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Ottawa has tabled a bill that would criminalize conversion therapies in all cases involving minors and prevent anyone from forcing adults to go through the process.

In addition, the legislation tabled on Monday by Justice Minister David Lametti prevents anyone from charging a fee for a conversion therapy, from advertising the service or from removing a minor from Canada to undergo treatment in another country. Bill C-8 defines a conversion therapy as a treatment or service that is “designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender,” as well as efforts to repress non-heterosexual attraction or behaviour.

The legislation would create five new offences under the Criminal Code that would be punishable by up to five years in prison.

Mr. Lametti said the government decided not to criminalize conversion therapies for willing adults because of a concern that the measure would not survive a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge. However, he denounced conversion therapies as a harmful relic of the past with no basis in science.

“It sends a demeaning and degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals and the LGBTQ2 community as a whole. Contrary to what some might say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to who you are or who you love,” he said during a news conference.

Mr. Lametti said the legislation will not prevent parents from having conversations with their children about their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor will it stop health professionals, teachers and faith leaders from providing support to people with these questions.

“What is being targeted here are those who are actively working and providing services designed to change someone’s identity based on preconceived notions about how someone ought to be or ought to behave,” he said.

Reverend Cheri DiNovo of the Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, who has worked on a provincial ban against conversion therapies in Ontario, said the federal proposal will help send a message that the practice is wrong and needs to stop.

“It is a criminal activity, it results in the death of children,” she said in reference to increased suicide rates among therapy survivors.

Still, a survivor who participated in the government’s announcement raised questions about the legislation’s ability to put an effective end to conversion therapies.

“My conversion therapy was not just detrimental talk therapy, it was the continual, systemic denial of medical affirmations to my gender. My body is a prison because of what my conversion therapist did to me,” Erika Muse told reporters. “I don’t know if I can truly say that this bill would stop what he did to me.”

NDP MP Randall Garrison said his party supports the Liberal government’s goal and will be working to ensure Parliament adopts “the most comprehensive bill banning conversion therapy in the world.”

“[The legislation] acknowledges that no one in my community needs fixing. That seems obvious to state, but many people do not believe that,” he said. “Secondly, it acknowledges the harm that is done when there is an attempt to alter someone’s sexual orientation, their gender identity or gender expression.”

The Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party also issued news releases saying they support a ban against conversion therapies.

"Conservatives absolutely oppose any so-called therapy or treatment that forces a person to try and change their sexual orientation against their will. We do not support any actions that violate the Criminal Code and we support the basic rights and freedoms afforded to every Canadian,” Conservative MP Rob Moore said.