NDP bill would ban ‘harm­ful and hate­ful’ gay con­ver­sion ther­apy

Fort McMurray Today - - ALBERTA NEWS - EMMA GRANEY egraney@post­media.com

The NDP will in­tro­duce a bill this fall to ban so-called gay con­ver­sion ther­apy.

It is be­ing de­vel­oped by Ed­mon­ton-Cas­tle Downs back­bench MLA Ni­cole Goehring, who told Post­media Tues­day that out­law­ing the con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice in Al­berta will save lives.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “that’s what it’s all about.”

Goehring said the is­sue has been on her radar since it was raised dur­ing con­sul­ta­tions on Bill 24 (which, in part, makes it il­le­gal for a teacher to in­form a par­ent if a child joins a gay-straight al­liance at school) and brought PTSD Aware­ness Day to Al­berta.

“I heard from mem­bers of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity, their fam­i­lies, ad­vo­cates and lead­er­ship from faith com­mu­ni­ties that ban­ning con­ver­sion ther­apy was some­thing they wanted,” she said.

Con­ver­sion ther­apy ‘dis­crim­i­na­tory, harm­ful and hate­ful’

Con­ver­sion ther­apy at­tempts to use psy­cho­log­i­cal or spir­i­tual in­ter­ven­tion to change some­one’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.

Kristo­pher Wells, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in health and com­mu­nity stud­ies at MacEwan Univer­sity, has for years ad­vo­cated a ban on what he calls a “dan­ger­ous and de­cep­tive” prac­tice.

Wells told Post­media Tues­day evening that al­most ev­ery ma­jor psy­cho­log­i­cal study has con­demned con­ver­sion ther­apy, with out­comes rang­ing from life­long trauma and de­pres­sion to drug and al­co­hol abuse and sui­cide.

Goehring broached the topic dur­ing a De­cem­ber ques­tion pe­riod in the leg­is­la­ture, ask­ing Health Min­is­ter Sarah Hoff­man what steps the gov­ern­ment was tak­ing to en­sure no Al­ber­tan was “sub­jected to this ar­chaic and dan­ger­ous prac­tice.”

At the time, Hoff­man said the gov­ern­ment was ex­am­in­ing its op­tions. Nine months later, Goehring will sit down with the health min­is­ter to fi­nal­ize the lan­guage of her pri­vate mem­ber’s bill.

In an emailed state­ment Tues­day, Hoff­man called con­ver­sion ther­apy “dis­crim­i­na­tory, harm­ful and hate­ful.”

“I want to hear from those in the LGBTQ2+ com­mu­nity and in­vite them to con­tinue writ­ing to me on this im­por­tant is­sue,” she said.

Wells lauded Goehring’s up­com­ing bill, but ac­knowl­edged it could be tough to po­lice a “largely un­der­ground” phe­nom­e­non of­ten con­fined to faith-based com­mu­ni­ties.

Lutheran pres­i­dent pro­motes school con­ver­sion ther­apy

Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer, pres­i­dent of the Al­ber­taBri­tish Columbia Lutheran church district, re­cently wrote to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David Eggen about the gov­ern­ment’s school guide­lines re­spect­ing di­verse sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions, gen­der and iden­ti­ties.

Por­tions of that let­ter were in­cluded in a work­book for the church’s up­com­ing con­ven­tion in Sher­wood Park.

Schaeffer out­lined how schools could in­stead create safe and car­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments by en­forc­ing an­tibul­ly­ing leg­is­la­tion and pro­vid­ing “med­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal repar­a­tive ther­apy” to “chil­dren suf­fer­ing from gen­der dys­pho­ria or an in­ter­sex­ual con­di­tion.”

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Stony Plain was part of a coali­tion that filed a court ap­pli­ca­tion chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Bill 24. It was re­jected by the Al­berta Court of Queen’s Bench in June.

Wells ex­pects a sim­i­lar push­back against Goehring’s bill, but said leg­is­la­tion is long over­due.

If passed, the ban will bring Al­berta in line with Man­i­toba and On­tario. Nova Sco­tia is also mov­ing to pro­hibit con­ver­sion ther­apy.

GREG SOUTHAM/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Ed­mon­ton-Cas­tle Downs MLA Ni­cole Goehring.

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