On March 19, the Federal government addressed one of the key goals of It Gets Better Canada’s campaign against gay conversion therapy by condemning the practice as “immoral, painful, and do not reflect the values of our government or those of Canadians.”
The government went on to pledge to work with provincial and territorial governments to address Criminal Code offences “such as kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault may apply where a person is forcibly compelled to undergo conversion therapy.”
The government’s statement was in response to an e-Petition presented in the House of Commons last month by Sheri Benson, MP for Saskatoon West calling for a national ban on conversion therapy. It Gets Better Canada issued an open letter to the Prime Minister supporting the e-Petition – a letter that was endorsed by Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, The Canadian Mental Health Association. Jack.org, Pflag Canada and We Matter.
“The Federal petition was in line with our own change.org campaign to have the federal government take action to end conversion therapy in Canada,” says Christopher Gudgeon, President and CEO of It Gets Better Canada. “We have 70,000 signatures supporting our call to have Ottawa make a clear statement against conversion therapy and develop policies to prevent organizations or individuals from attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
The e-Petition – which is separate from It Gets Better Canada’s campaign – called on the Feds to ban the practice outright. But the nuances of the Canadian government system, which sees Ottawa share authority over certain issues like health care and social services with the provinces, makes it hard for the federal government to impose a blanket ban.
“Canada’s LGBTQ2+ needed a strong statement of support from the federal government; now they’ve got one,” Gudgeon says. “They’ve also pledged to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that existing legal protections are enforced and that the mental, emotional and physical safety of our young people is consistently protected from coast to coast to coast.”
Conversion therapy is a quasi-scientific practice that combines psychological techniques with religious practices to try to get LGBTQ2+ youth to “pray the gay away.” To read more about It Gets Better Canada’s campaign or sign the petition, visit the #RightToBeYouCanada page on change.org.