Conversion therapy for youth needs federal ban

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Conversion therapy’s sustained traumatic impact on LGBTQ+ youth has permanent repercussions on their lives and harms their sense of self-worth. 
 
Over 2,500 Canadians have recently signed an online petition pressing the federal government to ban conversion therapy—the practice of trying to counsel LGBTQ+ youth to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
 
While illegal in Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, conversion therapy practitioners operate quietly in other provinces, convincing youth their identity is abnormal and wrong.
 
Conversion therapy is often religiously motivated, and has been formally rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in the country. The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), for example, has stated the practice’s negative outcomes, “including distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image,” and “personal failure.”
 
Youth in Canada need the federal government’s denial of conversion therapy to both symbolically and practically defend their fundamental right to safety. 
 
Symbolically, the federal government’s ban or criminalization of conversion therapy would protect young people. Conversion therapy teaches youth their attractions are wrong or immoral—and no child should be taught they’re defective.
 
The imposition of abusive ideals on a developing person is troubling, yet it makes up the cornerstone of conversion therapy—which often includes electric shocks and nausea-inducing drugs. 
 
It’s damaging to tell children their feelings are wrong and should be withheld. While connecting religious belief to one’s feelings is valid, it is unacceptable when it threatens a growing child’s basic safety. 
 
Conversion therapy’s advocates include Graeme Lauber of Journey Canada, an organization offering “spiritual care” for non-heterosexual adults. Lauber claims to have reconciled his faith and sexuality as a gay man with a wife and children. 
 
It’s critical to acknowledge this is Lauber’s choice—he entered treatment as an adult making an independent decision. Conversely, minors under the care of a guardian cannot consent to conversion therapy because they lack sufficient autonomy and information. 
 
The practice describes the LGBTQ+ experience as an obstacle to overcome, rather than an integral part of a person’s identity they must accept to feel fulfilled. But young people set the tone for a society’s future—and the harm this message causes can ripple through generations.
 
A formal ban is material action and more effective than an apology on behalf of the government—it ensures discriminatory conversion tactics don’t cause damage in the future. Laws like this set an important precedent because they solidify and balance cultural norms. 
 
A federal conversion therapy ban for youth would acknowledge Canada’s historical discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities across the board, protecting vulnerable individuals. 
 
The quicker a national ban is implemented, the more potential there is to permanently change a culture discriminating against marginalized groups.  
 
—Journal Editorial Board
 

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