New poll shows vast majority of Canadians support the right of adults to get the sexual counseling of their choice, counseling likely banned by “conversion therapy” legislation

Canadians also support counseling options for minors who are considering gender transitioning

CALGARY:  The Justice Centre today released the results of a Nanos National Survey showing that 91% of Canadians agree (78%) or somewhat agree (13%) that adults should have the right to get the sexuality counselling of their choice, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This strong support stands in contrast to the approach taken by several Canadian municipal governments and even the Federal Government. “Conversion therapy” legislation in Canada, unlike most other “conversion therapy” bans in the world, prevent even consenting adults from getting the counseling options of their choice.

In introducing Bill C-6, the federal conversion therapy ban, Justice Minister David Lametti admitted that the ban would prevent consenting LGBTQ adults from being able to pay for counseling available to other Canadians:

“We also recognize that criminalizing profiting from conversion therapy means that consenting adults would be prevented from accessing conversion therapy unless it is available free of charge.” (1)

“Banning coercive and abusive practices commonly associated with the term ‘conversion therapy’ would not be controversial,” states Marty Moore, staff lawyer with the Justice Centre. “Deceptively labeled ‘conversion therapy’ bans, including municipal bylaws and the federal Bill C-6, will violate the constitutional rights of LGBTQ persons by restricting them accessing the same kind of counselling heterosexual and non-transgender Canadians access. These poll numbers show Canadians do not support those restrictions.”

For example, Calgarians Emmanuel Sanchez and Jose Ruba called several counseling agencies in Calgary to find help to “reduce non-heterosexual behaviour or attraction” such as gay pornography use. Calgary’s by-law, like many Canadian by-laws, explicitly bans that kind of counseling under “conversion therapy” legislation. “We found that counselors in the city either didn’t understand that the by-law covered this kind of counseling or refused to offer support to reduce ‘non-heterosexual’ behaviour,” said Mr. Ruba. “This is discrimination and something clearly most Canadians do not support.”

The Nanos poll also shows support for the availability of counseling options for minor children who are considering a gender transition, including taking a “wait and see” approach (48% agree, 24% somewhat agree). That kind of counseling would also be threatened by Bill C-6, the federal government’s proposed conversion therapy ban.

“Rachel”, a young woman who was born female but socially transitioned to male as a minor, is grateful that she had counseling options available to her and the support of her parents. Along with her mother, she states: “Our experience taught us that what causes gender dysphoria is different for each person. The government should respect these differences and not ban counseling options.”

The poll, conducted February 28th to March 4th, 2021, made the following key findings:

  • Nine in ten Canadians agree (78%) or somewhat agree (13%) that consenting adults should be free to get the sexuality counselling of their choice, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and this is consistent across regions, age and gender.
  • Canadians are more likely to say they are uncomfortable (33%) or somewhat uncomfortable (14%) with the government making it illegal to provide counselling for gay individuals to reduce unwanted sexual behaviour while continuing to allow straight people to access those same services (25% comfortable; nine per cent somewhat comfortable).
  • Canadians are divided overall on whether counselling in various scenarios related to gender identity, sexuality and sexual behaviour for minors should be legal or illegal, with about one third of Canadians consistently saying they are unsure.
  • About seven in ten Canadians agree or somewhat agree there should be strict requirements for healthcare professionals to assess whether it’s in a young person’s best interests to irreversibly alter their body if it doesn’t match their gender identity and that counselling services with a ‘wait and see’ approach should be available to minors thinking about changing their bodies through drug treatments.

“Many Canadians have found benefit from support and counselling which politicians are seeking to ban and even criminalize,” continues Mr. Moore. “Politicians should listen to the will of Canadians and respect the Charter rights of Canadians to freely choose support they want.”

Nanos Research conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,016 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between February 28th to March 4th, 2021 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,016 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(1)  House of Commons Debate on Bill C-6, Oct 26, 2020

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