Opinion: The Liberals’ beefed-up ban on conversion therapy is a Charter challenge in the making

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Justice Minister David Lametti speaks during Question Hour in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on November 29, 2021 in Ottawa.Blair Gable/Reuters

The latest incarnation of the Liberal government’s bill to ban conversion therapy raises a complex ethical, moral and constitutional question: should consenting adults be allowed to access services that are harmful to them?


The answer, at least according to Justice Minister David Lametti, who introduced the bill on Monday, is a clear “no.”

“Torture is something you cannot consent to,” he said during a news conference with fellow cabinet ministers Randy Boissonault and Marcy Inn as well as community activist Gemma Hickey. Mr Lametti was referring to a 2020 UN report that said conversion therapy – which aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and which is often imposed on children and youth – was “inhumane and cruel”. and creative”.[s] A significant risk of torture. It is indeed a fraudulent practice, denigrated by leading psychological, psychiatric and health organizations around the world, that seeks to counsel individuals “outside” of being gay or trans.

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The government’s old bill dealing with conversion therapy, Bill C-6, died on order paper when a federal election was called last summer. This went along with banning conversion therapy only for children as the advertising and profit of conversion therapy was taken out of Canada for the purpose of subjecting children to conversion therapy, as well as “conversion to a person”. had to undergo therapy. without the consent of the individual,” which would have likely already constituted a Criminal Code violation. The new bill, Bill C-4, “requires another person to undergo conversion therapy—including providing that other person with conversion therapy.” That means those who offer conversion therapy to anyone, even adults, could face up to five years in prison.

Mr Lametti explained that the decision to take this bill forward from the previous bill was rooted in consultation with the community and understanding the trauma of those who were subjected to conversion therapy. Several provinces and municipalities, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI, Vancouver and Calgary, have already banned the practice (though prosecution is difficult and rare, as it usually takes place behind closed doors.) A national ban has been imposed. There will be a more widespread response.

But the government will undoubtedly face legal challenges – as well as community resistance, particularly from some religious organizations – if it succeeds in criminalizing the offering of service to adults, even if the service is bogus and harmful.

Proponents of the outright ban would argue that helping people injure themselves should not be legal. But it is legal in Canada for homeopaths to, for example, nosodes—which are essentially vials of water—infused with hope and dogma, in exchange for vaccines for diseases such as whooping cough, measles and mumps. Health Canada actually approves and regulates these “treatments” as well, although the agency has said None have been approved as a substitute for actual vaccines. And in these cases real harm is being done: Canadians are essentially being tricked into believing that certain homeopathic remedies will protect them from a wide variety of ailments, and that they can protect themselves (and often, their children) as a result. leave vulnerable to infection. Yet the practice of offering, advertising and/or profiting financially from homeopathy has not been made an offense, even though it may cause lifelong, irreparable harm to those who voluntarily seek its service.

It is also legal in Canada to provide medical aid in death (MAID), which some may see as an eventual loss. The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Criminal Code’s prohibition on providing MAIDs violates Section 7 of the Charter, which upholds the individual’s right to life, liberty and safety. Those who can challenge the government’s prohibition on offering conversion therapy to anyone, regardless of age, may have the same grounds as a charter challenge under the section. 7, as well as under Sec. 2 Protection of freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

Of course, these are imperfect comparisons. But it’s still worth considering: Why call some homeopathic remedies a hoax? Stay Legal When Fraud Of Conversion Therapy Is Being Criminalized? Why is it legal to help someone dying, while often giving hurtful advice may soon not be possible? At a later point, one could argue that assisted death relieves suffering while conversion therapy inflames it, but someone who seeks the practice may find it stems from a conflict between religious belief and sexual orientation. It can be seen as a way to reduce the pain caused. Broadly speaking, the charter aims to navigate these types of conflicts precisely what a person has a right to do. This is the logical next step for such a targeted piece of government legislation.

In fact, no matter how dishonest and despicable you or I – and the UN, the Canadian Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the World Psychiatric Association and others – may be in regards to conversion therapy, adults in Canada are likely the only one to receive it. Maintains charter rights. Inevitably, Canada’s federal government will be forced to confront it.

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