Conversion Therapy Ban

Conversion Therapy Ban

A bill to ban conversion therapy has unexpectedly passed in the House of Commons, just two days after it was introduced by the Justice Minister.

A motion to pass the bill without study or amendment, through all the stages of debate and votes, was passed unanimously in the House of Commons on Wednesday. The bill is now moving through the Senate, where it is scheduled to begin debate next week.

Coercive and abusive practices have no place in our communities. However, as with previous bills, the EFC is concerned that the definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-4 is so broad that it could criminalize legitimate activities that are not harmful and have nothing to do with forcing someone to change their orientation or identity.

For example, the definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-4 includes “a practice, service or treatment designed to …repress or reduce non-heterosexual …sexual behaviour.”

As we have communicated in the context of the previous bills, we are concerned that the definition of conversion therapy could be interpreted to ban sincere expressions of religious beliefs and teachings in sermons, courses of religious study, and consensual pastoral counselling.

As well, there is new language in both the preamble of the bill and the definition that specifically rejects “an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.” This adds to an already existing lack of clarity around what will be considered criminal.

The biggest difference between Bill C-4 and previous bills is that previous bills banned conversion therapy for minors and forced conversion therapy for adults, while this bill bans conversion therapy for any person, adult or minor. This may mean that an adult would not be able to receive support to align their sexual behaviour with their personal convictions.

The EFC remains very concerned that the definition of conversion therapy, as currently worded, risks criminalizing religious expression, teaching, belief and practice around sexuality.

What’s next

Bill C-4 is in the Senate. It is not known whether the Senate will study the bill and hear from witnesses, or whether it will choose to expedite the passing of the bill and bypass the regular parliamentary process, as well.

Based on previous debates, Senators are likely to be very supportive of this bill.

When the bill passes the Senate and receives Royal Assent, it will come into effect on the 30th day of that month.

What the EFC is doing

As Bill C-4 proceeds in the Senate, the EFC will continue to advocate for much-needed clarity through constructive dialogue.

The EFC will prepare a more detailed analysis of Bill C-4 and a brief to submit to a Senate committee with proposed amendments, and will study the impact of the bill on churches and ministries.

What you can do

Please pray for our country. Please pray for Senators to be open to hear concerns about the bill.

Please pray for us as we work on this bill and this sensitive topic.

Please pray for Christians to express themselves on this issue with wisdom and grace. All of us are called to communicate with wisdom and grace, in a way that shows the love of Christ for all Canadians.

Check for updates and resources at www.TheEFC.ca/C-4.

Sincerely,

Bruce J. Clemenger
President