New data suggests conversion therapy practices are still common across Canada

New data collected by a B.C. research group indicates that conversion therapy practices are still common across Canada, with as many as one in 10 gay, bi, trans, and queer men and Two-spirit and non-binary people reporting that they’ve experienced the practice.

The study was published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS one and used data collected from the Community-Based Research Centre’s (CBRC) 2019 Sex Now survey, which included responses from more than 9,000 participants.

Of the 10 per cent of respondents who said they had experienced conversion therapy, 72 per cent said it started before the age of 20.

According to the study, 67 per cent of people who experienced conversion therapy say they did so in a religious or faith-based setting, while 20 per cent say they went through the practice with a licensed health-care provider.

“In order to fine-tune policies that can prevent conversion therapy practices, we need to understand how many people are affected, and who they are,” Travis Salway, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and lead researcher of the study, said in a statement.

“Conversion therapy refers to practices that deny or devalue LGBT2Q sexual orientations and gender identities. They are associated with significant psychological harm and therefore have been discredited by multiple medical and psychological professional bodies and banned in many jurisdictions.”

According to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, conversion therapy is “an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed.”

“The data from this study can be used to hold our elected leaders and policymakers accountable to equity for LGBT2Q people in Canada,” Salway added.

The findings come as the House of Commons waits to have its final vote on Bill C-6, a piece of legislation that would prohibit conversion therapy practices in Canada.

Researchers found that conversion therapy practices were more common among non-binary and transgender people, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, as well as youth ages 15 to 19.

“Banning conversion therapy is an important first step to prevention because it sends the unequivocal message that conversion therapy is harmful to LGBTQ2 people,” Michael Kwag, CBRC’s knowledge exchange and policy development director said in a statement.

Beyond banning conversion therapy practices across Canada, CBRC is also recommending that the federal government invest in education strategies and services that affirm the value and identity of LGBTQ2S+ people.

The centre is also calling for institutional reforms in health care and faith-based settings, as well as support for those who have endured conversion therapy.

“Based on this survey, we estimate that more than 50,000 Canadians have experienced these practices,” the centre says.

“These individuals deserve affirming supports to heal and recover.”