Saskatchewan

Regina city council votes in favour of taking next steps toward possible conversion therapy ban

Regina city council has approved a feasibility study on the possibility of banning conversion therapy.

Council approved a feasibility study on banning the controversial practice

At a special meeting lasting several hours on Wednesday, council voted unanimously in favour of a feasibility study and community consultations on a bylaw that would ban conversion therapy. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Regina city council is moving closer toward a potential ban on conversion therapy.

At a special meeting lasting several hours on Wednesday, council voted unanimously to bring forward a proposed bylaw banning conversion therapy for a vote in July. 

Council also voted in favour of sending the federal government a letter in support of banning conversion therapy in principle — it was amended from being in support of Bill C-6. 

The meeting took place after city administration put together a report around the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Regina city administration defined conversion therapy in part as a "practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress non-heterosexual attraction or behaviours."

The Canadian Psychological Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association and Canadian Paediatric Society have denounced conversion therapy as harmful to LGBTQ people, city administration said in a report. 

The administration's report first went to the city's community wellness committee, which voted in favour of studying the feasibility of a local ban and having council revisit the issue in early 2022.  

At Wednesday's meeting, city council heard from more than 30 people on the topic, with roughly an even split speaking for and against the proposals. Many people from out of the province — including from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario — participated in the online meeting.

Joy Cowan, a reverend with Heritage United Church in Regina and a member of the LGBTQ community, called on council to enact a local ban on conversion therapy, to show the city supports its diverse community. 

LGBTQ people have a right to exist and be who they are without fear of aggression or coercion, she told council.

"We are all made in the image of God. And this means that the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations are a divine gift and an inherent expression of God. Who are we to reject that gift?" Cowan said. 

Mayor Sandra Masters, far right, is seen in this file during the first council meeting after last year's civic election. Masters paused Wednesday's meeting at one point to say, 'LGBTQ people are not broken. They are not disordered and they are not damaged.' (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Ontario's Ann Gillies spoke against Bill C-6. She said she does not support conversion therapy but that the definition of conversion therapy in the federal bill is too broad.  

Gillies — who is the author of a book called Closing the Floodgates: Setting the Record Straight about Gender and Sexuality and clarified there is a different doctor in Ottawa with the same name — said that as a psychotherapist, she believes the bill would mean she could be thrown in jail for counselling clients who want to manage sexual attractions and behaviour.

"I will no longer be able to help same-sex-attracted individuals with sex-related concerns," she said. "I won't be able to help reduce casual sex with many partners or help reduce the ability to remain faithful to a sexual partner."

Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens said he proposed moving up the timeline for a decision on a municipal ban. 'At some point you just have to get things done and make a decision,' he said. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

At one point, Masters put the meeting on hold to speak.

"LGBTQ people are not broken. They are not disordered and they are not damaged," Masters said before moving on to the next delegation. 

Council also heard from several lawyers, including Barton Soroka, a lawyer in Regina. Soroka said the bill would ban advertising for conversion therapy, but people would still be able to seek individual therapy if they want to, he said.

"If people tell you they won't be able to talk to their children about their religious beliefs, they are mistaken," Soroka said. "If people tell you that they will be unable to find therapy that ends in them having heterosexual attraction, they are mistaken." 

Will vote on bylaw in July

Coun. Andrew Stevens said he's still reflecting on the whether the meeting was positive or negative, but noted council did agree unanimously that conversion therapy is offensive and has no place in Regina. 

During the meeting, Stevens proposed a change to the timeline for the potential conversion therapy ban bylaw. Instead of consultation and a feasibility study coming back to council in early 2022, the city will now consider at a ban, modelled after Saskatoon's study, at a July 14 meeting.

Saskatoon's city council recently approved its own local bylaw banning the practice.

"At some point you just have to get things done and make a decision," Stevens said in an interview with CBC. "Why do you want to reinvent the wheel? So we know Saskatoon has already done the analysis."

Stevens said the issue of conversion therapy matters, and that considering the ban is worth the effort.  Anyone who suggests the city has better things to do should consider the harm caused by the practice, he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said city council unanimously approved a feasibility study on a conversion therapy ban. In fact, council decided against the feasibility study and agreed to vote on a potential bylaw in July.
    Apr 29, 2021 12:11 PM CT

With files from Raphaële Frigon

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