Canada’s Conversion Therapy Ban Commits Six Secular Sins (Part 2 of 2)

  • Hendrik van der Breggen, Author
  • Retired Associate Professor of Philosophy, Providence

Canada’s Bill C-4, which became law January 7, 2022, bans “conversion therapy” (any therapy to change gender identity, sexual attractions, etc.). But the bill sins against democracy, freedom, truth, reason, and other goods. I count at least six secular sins.

In the previous instalment of my blog, I set out a couple preliminary clarifications and four sins. In what follows I set out the two other sins.

Recap of preliminary clarifications

Criticism of Bill C-4 is not phobic. A phobia is an irrational anxiety or fear or hatred concerning X. But one is not phobic if one has reasonable evidence-based concerns or questions about X. Setting out reasonable criticisms about a ban on conversion therapy is not homophobic or transphobic.

Discredited, involuntary, coercive “therapies” that harm people (e.g., electroshock therapy, torture, etc.) should be illegal. But Bill C-4 bans much more. In doing so it incurs six serious problems – six secular sins.

Recap of secular sins 1-4

  • Sin 1: Bill C-4 violates democratic due process – the bill didn’t receive scrutiny.
  • Sin 2: The bill infringes on the freedom of consenting adults by only allowing therapy that is goes in the favour of the LGBTQ+ direction, but not any other way.
  • Sin 3: The bill unjustly discriminates against LGBTQ+ people who have non-heterosexual attractions or who engage in non-heterosexual behaviour yet wish – and choose – to get help to reduce such attractions or behaviours.
  • Sin 4: Bill C-4 infringes on freedom of religion and conscience – and not just religious conscience, but the rational conscience of thinking persons whether they adhere to a religion or not.

Sin #5: Negative impacts on families and children

Mattea Merta, president of the Canadian organization Vote Family, helpfully summarizes Bill C-4’s impacts on family and children. According to Merta, Bill C-4 does the following:

  • Erodes trust between parents and children as parents may be snitched on for having conversations in their own homes with their own children about their child’s struggle with sexuality. If parents do not promote their children towards identifying with a sexual identity the child feels they are at the time, even if it goes against their biological make up, that conversation could be grounds for jail time.
  • Parents refusing to assist their child’s request to take puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones in preparation for mutilating sex change surgery could face up to five years in jail.
  • Parents who bring their child to a pastor or therapist for counselling could face up to five years in jail.

Debra Soh, PhD, a neuroscientist who specializes in gender, sex and sexual orientation, helpfully explains the negative impact of Bill C-4 on therapies available to children. Soh was asked this question: “Could an anti-conversion therapy bill get in the way of discussing gender identity and transitioning with youth?” Dr. Soh’s answer should be a concern to all responsible parents and their families:

Absolutely. How many clinicians are willing to risk up to 5 years in prison for doing their job properly? I don’t do clinical work anymore, but I have colleagues in the field who are terrified. They have chosen to stop working with this population as a result, which means only activist therapists will be working with patients with gender dysphoria. We are going to see an even greater influx of detransitioners – people who regret their transition and return to living as their birth sex – in a few years.

The wake of transitions and detransitions will include no-longer wanted double-mastectomies, negative effects of puberty blockers, irreversible genital mutilation, psychological problems, and more.

Bill C-4, then, is a sin against families and children.

Sin #6: Falsehood about sex being assigned at birth

The phrase “sex assigned to a person at birth” is used three times in Bill C-4, but the words serve to communicate an ideologically loaded concept, not a truth.

Yes, the words are often used in our contemporary society, but the words are open to serious misunderstanding – especially by radical postmodern ideologues inclined to think language constructs reality rather than accurately reflects and communicates truth, and especially by transgender ideologues who elevate one’s subjective feelings concerning identity over objective reality.

“Assigned” suggests, mistakenly, that a nurse or doctor is the arbitrary source of a newborn’s anatomical details (as, say, a math teacher assigns a value to a variable). The truth is that biological facts concerning sex at birth are discerned (as real), not “assigned” (i.e., not invented or socially constructed).

In other words, as philosopher Ryan T. Anderson points out, “[S]ex is understood scientifically on the basis of an organism’s organization for reproduction, and that sex differences manifest themselves all the way down to the molecular level.” Via empirical observation, the sex of a pre-natal or post-natal child is discovered as fact rather than “assigned” at whim – and this includes intersex.

About intersex, neuroscientist Debra Soh helpfully observes:

The term “sex assigned at birth” stems from a desire to acknowledge the intersex community and that sometimes a person’s sex is inaccurate because the doctor got it wrong. While it is a respectable goal, it needlessly gives the impression that sex is not an objective attribute and that a doctor’s estimation is completely arbitrary, when in actuality, their guess will be correct, statistically speaking, ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

Bill C-4 makes it seem that “sex assigned to a person at birth” is what happens one hundred times out of a hundred. But sex is not assigned, it is discerned. In other words, Bill C-4 commits the sin of communicating a falsehood.


To recap, Bill C-4 commits the following secular sins:

  • Violates democratic due process.
  • Infringes on the freedom of consenting adults.
  • Discriminates against gays and lesbians.
  • Infringes on freedom of religion and conscience (and not just religious consciences).
  • Negatively impacts families and children.
  • Tells a falsehood about sex being assigned at birth.

Canada’s Bill C-4 is a bad bill. It sins against democracy, freedom, truth, reason, and other goods – at least six times. Canadians should reject Bill C-4.


An earlier and longer version of this article, complete with references, can be found at “Canada’s conversion therapy ban commits six secular sins: And if there is a fiery pit for bad bills, Bill C-4 should be thrown into it.” (link)

Critics are encouraged to consult the longer version of the article before offering criticism.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada.