Americas

Lethbridge advocate pushes for province-wide ban on conversion therapy

Two municipalities in Alberta have put forward motions to ban conversion therapy this month, leaving one Lethbridge advocate with hope these changes will spark a province-wide movement.

“In 2019, we’ve had 50 years this year of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada,” said Devon Hargreaves, a local advocate.

“Yet, we’re still fighting for these protections,” Hargreaves added. “Being queer is not a mental illness, it’s not a disease, it is not something that needs to be fixed.”

The city of St. Albert, Alta., passed a motion on July, 8, banning the practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling.

One week later, Spruce Grove, Alta., followed suit, with city council putting forward a notice of motion to consider making conversion therapy illegal through changes to business licence bylaws.

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While Hargreaves supports these changes, he said more needs to be done.

“A municipal ban is amazing, it’s a statement of support for the queer community,” Hargreaves said.

“However, what we’ve seen so far… is regulating conversion therapy through business licensing, but we know it’s not just businesses providing this, it’s also religious groups, historically.”

The issue, Hargreaves added, should be addressed by the provincial government — a sentiment echoed by several Lethbridge city councillors to whom Global News reached out on Tuesday.

Although the United Conservative Party has not made any changes to regulation on conversion therapy, the UCP caucus’ director of communications, Joseph Dow, said they are discussing it.

“The Minister of Health has engaged in dialogue on this topic with the public on many occasions,” he said.

“He’s met with members of the working group twice and written to the co-chairs stating that our government does not condone conversion therapy in any form and asking for them to give any input or advice that they would like to bring forward to the government.”

In the meantime, Hargreaves plans to continue pushing for a provincial ban.

“Let’s put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “Let’s do it here first and let’s take the fight to the rest of the country.”

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