B.C. Greens table legislation to ban conversion therapy

May 27, 2019

VICTORIA, B.C. – Today the B.C. Greens, alongside stakeholders and LGBTQ2+ rights advocates, are tabling legislation that will ban the abusive practice of conversion therapy and protect British Columbians.

“Today we are tabling the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, which will protect the human rights, health, and safety of LGBTQ2+ people by banning so-called conversion therapy in our province,” said Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green party. “This bill supports those with diverse sexualities, gender identities and expressions. It sends a clear message that it is ok to be who you are, that your elected officials and those in positions of power hear you and will act now to protect your human rights.

“Conversion therapy is a pseudo scientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity that has harmful, long-lasting impacts and puts lives at risk,” Weaver continued. “It is particularly important and timely to be advancing this ban today, as we hear news that the United Conservative Party of Alberta is walking back the previous government’s commitment to end the practice there.

Medical and scientific associations, including the American Psychiatric Association and World Health Organization, oppose conversion therapy. This ban prohibits the practice of conversion therapy for anyone under age 19 and MSP being charged for conversion therapy practices. It does not limit access to gender-confirming surgery or legitimate counselling and support services.

“I am honoured and humbled to be standing alongside LGBTQ2+ rights advocates, including survivors of conversion therapy, as we reaffirm the right of all British Columbians to be who they are and to live in safety,” added Weaver.

Earlier this spring, the federal government rejected a plea to ban conversion therapy at the federal level, calling it a provincial and territorial issue.

“All British Columbians deserve to be loved, supported, and accepted - not persecuted - for who they are,” Weaver said. “The time to act is now.”

Quotes

Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, former Member of Provincial Parliament (Ontario) -

“It was my honour to have tabled and passed Canada's first 'Banning Conversion Therapy' Bill, now law, in 2015. As other Provinces have followed suit, it's absolutely time British Columbia acts. Have no doubt it is happening there and that means children's lives are being put at risk. Suicide rates soar among our vulnerable when their very selves are seen as 'sick' or 'wrong' in some way. Saving children is what banning this deadly practise will achieve. The time is now.”

Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Professor and Executive Director, UBC Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre -

"Persuading or forcing young people to participate in conversion therapy is the opposite of caring, it rejects who they are and reinforces stigma and shame. Family and community rejection are key causes of emotional distress among LGBTQ2S youth, and have been linked to suicidal thoughts and attempts. By banning conversion therapy in BC, we join other provinces, cities, states, and countries around the world in standing against discrimination toward LGBTQ2S people."

Peter Gajdics, survivor and author, The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir -

“Bans on ‘conversion therapy’ are important because they destabilize a belief system, an ideology, still held by too many people that says gay or trans people are inherently ‘broken,’ by virtue of their homosexuality or trans identity, and must, therefore, be ‘fixed.’ When I left my own six years of ‘therapy,’ in 1995, before the phrase ‘conversion therapy’ was commonly used, I had no words to describe what had happened to me; at the time, all I felt was shell-shock, like a hole had been blasted through my gut. It's not so much that I wanted to kill myself as I thought I was already dead. In truth, so-called conversion therapy is soul-crushing torture that ends up not even being about ‘changing’ sexual orientation as it is about eradicating homosexuality, silencing it from the bodies of people who are gay. Legislative intervention helps prevent torture.”

Yogi Omar, queer activist and vice president, Vancouver Men’s Chorus -

“The practice of ‘conversion therapy,’ continues to occur, particularly in smaller cities, and we need our Government to step in and protect our Community. Many LGBTQ2+ individuals, especially younger folks who are still exploring their gender identity and sexual orientation, are left with little or no choice but to go through these practices in order to feel they belong to their community. ‘Conversion therapy’ survivors have expressed that this practice does not actually convert anything, it will only lead to the feeling of self-hatred, isolation, and depression. Banning this practice provincially will not only help LGBTQ2+ community in British Columbia, it will also lead the movement to ban this practice nationally in Canada.”

Ian Bushfeld, BC Humanist Association -

“Humanism is based on a commitment to science and compassion. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of every human being. We therefore categorically reject the dangerous claim that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed through therapy. We support efforts to ban the practice and urge MLAs to support this private members’ bill.”

Nicola Spurling, president, Tri-Cities Pride -

"There is no credible scientific evidence indicating that someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed, and attempts made to force someone to live contrary to their identity are abusive and trauma inducing.  There is no place for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, as outlined in the BC Human Rights Code and the Human Rights Act of Canada.  As such, I call on British Columbia's provincial government to end this archaic, and unscientific practice, and to send the message that our province will no longer tolerate these attacks on LGBTQ2+ people."

Background

World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization issued a statement in 2012 saying, “Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation." It added this type of therapy poses a "severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons."

The Canadian Psychological Association weighed in on the practice in 2015, saying it "opposes any therapy with the goal of repairing or converting an individual's sexual orientation, regardless of age."

Earlier this month the federal government indicated it believes the governance of conversion therapy was a provincial and territorial issue. Some jurisdictions have already taken action on this human rights issue.

  • Ontario In 2015, Ontario made the practice illegal by initiating an outright ban.
  • Manitoba In 2015, Manitoba also outlawed health professionals from offering conversion therapy.
  • Nova Scotia In fall 2018, Nova Scotia made it it illegal for health professionals to provide conversion therapy for minors.
  • Vancouver Summer 2018, City of Vancouver passed a law restricting businesses from offering it.
  • Canada In March 2019, Ottawa rejected a plea for a federal ban on conversion therapy, calling it a provincial and territorial issue.

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