Wednesday December 1, 2021 | NATIONAL & VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC [Updated at 5:30 pm Pacific | Updated December 3, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
UPDATE December 8, 2021: The Bill was fast-tracked by the Senate, and has passed there.
Randall Garrison MP (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) said yesterday: “Today the Liberal government introduced its third bill promising to ban conversion therapy in Canada. This time around New Democrats and all members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community hope to see the Liberals finally get the job done.”
And today, December 1, presto! “Celebrating an amazing moment in the House just now as we passed C-4, the new improved version of the bill to ban conversion therapy, through all stages by unanimous consent. So it is off to the Senate!”, said Garrison in a Tweet around noon (Pacific Time).
The NDP has “avoided a repeat of the Liberal’s failure to get this done”, said Garrison yesterday. In an interview with Island Social Trends he said it was “a big day” and that he’s obviously very happy about it. Garrison has been the LGBT critic for the NDP since first being elected in 2011.
Today the House of Commons gave unanimous consent to pass Bill C-4, a ban on conversion therapy. The legislation would make it a crime to cause someone to undergo conversion therapy, taking a minor out of the country in order to get conversion therapy abroad, profiting from the practice, or either advertising or promoting it.
Garrison explains that they had been talks among all parties about “how we could make the move faster”. He says the wording of the bill is “a bit awkwardly worded” in some places, resulting from being compiled by committee, but he chuckles over the fact that in the big picture that won’t matter so much.
What’s important is that a distinction between minors and adults was removed, and a clause was added that the bill won’t apply to people considering gender transition (i.e. they might have a conversation with a consultant or therapist as to the pros and cons of gender transition). Now there is “greater certainty” in the wording, says Garrison.
He commends the Conservatives for introducing the motion (noting that Conservative MPs who were likely to oppose it were absent that day). A full debate had already been done in previous parliamentary sessions, and recalling another debate would have retraumatized the victims and all the conversion therapy survivors in Canada, Garrison told Island Social Trends. It would have also risked platforming by groups opposed to it across the country he explained. So all three readings were considered to be done, and everyone voted in favour.
It was a happy room at that moment, and many people cried, including Garrison. He is now 70-years-old and has been fighting the battles for “his community” as he proudly calls it, for decades.
Blake Desjarlais, MP, and NDP Caucus Vice-chair and Deputy Critic for 2SLGBTQI+ was there “every step of way” through the process of getting this legislation achieved, said Garrison. A petition with 18,000 signatures had also been brought forward by Sheri Benson (previously the MP for Saskatoon West, 2015-2019) in 2019.
Major victory for Canadian society:
This is a major legislative victory, long-fought-for over decades, as part of recognizing a diversity of gender and sexuality. In 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to specifically include sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination.
For those within the 2SLGBTQI+ community the passage of Bill C-2 has obvious positive impacts. Now the promotion of something ‘being wrong’ with people for not being heterosexual (or for exploring options) is a strong form of protection. Garrison explained that advertising and promotion (unpaid advertising) about conversion therapy services — whether print or online — will now prohibited under Canadian law.
In recent years, gender identity has become more fluid, not being restricted to male and female. Garrison says Bill C-2 “brings Canada in line with international law”. It also serves to stamp out opportunities for the expression of homophobic and transphobic commentary, if conversion therapy is stamped out, says Garrison. So long as conversion therapy might exist, it can convince some people that something is wrong with the people that are targeted for the ‘therapy’.
The significance of this change in Canadian law today (pending passage by the Senate), was not lost on all members of the house. There was a standing ovation after unanimous consent by all MPs.
When this dangerous practice of conversion ‘therapy’ is finally banned in Canada it will be because brave survivors came forward to tell their stories and because those survivors, community members and allies, have worked tirelessly for years to push the government to act.
Conversion therapy is any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
According to an organization called GLAAD, San Francisco State University found that “compared with LGBTQ young people who were not rejected or were only a little rejected by their parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender identity, highly rejected LGBTQ young people were:
- 8.4x more likely to report having attempted suicide
- 5.9x more likely report high levels of depression
- 3.4x more likely to use illegal drugs
- 3.4x more likely to be at high risk of HIV and STDs
Since 2015, the NDP has been pushing the Liberal government for a federal ban on conversion ‘therapy’.
“The Liberals’ decisions to prorogue Parliament and call an unnecessary election has killed two bills that could have put a ban in place and ensured more Canadians weren’t subjected to this terrible practice,” the NDP stated just yesterday.
“Failing to get this legislation passed now will leave the most vulnerable among us at risk, especially 2SLGBTQI+ youth. It is beyond time that this extremely harmful practice is finally banned,” Garrison said yesterday.
Garrison has been working on 2SLGBTQI+ issues since first elected in 2011 (with his first focus on Bill C-279 on the rights of transgender and non-binary people, which passed in 2013), and on this bill to ban conversion therapy (in various forms over the years), since 2015.
Garrison is now serving his fourth term in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke (which also includes Colwood and Metchosin).
Part of today’s celebration was also NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Blake Desjarlais who is the NDP’s Caucus Vice-chair; Critic – Treasury Board; Diversity and Inclusion; Youth; Sport; Post-secondary Education; Deputy – 2SLGBTQI+ Rights; Deputy – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Rights of LGBTI persons (Government of Canada)
The human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, 2-spirit and intersex persons (Government of Canada)