Conversion Therapy Ban Rejected by Red Deer City Council
The debate surrounding conversion therapy in Alberta has been a heated topic since late last year. Now the LGBTQIA+ community finally seems to be making some headway in banning this archaic pseudoscientific practice.
With municipal bans already passed by councils in several Alberta cities including Fort McMurray (1),Edmonton (2), Calgary (3), Lethbridge (4), and Rocky Mountain House (5), it would seem that Red Deer city council following suit was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, the voices of the Red Deer LGBTQIA+ community were left disregarded, despite a widespread letter-writing petition that circulated late last year.
Red Deer City Council waffled on declaring an ultimate decision, and instead voted on five separate resolutions, including whether conversion therapy had a negative impact on its victims, and whether such bans should be supported provincially (6).
Bill C-8 outlines five new criminal code offences in relation to conversion therapy, including outlawing imposing conversion therapy on minors and non-consenting adults. It also would authorise the seizure of any media advertising conversion therapy.
Several members within City Council including Councillors Lawrence Lee, Frank Wong, and Tanya Handley voted against a conversion therapy ban on the grounds that the ban may infringe on people’s freedom of speech. Councillor Handley negated the motion specifically because she mistakenly believes that a conversion therapy ban falls under the category of a charter, which would be the responsibilities of either the provincial or federal governments (7).
This past October, the College of Alberta Psychologists amended their own standards of practice to include a full prohibition of any sort of treatment meant to change a client's sexual or gender orientation (8). Any member of the College who suggests conversion therapy as a viable treatment now risks losing their licence to practice.
In the wake of the decisions (or lack thereof) by the City of Red Deer, the LGBTQIA+ community turns a hopeful look toward the recently tabled bill that would effectively outlaw conversion therapy throughout the country.
The Liberal government introduced Bill C-8 An Act To Amend The Criminal Code (conversion therapy) a mere week after Red Deer Council's vote (9). The bill outlines five new criminal code offences in relation to conversion therapy, including outlawing imposing conversion therapy on minors and non-consenting adults. It also would authorise the seizure of any media advertising conversion therapy.
Currently, the only provinces which have created outright bans on conversion therapy are Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. British Columbia has tabled legislation to ban conversion therapy on a provincial level, however currently there is only a municipal ban in Vancouver (10).
It is our hope at the Red Deer Queer Community Association that the federal government keeps their promises and continues to push Bill C-8 through, despite any opposition they may face. Conversion therapy is an abhorrent and archaic practice that rides solely on hatred and the fear of otherness. Hopefully with this bill, conversion therapy will be cast to its rightful place in obsolescence bloodletting and leeching.