Conversion therapy banned in Yukon, Canada should be next, teens say

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-11-26 07:00

Practice aims to change gender identity or sexual orientation

After two years of campaigning, a group of students in Yukon has achieved its goal of making conversion therapy illegal in the territory.

The practice, which involves things like prayer and counselling, aims to change an LGBTQ person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

According to groups like the Canadian Psychological Association and World Health Organization, it doesn’t work and can be harmful — especially when kids are involved.

That doesn’t surprise 15-year-old Molly Hobbis, who pushed for the Yukon ban.

Molly Hobbis stands in the Rainbow Room at Porter Creek Secondary School where the Gender and Sexuality Alliance meets. (Image credit: Danielle d’Entremont/CBC)

“It just makes me really sad to think that your own parents would send you away somewhere so horrible to try to fix you when there's nothing to fix. There's nothing broken,” she said.

Now she and many of her fellow students are pushing for a Canada-wide ban.

What’s the situation in Canada?

Despite advice from the medical community, some people in Canada still believe conversion therapy is a valid practice.

It is still allowed in some parts of the country, although that could change.

On March 9, the Liberal government proposed a law that would make conversion therapy illegal across Canada.

The new law, known as Bill C-6, passed a second reading in the House of Commons on Oct. 28.

Next steps include research by a committee and a third reading and vote by members of Parliament before it can become law.

Where is conversion therapy already banned?

Molly said she’s hoping that Yukon’s new ban will motivate the Canadian government to finish what it started.

“If I can get myself to the attention of the federal people, like the big dogs, like the people in charge, that would mean a lot. So that all of us, we could try to change something for the better,” she said.

Students and teachers rallied outside of the Yukon legislature with signs that said ‘178’ — marking the number of days it had been since they dropped off their petition to end conversion therapy. (Image submitted by Jason Cook)

Practice outlawed in Yukon, thanks to teens

Aidan Falkenberg, 18, is credited with starting the Yukon movement.

Aidan was in Grade 11 at F.H. Collins Secondary School in Whitehorse when they decided to Google what year conversion therapy was banned in Canada with their friend Mercedes Bacon-Traplin.

They discovered it wasn’t completely banned and went to work to change that in Yukon.

It was a long journey.

Students at Aidan’s school joined forces with students at Porter Creek Secondary School to petition, lobby and protest on behalf of the ban for more than two years.

In the end, their petition got 401 signatures.

Aidan Falkenberg, 18, was inspired to start the movement in Yukon after being surprised to learn that conversion therapy isn’t banned in Canada. (Image credit: Danielle d’Entremont/CBC)

Molly joined in by reaching out to local politicians and circulating the petition.

She said she knew she had to stick with the campaign, despite how long it took.

“I didn't give up because I knew that future children and a lot of people depended on us, and I knew that change needed to happen,” Molly told CBC Kids News. “That was us, we were the change.”

Molly was also supported by her family and friends, including her chosen family at her school’s GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance).

Molly spoke of the importance of having supportive teachers like GSA leader Jason Cook. She said he has ‘given us the opportunities to grow and to do what was right in our hearts. He was always right there with us.’ (Image credit: Danielle d’Entremont/CBC and Jason Cook)

Molly’s advice to LGBTQ teens wanting to make change:

With files from Danielle d’Entremont/CBC and Alvin Yu/CBC

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