Regina committee delays vote on federal conversion therapy ban

·3 min read

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, re-introduced 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 personal 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.

Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post