Our Letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Regarding Bill C-6

Please use any part of this letter for your own use.

Dear Members of Parliament,

It is unfortunate that Bill C-6 conflates lots of good research and medical statements on the harms of conversion therapy related to sexual orientation with treatment of gender dysphoria. As a supporter of the bill, you appear to be unaware of the potential harm of Bill C-6 to prevent people with gender dysphoria, particularly young people, from getting the psychotherapy help they need before they proceed to irreversible and lifelong medical intervention.

 

Please read this just-published article carefully critiquing the dishonest and politically-motivated research that is now widely cited purporting to support “affirmative care” for people presenting with gender dysphoria as the only option.  

One Size Does Not Fit All:  In Support of Psychotherapy for Gender Dysphoria (Oct 2020)

The caveat in Bill C-6 that "These new offences would not criminalize private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity,” is unclear.  In the current political context, where therapists who did or do not immediately “affirm” a child or youth who is questioning their gender identity fear they will be or have been fired (reference Dr. Kenneth Zucker in Toronto), this is no assurance that they will not be accused of “transphobia” for providing the kind of careful psychological therapy many patients need. 

The politicized singular focus on “affirming therapy” is a gross disservice to children and youth who need thoughtful, evidence-based treatment for their distress. In many cases they need to be supported to accept their homosexuality, or bisexuality, which is still stigmatized, rather than be put on a path to lifelong medicalization as transgender. 

Yes, there are still religious groups and others who are homophobic. Yes, conversion therapy as it is properly understood — trying to change a person’s sexual orientation — is unacceptable and deserving of a prohibition.  

In the government’s news release the links to evidence of the need for this legislation are mostly about homosexuality — yet gender identity is included in this bill at a time when the debate over appropriate treatment for the increasing number of youth presenting as gender dysphoric is polarized, ill-informed and highly politicized. 

I urge you to read this article and think carefully about amending the bill to either remove gender identity or more specifically insert an assurance that medical practitioners will not be subject to spurious and intrusive accusations of providing ‘conversion therapy’ when they are not. The authors argue, "We believe that exploratory psychotherapy that is neither “affirmation” nor “conversion” should be the first-line treatment for all young people with GD, potentially reducing the need for invasive and irreversible medical procedures. This is especially critical now, when we are witnessing an exponential rise in the incidence of young people with GD who have diverse and complex mental health presentations and require careful assessment and treatment planning.”

This clause in the bill’s preamble is also problematic:  “Whereas conversion therapy causes harm to society because, among other things, it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity, including the myth that a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity can and ought to be changed;”  This is inconsistent with the reality that many young people explore different gender identities over time and can decide to change to something new or to detransition.

You owe it to the young people of this country to do no harm to them. In reviewing this bill, please call in medical professionals on all sides of this issue and create a safe space for dialogue to inform your decision. In your zeal to protect the human rights and dignity of all people, please don’t shy away from examining unintended consequences. 

Additional recommended reading:

Submission on Bill C-6 from homosexual and bisexual Canadians

 

Some excerpts:

"With Bill C-6, gender therapy will become the primary form of gay conversion therapy in Canada. The Bill as currently drafted prevents therapists from making good-faith inquiries about whether gender dysphoria could actually be rooted in a negative reaction to same-sex attraction. Someone struggling with internalized homophobia won’t be aware of, or will deny, this fact. But the threat of criminal prosecution at the hands of homophobic parents or distressed clients will have a chilling effect on therapists’ ability to provide appropriate, culturally competent, gay-positive therapy to help clients struggling with their sexuality.”

Personal testimonials from our members demonstrate the profound consequences of not treating some of the mental health issues that commonly accompany gender dysphoria, including sexual abuse, bullying, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and more. Therapists need to be able to assess and apply the appropriate treatment intervention for their clients without risking criminal prosecution.”

"The definition of conversion therapy in this Bill is clear in allowing invasive transition-related medical interventions to continue with no limits on how young the child might be." 

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