Canada outlaws “conversion therapy”
The broadly worded law covers talk therapy for consenting adults
Canada formally adopted an expansive ban on so-called conversion therapy last week. The new law criminalizes any “practice, treatment, or service” designed to change, repress, or reduce a person’s same-sex attraction or sexual behavior, or their gender identity or expression if it differs from their biological sex.
Bill C-4, which received royal assent on Dec. 8, says such therapy is based on “myths and stereotypes” that heterosexuality or one’s biological sex is preferable to other sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. It amends the nation’s criminal code to outlaw counseling someone to undergo conversion therapy—including advising a consenting adult who wants help for unwanted same-sex behaviors or a person seeking to accept their biological sex after living a transgender lifestyle.
The law also prohibits advertising or promoting counseling services for unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, profiting from the provision of it, or taking a child outside Canada to receive it.
Penalties for violations include up to five years in prison.
The new law comes after two less restrictive therapy bans failed in recent years. Lawmakers, including Canada’s conservative party, gave unanimous support to fast-track the new bill through the legislative process, forgoing debate, committee study, or voting. The bill takes effect on Jan. 7.
Faith-based groups, church leaders, parents, and others who opposed previous versions said the new ban’s swift passage caught them by surprise. Many fear they could face jail time for private conversations, sermons, prayer meetings, or discussions of Biblical sexual ethics. Under the new law, parents could face criminal charges for failing to “affirm” a child who wants to identify as the opposite sex. They could not seek help in another country. A pastor offering support to an adult struggling with unwanted same-sex behaviors, such as gay pornography, could be jailed.
“We know this law will be weaponized by LGBT activists against the church in Canada,” said Jose Ruba, communications director for Free to Care, a Calgary-based support group opposed to government interference in conversations pertaining to LGBT lifestyles. Already, some activists have signaled plans to push the government to remove the charitable status of any organization that seeks to “convert” people away from LGBT lifestyles. “We don’t expect churches to have charitable status in the next 10 years,” Ruba, 45, said.
Ruba said he has struggled with same-sex attraction. In college, a friend involved in the campus ministry group Intervarsity pointed him to a Christian counselor who provided help. “Sexual attraction may not be a choice, but sexual behavior always is, even if that means being celibate,” Ruba said. “I must have the right to talk to whomever I want to” for help.
When questioned about Bill C-4 prohibiting adults from seeking the counseling of their choice, Justice Minister David Lametti said, “It’s torture, and you can’t agree to have torture.”
Proponents of Bill C-4 said LGBT people cannot be “cured” of their sexual orientations and gender identities. They say efforts to change them, including Bible-based therapy, cause psychological harm and could lead to suicide.
About 20 U.S. states and 100 municipalities along with three European countries have banned some form of therapy to help people embrace Biblical sexuality or biological gender. France’s Senate voted last week to criminalize the practice. Lametti described Canada’s new criminal laws as “some of the most comprehensive in the world.”
On Tuesday, Free to Care hosted about 80 people who met online to discuss the passage of Bill C-4. Ruba said some participants expressed anger and others asked questions about how the bill passed so quickly with so little opposition. The group prayed for repentance among churches and politicians and for the courage to stand firm on Biblical truths no matter the cost.
Ruba said Free to Care is preparing to file a legal challenge against the federal government if a pastor or a parent faces criminal charges under the new law. Meanwhile, he said churches should be ready for LGBT activists seeking to entrap or expose them for teaching a Biblical view on sexuality and gender. Ruba encouraged church leaders to continue preaching the good news of God’s design.
“If there is anything good that has come out of this, it is that the Christian community is starting to wake up and realize how bad the situation is here for religious freedom,” Ruba said.
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