Regina debate about conversion therapy will require a 2nd meeting

·2 min read
The recommendation on the table is that Mayor Sandra Masters write a letter in support of Bill C-6, the federal bill in the works that will ban conversion therapy.  (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The recommendation on the table is that Mayor Sandra Masters write a letter in support of Bill C-6, the federal bill in the works that will ban conversion therapy. (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Conversion therapy was the subject of hours of discussion Wednesday at the community wellness committee in Regina.

The recommendation on the table is that Mayor Sandra Masters write a letter in support of Bill C-6, the federal bill in the works that will ban conversion therapy.

"Conversion Therapy can be described as a practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress non-heterosexual attraction or behaviours, or to change an individual's gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth," a report from the city reads, in part.

"The Canadian Psychological Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association and Canadian Paediatric Society have denounced conversion therapy as harmful to [2SLGBTQ] persons."

Twenty-six delegations were on the docket at the meeting. Ten have yet to speak. Another meeting will have to be scheduled to finish the debate and for the committee to come to a decision on the report.

Many delegations spoke about following the lead of Saskatoon, which crafted a local bylaw banning the practice. A local bylaw is not currently on the table, but an amendment to the recommendation could be introduced, directing the city to look at the possibility.

Those against the federal bill were mostly concerned about what they see as an overly broad definition of conversion therapy in C-6. Delegates and councillors alike wondered what if C-6 might render certain conversations about gender and sexuality illegal.

The faith community has varying opinions on the bill, and some faith leaders spoke in favour of the recommendation, including Pastor Stewart Miller of Bread of Life Lutheran Church.

"When you hear people claim that this is about our city council or our government ignoring people of faith or flouting core Christian values, that is simply not the case," he said.

"Many people of faith and many Christians will stand with you as you strive to stand with people who could be victimized by any further discrimination, hate and especially spiritual and psychological assaults."

Wayne Bernakevitch, a lawyer in Regina, told the committee he was representing "a number of" local businesses and doctors and some professional counsellors.

He didn't want the committee to recommend sending a letter to the federal government. He also didn't want the city to craft a bylaw.

"I don't think you need to get into this whole area at all," he said.

"I don't think the city should be ... getting into the family area, especially when we're dealing with minors."

One delegation said they intentionally sought out a form of conversion therapy and didn't want anything to pass that would stop other people from being able to do this as well.

The second meeting has not yet been scheduled.