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An update on Conversion Therapy Bans in Canada

To fulfill an election promise, the federal Liberal government has introduced a bill to criminally ban conversion therapy. As I noted in my Nov/Dec article, “What is conversion therapy and why does it matter?” the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and many municipalities in Alberta have already banned conversion therapy. This federal bill would ban conversion therapy across the entire country with the threat of criminal sanction, including jail time, a penalty not available to provinces and municipalities.

The entire legislation hinges on the definition of conversion therapy. A main recommendation in ARPA Canada’s policy report on conversion therapy was that conversion therapy only include “coercive and aversive therapies” and specifically clarify that body-affirming counseling and spiritual counsel are not conversion therapy.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation – Bill C-8 – has a broad and biased definition of conversion therapy. It bans both harmful therapies as well as beneficial counseling. It bans efforts to change someone’s sexual attraction – which is psychological and based in the mind – and also bans attempts to change someone’s sexual behavior.

This means this legislation would forbid Christian counselors from trying to help gay men address their same-sex attraction, and also forbid them from counseling gay men not to engage in same-sex sexual activity.

Ironically, this legislation only bans attempts to draw someone away from same-sex attraction or a transgender identity. The legislation says nothing about attempts to draw someone into same-sex-attraction or a transgender identity. Thus, this legislation bans God-glorifying counseling but permits seductions into sinful lifestyles and identities. As one pastor commented, “If a man in my congregation confesses to me that he’s been cheating on his wife, I can reprimand him and tell him to repent. But if his affair is with another man, then I’m prohibited from saying anything at all.”

The legislation also is riddled with contradictions. The preamble notes that it is a myth that gender identity can change. Yet, queer theory says that gender is quite fluid, changing all the time. Further, the definition of conversion therapy explicitly “clarifies” that services to support a person’s gender transition are not to be considered conversion therapy. But if a gender can’t change, how can one transition to another gender?

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti, who introduced the bill, reveals his moral worldview on this topic, saying, “Conversion therapy is premised on a lie, that being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is wrong and in need of fixing. Not only is that false, it sends a demeaning and a degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals.”

Christians recognize that virtually everything in that quotation is false. Acting on same-sex attraction or deliberately undermining one’s biological sex is sinful and wrong. Sin always needs fixing. Human dignity is not based on following our own impulses; it is based on being the male and female image-bearers of God.

Justice Minister Lametti boasts that the proposed conversion therapy ban will be the “most progressive and comprehensive in the world.” But Christians know that true progress cannot be based on man’s view of right and wrong. True progress must be based on God’s standards of right and wrong.

Bill C-8 must be amended. The definition of conversion therapy requires greater clarity and should not include body-affirming counseling or spiritual counseling or teaching on sexual behavior. ARPA is already working to have the definition changed but will need the support of many Christians across the country to also speak up. May we continue to labor and pray that God’s perfect will, not man’s fallen will, be done here on earth as it is in heaven, also on the issue of conversion therapy.

Levi Minderhoud is the ARPA Canada BC manager. You can read ARPA Canada’s Policy Report on Conversion Therapy here.


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