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Conversion therapy to be illegal in Canada in 30 days

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The federal legislation to ban conversion therapy practices in Canada received royal assent on Wednesday, meaning the bill is now a law, but the new criminal offences won’t be in effect until early January.

Per the coming-into-force provisions of the bill, the four new Criminal Code violations will be enacted 30 days after it received royal assent, which will be Jan. 7.

That means that in a month it will be illegal to subject someone of any age, consenting or not, to so-called conversion therapy.

As of Jan. 7 it will be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to cause another person to undergo conversion therapy, and if someone is found to be promoting, advertising, or profiting from providing the practice, they could face up to two years in prison.

After the federal government tabled Bill C-4 on Nov. 29, MPs unanimously agreed to swiftly pass the bill through all legislative stages in the House of Commons without changes on Dec. 1.

The bill was then sent to the Senate, seeing Senators also unanimously agreed on Dec. 7 to pass the legislation with little debate and no committee study.

The accelerated all-party support for the bill has been praised by political leaders as well as by LGBTQ2S+ advocates, who have been pushing for years to see these new protections against the harmful practice enacted after unsuccessful past attempts.

“The passing of Bill C-4 and the unanimous support it received from every official in Parliament sends a clear message to LGBTQ2 Canadians: you are valid and deserving of a life free from harm,” said Nicholas Schiavo, founder of No Conversion Canada in a joint statement with U.S.-based LGBTQ2S+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention advocacy group The Trevor Project. “Today, as we celebrate this historic moment, we must thank survivors and their tireless advocacy to reach this moment where conversion ‘therapy’ is finally outlawed in our country.”

Justice Minister David Lametti, who sponsored the government legislation, and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien called the success of Bill C-4 “an important achievement.”

“The consensus demonstrated by Parliamentarians in Canada is a part of an emerging global consensus surrounding the real and life - long harms for conversion therapy victims and survivors… Canada’s criminal laws on conversion therapy are among the most comprehensive in the world.”

Several provinces and municipalities across Canada have already sought to outlaw conversion therapy in their jurisdictions, including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Yukon, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. 

“I’m glad the senators took an approach of moving quickly in unanimity like we did in the Commons. I want to thank them for their work,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on Wednesday on Parliament Hill. His party was the one to initiate the unanimous consent motions in both chambers after the Liberals made LGBTQ2S+ rights and the Conservatives’ past opposition to the bill as a wedge issue in the 2021 federal election.

Bill C-4 has now become the first bill to fully pass the 44th Parliament, and is the first bill to receive royal assent in a ceremony presided over by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon.

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