Summit 2021 - Summary Statement
The 2021 Canadian Religious Freedom Summit was convened on January 30, 2021. Over 1,400 people of different Christian traditions from across Canada registered to attend.
We stand strongly opposed to coercive and involuntary therapeutic practices carried out under the banner of “conversion therapy” and are thankful for the desire of parliamentarians from all parties to protect Canadians from such practices. Our concern is the framing of Bill C-6, which lacks precision and reaches far beyond its stated purpose. As it stands, the definition of “conversion therapy” in Bill C-6 does not align with definitions of the practice widely used by professional health organizations nor with common understandings of the term. The Bill’s definition is so broad that a range of non-therapeutic practices are at risk of being captured by it and criminalized. In particular, it could criminalize the teaching of a biblical vision for human sexuality in a range of contexts, including church, school and home.
Churches are called upon by millions of Canadians for guidance and comfort in connection with major life decisions and milestones, along with all the complex ethical questions they raise. Pastors and counsellors are regularly required to have sensitive conversations about sexuality and identity, discernment in relationships, restoration after infidelity, and much more besides. Because of the importance of these daily interactions for Canadians, we are alarmed that Bill C-6 allows little room for the freedoms needed for addressing sexuality in a faith context.
We are convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people and that God’s design for human flourishing is life-giving. As a matter of conviction and conscience, millions of Canadian Christians hold to the historic Christian vision for human sexuality set out in the Bible – that God made us male and female and designed sexual intimacy for marriage between a man and a woman. Countless others within this diverse country hold similar convictions on sexuality. We do not expect that all will agree with a biblical perspective, but it is vitally important that we retain the freedom to express and discuss it within an open society such as ours. We want to continue to be able to share our faith with fellow Canadians, believing that this country is enriched by the witness and work of Christians in many spheres, but would be greatly impoverished if that witness were muted, restricted, or criminalized.
We believe that an unamended Bill C-6 would represent a landmark erosion of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in Canada. As Christians who love this country and her citizens and who seek to serve our communities in word and deed, that prospect is heartbreaking for us. We call upon the Parliament of Canada to amend this bill to make it clear that the label “conversion therapy” applies only to coercive, involuntary, and discredited therapeutic practices, and not to religious instruction, pastoral care, or conversations within families. Please do this with urgency and care in order to maintain our core freedoms of religion and expression, as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.