Danielle Smith: NDP sets new trap for UCP
I want to believe that the NDP is supporting a private member’s bill to ban conversion therapy for all the right reasons, but on the surface, it appears like it is laying another trap on yet another contentious social issue to trip up the UCP.
What has me suspicious is the NDP member sponsoring the bill, Edmonton Castledowns MLA Nicole Goehring, couldn’t answer even basic questions about what was going to be in her bill or even what was in the Ontario bill which she is supposedly modelling this one after. This would have taken precisely three minutes to research (I know because I found the answer in my commercial break). Regardless, if it is written the way it was in Ontario, there would be no reason to oppose it.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with Edmonton Castledowns MLA Nicole Goehring about the bill to ban conversion therapy
In Ontario, Bill 77 amended the Health Insurance Act so that counselling services that seek to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person aren’t an insured service — meaning the government wouldn’t pay for it. It also explicitly says that health professionals can’t provide conversion therapy to a person under age 18. However, there are lots of exclusions. It excludes services “to provide acceptance, support or understanding of a person or the facilitation of a person’s coping, social support or identity exploration or development.” And adults are excluded — they can consent to such treatment on their own behalf.
A listener, Jesse, was quick to call in and say that her psychology profession is already regulated by an ethics code that prevents them from doing conversion therapy on minors. They do offer counselling, however, for adults trying to reconcile their sexual orientation with their strongly held religious beliefs. She suggested if conversion therapy is being done at all, it is being done within religious communities.
I spoke to LGBTQ+ activist Pam Rocker who seemed to confirm this. She told me she knows many people who have gone through church-sponsored conversions and were left devastated, even suicidal, because of it.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with activist Pam Rocker and Jennifer Smith about gay conversion therapy
So I spoke to two people who went through a program that is now called Journey Canada, which has been in operation since 1991.
Jennifer Smith went through the program as a young adult. She subsequently spent years trying to live a straight life, even marrying and having children, before deciding to live as a lesbian. She is still struggling to reconcile her sexual orientation with her religious beliefs.
Graeme Lauber went through the program in his 30s and is now a counsellor for Journey Canada. He went the opposite way. He is happily married with two kids but acknowledges it is an ongoing challenge not to act on his desires. He does not say he’s no longer gay; he just says his religious identity and community are more important to who he is. He also says it is a hard path that he wouldn’t recommend for everyone.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with Craeme Lauber consellor for Journey Canada
There is no question these conflicting identities create enormous turmoil for those in faith communities. But that is a private matter. Not all conflicts in society can be addressed by passing a law.
So, the health professions are already prevented from counselling minors not to be gay, and churches appear to be counselling only those who enroll themselves as adults.
It would appear the only purpose in putting this legislation forward is to provoke another walkout by the UCP like they did on the abortion bubble zone law. I hope they don’t fall into that trap. If it is simply affirming what is already the practice in Alberta, they should vote in favour and move on.
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