Regina Leader-Post

Vote delayed on fed's conversion therapy ban

- EVAN RADFORD

Regina's community wellness committee had to delay a vote on conversion therapy legislatio­n Wednesday morning, working its way through a lengthy list of delegates speaking on two resolution­s.

The resolution­s are: The committee recommend to council for “the Mayor to write to the Federal Government on behalf of Regina City Council in support of Bill C-6,” and the approval of that recommenda­tion at council's April 28 meeting.

Committee chair and councillor Andrew Stevens (Ward 3) allowed 16 of the 26 scheduled delegates to speak. By noon they were out of time, prompting Stevens to schedule an additional meeting next week for the remaining speakers.

The federal Bill C-6 had its first reading on Oct. 1 and its second on Dec. 11.

The committee's documents noted the federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had to amend its definition of conversion therapy, reintroduc­ed at the Dec. 11 reading.

That definition says conversion therapy “means a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientatio­n to heterosexu­al, to change a person's gender or gender expression to cisgender, or to repress or reduce nonheteros­exual attraction or sexual behaviour or non-cisgender gender expression.”

The definition also says it doesn't include “a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploratio­n and developmen­t of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientatio­n, gender identity or gender expression.”

Emmanuel Sanchez, who grew up in Regina and moved to Calgary in January 2020, is one of the delegates who spoke opposing the resolution­s based on Ottawa's definition of conversion therapy.

“I would absolutely get on board and support a federal conversion therapy ban, as long as it is worded correctly and truly bans the things they're trying to ban,” he told the Leader-post.

His critique is the proposed ban only allows for affirmativ­e-type counsellin­g, while prohibitin­g counsellin­g work that challenges a client.

Sanchez, now a youth pastor, cited his story as an example.

He grew up in his Regina church community with same-sex attraction­s, eventually having gay relationsh­ips when he turned 16.

Trying to understand himself, he sought counsellin­g from a therapist who affirmed his gay identity, but didn't alleviate his anxiety, depression or suicidal wishes.

Sanchez said another therapist, a church pastor “who neither affirmed nor condemned my choices,” helped him work through his mental health struggles.

Following his Christian faith, he has chosen to live a celibate life while seeing therapists to work through his same-sex attraction­s.

Since Calgary passed a municipal bylaw banning conversion therapy last May, Sanchez has been denied services.

“I still require support and counsel to help me live the life I've chosen,” he said. “I've been denied by (counsellin­g agencies), because it has to do with helping me to live a celibate life.”

Wednesday's resolution­s don't, as of yet, seek to create a municipal bylaw banning conversion therapy, like what's been done in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon.

Sanchez encouraged the committee, if a municipal ban is created, to ensure it respects “the individual's freedom at any age to chose the type of support they want and their desired goals.”

Calgary's bylaw allows for fines of up to $10,000 to be levied against people or businesses who violate it. eradford@postmedia.com

Radford is the Leader-post's reporter under the Local Journalism Initiative.

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