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Lethbridge council votes to support conversion therapy ban

Lethbridge council voted Monday to support banning conversion therapy in the city, following in the steps of other Alberta municipalities.

City will also ask the province to ban the practice

Lethbridge, Alta., city council voted Monday to support a ban on the practice of conversion therapy in the city. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Lethbridge council voted Monday to support banning conversion therapy in the city, following in the steps of other Alberta municipalities.

Acting Mayor Jeff Carlson and Coun. Rob Miyashiro brought forward a motion, which council voted to split into two parts — a vote to ask the provincial government to ban the practice and a vote to direct administration to draft a bylaw banning the practice in the city.

The first motion, to ask the province to ban conversion therapy, passed unanimously. The second, to direct administration to draft a bylaw, passed 7-2, with Coun. Blaine Hyggen and Coun. Joe Mauro voting against. 

"This resolution is city council's way of contributing to outlawing a practice that has been shown to cause significant mental, emotional and physical harm to an often vulnerable population," Miyashiro said in an emailed release. "It's a step we can take as municipality, within our jurisdiction and affect change in our own community."

Practice is discredited as psychologically damaging

Conversion therapy is a practice that aims through counselling or religious teachings to change an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual or their gender identity to cisgender, which means a person who identifies with the sex assigned to them at birth. 

It's discredited by most major expert bodies as psychologically damaging, and opposed by the Canadian Psychological Association as well as the World Health Organization, which has stated conversion therapy poses a "severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons."

 Carlson said the practice is not something he wants to see members of the Lethbridge community exposed to.

"Part of being a councillor is ensuring the community's best interests are being served," he said.

In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a mandate letter to Justice Minister David Lametti, asking that the Criminal Code be amended to ban the practice and to take other steps to end conversion therapy in Canada.

Edmonton, Calgary, St. Albert, Strathcona County and Spruce Grove have all supported banning the practice.

Administration was instructed to bring the first draft bylaw back to Lethbridge council for a first reading by June 1. 

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