Conversion therapy banned
New bylaw a ‘genuine transformation’ of society’s view on LGBTQ community
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
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.