CCCC and many others raised similar concerns in the last Parliamentary Session when a conversion therapy ban was also introduced (Bill C-6). CCCC made submissions to the House Justice Committee and is actively working to make our concerns known to Senators.
The Senate will need to consider whether the definition of conversion therapy in the Bill is sufficiently clear as to what conduct will be criminalized. The concern is that the definition in its current form isn’t clear, and could be interpreted to include religious instruction concerning human sexuality, parental guidance, and support for people who wish to order their sexual lives in accordance with their religious conscience.
If you’re looking for ways to express concern, you can check out some of these resources:
- CCCC submissions to the House Justice Committee on Bill C-6, as mentioned above
- CCCC, Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) document Church Guidance: Conversion Therapy which sets out both areas of agreement with conversion therapy bans and areas of concern
- EFC’s Sample Letter for Concerned Citizens in pdf or docx format
- You can visit the Senate site to find a Senator from your region
Most importantly, please pray for wisdom for our political leaders, for wisdom and grace for our religious leaders, and for the love and hope of Christ to be known in our communities.
We will follow the development of the bill along with any amendments. If the bill is referred to a committee, there will be opportunity for public input and we’ll be sure to update you.
We recognize that there is a lot of uncertainty in this bill. We’re committed to supporting you with resources, a space to ask questions, and guidance for moving forward and are actively working on these initiatives.
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Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.