Canada has approved a law banning “conversion therapy” and criminalizing profiting off the discredited, anti-LGBTQ practice with sentences of two to five years in prison.
The legislation — which describes the practice as seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender — makes promoting the practice a criminal offense and authorizes courts to order the removal of ads for it. The bill became law Wednesday after members of Parliament passed it unanimously this month.
“It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent — meaning it is now law,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.
LGBTQ rights activists welcomed the ban covering all ages, which had faced opposition from some Christian groups.
“My wish that nobody can go through what I’ve went through is officially a reality … We did it!” tweeted Matt Ashcroft, a Canadian gay rights activist who had spoken before in the House of Commons about his experience at a camp that engaged in the practice. “The saddest thing … is we had to go this far to tell the world that we are being hurt.”
France’s Senate also voted to outlaw “conversion therapy” this week, after the lower house of Parliament approved a draft proposal led by members of President Emmanuel Macron’s party.
If that law takes effect, France will join Canada and a handful of countries including Germany, Brazil and Malta that have banned the practice, which the World Health Organization has discredited and the United Nations has described as akin to “torture.”
The umbrella term “conversion therapy” can refer to a range of attempts to alter sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, such as psychotherapy and religious counseling. Some of the most extreme measures have included electric shock therapy, hormone regimens, physical abuse and internment.
Medical opinion has shifted since the late 20th century, with studies highlighting links between the interventions and psychological distress. The American Medical Association has backed calls for a ban in the United States, where 20 states have prohibitions in place for minors, though religious organizations are often exempt.
In France, the legislation that would criminalize the practice could include prison sentences of two to three years and fines up to $50,000.
“Being yourself is not a crime,” the country’s equality minister, Élisabeth Moreno, told lawmakers this week. “Homosexuality and trans identity are not diseases that can be cured. There is nothing to cure.”