Saskatchewan

Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish faith leaders in Regina sign letter supporting ban on conversion therapy

Regina's city council is scheduled to debate a ban on conversion therapy practices Wednesday afternoon.

Regina's city council is set to debate a ban on conversion therapy practices Wednesday

More than 40 faith leaders have signed a letter in support of banning conversion therapy in the city of Regina. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

More than 40 faith leaders have signed a letter asking Regina city council to move forward with a local ban on conversion therapy. 

"Simply put, we believe that 2S-LGBTQIA+ conversion efforts or practices are a form of abuse," the letter states. "We believe that any attempt to discourage, repress or even try to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is harmful, especially for our vulnerable 2S-LGBTQIA+ children and youth."

Regina city council meets Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST to read and discuss the proposed bylaw banning the debunked practice of conversion therapy, which is intended to get people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Council voted in April to bring forward a bylaw based on Saskatoon's conversion therapy ban, which was passed in February. 

During  April meetings, people virtually addressed the council from British Columbia, Calgary, Saskatoon and Ontario to express opposition to a ban — many using homophobic and transphobic rhetoric — saying it would infringe upon their right to seek therapy they choose. Other local people cited religious freedom. 

The letter from faith leaders counters that position. 

"Religion is often used as justification for discrimination and as Faith Leaders, we are here to unequivocally denounce the use of any faith perspective or religious power to suppress and oppress 2S-LGBTQIA+ people from living in the fullness of who they are," it says. 

2S-LGBTQIA+ stands for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual and other. 

The letter was signed by more than 40 leaders from churches, mosques, temples and synagogues throughout the city. The leaders say that as people of faith, they affirm the inherent worth and dignity of LGBTQ community members. 

A partial list of faith leaders who signed a letter in support of the conversion therapy ban proposed for Regina. (Submitted by Russell Mitchell-Walker )

"Especially the 'Q': those who are questioning and exploring their sexual and gender identities," the letter says. "As people explore and develop who they are, they deserve our support and encouragement, not judgment, shame, or rejection." 

The faith leaders said people are using misinterpretations of scripture in their arguments.

Any assertion that the bylaw created will be an attack on religious freedom to be hyperbolic and false.- Letter by faith leaders 

In the letter, the leaders say talk therapy, behavioural or aversion therapy, group therapy treatments, spiritual counselling or drug-induced treatments that attempt to change someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression should not be allowed. 

City council should not be influenced by other faith leaders or people who push for exemptions, loopholes or changes to the bylaw by stating erroneously that it somehow infringes on their religious rights or freedoms, the letter says. 

"We believe that any assertion that the bylaw created will be an attack on religious freedom to be hyperbolic and false. Religious Freedoms will always, and rightfully, continue to be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where reasonable and appropriate," the letter says.

"We celebrate God's gift of diversity which includes the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi moved to Labrador in August, 2021. She has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

now