More questions than clarity regarding Bill C-6, with concerns about the definition of conversion therapy in the proposed law

By Alison Bradish, Archdiocese of Regina News

[This Archdiocese of Regina News item is re-published with permission.]

Should the city of Regina endorse Bill C-6, a federal bill that would ban any practice, treatment, or service aimed at reducing sexual behaviour?

The city of Regina scheduled time to hear from 26 delegates who requested to speak to the Community Wellness Committee April 14, 2021 about a recommendation for the committee to ask the mayor of Regina to write to the federal government in support of Bill C-6.

Another meeting had to be scheduled to continue the discussion as 10 of the delegates did not get a chance to speak at the first meeting.

Many speakers raised concerns about the wording of Bill C-6, which will criminalize “conversion therapy.”

Some questioned how the bill would affect the ability of parents, counsellors, pastors etc. to speak openly about certain behaviours. Others said Bill C-6 is discriminatory for those in the LGBTQ community because it discriminates based on orientation.

Delegates in favour of the recommendation implored the city to ban conversion therapy because it was the right thing to do and showed solidarity with the LGBTQ community.  One delegate said the reason a municipal bylaw was necessary was that a federal election could be called, and Bill C-6 would take further time to become law in Canada; therefore, municipalities needed to take a stand.

As of December 2020, the federal bill defines conversion therapy as: “A practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender or gender expression to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour or non-cisgender gender expression. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Bill C-6 is a complaint-based model, meaning someone who overhears a conversation could raise a complaint.

Under Bill C-6, the following would be considered Criminal Code offenses:

  1. Causing a person to undergo conversion therapy without their consent
  2. Causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy
  3. Removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad
  4. Advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy
  5. Receiving a financial or other material benefit from providing conversation therapy

Jose Ruba is the Communications Director of Free to Care, a Canadian group opposed to Canada’s conversion therapy, saying it discriminates against those in the LGBTQ community who want to access supports without government interference.  The group says torture and coercive counselling is already illegal in Canada under the Canadian Criminal Code, and therefore legislation directed at conversion therapy is not needed.

Ruba addressed the Regina city council committee expressing how no other country, or worldwide organizations, such as the United Nations, has so broad a definition of conversion therapy as Canada’s government is attempting to create with Bill C-6.  He has researched 152 definitions of conversion therapy from various countries and notes Canada’s ban is particularly alarming because of the addition of the wording about reducing sexual behaviour.

In an interview after the meeting, Ruba said he has been watching and meeting with city councils across the country because people want to know the implications of what is being proposed and discussed.

“Frankly, I think church leadership of all denominations need to speak out because this bill is so massively intrusive to the rights of LGBTQ people, particularly those of faith, but also for the rights of those who offer support to LGBTQ people who want to come to churches for support,” says Ruba.

Ruba, a same-sex attracted person who is choosing to live a celibate life, sought out counselling in Ottawa as a student.  He says the counselling he paid for and wanted, would be made criminal under Bill C-6.  Also, under Bill C-6, a friend who shared the name of the counsellor could be seen as promoting conversion therapy and face jail time.

“Every world religion teaches something about reducing sexual behaviour of some kind…we believe God designed us in a way that our sexuality should honour Him and used for His Glory, and that is a different worldview than that we heard in the meeting.  The point is that is our choice, though.  What this bill does is prevent us from practicing that choice,” says Ruba.

Dr. Brett Salkeld, theologian with the Archdiocese of Regina, wonders why amendments could not be made to the text of Bill C-6 to make the intention of the law clearer.

He says the Church wants to make careful distinctions that the federal bill and the bylaws of many municipalities fail to make.

“We would affirm the intention of the federal bill as we understand it…we are against any coercive or manipulative counseling practices. It is pretty clear that certain kinds of things like trying to change people’s basic orientation by threats of hellfire don’t work and, in fact, lead to terrible outcomes for people,” says Salkeld.

However, Salkeld points out that people seek counseling for all sorts of reasons related to their sexuality, whether that is trying to understand themselves better or eliminate unwanted behaviours.

He notes the way in which Bill C-6 is drafted makes it illegal to seek out help to limit homosexual behaviour, even if the person wants to.

“It actually ends up discriminating against the very group they are supposed to be protecting because they can’t seek all kinds of help that opposite-sex attracted people can seek,” says Salkeld.

“A further consideration is that it is not only professional counseling but conversations at your school or with your pastor, or even in your family, could conceivably be illegal under this bill,” says Salkeld noting proponents of the ban indicate this is not the intention.

However, Salkeld referred to Cardinal Collins comments made during an intervention with the justice sub-committee.  At that time, Collins noted the intention is not what is written within the law, so why not rewrite the law, so the intention matches the text?

“In this Bill there is no requirement that the practise, treatment or service in question be coercive or cause harm. The Bill fails to define exactly what constitutes a practice, treatment or service.  Actions which are now lawful could be subject to the criminal code.” – Cardinal Collins during testimony at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Juustice and Human Rights.

Cardinal Collins Bill C-6 Testimony Link to Video

“We (church leaders) said several years ago that the logic behind the assisted suicide law was going to lead in a certain direction and people said, ‘whoa no, that’s not the intention, don’t cry wolf’, all this stuff, and sure enough it happens.  We need to be vigilant that the law actually says what it’s suppose to say, and it’s aimed at the goals that we can agree are good goals, and doesn’t accidentally paint with this overly broad-brush,” says Salkeld.

For now, the city of Regina will continue its deliberations about the recommendation to support Bill C-6.

Saskatoon banned conversion therapy with a bylaw passed in February 2021. During the debate, Saskatoon city council heard from a number of church representatives and others opposing the bylaw, as well as those in favour. The Saskatoon bylaw also reflects the Bill C-6 definition of conversion therapy.

In their statement about Bill C-6, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says: “The Bill makes no provision for legitimate diversity concerning viewpoints on human sexuality arising from religious beliefs, from philosophical debate, or from scientific and medical study; nor does it make any provision for conscientious dissent related to such matters in forums of teaching or public presentations.”

Statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Bill C-6 – English  / French

An online Fix the Definition” petition  at is asking government to BOTH ban “coercive, degrading practices that are designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity” and at the same time ENSURE that no laws discriminate against Canadians by limiting what services they can receive based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; that the law allows parents to speak with their own children about sexuality and gender, and set family rules about sex and relationships; that the law allows free and open conversations about sexuality and sexual behaviour; and that the law not criminalize professional and religious counseling voluntarily requested and consented to by LGBTQ2 Canadians.

“Fix the Definition” petition online: LINK

Contact Members of Parliament to express concerns about Bill C-6: MP information

Find other resources and information on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon website: LINK

Related: “Irish moves to ban LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ will help silence religion, critics warn” – CNA Article