Edmonton

MLA 'disappointed' after meeting with minister on conversion therapy ban group

An Alberta NDP MLA says the future of a working group on banning conversion therapy is still unclear even after meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

NDP MLA Nicole Goehring met with Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday morning

NDP MLA Nicole Goehring met with Health Minister Tyler Shandro Wednesday about the future of a working group on banning conversion therapy in Alberta. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

An Alberta NDP MLA says the future of a working group on banning conversion therapy is still unclear, even after meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Nicole Goehring, the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs, co-chairs the committee with Glynnis Lieb, executive director of the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.

Both women met with Shandro on Wednesday morning about the working group, which was formed by the previous NDP government in February.

Goehring said the minister still couldn't give her an answer about what he plans to do.

"I'm very disappointed," she said.

"I was hopeful that coming out of this meeting that I would have some clarity. I thought perhaps face-to-face meetings would be able to provide that clarity about the status, unfortunately, he was not able to do that."

On Wednesday afternoon, Shandro said Lieb and Goehring had questions for him and he would get back to them in "due course."

He would not say what his timeline is. He kept repeating the "due course" line to reporters when they pressed him to be more specific, and when they asked him why he wasn't giving them an answer.

The meeting comes after a confusing series of events on Monday.

Shandro took issue with a media report, based on information from his press secretary that said the committee was being disbanded.

When pressed by reporters to clarify the group's status, Shandro wouldn't say whether the group still exists.

Later Monday, his staff sent a statement saying that Shandro thought the group's mandate had ended when the NDP were voted out of office on April 16, and that he didn't take any direct action to disband it.

The mixed messages compelled Goehring to reach out to Shandro's office and request a meeting.

Goehring said she was concerned by Shandro's characterization of the working group as an "ad-hoc" committee.

"It absolutely was supported by the ministry (of health)," she said. "We had staff to support us, there was direction, there were terms of reference. It was an actual working group with a set of expectations."

The group was appointed in February by former NDP health minister Sarah Hoffman. Members included an Anglican archdeacon, the executive director of the Edmonton Pride Centre, a theologian and a survivor of conversion therapy.

The group was given five months to come up with recommendations for the minister of health on how to ban the discredited practice, which tries to change people's sexual orientation, gender identity or expression through counselling or religious practices.

now