Geographic Distribution of Conversion Therapy in Canada

2021, Innovations in Research

Sexual orientation or gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE), also known as “conversion therapy,” are widely discredited practices, yet they continue to occur in Canada. SOGIECE refers to any practice designed to change, deny or discourage one’s feelings of sexual attraction to members of the same gender, LGBQ identity, non-conforming gender expression, or gender identity that differs from sex at birth. There is no credible scientific research that proves conversion therapy is effective or psychologically safe. In fact, previous research suggests conversion therapy negatively impacts and stigmatizes LGBTQ2S+ persons, leading to increased anxiety, depression, self-hatred, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide or suicidal thoughts, and many lifelong psychological and social issues.

On October 1, 2020, the Government of Canada reintroduced Bill C-6 to ban conversion therapy practices. Although criminal law reform is an important step that will further protect and promote rights to equality, it may drive conversion therapy practices underground. Thus, data collection is needed to detect where practices of conversion therapy still persist. The objective of this research is to conduct a geospatial analysis by tracking the location of conversion therapy practices through an interactive map, pinpointing provinces, territories and municipalities. Data were collected from a survey of Canadians who have direct experience with conversion therapy, know people who have gone to conversion therapy, or know of conversion therapy practitioners. Findings from the map will help inform policies and practices of where underground conversion therapy practices are still happening so that the Canadian government can eliminate harmful SOGIECE practices. The ultimate goal is to greater promote the health and well-being of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

As a research assistant, I contacted key informants regarding survey designing and to learn more about conversion therapy practices. I designed and distributed an online survey using SurveyMonkey to capture people's direct (i.e., experienced themselves) and indirect (i.e., nearly experienced, know someone who experienced, or know of practitioners) experiences of conversion therapy. The survey also captured a database of SOGIECE practitioners to describe the geographic distribution of SOGIECE practices in Canada. My next steps were to clean and code the survey data using R statistical software. Currently, I am conducting geospatial analyses, specifically using ArcGIS. I will practice written and verbal scientific communication. Further, I am taking part in community-engaged knowledge transition. For example, I am working with LGBTQ2S+ community groups to share my findings regarding the scope and nature of conversion therapy in Canada. Lastly, I will engage in policy work by sharing my results with legislators and staff to ensure ongoing action towards preventing conversion therapy in Canada.

About the project

Presentation at Innovations in Research, April 13, 2021

Amrit Tiwana

Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Health Sciences

Sexual orientation or gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE), conversion therapy, LGBTQ2S+ health, geospatial analysis


Amrit Tiwana

Amrit Tiwana (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate student and research assistant at Simon Fraser University in the Faculty of Health Sciences. In collaboration with Dr. Travis Salway, she is currently working towards understanding what is needed to support the health and well-being of Canadian survivors of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE). Her areas of interests include gender and sexual health equity, statistical modeling, and epidemiology. In the future, she plans to pursue graduate studies in public health.

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