Conversion Therapy Ban
Conversion therapy refers to any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It is sometimes described as a way to “cure” or “repair” a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Because of the serious harm shown to be connected to this so-called “therapy”, it is a practice that has been widely criticized and opposed by many professional organizations and 2SLGBTQIA+ advocates throughout the world. At time of publication, the practice had been banned in whole or in part in 15 countries including Germany, France, Mexico, and several US states.
In 2021, the Canadian Government passed a law banning conversion therapy practices. This law took effect in 2022, changing the Criminal Code of Canada to make conversion therapy practices and the promotion or advertising of conversion therapy practices a criminal offence.
This booklet will explain where this new law came from, what the new law says, and offer options for resources and support in Newfoundland and Labrador for anyone who may have experienced conversion therapy or knows someone who has.
What is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy is defined in the Criminal Code as any service, practice, or treatment meant to:
Many practices that would fall under the definition of “conversion therapy” use other names, sometimes to hide the intention behind them. Conversion therapy services or practices may involve psychotherapy practices, medical practices, or faith-based practices. Sometimes they are described as:
Why is Conversion Therapy harmful?
Conversion therapy practices have been shown to be very harmful to 2SLGBTQIA+ persons, especially minors.
Many different professional organizations in Canada and throughout the world have denounced conversion therapy, including the World Health Organization, the World Psychiatric Organization, Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, conversion therapy has been opposed by groups including the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Social Workers and many 2SLGBTQIA+ advocates. These organizations and groups have also called for the banning of conversion therapy services, practices, or treatments.
Conversion therapy has been proven to cause harm to persons who experience such practices. Research has found that approximately 1/3 of persons who experienced conversion therapy practices have attempted suicide. Research has also found other health consequences connected to conversion therapy include:
Actions to Ban Conversion Therapy
On November 29, 2021, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to change the Criminal Code of Canada to include new criminal offences to end conversion therapy in Canada. The law took effect on January 7, 2022.
Sections 320.102-4 are the new sections added to the Criminal Code of Canada to outlaw conversion therapy. These sections created four new criminal offences, covering the following actions:
A person who knowingly causes another person to undergo conversion therapy, including by providing conversion therapy to that person could be found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for up to 5 years.
A person who promotes or advertises conversion therapy can be found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for up to 2 years.
A person who receives a financial or material benefit (meaning money or other form of compensation or payment) and knows that the benefit comes either directly or indirectly from conversion therapy practices, can be found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for up to 2 years.
A person who does anything for the purpose of removing a child who normally lives in Canada and is under the age of 18 years old from Canada, with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside of Canada, can be found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for up to 5 years.
Explaining the Powers in the New Law
This law allows for a wide scope of conversion therapy practices, services, or attempts at conversion therapy to be banned. The law includes not just organizations or individuals that offer conversion therapy, but also includes any organization or individual who promotes or advertises conversion therapy practices. It also includes what may be considered informal forms of conversion therapy, such as family or church pressure and practices to conform to hetero and cisgender normativity.
This law also bans different forms of media and communication, including papers, magazines, radio stations, or websites, from being paid to promote conversion therapy. This charge would require the person or organization being paid to promote conversion therapy to do so knowingly.
As well, “providing conversion therapy” includes those that provide other forms of material support for conversion therapy practices such as providing a flight to send a person to undergo conversion therapy or helping remove a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy. This law can also be used to investigate family or community members who might try and send their children to other countries where conversion therapy practices may be more common, including the United States.
Other Changes to the Law
This new law also changed other parts of the Criminal Code and gave the Government new powers in relation to investigating and stopping conversion therapy practices. These changes include:
– Allowing a Judge to issue a warrant to seize recordings, publications, other written material, or other representations that are advertisements for conversion therapy practices.
– Allowing a Judge to order the forfeiture of publications, representations, written materials, or recordings involving the advertising of conversion therapy.
– Allowing a Judge to order the seizure or computer data or computer systems used to create advertising materials for conversion therapy. This can include computers, servers, websites, and any machines used in the production of these types of materials.
Additional resources and definitions for language used throughout can be found here.
If you or someone you know has experienced conversion therapy practices, is being pressured to use conversion therapy practices, or sees these practices being advertised or promoted, there are ways to get help.
The Public Legal Information Association of NL (PLIAN) has a free general legal information line you can contact to find out more:
The Journey Project
The Journey Project is a joint project of PLIAN and the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre that provides free legal advice and navigation for people who have experienced any form of sexual violence.
If you think you may have experienced conversion therapy practices at any time, or know someone who has, you can contact one of the Journey Project’s Legal Support Navigators at:
The Journey Project is free and confidential. There is no requirement to speak to the police if you choose not to do so. Except for the mandatory reporting requirements set out in the provincial Children, Youth, and Families Act and the Adult Protection Act, your information and storywill be kept confidential and private.
RNC or RCMP
The police can start an investigation into the conversion therapy practices or the promotion of these practices and can potentially lay criminal charges against the people involved.
You can contact the closest police detachment to you to make a statement.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) covers criminal investigations on the Northeast Avalon, including St. John’s, as well as in Corner Brook, Labrador City, and Churchill Falls. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) covers criminal investigations in the rest of the province.
There are a number of provincial and regional resources available to support members of the community through any life event.
2SLGBTQIA+ Peer Support Line (Planned Parenthood NL): 1-866-230-8041 (call or text)
Wapanaki Two-Spirit Alliance: 1 800 565 4255
LGBT Youth Group, St. John’s: facebook.com/groups/2slgbtq.pod
Corner Brook Pride: email@example.com
Safe Alliance, Labrador: Safealliance.firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some terms that may be unfamiliar that you have not heard before that we use on this page.
This is the acronym used by the Government of Canada and other organizations and advocates to refer to following communities in Canada: 2S: at the front, recognizes Two-Spirit people as the first 2SLGBTQIA+ communities; L: Lesbian; G: Gay; B: Bisexual; T: Transgender; Q: Queer; I: Intersex, considers sex characteristics beyond sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; A: Asexual or Aromantic, for persons who may not have desires for a sexual or romantic partner; +: is inclusive of people who identify as part of sexual and gender diverse communities, who use additional terminologies.
A person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.
A person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of a different gender than themselves.
Gender expression refers to the various ways in which people choose to express their gender identity. For example: clothes, voice, hair, make-up, etc. A person’s gender expression may not align with societal expectations of gender. It is therefore not a reliable indicator of a person’s gender identity.
Internal and deeply felt sense of being a man or woman, both or neither A person’s gender identity may or may not align with the gender typically associated with their sex. It may change over the course of one’s lifetime.
(also ‘trans’). A person whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
(also Two Spirit or Two-Spirited). An English term used to broadly capture concepts traditional to many Indigenous cultures. It is a culturally-specific identity used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity and/or sexual orientation comprises both male and female spirits.
The idea that heterosexuality is the preferred or “normal” sexual orientation. It assumes that a gender binary exists (meaning that there are only two distinct and opposite genders) and that sexual and marital relations should be between people of opposite sex. A heteronormative view assumes there is a connection between biological sex, sexuality, gender identity and gender roles. Heteronormativity is also often linked to homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination.
 2SLGBTQI+ terminology – Glossary and common acronyms, Women and Gender Equality Canada – 2SLGBTQIA+ Secretariat (https://women-gender-equality.canada.ca/en/free-to-be-me/2slgbtqi-plus-glossary.html)
 GLAAD – Conversion Therapy (https://www.glaad.org/conversiontherapy)
 Newfoundland and Labrador College of Social Workers – Position Statement on Conversion Therapy (https://nlcsw.ca/sites/default/files/inline-files/Conversion_Therapy.pdf)
 “Protecting Canadian sexual and gender minorities from harmful sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts: A brief submitted to the Standing Committee on Health for the Committee’s study of LGBTQ2 Health in Canada”, Travis Salway, PhD (Principal Signatory) (https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/HESA/Brief/BR10447600/br-external/SalwayTravis-2-e.pdf)