Bill C-6 on Conversion Therapy

Overview

Bill C-6 would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit certain activities relating to “conversion therapy”, which the bill defines as a practice, treatment or service designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender or to reduce non-heterosexual sexual attraction or sexual behaviour.

Specifically, the Bill would enact new offences to prohibit activities which include the following:

  • causing an individual to undergo conversion therapy against their will;
  • causing a[ny] child to undergo conversion therapy; and
  • doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.

Proponents’ Position

Proponents of the bill maintain that conversion therapy is a harmful practice which should be criminal. They point to coercive and harmful quasi-medical treatments of the past, such as electroshock therapy, employed to change a person’s homosexual orientation. In addition, proponents see such practices as treating LGBT people as deficient and in need of repair, and therefor contrary to the dignity of LGBT people.

Critics’ Position

The bill’s critics generally do not take issue with the objective of criminalizing harmful and coercive conversion therapy. The critics maintain, however, that the definition of conversion therapy employed by the bill is so broad and inaccurate that it is in danger of capturing scenarios which do not fairly constitute not conversion therapy. For example, the bill contains no accommodation for parental communication e.g. a parent advising a child to wait before commencing irreversible transition treatments. Similarly, there is no exception for pastoral communication e.g. to abstain from non-heterosexual relations. In addition, because of a one-sided definition, the bill creates a one-way street for gender identity issues, only allowing treatments which move people away from their birth gender. For example, a youth with gender identity issues would be able to access assistance for a gender transition, but not assistance to identify with their birth gender. The bill would thereby criminalize the process of “de-transitioning.”

Relevant Catholic Teaching

The Church teaches that:

  • Men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. – 358 Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.  Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. -224 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • The family is the primary unit in society. It is where education begins and the Word of God is first nurtured. The Church considers the family as the first natural society, with underived rights that are proper to it, and places it at the centre of social life.   Relegating the family to a subordinate or secondary role, excluding it from its rightful position in society, would be to inflict grave harm on the authentic growth of society as a whole.  The family possesses its own specific and original social dimension, in that it is the principal place of interpersonal relationships, the first and vital cell of society. The family is a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order.  – 209-211, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

    The priority of the family over society and the State must be affirmed.  The Church teaches that the proper role of government and other human institutions is to foster human life and dignity by maintaining social conditions that enable and encourage us to serve God in one another, and thereby to promote that which is truly in the common interest. In virtue of the principle of subsidiarity, public authorities have no right to take away from the family tasks which it can accomplish well by itself or in free association with other families; on the other hand, these same authorities have the duty to sustain the family, ensuring that it has all the assistance that it needs to fulfil properly its responsibilities.

Points to Ponder

Consider discussing the following questions with your local candidates, elected officials, and the parties, and with your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow parishioners.  On prayerful reflection, consider sharing your conclusions with your elected representatives by writing respectful and informative letters.

  • Do you agree with the bill in its current form? 
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately prevent harm to those, and particularly children, who may have possible homosexual tendencies?  If not, how should it be amended?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately protect the rights of families, including the right of children to be educated by their parents?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately safeguard the rights of parents, who will after all be called to defend their parental actions before the Creator of the universe?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, provide adequate protections for private conversations, which may – as stressed by Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti – if open, honest, and sometimes challenging, lead to growth and advancement of the common good?

Legislative History

Introduced by David Lametti (Liberal, MP for LaSalle-Emard-Verdun, PQ, Minister of Justice.

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