“’Conversion therapy’ is an umbrella term describing a poorly defined set of psychological, behavioural, physical and faith-based interventions that work to suppress same-sex attraction, or to deter patients from expressing gender identities discordant with sex assigned at birth. More than 50 health professional organizations — including the Canadian Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association — have issued consensus statements denouncing conversion therapy, owing to substantial empirical evidence that these practices are ineffective and associated with poor health outcomes, notably including suicide ideation and attempts. Despite these denouncements, conversion therapy continues to occur in Canada, in both licensed and unlicensed practice settings, affecting as many as 10% of Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (2SLGBTQ+) people. The recent passage by the federal Parliament of Bill C-4, banning conversion therapy, creates a new opportunity for synergy between medicine and the law, protecting the rights and health of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada.

Canada’s medical regulators should act to augment any federal legislation by making it clear that they will take prompt disciplinary action against members who cause harm through engaging in or supporting conversion therapy interventions. Although several provinces and territories (e.g., Ontario, Nova Scotia and Yukon) have passed legislation prohibiting the use of public funds for conversion therapy, it is unclear how these laws are currently enforced, and mutually reinforcing strategies to deter conversion therapy practices — including legislation and regulatory action — are likely required, given the insidious and covert forms these practices often take. Canadian citizens have the right to access 2SLGBTQ+-affirming medical care. Therefore, individual physicians who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with providing gender-affirming medicine have a responsibility to refer their patients to doctors who can provide these services.”

More on Ridding Canadian medicine of conversion therapy via CMAJ.

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