Threat to individual conscience and moral dissent seen in details of Bill C-6 ban on conversion therapy

Bill C-314 would amend the Criminal Code to provide that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person can receive medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide. (Image from

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The Catholic Church and other religious organizations continue to express concern that a proposed bill that would ban conversion therapy for youth in Canada could expose religious views on human sexuality to criminal sanction. Meanwhile, the Liberal government and even some Conservative Opposition MPs who support the bill dismiss those concerns.

“Bill C-6: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)” would make it illegal to advertise services related to conversion therapy, force someone to undergo conversion therapy, remove a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad and profit from providing conversion therapy.

The definition of conversion therapy according to the federal government is “a practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual’s gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth.”

While Bill C-6 would ban all conversion therapy for youth, “the bill does not criminalize the provision of conversion therapy to a consenting adult if no money or other material benefit is received for providing such therapy” and it “does not make it a criminal offence for a consenting adult to seek or receive conversion therapy,” according to the government.

And while religious organizations – such as the Catholic Church and other mainstream religious organizations such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Christian Charities and the Christian Legal Fellowship among others – do indicate support for some form of control over forced conversion therapy, there are also serious concerns expressed about religious freedom related to the government imposing and legislating a vision and viewpoint on human sexuality.

In a brief submitted to parliament by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, that organization expresses concern, like the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, that the wording of the bill could lead to religious teaching on sexuality being criminalized.

“There is support within the evangelical community for the objective of Bill C-6, which is to protect Canadians from the damaging effects of practices that have been widely discredited,” stated the Fellowship’s brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

“We agree that there is no place in our communities or our country for coercive, involuntary, or abusive practices. At the same time, we have serious concerns with the very broad definition of conversion therapy in Bill C-6,” the brief continued. “The proposed definition goes beyond prohibiting involuntary, abusive or coercive change efforts and lacks critical clarity about what kinds of activities might fall within the bounds of the proposed legislation.”

The Evangelical Fellowship’s brief stated: “We strongly urge amendments to the bill in order to clarify its provisions and ensure it is consistent with fundamental Charter freedoms. If unamended, this legislation would have a significant chilling effect on expression on matters of human sexuality and gender. Interpreted broadly, it could criminalize the expression of deeply held beliefs.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) also raises the same concern.

“The protection of vulnerable Canadians from harmful acts is a necessary and important goal and one which the Bishops irrevocably support,” the CCCB said in a statement Oct. 7, 2020. The CCCB statement goes on to stress that Bill C-6 is “generic in its scope and ambiguous in its language, and thus its application could be overextended and interpreted to include what are and should remain lawful activities.”

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Most mainstream religious organizations that have issues with how the courts will eventually interpret the wording of Bill C-6 have been careful not to express support for conversion therapy in practice. However, other socially conservative organizations such as the Campaign Life Coalition, have labeled the bill an attack on religious freedom and part of an anti-Christian agenda.

The Campaign Life Coalition has created a “Stop The Ban” website ( that calls Bill C-6 an “unprecedented assault on civil liberties, religious freedom and Christianity itself.”

“If passed, Bill C-6 will jail parents for affirming gender-confused children in the sex they were born, pastors for providing spiritual guidance and therapists for counselling clients who voluntarily ask for help with unwanted sexual feelings,” claims the Stop the Ban website.

Federal Justice Minster David Lametti has repeatedly dismissed that possibility in his public statements about Bill C-6 and in the government’s response to the numerous petitions that have been filed in the House of Commons that ask for the government to change Bill C-6.

When Bill C-6 passed second reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 308-7, including support from Opposition Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, numerous Conservative MPs supported the bill during debate on Bill C-6 in October and sided with the Liberal government in dismissing some of the concerns being raised by opponents.

Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said during debate on the bill that concerns that the bill will infringe on religious freedom are overblown.

“This bill proposes limits that are rationally connected to the goal of protecting LGBTQ2 Canadians,” she said, adding “it does not arbitrarily infringe on religious freedom.”

“In my view, the spirit and value of religious freedoms is to protect individuals so they may practise their faith. Many existing provisions in our Criminal Code, however, already limit what actions might be taken in the name of that. Religious freedom does not extend to harming others,” Rempel said.

“To be clear, this does not mean that Bill C-6 somehow infringes on parents’ rights to talk to their children about sex and sexuality. It does not infringe on parents’ rights to hold the belief that homosexuality is wrong, which is, again, a belief I fully reject. It does not infringe on those parents’ rights to express that belief either.

“It does, as has been stated over and over, prevent any practice, treatment, or service, designed to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Bill C-6 draws the line at turning that belief into a practice designed to change fundamentally who someone is, and in so doing, prevents harm to their person,” Rempel said.