Canada Bans Conversion Therapy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 14, 2021

Canada has banned what's known as 'conversion therapy' on a national level, joining a handful of other countries that have done so, NBC News reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to social media to celebrate the new law, which was finalized Dec. 8.

Calling the discredited practice "despicable and degrading," Trudeau tweeted, "LGBTQ2 Canadians, we'll always stand up for you and your rights."

The new law is comprehensive, banning "conversion therapy" for "Canadians of any age" and also criminalizes taking a Canadian to another country to subject them to the pseudoscientific practice, NBC News said.

"The Canadian law is the latest instance of a growing global effort to eradicate conversion therapy, a practice that ranges from religious counseling to electric shock therapy and has been associated with 'severe psychological distress.'"

NBC News further noted that "Canada's ban follows that of Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan."

"Some of the nations, such as Germany, have passed bans exclusively for minors, whereas others, like Malta, have passed bans for all citizens," NBC News added.

Voice of America, reporting on the ban, recalled that "conversion therapy," which purports to "change" LGBTQ+ people into cisgender heterosexuals through prayer and counseling, "has been rejected by an array of Western medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which linked the practice to 'significant long-term harm' including depression, anxiety and possibly suicidal behaviors."

The American Psychiatric Association has also condemned the practice, noting that homosexuality is a "normal variant of human sexuality."

Survivors of the practice have described methods that resemble torture and have spoken to the futility of attempts to "cure" them of their own innate identities.

VOA cited the experiences of Jonathan Di Carlo, a student at the University of Ottawa, who described a decade of ineffectual — but highly distressing — attempts to "convert" him into a heterosexual. His experiences with the quack practice, he said, took place "primarily in religious settings" and included stretches of fasting that lasted for forty days, exorcism rituals, and "forced one-on-one counseling where a pastor with no formal psychotherapy training convinced me that homosexuality was caused by an absentee father or that it was caused by being raped at a young age by someone of the same sex such as a father or uncle."

Proponents of eradicating "conversion therapy" see the issue in a different way, arguing that the practice itself amounts to "sexual violence" against LGTBQ+ people — particularly youth.

Survey findings from The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to fighting LGTBQ+ youth suicide, underscore the point. The Trevor Projects' 2019 Mental Health Survey noted that "two in three LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not," while the group's 2020 Mental Health Survey recorded that "10% of LGBTQ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.