Canada passes bill banning ‘conversion therapy,’ and it feels like we are doomed

I don’t know how not to feel depressed and hopeless at the state of my home country anymore. Between the ongoing efforts to keep citizens from gathering, organizing, holding in-person events, and protesting, on account of never-ending, irrational Covid restrictions; the government’s efforts to pass legislation curbing free speech online; and the full-speed-ahead approach to gender identity ideology, I have little hope for Canada.

Back in 2016, I fought tirelessly just to publish anything, anywhere, explaining my concerns about Bill C-16, Canada’s gender identity legislation. Almost no outlet would consider it (certainly not our publicly-funded CBC), except, finally, The National Observer, who did me the favour. As a result, I was invited (via a Conservative senator) to testify against the bill at the Senate — I and Pour les droits des femmes Quebec (PDF), a Quebecois feminist group, were the only women and feminists invited to speak against the bill, and I suggested a representative from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter also make a presentation, to put forward a feminist argument in favour of women-only space.

Our arguments were completely ignored by our left wing political representatives in the NDP, as well as by the Liberal government that proposed the bill, and Bill C-16 passed almost unchallenged. I had suspected as much, but wanted it to at least be on record that there was some push back from women/feminists. The only person who really received any traction on his arguments was Jordan Peterson, who expressed concerns about “compelled speech.”

This trend has persisted ever since. Women’s concerns about the sexism and danger of gender identity ideology have been almost completely ignored by Canadian media and politicians, and the debate has been consistently framed as one of “good, progressive, open-minded people who care about the rights and safety of marginalized groups” vs “evil, religious right bigots who hate gays, lesbians, and trans-identified people.”

This has played out yet again in our attempts to challenge amendments to the “conversion therapy” bill proposed by the Liberals.

Last year, David Lametti, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, reintroduced proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, which would criminalize “conversation therapy,” commonly understood to be the practice of attempting to turn gay people straight. But the proposed amendments in Bill C-6 (which later became Bill C-4) conflated this homophobic practice with the practice of affirming “gender identity.” Lametti told the Canadian House of Commons that “conversion therapy refers to misguided efforts to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay, and lesbian individuals to heterosexual [or to] change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.”

By adding “gender identity” to the bill, the Liberals succeeded in conflating homosexuality with the postmodern notion that one can “feel” like the opposite sex, and that this feeling in fact means you literally are the opposite sex. The new legislation will criminalize those who profit from or advertise “conversion therapy,” including therapists and medical practitioners who do not practice the “affirmative model” — which means confirming an individual’s “trans identity” unquestioningly. Because adults do have the right to make their own choices about their bodies and whether they wish to undergo cosmetic surgery, what we are really talking about here are children and teens — individuals who are not equipped to understand the long-term consequences of medical transition on their bodies and lives, and are sent to therapists before proceeding to hormone blockers, hormone treatment, then surgery. Indeed, therapists should encourage these youth to wait it out, not to rush forward on a path to medical transition — this is the responsible thing to do. Instead, they are now obligated to take the opposite approach.

Yesterday, the Senate passed Bill C-4 with no objections, which means it will be essentially illegal in Canada to question or challenge a child’s declaration of transgender identity and their desire to socially and/or medically “transition” to the opposite sex.

This time around, feminist groups (and many other concerned individuals) did attempt to organize and speak against the bill, but were again ignored by the media, and clearly not taken seriously by politicians.

It is already difficult to question the legitimacy of gender identity ideology in Canada, and already practically impossible to access therapy that might allow a teen to grow out of their desire to transition, as so many do. This new legislation ensures it is now impossible to offer therapy that does not approach transition as the best path.

Moreover, the Liberal government is currently working to push through legislation criminalizing so-called “hate speech” online, which would surely include challenges to gender identity ideology and, for example, make it illegal to use correct pronouns to describe someone who prefers to use the pronouns traditionally reserved for the opposite sex.

Essentially, the Canadian government, considering itself ever-so-progressive, is criminalizing not only feminist speech, but free speech and critical thought as a whole. One will no longer be permitted to challenge government orthodoxy in Canada, and dissenters will not only be silenced, but punished under the law.

It is terrifying, and means an end to democracy and civil liberties in Canada.

The only solution is non-compliance — with all of it, though my solution has been to leave Canada, with the knowledge that I can no longer work and exist in my country without persecution. I will absolutely continue to speak and work for women’s rights and constitutional freedoms everywhere, including in Canada, but not based out of my home country. It is difficult for me to envision a free future when so few are standing up and fighting back, and when our political representatives refuse to respect and hear our concerns, voices, and rights. We the people are our only hope — and I hope we fail to comply.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her very beautiful dog.