A bill to prohibit conversion therapy is in jeopardy after it encounters a stumbling block in the Senate.




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Legislation to make conversion therapy illegal in Canada has been blocked in the Senate as the body prepares for a month-long summer recess. Because of the delay, the measure faces extinction if Parliament is dissolved ahead of a widely predicted fall election. “We’ve been engaging with senators, emphasizing that this is a matter of life and death,” said Nicholas Schiavo, founder of the No Conversion Canada campaign organization.

Bill C-6 proposes revisions to the Criminal Code that would effectively make conversion therapy illegal the largely discredited practice of seeking to alter an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender (which means identifying with the sex assigned to them at birth).

It involves a variety of treatments, ranging from talk therapy and medication to aversion therapy, which aims to shape a person’s behavior by inflicting discomfort when they are exposed to specified stimuli, such as electric shocks. In 2020, a United Nations Human Rights Council expert stated that conversion treatment can amount to torture in some cases. According to the UN report, the practice can cause significant pain and suffering and has no scientific basis.

Bill C-6 would make it unlawful in Canada to submit a person to conversion therapy without their consent, as well as to subject children to the procedure without their consent. “If you’re a young kid and see this become legislation, it sends a very clear message that who you are, who you love, or how you express yourself is valid and protected by law,” Schiavo added.

In October 2020, the Trudeau administration introduced the bill in the House of Commons. Despite considerable opposition from several Conservative MPs, it was passed on third reading earlier this month. On Monday, it received its second reading in the Senate before being assigned to the committee on legal and constitutional matters. The Senate is not expected to reconvene until at least September 20.