While conversion therapy is now banned in Canada, a Canadian nonprofit is working to support survivors of the practice and offer healing.
Ben Rodgers is the Founder of CT Survivors Connect, Canada’s first and only federally incorporated non-profit organization dedicated to supporting conversion therapy survivors.
“We’ve transitioned from a small support group to a nationally recognized nonprofit, and we’re just going to keep building,” Rodgers told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
Conversion therapy, as it’s called, attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender. This may include trying to suppress a person’s non-heterosexual attraction or suppressing a person’s gender expression or non-cis gender identity.
These practices can take a variety of forms, including counseling and behavior modification, and have been opposed by numerous health and human rights groups. There continue to be calls for further mental health and educational support for those who have survived conversion therapy.
“They basically present it as a flaw or a fear or something that they can kind of mess with and hold on to you, and they’re basically just amplifying that and amplifying your own personal fears,” Rodgers said. “Their own self-hatred is what they develop excessively, and they make you hate yourself, and unfortunately that’s one of the terrible premises of this practice.”
Conversion therapy became illegal in Canada earlier this year, marking a major milestone for LGBTQ2S+ rights in that country.
After parliamentarians banded together to unanimously pass legislation to eliminate the harmful practice in late 2021, the Criminal Code sanctions went into effect on January 7.
That means anyone who tries to put someone of any age through so-called conversion therapy, with or without consent, faces up to five years in prison.
If someone is found to be promoting, promoting, or benefiting from the practice, they could face up to two years in prison.
Despite the ban, Rodgers said, the practice of conversion therapy still continues in certain areas of Canada, particularly in the transgender community.
“The unfortunate factor is that even when I went through it, it wasn’t called conversion therapy. It was more of a talkative session,” Rodgers said.
“They keep it a quiet, quiet thing,” he added.
Now that the practice is illegal, Rodgers hopes his organization can help survivors overcome the trauma they have suffered.
“Now that there’s federal law, it gives survivors an opportunity to actually speak up, and we’ve never had that before,” he said.
CT Survivors Connect was recently awarded a grant from the Department of Justice and is using a portion of the funds to create webinars for survivors.
Additionally, the organization is hosting its first event in Kingston, Ontario. on May 21 in the form of a drag and comedy show honoring those who have fallen victim to conversion therapy and recognizing the survivors. The event will also award awards to advocates who have campaigned against conversion therapy practices in Canada.
“I hope this will be one of many great events to raise funds and get the support and services that survivors really need,” Rodgers said.
With files from Rachel Aiello of CTVNews.ca