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Canada advances ban on torturous conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson still needs more ‘research’

Lily Wakefield October 29, 2020
Canada conversion therapy Transgender refugee who fled to Canada forced to claim asylum as a man

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau marches in Toronto's Pride Parade in 2019. (George Pimentel/Getty)

In Canada, the House of Commons has overwhelmingly voted to give approval in principle to a bill to outlaw the torturous practice of conversion therapy.

The bill, which was officially tabled in Canadian parliament earlier this month (October 1) with the backing of prime minister Justin Trudeau, would amend the criminal code to ban the practice altogether.

According to CTV News, the country’s house of commons voted 308-7 to approve the bill in principle on Wednesday (October 28).

Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader of the opposition, voted in favour of the ban, although seven members of his party voted against it and two abstained, including former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

However, many Conservative MPs who reluctantly voted in favour of the bill, including O’Toole, said it needed “reasonable amendments” as they feared it would prohibit conversations between children and parents.

Before the vote, prime minister Trudeau said: “Conversion therapy is rooted in the harmful premise that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity could and even should be changed.

“Our legislation will criminalise efforts to force someone to change or hide who they are. While Conservatives couch their support for conversion therapy behind misleading arguments, on this side, we will always stand up for the rights of Canadians.”

While many conversion therapy bans around the world focus on minors the ban in Canada would go even further, seeking to put conversion therapy practitioners out of work entirely, as well as making it a criminal offence to practise conversion therapy on under-18s or on adults “against the person’s will”.

The bill would seek to cut off the flow of funding to conversion therapy, making it an offence to “receive a financial or other material benefit” from the discredited practise, to “advertise an offer to provide” it, or to attempt to remove a child from the country “with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada”.

Practising conversion therapy would be punishable by a prison term of up to five years under the bill, while breaching the rules of advertising or obtaining material benefit are punishable by a term of up to two years.

While Canada moves towards outlawing conversion therapy, Boris Johnson insists he needs more “research” before banning it.

As it stands, 20 US states and a number of countries around the world including Malta and Germany have passed bills to ban conversion therapy, while others like Canada are moving towards a ban.

Meanwhile, it has been more than two years since the UK government pledged to ban conversion therapy – yet the traumatising practice is still legal.

In July 2018, the Tories pledged to “eradicate” the practice, but progress has been slow.

In July of this year, prime minister Boris Johnson said conversion therapy “has no place in a civilised society”.

However, Johnson and equalities minister Liz Truss claimed the government would have to do more research before banning the practice, which has often been compared to torture.

More: Canada, conversion therapy

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