Jonathon Van Maren

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Three reasons why Canada’s so-called ‘conversion therapy ban’ would be dangerous

Let ‘pastors, priests, church leaders … know how damaging this Bill is, especially for the LGBT community and kids needing help.’
Tue Jan 5, 2021 - 10:34 am EST
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January 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Earlier this month, I interviewed Jose Ruba, a Canadian who has struggled with same-sex attraction, for my LifeSiteNews podcast (The Van Maren Show). He detailed how Trudeau’s so-called “conversion therapy ban” would make it illegal for people like him to seek the therapy that they want to live the lives they desire, and the ugly totalitarian over-reach the legislation represents. Ruba testified before the Justice Committee to explain why the Liberal bill is dangerous along with several other Canadians with similar experiences in the hopes that parliamentarians would amend the law.

Canada’s “conversion therapy ban” is part of a wave of such laws being passed worldwide, an effort that constitutes the next step of the LGBT agenda to move from “equality” and “tolerance” to criminalizing opposition to their lifestyles and ideology. The traditional Christian position is being demonized in the mainstream press in truly vile ways, with words and religious practices being equated with violence. The BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, for example, lumped prayer for those with same-sex attraction into the same category as rape, stating: “While some violent practices which may be classed as conversion therapy, such as ‘corrective rape’, are already covered by existing criminal offences, many religious practices, such as ‘group prayer’, are not.”

In summary, “conversion therapy bans” are necessary because “violent practices” such as “group prayer” are not yet banned as criminal offences. Don’t think that prosecution won’t follow such laws, either. Olaf Latzel, a pastor of the Evangelical Church of Germany St. Martini in Bremen, was recently given a fine of 8,100 euros for making comments opposing homosexuality during a marriage seminar. Those who do not believe that these laws will not be used to prosecute and silence Christian speech have not been watching the LGBT agenda unfold over the past several years, and have not been listening to what our ideological opponents are saying.

In fact, the Trudeau Liberals responded to the objections posed by Canadians such as Jose Ruba by amending the bill — and actually making it worse. I followed up with Ruba to get his reaction and analysis to the changes.

What are the greatest concerns you have with this legislation?

There are three main concerns with this legislation:

Well-meaning people want to pass the law without understanding its implications to LGBT Canadians.

I realized when I spoke to MPs, staffers and others on Parliament Hill, that many of them did not fully understand the problems with the Bill, whether they supported it or not. The proponents kept talking about how important it is to protect LGBT people, which no one disagrees with. What we disagree with is that this specific “conversion therapy” is the best protection for LGBT people. The Conservatives talked about how vague the law is but didn’t seem to give a reason why the vagueness is a problem.

What someone needs to say is the vague definition of “conversion therapy” results in discrimination against LGBT Canadians. The law defines conversion therapy using a definition that no North American medical or professional body, like the Canadian Psychology Association, uses. They define it as a specific therapy (with a licensed professional) that aims to change someone’s orientation. In contrast, the government’s bill expands that to include any “practice, treatment or service” that aims to reduce “non-heterosexual attractions or behaviour.” As witnesses pointed out, “practice, treatment or service” is never defined in Bill C-6. Kris Wells used almost the exact same definition in crafting the municipal “conversion therapy” bans in Alberta. In his testimony before Edmonton’s city council, he indicated that this definition would ban simply praying for an LGBT person who wants their non-heterosexual behaviour, reduced. No such ban exists for heterosexual Canadians.

A gay Catholic witness to the Justice Committee also pointed out that there are many reasons someone may want to reduce unwanted sexual behaviour of any kind. They may want to reduce a porn or sex addiction or to end an extramarital affair. But if Bill C-6 passes, only those aiming to reduce heterosexual behaviour would be allowed to get the help of their choice but adults seeking to reduce non-heterosexual behaviour would only be allowed to get free counseling. Those under 18 who want to reduce this kind of behaviour, wouldn’t be allowed to get any counseling at all. This means consenting LGBT patients are going to have their counseling sessions criminalized. Even those who don’t seek to change their orientations but simply want to reduce unwanted non-heterosexual behaviour could not get professional help unless it was offered for free.

Counseling bodies such as the Canadian Psychological Association have professional standards that respect the right of patients to determine the outcomes for their counseling sessions. Therapists aim to guide their clients to the outcome their clients choose. As some of the Justice Committee witnesses asked, if therapists don’t determine outcomes for their patients, why should the government determine outcomes for LGBT Canadians?

Colette Aikema, one of my colleagues, spoke to the committee about how she was gang raped and faced unwanted non-heterosexual attractions and behaviour, including the use of gay porn. As a Christian and as a married (to a man) mom of three kids, she didn’t want to act on those feelings and got the support she wanted to reduce those behaviours and attractions. She testified that both the secular counseling she received and the religious support group she joined would be criminalized if Bill C-6 becomes law.

The NDP member of the Justice Committee, Randal Garrison, tried to argue that the Bill won’t ban the counseling Colette received because it wasn’t “conversion therapy.” However, he never explained why he thought this, given her experience included a “practice, treatment or service” that “reduced” her “non-heterosexual behaviour.” Garrison actually made the Bill worse by introducing an amendment that narrowed an exemption from the ban. The original wording exempted people who wanted to explore their sexual feelings or identity. This would not protect Colette because she wasn’t interested in “exploring” her feelings, just reducing them. The new wording that Garrison proposed would only allow for counseling that would not “[favour] any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” In other words, someone like Colette who wants to “favour” heterosexual behaviour, would definitely not be allowed to get paid, professional counseling even more so than under the original wording.

It’s important the government bans coercive counseling and torture. We all agree with that goal. But coercive counseling is already against the professional codes of the governing bodies of psychologists and counselors. Torture is already in the criminal code. If they truly wanted to ban those practices, why are those words not even in the wording of the Bill? Instead, by leaving the definition broad and vague, it ends up discriminating against LGBT Canadians and criminalizing their counseling sessions. Any paid counselor who does provide help could go to jail for 2-5 years.

Children and parents will lose support they want.

Bill C-6 prevents adults from paying for any professional help they want. But it’s worse for kids and their parents. Youth under 18 would be denied support unless the counseling or therapy affirms their non-heterosexual behaviour or attractions or gender identity and expression. This means even if a 16-year-old wants to “reduce” non-heterosexual porn use, she would be prevented from getting that counseling, free or paid.

Canadian law already recognizes that at 16 a child may be mature enough to get married though even then, only with their parents’ permission. Bill C-6 would, however, prevent that same 16-year-old from getting counseling they want, even with their parents’ support. Moreover, the Bill would permit five-year-olds changing their gender identity without their parents’ knowledge or support. If they are mature enough to transition to another gender then, why aren’t they mature enough to get married? The Bill ends up treating five-year-olds the same way as 16-year-olds, without respecting the younger children’s diminished capacity to understand long-term consequences.

The challenges to this kind of thinking are already evident in Europe. A U.K. case actually just came down while this Bill was being debated in Canada. There, the high court sided with a 23-year-old who argued young people do not have capacity to understand all the long-term consequences of gender transitioning. The woman took a government-run facility that helped her transition at 16 to court. She argued that she wasn’t old enough to understand the consequences of the hormones and other treatments she was given to transition to male. As she got older, she realized that she didn’t really want to transition. But by then it was too late as she was already experiencing consequences of the transition which include early bone loss, sterility and life-long medication use.

The U.K. court ruled in her favour, stating that children can no longer get hormone treatments to alter their gender unless they are fully informed about the consequences. Other European countries are starting to accept this common-sense approach. In contrast, Bill C-6 strips away the rights of parents to protect their children from their own immature requests. But even if a five-year-old child asks for counseling to reduce their unwanted behaviour, parents and any counselor who helps that child reduce that behaviour, can go to jail under this law.

Another amendment that Garrison proposed and was passed was the addition of a ban on the reduction of “gender expression.” The problem of course is the Bill doesn’t define “gender expression.” Surprisingly, the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) MP on the committee asked some very important questions of the government and its lawyers. Usually, BQ MPs are not sympathetic to our views. But in this case, the MP said the addition of that phrase made the Bill much too broad. He raised this scenario with the government lawyers: What if your five-year-old boy wants to wear high heels and a dress? The other kindergarteners make fun of him and you encourage him to not dress that way until he is older and more prepared for others’ reactions. If you bring that child to a therapist who helps reduce this gender expression, would you now be aiding and abetting a criminal act? The government lawyer clearly evaded that question, suggesting she didn’t want to admit in this scenario that a parent could go to jail if Bill C-6 is passed.

In fact, the government intends to insert this Bill into the Criminal Code beside its ban on child pornography, insisting that offering counseling a child wants is akin to sexually exploiting a child. That simply makes no sense.

This Bill treats disagreement as hate.

The last main concern about the Bill is that it treats disagreement as hate. The proponents of the Bill insist that anyone who offers help to LGBT people who want to reduce unwanted sexual behaviour is providing something akin to torture. This is because in their view, in order to care for our LGBT neighbours, we must embrace any sexual or gender identity they declare themselves to be. Disagreeing with that identity, even for a child as young as five, must stem from hatred of an LGBT person, rather than concern.

Billions of people around the world hold the view that sex should only occur between a man and woman who are married. This is the fundamental teaching of most world religions. This Bill is based on the premise that LGBT Canadians cannot believe this or cannot live according to these beliefs — we must prioritize our sexual attractions over our religious faiths. My story, and that of millions of other Canadians, show this is a lie. Even if you disagree with our personal beliefs on sexuality, I would hope Canadians respect our right to personally live out these beliefs for ourselves. Yet this Bill would say I am allowed to live a chaste life as an unmarried male but cannot seek professional counseling with someone I choose who upholds the values I do. That is a violation of my Charter rights.

No one suggests that if I uphold the traditional view of marriage that I hate single people who have sex. I don’t hate them. I simply think they harm themselves when they don’t follow what I believe is God’s plan for sex. In the same way, I can disagree with members of the LGBT community about their gender identity or sexual behaviour and not hate them.

When we judge the motivations of other Canadians who disagree with our values as “hate” or treat disagreement as torture, we can no longer have a democracy. Democracy by very definition starts with the premise that we must live among a group of people who don’t always agree with each other but respect each other’s right to live according to their wishes. Instead of banning opposition, we seek ways to live together despite our differences. In fact, the true definition of tolerance is that you put up with ideas and people you disagree with. If you ban views you don’t like, you cannot be tolerant.

Remember: Disagreement is not hate. Agreement is not always love.

You and others testified before the justice committee on this law. What was the effect of that?

I think the political leadership of the parties have already decided what they want to do. However, by being able to share our own personal experiences with counseling, we could push back on the narrative that no one of their own free will seeks to reduce non-heterosexual behaviour. For example, several witnesses to the committee claimed 100% of people who have gone through what they define as “conversion therapy” were coerced. Simply by speaking to that committee, we could point out the lie to that claim. This helped encourage MPs, including the Bloc MP, to understand just how badly worded this Bill is.

Amendments have been made to this bill. Have they been positive or negative?

They’ve made the Bill worse. I’ve already mentioned the addition of gender expression and the narrowing of the exemption. The other significant amendment was modifying the wording that bans advertising of “conversion therapy.” By adding the word “promotion” to what is banned, the government aims to ban even free advertising or promotion of what they deem as conversion therapy.

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When we were fighting our “conversion therapy” ban by-law in Calgary, the city’s lawyers explained that simply verbally inviting someone to counseling would be considered promoting “conversion therapy.” They specifically mentioned that if a pastor verbally invited someone to a counseling session at his own church and that counseling aimed to reduce unwanted non-heterosexual behaviour, it would be considered “advertising.” In other words, this Bill would dictate what support churches can verbally announce at their own services.

If this bill passes as is, what will our legal status quo be?

It won’t be status quo. It will make radical changes to how we parent our children, how much support LGBT Canadians can get and how believers can support those LGBT friends. Churches, Christians and people of many faiths or no faith, will be targeted for their beliefs. Already in Calgary, we are seeing churches shying away from teaching and practicing their faith. Our conversion therapy by-law, which was passed in the spring, has resulted in churches refusing to talk about sexuality, pastors not returning the calls of LGBT people and conferences disinviting speakers who uphold the traditional view of marriage.

What can people do to respond?

MPs will vote on the amended Bill after their Christmas break at the end of January. Unfortunately, we expect that only 40 of the MPs, all Conservative, will vote against the Bill. After talking to MPs and their staffers, I realized most of them don’t truly understand how bad this Bill is. We must tell our MPs that they can support a “conversion therapy” ban but they shouldn’t support this one if they want to protect the rights of all Canadians, including LGBT Canadians. In particular, we must contact the Opposition Leader’s Office. They are the ones who are discouraging Conservative MPs from speaking out against this Bill. If we can get them to oppose this Bill, many other Conservative MPs will vote our way.

Most importantly, tell your pastors, priests, church leaders and neighbours. Let them know how damaging this Bill is, especially for the LGBT community and kids needing help. The saddest thing I heard from an MP is that he went to large churches in his Alberta riding, a very safe and very conservative area, and the churches had no idea about this Bill. This tells me that we need to educate our church friends first and then teach them to educate others.

One way to get educated is to join us for a Zoom meeting on Jan 7th at an event we’re calling the Ambassador Training Event. The event is in conjunction with groups across Canada, working under the banner of Free to Care. The Zoom meeting will feature speakers who’ll share legal advice, medical facts and personal testimonies of how this law will affect Canadians. The seminar is free. The only thing we ask is that if you attend, you consider hosting a similar event for your church or school or denomination. We need Christians and others to be educated about this Bill and then begin conversations about it with their friends and their Members of Parliament. You can register HERE.


  bill c-6, conversion therapy, homosexuality, jose ruba, transgenderism

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