After hearing from 35 members of the public, Regina city council voted unanimously to fast-track plans to draft a local bylaw banning conversion therapy.
The agenda for Wednesday’s special council meeting, which was devoted entirely to the discussion around conversion therapy, originally requested city administration draft a bylaw report for the first quarter of next year.
It will now be readied for this July.
“We’re talking about marginalized, and often victimized, members of the community who were looking for people in leadership to take a position,” Regina Mayor Sandra Masters told reporters Wednesday night.
Regina committee debate on conversion therapy to resume Monday
But while Masters implied the action would send a clear message of support, another agenda item was amended without such united support from city lawmakers.
Wednesday’s agenda originally requested the Masters write a letter to the federal government endorsing government Bill C-6.
The bill, which is currently awaiting its third reading in the House of Commons, seeks to largely criminalize the practice which the Canadian Psychology Association (CPA) says “can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction.”
But after hearing from concerns from several councillors, including Terina Shaw, Lori Bresciani and Landon Mohl, about the definition of conversion therapy provided in the bill, Masters floored another amendment.
She suggested that a letter be written to the federal government supporting the idea of banning conversion therapy without specifically mentioning Bill C-6, though this idea was met with resistance in Henry Baker Hall.
“I think a letter that’s not tied to a specific bill or specific legislation is just too vague and not of much use,” Coun. Dan LeBlanc said during debate on the amendment.
“I’m not going to support this.”
The amendment passed though, 9-2, with LeBlanc and Cheryl Stadnichuk voting against it.
“I think what we heard were a number of concerns relative to language that several councillors shared. To say we support a ban on conversion therapy was kind of that middle road to alleviate some of the concerns,” Masters said after the meeting, though she quickly dismissed the oft-repeated claims that C-6 is an overreach.
“The summary on page two of the legislative document outlines very clearly that it is a ban on conversion therapy and any techniques that go into that.”
Regina woman shares decades-long journey recovering from conversion therapy
Delegations were split on support for the report during the marathon meeting. Mayor Masters and various councillors cut off delegations several times.
Many delegates, like Wayne Bernakevitch, expressed a belief that the aforementioned definition of Bill C-6 was too broad and would result in simple conversations about sexual orientation and identity being criminalized.
“If you look at the definition, it’s a flawed definition in that it’s not equally weighted with respect to councillors being able to provide proper and adequate advice,” Bernakevitch said, while suggesting the city of Regina would be “stepping out of their lane” to pass legislation locally.
“Social justice issues like this should be left to the feds.”
Several other delegates, though, passionately voiced opposition to those views.
“My question to those saying it’s already in there is why are you opposed to making it even more clear? Why are you opposed?” said lawyer Larry Kawolchuk.
Kris Wells, who is the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Issues, said legislation is needed at all levels of government to send a strong message
“It promotes physical and psychological wellbeing of LGBTQ2S+ people and the general community,” he said.
“It clearly reinforces your city’s values and beliefs in creating an inclusive and welcoming community. Municipalities can do more than just raise rainbow flags and paint rainbow crosswalks. This is about moving beyond symbols to actual tangible outcomes and putting words to action as a city.”
‘Historic moment’: Conversion therapy officially banned in Saskatoon
If Regina does approve a bylaw in July, it will join a growing list of governments banning conversion therapy by law.
Vancouver became the first Canadian municipality to take such action in 2018.
Since then, such cities as Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge have passed laws banning the practice to some extent.
Several laws have been passed at the provincial level as well, including in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon.
Many countries around the world have also already approved legislation prohibiting conversion therapy at a national level.
In 2016, Malta became the first European nation to nationally ban the practice. and has since been followed by Germany.
In 2010, the Fijian government’s new Mental Health Decree prohibited conversion therapy in the field of mental health.
Formal opposition to the practice in Brazil, meanwhile, stretches as far back as 1999.
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