Conversion therapy ban coming to Nova Scotia

Conversion therapy in Nova Scotia will be banned, although it’s unclear right now which political party will be the author of the legislation or if all three will come together on one bill.

All 3 political parties say there's no place for the controversial practice in the province

One gay rights activist says banning conversion therapy will help members of the LGBTQ community "live their lives as they're meant to be lived." (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Nova Scotia will move to ban conversion therapy — a widely discredited and controversial treatment designed to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Both Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives and the NDP introduced bills Friday at Province House that would outlaw the practice.

Premier Stephen McNeil said his government also plans to introduce a bill this session addressing the matter and said the three House leaders have discussed finding common ground on a single piece of legislation.

Manitoba and Ontario already have similar bans against the treatment, which uses counselling, behaviour modification and medication in hopes of converting members of the LGBTQ community.

This summer, Vancouver banned businesses that provide the treatment.

Conversion therapy gained particular attention in Nova Scotia this summer when members of an anti-gay religious group in the U.S., who advocate for conversion therapy, were going to speak at a bible camp in Pugwash.

Ultimately, those speakers did not come to Nova Scotia amidst public criticism.

Gerard Veldhoven, a longtime gay-rights activist from New Glasgow, was on hand at the legislature Friday as interim Tory Leader Karla MacFarlane's guest and saw both bills introduced.

He said while there's been social progress through the years, it's not come easily or quickly. Veldhoven said he wasn't surprised when he heard about the plans for the summer camp in Pugwash, although it was still shocking. It's proof legislation is necessary, he said.

"Our young people, especially, are very vulnerable — young gay people. They will develop mental anguish and some even contemplate suicide and, indeed, will commit suicide in the end."

MacFarlane said she's ready to work with everyone to make the ban happen.

"It doesn't matter if it's our bill, their bill, we just want to make sure that this session the bill goes through and we all agree and I think we will."

New Democrat MLA Susan LeBlanc said the most important thing is to make sure young people are protected and she called on the government to show leadership on the file.

"We need to make sure that this harmful and unnecessary practice does not happen in Nova Scotia," she said.

Veldhoven said as more progress is achieved, it remains important for young people to stand up and fight for their rights and "live their lives as they're meant to be lived."

"I think that that leads to happiness."

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca