Con­ver­sion ther­apy banned

New by­law a ‘gen­uine transformation’ of so­ci­ety’s view on LGBTQ com­mu­nity

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - TESSA VIKAN­DER

Van­cou­ver will ban con­ver­sion ther­apy, and sup­port­ers say it’s the first mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the coun­try to do so.

City coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day in favour of the mo­tion that will pro­hibit busi­nesses from pro­vid­ing ser­vices or coun­selling in­tended to change a per­son’s gen­der iden­tity or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

The busi­ness li­cence by­law will also ap­ply to re­li­gious groups who hold a busi­ness li­cence in the city. Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the city, re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions do not re­quire a busi­ness li­cence to op­er­ate, un­less they of­fer a com­mer­cial ser­vice such as coun­selling or tu­tor­ing.

Peter Ga­jdics, a sur­vivor of con­ver­sion ther­apy who’s been a driv­ing force be­hind the push for a ban, said he’s proud to see the city take this stance and nearly cried when he saw that all coun­cil­lors had voted in favour of the mo­tion.

“I feel vic­to­ri­ous. I ac­tu­ally didn’t think it was go­ing to hap­pen; I kept think­ing some­thing was go­ing to get in the way,” Ga­jdics said. “This is huge for Van­cou­ver to take this po­si­tion.”

The by­law was initially writ­ten to pro­tect mi­nors from con­ver­sion ther­apy, but a last-minute amend­ment by Coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Af­fleck made it ap­ply to peo­ple of all ages.

Ga­jdics said he wasn’t ex­pect­ing such a move.

“I was over­whelmed and thrilled that they changed it from mi­nors to adults. I had wanted it to be adults cause I was an adult when it hap­pened to me,” he said, his voice quiv­er­ing. “I think they will not only have set a prece­dent, they will re­ally draw the at­ten­tion of ju­ris­dic­tions for this rea­son.”

Staff rec­om­mended the ban only be ap­plied to youth aged 18 and un­der, said Af­fleck, sim­i­lar to On­tario’s law which bans health-care providers from billing the prov­ince for con­ver­sion ther­apy. They were con­cerned that there wasn’t any prece­dent to ban it for peo­ple of all ages, Af­fleck ex­plained.

“The con­cern is some­one would chal­lenge it (in court), I called bull­shit on that, I don’t care, I think it’s im­por­tant that we take a lead­er­ship role on this,” he said. “I think many cities in this coun­try would get be­hind us and say let’s fight this to­gether.”

Con­ver­sion ther­apy is an um­brella term for any ser­vice that seeks to change a per­son’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. Such ser­vices can in­clude coun­selling, ther­apy, med­i­ca­tions and self-help cour­ses of­fered by re­li­gious groups.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health, there’s no “con­ver­sion ther­apy” cat­e­gory for med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers to bill the prov­ince of Bri­tish Columbia; how­ever, Ga­jdics said the psy­chi­a­trist who pro­vided him with years of dev­as­tat­ing treat­ments to try and “cor­rect” his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity in the 1990s billed the prov­ince for treat­ing his de­pres­sion. LGBTQ com­mu­nity’s re­ac­tion at thes­tar.com/van­cou­ver

JEN­NIFER GAU­THIER FOR STARMETRO VAN­COU­VER

From left, Brook­lyn Fowler, Robert Mcdow­ell, Yogi Omar, Peter Ga­jdics, Tim Steven­son, Bren­dan Bai­ley and Jen Donovan were the driv­ing force be­hind Van­cou­ver's ban on con­ver­sion ther­apy.

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