Op­po­si­tion par­ties tackle con­ver­sion ther­apy

Both the NDP and Tories say they will ta­ble bills to ban the an­tiLGBTQ+ prac­tice in Nova Sco­tia.

The Coast - - THE CITY - BY JESSICA R. DURLING

Op­po­si­tion

par­ties in Nova Sco­tia plan to put an end to con­ver­sion ther­apy.

Nova Sco­tia’s New Demo­cratic Party is putting for­ward a bill as early as this week to end the pay­ment of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als who bill the province for the dis­cred­ited and harm­ful prac­tice.

The bill, which will also cover gen­der iden­tity pro­tec­tions, es­sen­tially dis­al­lows coun­sel­lors or med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als from billing the province for any prac­tice de­signed to “con­vert” LGBTQ+ in­di­vid­u­als to het­ero­sex­u­al­ity, says Su­san Leblanc, spokesper­son for LGBTQ Af­fairs in the NSNDP.

“So if I’m a phys­i­ol­o­gist and I try to, you know, coun­sel be­ing gay out of some­body, I’m not al­lowed to be paid by the province, she says. “That’s what would hap­pen. That’s the essence of the bill.”

Con­ver­sion ther­apy on mi­nors is il­le­gal in On­tario and Man­i­toba and was re­cently banned out­right by the city of Van­cou­ver. There is cur­rently no leg­is­la­tion pro­hibit­ing the prac­tice in Nova Sco­tia, how­ever.

The Cana­dian Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion op­poses any psy­cho­log­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion or ther­apy de­signed to change an in­di­vid­ual’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. Those who’ve pre­vi­ously en­dured con­ver­sion ther­apy say it’s tan­ta­mount to tor­ture.

The prac­tice made head­lines this sum­mer when the Mar­itime Con­fer­ence of Seven­thDay Ad­ven­tists in­vited speak­ers from Ohiobased Com­ing Out Min­istries to a Bi­ble camp in Pug­wash. Both Pride Hal­i­fax and the Youth Project op­posed the in­vi­ta­tion for the Amer­i­can or­ga­ni­za­tion, which views ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a sin. The guest speak­ers were ul­ti­mately un­in­vited.

Leblanc says the NDP’s bill was in­flu­enced by the protests against Com­ing Out Min­istries.

“There was a call for ally­ship and a call to speak out against this prac­tice,” says Leblanc. “So along with do­ing that and help­ing to cir­cu­late pe­ti­tions and that kind of thing, as a po­lit­i­cal party and as law­mak­ers, as the NDP we knew it was im­por­tant that we some­how af­fect leg­is­la­tion so that, in fact, this kind of ther­apy or prac­tice wouldn’t be al­lowed in Nova Sco­tia.”

The NDP hopes to bring the bill for­ward this week once the Leg­is­la­ture opens. “As soon as we get a chance,” says Leblanc. “Very early I hope.”

At the same time, Nova Sco­tia’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party is also plan­ning on tabling a bill to end con­ver­sion ther­apy in the province.

Ac­cord­ing to Cather­ine Klimek, se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer with the Con­ser­va­tive Party, the Tories’ bill is still be­ing drafted, but has the in­ten­tion to make it il­le­gal for any­one to pro­vide con­ver­sion ther­apy for any in­di­vid­ual un­der the age of 18.

In­terim Party leader Karla MacFar­lane launched a pe­ti­tion to the House of As­sem­bly back in July call­ing for an end the prac­tice on mi­nors.

“Our chil­dren and youth need love and ac­cep­tance, not harm­ful con­ver­sion ther­a­pies that only serve to hurt them for years to come,” MacFar­lane wrote in a press re­lease at the time.

Like the NDP, the Tories are also plan­ning to end pro­vin­cial pay­ments for coun­sel­lors or psy­chol­o­gists prac­tic­ing con­ver­sion ther­apy on any­one of any age.

“We have not seen the NDP bill, but we will be seek­ing con­sen­sus from all par­ties to pass leg­is­la­tion which is the most com­pre­hen­sive pos­si­ble, and we will work with all mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture to en­sure this is the case,” says Klimek.

The most im­por­tant goal, says the spokesper­son, is not who ta­bles the bill, but that the prac­tice ends.

“At the end of the day, we would like to see the prac­tice of con­ver­sion ther­apy banned in Nova Sco­tia,” Klimek says. “Whether that’s our bill, the NDP bill or an­other bill, we just want to see this harm­ful prac­tice stopped. Peo­ple should be free to be who they are.”

The Nova Sco­tia Lib­eral Party did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the pro­posed bill.

Au­gust 21, the pris­on­ers at the Cen­tral Nova pro­vin­cial jail in Burn­side launched a peace­ful protest, in sol­i­dar­ity with a na­tion­wide pris­oner strike in the

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