UPDATE: Bill C-4 received Royal Assent on December 8.

On Tuesday, December 7, Bill C-4, which criminalizes conversion therapy, passed the Senate in a single motion. It had already passed the House in a single motion on December 1.

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

When is it effective?

Now that Bill C-4 has passed both the House and the Senate, it needs Royal Assent. Royal Assent is approval by the Governor General.

It will be effective 30 days after it receives Royal Assent.

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.

The concern – raised by CCCC and many others – has been that the definition of conversion therapy was too broad, and that clarifying amendments were needed in order to avoid capturing legitimate expression and activities. Neither the House nor the Senate amended the Bill.

Through the course of debate and committee hearings on Bill C-6 (Bill C-4’s predecessor), Ministers and Members of Parliament gave repeated assurances that the bill’s aim was coercive and systematic efforts as well as forced and coordinated efforts, not conversations about sexuality. The Minister also noted that practices, treatments and services designed to achieve objectives such as abstinence or to address sexual addictions are clearly not captured by the definition.

While clarifying amendments would have been our preferred path forward, we trust that these statements will guide and appropriately restrain the scope of the prohibition.

What’s next?

We recognize that there remains a lot of uncertainty in this bill. We’re interested in your concerns or questions to help shape resources and guidance as we move forward. We invite members to share here in The Green, or you can send us an email.

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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.

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