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The federal government has voted to pass a bill to ban conversion therapy in the country

By Sophia Lopez, December 30 2021—

Canada’s House of Commons has recently voted to pass Bill C-4 — a bill that bans conversion therapy for adults and children in the country. This updated bill had no opposition and will provide a better outline for what constitutes conversion therapy.

Across the country, there are organizations that help conversion therapy survivors and support those in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community such as the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC). This non-profit charitable organization has been active for 20 years and they continue to advocate for more support from the government and the community as a whole.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Michael Kwag, the director of knowledge exchange and policy development at the CBRC, discussed the significance of Bill C-4 and how this is a positive effort made by the federal government. 

“The bill is definitely a significant improvement from the previous iterations of the bill,” said Kwag. “We’re quite pleased to see that this bill will ensure stronger protections for more queer and trans people who are impacted by conversion therapy practices in Canada.”

Kwag said that in the previous bills to ban conversion therapy, there was a consent clause involved that did not allow for the proper protection of everyone within the community.

“Specifically, I would say that the removal of the consent clause ­— which was a problematic piece in the previous iterations of the bill — the removal of that clause, and ensuring that there were broader protections for everyone, including adults, was really a significant win for survivors and advocates who have been asking for that change in this newer version of the bill,” he said.

The CBRC has been advocating for the termination of conversion therapy in Canada through their research initiatives, such as conducting surveys across the country and producing a policy brief to provide education on conversion therapy practices, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Kwag explains how the data collected over the years has exposed some chilling facts about the effects of conversion therapy.

“We’ve been primarily tackling the issue of conversion therapy through our research initiatives,” said Kwag. “Following that work, we started to get a better sense as to the extent of the problem, which basically revealed that there were thousands of queer and trans people who have been impacted by these horrific, harmful discredited practices — we knew we needed to do something about that.”

Although the passing of Bill C-4 is appreciated by the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Kwag believes more can still be done by the federal government and the community to support conversion therapy survivors. 

“This is an incredibly important step, [but] it’s going to take much more than a criminal law to not only prevent this practice from happening, but to be able to support those that have already been impacted,” he said. “It’s about looking at multiple points in which we can ensure that the next generation of queer and trans people are able to come out, explore their true, full selves in a way that is going to be inclusive and affirming for what they’re going through.”

Kwag opened up about being a survivor himself, and that the vote to pass Bill C-4 and being in Ottawa for that moment was incredibly powerful.

“Being able to witness what took place on Monday, and then later in the week, seeing the bill passed unanimously in the house so quickly — it was truly an encouraging experience for me,” said Kwag. “It really means the world to me, and I truly feel privileged to have played any part in it.”

Kwag is hopeful for the future of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and he encourages the federal government and the community to continue to show support for conversion therapy survivors.

“The Community-Based Research Centre promotes health and well-being of people of diverse sexualities and genders,” said Kwag. “I truly do hope that once this bill passes, that it leads to a continued conversation at all levels of government and across different sectors in our society, to push the conversation further in terms of how we can build on this important piece.”

To find out more about the CBRC and how to support conversion therapy survivors and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, visit www.cbrc.net.

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