TORONTO — Canada has banned “conversion therapy,” a practice that uses tactics such as defaming gay people to attempt to turn them straight.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Friday while in Victoria, British Columbia, site of the country’s first national political convention focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
“Let me be crystal clear: We are banning conversion therapy in this country,” Trudeau said, referring to the attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This is where I’d like to do the work at home that I haven’t been able to do with my family,” said Trudeau, who is married to Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, a former human rights lawyer who often is shown holding him son Xavier. “I’m just thrilled for them.”
The new law, passed by the House of Commons in late October and now awaiting approval from the Senate, prohibits health-care professionals from engaging in conversion therapy, a practice some referred to as “reparative therapy.” Conservative representatives in the House of Commons voted against the bill in late October.
Sen. Murray Sinclair, a former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated atrocities committed during Canada’s colonization of aboriginal peoples, says the ban will eliminate the therapy’s coercive tactics that can include attempts to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It denies a vulnerable person medical treatment and one of the most basic of rights, the right to realize who he or she truly is,” Sinclair said.
Among the 11 countries in the world that allow conversion therapy, including Australia, New Zealand and the United States, this ban in Canada is significant because the country’s national identity and national self-image is built on the country’s liberal, diverse and tolerant society, said Diana Moon, co-leader of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Division at San Francisco State University.
“The ethos and the experience of the country and Canadian culture is queer and feminist and is inextricably connected to who we are, to identity,” Moon said. “If you reduce the fundamental idea of your culture to one specific aspect of the identity it’s really going to undermine your legitimacy.”