Senate agrees to fast-track bill banning conversion therapy

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Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, acting leader of the Senate opposition, introduced the motion to fast-track the bill. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, acting leader of the Senate opposition, introduced the motion to fast-track the bill. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

UPDATE: This bill was granted Royal Assent by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon on Dec. 8, 2021.

Canada's Senate unanimously agreed on Tuesday to fast-track a Liberal government bill to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

The move pushes the legislation, Bill C-4, almost to the finish line after a journey that included numerous delays and accusations of political manoeuvring at the expense of LGBTQ Canadians.

The bill now only requires royal assent before becoming law — a step that is typically considered a formality.

Once given royal assent, the legislation will make it illegal to perform the discredited practice of conversion therapy — which seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change an individual's gender identity to cisgender, or to change their gender expression to match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Bill C-4 would also make it a crime to send a child for conversion therapy outside Canada, to advertise conversion therapy or to profit financially from the practice.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos proposed fast-tracking the bill.

His motion mirrored a Conservative motion in the House of Commons last week to adopt the bill without the normal requirements of recorded votes and debate.

"C-4 is a bill that has been turned into a controversial political football, unfortunately," Housakos said in the Senate.

"We saw the House of Commons do the right thing a number of days ago and pass this piece of legislation unanimously."

Updated legislation moved much more quickly

The quick passage of C-4 comes after a previous bill to ban conversion therapy, C-6, died on the order paper when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament before the last federal election.

An even earlier version was derailed in early 2020, when the government turned its focus almost exclusively to its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When C-6 eventually made it to the House, the bill faced a difficult path as dozens of Conservative MPs voted against it before it was eventually adopted. The bill also faced opposition from Conservative senators.

Those opposed to the legislation generally criticized it for offering too broad a definition of conversion therapy.

The updated version is said by the Liberals to be more comprehensive and one of the strictest pieces of legislation on conversion therapy anywhere in the world.

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