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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 22, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 25
Vancouver, BC bans gay conversion therapy
Section One
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Vancouver, BC bans gay conversion therapy

by Tim Peter - SGN Contributing Writer

Earlier this month, on June 5, Vancouver BC City Council unanimously passed a ban on conversion therapy, which is an attempt by various means to turn LGBTQ people to straight. Meanwhile, similar laws are sweeping across the United States, with New Hampshire and Delaware being the most recent.

Canada has been doing the same. Ontario passed a law protecting minors from being subject to conversion therapy in 2015, prohibiting practitioners from using public health insurance to cover the cost. That same year, Manitoba adopted a regulation issued by its ministry of health, stating 'It is the position of the Manitoba government that conversion therapy can have no place in the province's public health-care system.'

Several people, including Peter Gajdics, testified before the council about their experiences with conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy. Gajdics told 'PBS News Hour' that his psychiatrist 'relied on a number of strategies to 'cure' patients of same-sex attraction. He said his doctor 'prescribed a cocktail of psychiatric drugs at dangerously high doses and directed him to bottle up his feces to sniff whenever he felt attracted to a man.' He added that his doctor believed events from Gajdics' childhood caused his 'homosexual tendencies.'

In January 2017, Gajdics wrote an email to Vancouver's City Council making his case for a ban against conversion therapy by introducing his new book, The Inheritance of Shame, offering to share his story with officials who would hear it. That prompted a council committee focused on LGBTQ issues to look into it.

'Conversion therapy is not therapy, it's just torture, abuse, and people still need to be educated,' Gajdics said.

Nearly every major medical and mental health association in the USA has said it is ineffective, unproductive and downright destructive to people. Ashleigh Yule is a registered psychologist in Calgary who works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and Two-Spirited youth. She said she has had young adults tell her stories of how as teenagers they were pushed into such programs.

She told Red Deer Advocate, 'The Vancouver bylaw is hugely symbolic in its public support to many people, but it's also practical, because it offers non-judgmental direction to those examining their sexuality.

'My professional opinion would be having these pieces of legislation that are either at a municipal level, at a provincial level, ultimately at a federal level, would be very helpful,' she told the paper. 'I don't feel conversion therapy is a form of therapy. I feel it is a harmful practice.'

City Councilman Tim Stevenson, 73, spearheaded the bylaw. He told 'News Hour' he expects the new law to offer hope to many people facing dark times in their lives. He said he struggled with his sexual identity until he was 30; knowing there was a law offering support during his time of inner turmoil would likely have provided some comfort, he said.

'I think it's more significant than you might think at first blush, because it really does show an attitudinal change within society,' said Stevenson, a former New Democrat member of the BC legislature and United Church minister.

'Can you imagine 20 years ago this coming forward?'

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