Toronto Star

Tories blamed for delay of bill banning conversion therapy

Liberals eye stronger law before year end

- JACQUES GALLANT

The Liberal government is set to table a “stronger” bill before the end of the year banning the discredite­d practice of conversion therapy.

The Liberal election platform promised the bill would “extend coverage of the ban to include people over 18 years of age.” That’s likely a nod to a demand from survivors and advocates that the ban apply to all adults regardless of consent.

Conversion therapy tries to change the sexual orientatio­n of LGBTQ individual­s to heterosexu­al, or to coerce those questionin­g their gender identity to be in alignment with the sex assigned to them at birth.

The government’s previous iteration of a ban, Bill C-6, would have made it a crime to force a child to undergo conversion therapy, but in the case of adults, it would have only criminaliz­ed the practice if done against the person’s will.

Bill C-6 faced hurdles in the House of Commons, where half the Conservati­ve caucus voted against it. The bill finally made it to the Senate at the very end of the parliament­ary session, where it died in August when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the election.

In an interview with the Star this week, Justice Minister David Lametti again blamed the Conservati­ves for the delays in passing Bill C-6 last spring.

“I think this time the Conservati­ves don’t have any excuses,” he said. “I think it’s clear there is broad support for this bill banning really what is a form of torture.”

As the Star reported this summer, the NDP said it offered to help the government fast-track C-6 in the House, amid accusation­s the Liberals wanted the bill to die in order to use it as a wedge issue against the Conservati­ves in an election.

“That’s simply not true,” Lametti said. “We got it in front of the House as soon as we could, we expedited it as much as we could, and we got it to a point where it could have been looked at by the Senate, but it wasn’t.”

Lametti said he can’t comment on the contents of a new bill until it’s tabled, pointing out the election platform promised a “stronger” bill.

Early discussion­s with Lametti’s office would suggest that the government “is going to make every attempt possible to make this bill stronger,” said Nick Schiavo, founder of No Conversion Canada, a grassroots non-profit organizati­on focused on banning conversion therapy.

“I think despite really good intentions, Bill C-6 in some ways inadverten­tly legitimize­d conversion practices on adults, under the false myth that you can consent to something that is inherently fraudulent and inherently dangerous,” Schiavo told the Star.

Lametti, who was kept in the portfolio in last month’s cabinet shuffle, faces a busy parliament­ary session as he also prepares to revive the government’s package of reforms to tackle systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

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