Homophobia and transphobia
Conversion therapies are practices, services or treatments that may or may not be spiritual in nature. They aim to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or to suppress non-heterosexual sexual behaviour.
Conversion therapies are one of the ways used to try to make someone who is LGBTQ+, or who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, exclusively heterosexual and cisgender.
They are based on the idea that sexual and gender diversity is a sin, a disorder or a disease that must be corrected, remedied or cured.
Conversion therapies are generally suggested by the families, friends, or acquaintances of people who are LGBTQ+ or questioning. These individuals may also request or seek out conversion therapy for themselves.
In Québec, more than 25% of people who are or are presumed to be LGBTQ+ have been pressured to be heterosexual or to display a gender identity or gender expression that is either male or female, and that matches their assigned sex at birth. However, less than 5% have been exposed to conversion therapies as such. (Source: Journals Plos One )
Among sexually and gender-diverse people in Québec, those most likely to experience conversion attempts are people who are:
- or whose sexual orientation is not based on a specific gender, for example, people who are bisexual, pansexual or asexual.
Conversion therapies are generally practised by faith-based organizations, healers or charlatans. The government’s 2021–2023 action plan to prevent and counter conversion therapies includes awareness initiatives to educate health and social services providers about the harmful effects of these practices and prevent their use.
Conversion therapies use a wide variety of methods to try to prevent sexually and gender-diverse people from being or affirming themselves as LGBTQ+ :
- Fasting to try to reduce energy and libido
- Intensive prayer sessions
- Discussion groups for sharing tips to control same-sex desires
- Participation in gender-stereotyped activities
However, any medical treatment or surgery that results from a self-initiated gender affirmation process is not considered conversion therapy. For example, a physician can prescribe feminizing hormones for the gender affirmation of a trans woman.
It is also perfectly legal to support someone in their own independent process of exploring, accepting, adapting and affirming their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. For example, psychosocial follow-up sessions for someone who is questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression are entirely acceptable.
Situation in Québec
Conversion therapies are not widely known in Québec, but they do exist. Here is a brief overview of what experts have to say.
What Québec professional orders say
Professional orders such as Ordre des psychologues du Québec , Ordre professionnel des sexologues du Québec and Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec have issued advisory opinions confirming the following:
- Conversion therapies are ineffective: no one can change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
- Conversion therapies are dangerous and have negative consequences: they can cause significant physical, moral and psychological harm.
- These therapies are not ethical: they undermine a person’s integrity and dignity.
- All sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are valid and must be respected.
What the law says
Since conversion therapy is considered harmful and dangerous to its victims, in December 2020 the Government of Québec passed the Act to protect persons from conversion therapy provided to change their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression .
The law states that:
- conversion therapy is deemed to affect the right to integrity and dignity of the person who undergoes the therapy;
- no one may, by gratuitous or onerous title, offer or undertake to provide conversion therapy to a person;
- no one shall require a person to provide such therapy;
- no one may advertise to promote conversion therapy or give an erroneous impression about the health benefits of such therapy;
- a professional who engages in such practices acts contrary to the honour and dignity of their profession; and
- a person who has undergone conversion therapy may obtain reparation for harm suffered.
Conversion therapies have since become a crime in Canada. Effective January 7, 2022, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) made it a criminal offence to:
- cause a person to undergo conversion therapy;
- do anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;
- promote or advertise conversion therapy; and
- receive a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.
Consequences for victims of conversion therapy
Conversion therapies can cause significant harm on account of the means and methods they use, and because they assume that only heterosexual and cisgender people are normal and valid. Possible harms include:
- Low self-esteem and self-hatred
- Depression and anxiety
- Social isolation and relationship issues
- Sexual dysfunction
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms
Legal remedies available to victims
There are a number of conversion therapy-related remedies and complaint mechanisms in place to protect the rights of people who are LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. Here are some of the options available:
- Filing a police report
- Filing a complaint with the appropriate professional order
- Filing a civil claim
- Filing a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec ;
- Seeking compensation as a victim of a criminal offence .
I am or have been a victim of conversion therapy
Various resources are available for victims of conversion therapy. See the list below.
Psychosocial support resources
There are psychosocial support resources available for victims of conversion therapy.
7 days a week
24 hours a day
A free and confidential telephone consultation service available to Québec residents in need of quick access to a psychosocial health professional.
Organization whose mission is to explain the law to Quebecers in everyday language and enhance their legal competencies.
Justice Pro Bono
Justice Pro Bono’s mission is to improve access to justice by mobilizing the legal community to share their expertise and time with Québec communities, non-profit organizations, and individuals who can’t afford legal services.
Contact Justice Pro Bono
Legal clinic on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Training and tools
Training and tools are available for organizations or partners interested in learning more about the subject.
Contact Fondation Émergence
Contact Institut national de santé publique du Québec
Last update: July 3, 2023