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Canadian Law on Conversion Therapy

What is a custom?

A custom is a consistent and voluntary pattern of behavior observed by people. In almost all societies, custom plays an important role in regulating human behavior. It is, in fact, one of the oldest sources of legislation. However, as society progresses, customs fade, and legislation and judicial precedents become the primary source. The people create customs by their unconscious adoption of a certain rule of conduct whenever the same problem arises for a solution, and its authority is based solely on its long-continued use and recognition by the people.

What are Customary Laws?

Custom is a type of special rule that has been followed since immemorial. Customary law refers to law based on or influenced by custom. The study of custom as a source of law entails a number of aspects, including its origin and nature, importance, reasons for its recognition, classification, various theories, distinction from prescription and usage, and the essentials of a valid custom.

Sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts have been a prevailing custom in the western world that aims to fix homosexual people. As society advanced, some people came to the realization that this custom is psychologically harmful, and thus, there must be some action against it. In this modern world, which is openly inclined towards homosexuals, decided to fight for the community's rights against such therapy, and the governments of several countries have adopted legislation to ban the practice of such activities.

Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts, often known as conversion therapy, are the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to change an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms. Such therapies often see gender diversity and homosexuality as unnatural or unhealthy, in opposition to evidence-based medicine and clinical advice. There is scientific agreement that conversion therapy frequently results in serious, long-term psychological harm for those who receive it and is ineffective at changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

History of Conversion Therapy to become a forbidden custom

The history of conversion therapy can be roughly divided into three periods: the early Freudian period, the period when conversion therapy was widely accepted, and the mental health establishment assumed the role of "primary superintendent" of sexuality; and the post-Stonewall period when conversion therapy was renounced by the mainstream medical establishment.

During the early stages of psychoanalytic history, analysts agreed that homosexuality was not abnormal in some circumstances, and the ethical question of whether it should be changed was debated. By the 1920s, analysts felt that homosexuality was pathological and that treatment was necessary, yet Freudian opinion on changing homosexuality was mostly pessimistic.

Those forms of homosexuality regarded as perversions were frequently thought to be incurable. Analysts' tolerance for homosexuality stemmed from an understanding of the difficulty of effecting change. Beginning in the 1930s and for around twenty years, dramatic shifts in how analysts saw homosexuality occurred, resulting in a shift in analyst discourse, with some analysts feeling free to mock and humiliate their gay patients.

21st Century

During the 30 years between Sigmund Freud's (founder of psychoanalysis) death in 1939 and the Stonewall riots, most psychiatric institutions in the United States approved conversion therapy. After a police raid, there was a riot in 1969 at the Stonewall Bar in New York, which marked the beginning of the fight for homosexual liberation and took symbolic significance. Following these incidents, criticism of conversion therapy grew.

The DSM's classification of homosexuality as a mental disease became a major focus of objection to conversion therapy. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) eliminated homosexuality as a mental condition from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973, following years of protest from gay activists and acrimonious debate among psychiatrists. Critics claimed it was the product of pressure from gay activists and requested a vote among the Association's voting members.

The vote was taken in 1974, and 58% of the people approved of the outcome. There is no reliable "research evidence that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective, does sexual orientation need to be changed," according to a position statement published by the APA (American Psychological Association) in 2013. APA further asserts that moral practitioners should support psychotherapies that accept people's sexual orientation and gender identities.

Progression in context to Canada

Conversion therapy has existed in Canada in various forms since the 1950s. It gained prominence during the 1970s and became increasingly used by LGBTQ Canadians. After years of calls for action and previous failed attempts to pass a bill prohibiting conversion therapy, the accelerated all-party effort has been praised by political leaders as well as LGBTQ advocates both in Canada and abroad, despite some after-the-fact concerns raised by a few Conservative MPs.

According to the results of the 2019-2020 Community-Based Research Centre Sex Now Survey, 10% of sexual minority men who responded to the survey had been subjected to conversion therapy practices. The results also showed that lower-income, indigenous, racialized, and gender-diverse persons are disproportionately represented among those exposed to conversion therapy. In their respective provinces, Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI, Yukon, and Qu�bec had passed laws addressing various facets of conversion therapy.

Other jurisdictions had put non-legislative measures in place, such as Manitoba, which released a statement outlining its expectations of the province's medical practitioners to prevent the use of conversion therapy. Some Canadian cities, including Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Lethbridge, Wood Buffalo, and Spruce Grove, Alberta, Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, and Kingston, Ontario, had banned the practice and promotion of conversion therapy.

Formation of the Bill

Previous attempts to pass a bill to ban conversion therapy in Canada were unsuccessful. A similar Bill, known as Bill C-6, was first introduced in October 2020 and was last discussed in the second session of the 43rd Parliament, which ended in August 2021. Bill C-6 did not receive final approval. Concerns were raised about the definition of 'conversion therapy' contained in the Bill, which was considered by many to be exceedingly broad. The Prime Minister ultimately set aside the effort to pass the Bill.

On January 7, 2022, Bill C-4, an expanded version of Bill C-6, passed through the entire parliamentary process, including affirmation by the Senate, and came into effect. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth introduced the Bill on November 29, 2021.

On December 1, members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons unanimously agreed to adopt a motion to pass the Bill expeditiously. Soon after, the Bill was also fast-tracked in the Senate, and on December 7, it was passed without amendment. The Bill received royal assent on December 8, 2021. The Bill itself stipulated that the law would come into force 30 days after it received royal assent.

Contents of the Bill:

The proposed changes to the Criminal Code by Bill C-4 are summarized as follows:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, create the following offenses:
  1. causing another person to undergo conversion therapy;
  2. doing anything to remove a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergoes conversion therapy outside Canada;
  3. promoting or advertising conversion therapy, and
  4. receiving a financial or another material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.
It also amends the Criminal Code to authorize courts to order those advertisements for conversion therapy to be disposed of or deleted.

The definition of 'conversion therapy' set out in Bill C-4 reads as follows:
320.101 In sections 320.102 to 320.104, conversion therapy means a practice, treatment, or service designed to:
  1. change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual;
  2. change a person's gender identity to cisgender;
  3. change a person's gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
  4. repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior;
  5. repress a person's non-cisgender gender identity, or
  6. repress or reduce a person's gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.

For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment, or service that relates to the exploration or development of an integrated personal identity � such as a practice, treatment, or service that relates to a person's gender transition � and that is not based on the assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.

Under Bill C-4, the following acts are considered illegal:
  • Forcing or encouraging someone to undergo conversion therapy
  • Bringing a minor outside of Canada so that they may undergo conversion therapy abroad
  • Making a profit from providing conversion therapy
  • Advertising conversion therapy

Punishments under the Bill
Each of these offenses can also be punished on summary conviction
Bill C-4 amends subsection 164(8) of the Criminal Code to define "advertisement of conversion therapy" as "any material � including a photographic, film, video, audio, or other recording made by any means, a visual representation, or any written material � used to promote or advertise conversion therapy in violation of section 320.103." Furthermore, the bill "amends the Criminal Code to authorize courts to order those advertisements for conversion therapy be disposed of or deleted," including from computer systems or the internet. (Section 2(2) of Bill C-4).

In addition, the Bill expands the existing offense under Criminal Code section 273.3(1)(c), which prohibits the removal of children from Canada for "specified purposes," to include subjecting them to conversion therapy abroad. On indictment, this is also a hybrid offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

Thousands of Canadians have suffered as a result of the aforementioned custom. Misbehavior and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community are unjustified, and thus the practice of Conversion Therapy, which was common in Western countries, is also unjust and illegal. Such pseudoscientific practice, which produces no results, has no justification for inflicting pain and instilling fear in members of the community in society.

By enacting this law, the Canadian Parliament took a significant step toward the betterment of society. In contrast, some other countries only made it possible for parts of their country to accept such a bill; Canada set an example for other countries by joining the list of those who have passed legislation.

Those are Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, and Malta. Argentina, Uruguay, Samoa, Fiji, and Nauru have all indirectly banned the practice, while the United States, Australia, and Spain have outlawed it in certain areas. The prohibition of such a practice allows many people to live the life they were born in without fear of being tortured or harassed by the preachers of conversion therapy.

As a result, the fight against the custom that has taken the form of law is justified and fully accepted by society's liberal minds.

  • REPORT_-_Conversion_Therapy_in_Canada_Nov_2019.pdf (
  • Bill C-4: History, Concerns, and Response - The Gospel Coalition | Canada
  • Conversion therapy - Wikipedia
  • Bill C-4: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) (

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