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Canada Bans Conversion Therapy Nationwide. Is Michigan Next?

Jason A. Michael

Canada has officially banned the controversial practice of conversion therapy throughout the country. Already illegal in Albania, Germany and Malta, the Canadian legislation makes it illegal to "provide, promote and profit" from the practice, which has been widely condemned by mental health professionals worldwide.

"It's official," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet. "Our government's legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent – meaning it is now law. LGBTQ2 Canadians, we'll always stand up for you and your rights."

(The term "LGBTQ2" is used by Canadians to recognize people, particularly some Indigenous people, who identify as Two-Spirit.)

The new law defines conversion therapy as "any practice, treatment or service designed to change or repress a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

Such practice can include anything from talk therapy to medical treatments. Conversion therapy has been discredited across the globe by agencies such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and Amnesty International. 

In the U.S., 20 states and 100 cities have banned conversion therapy. Here in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order prohibiting the use of state funds for the practice of conversion therapy on minors. She also urged the state's Republican-controlled legislature to take action.

"The assumptions underlying the practice of conversion therapy are not supported by medicine or science," Whitmer's executive order said in part. "Being LGBTQ is not a disorder, disease, or deficiency. Treating it as such through conversion therapy is not only ineffectual, but may cause significant long-term harm, including anxiety, depression, internalized homophobia, lowered self-esteem, and self-blame, as well as alienation, loneliness, social isolation, loss of social supports, and suicidal behaviors."

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