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B.C. Greens introduce legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors

WATCH: The B.C. Green Party has introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation from LGBTQ to heterosexual. Kylie Stanton reports.

The B.C. Green Party has introduced legislation to ban the controversial practice known as conversion therapy, but the province says the practice has never been covered under B.C.’s medical services plan.

The Greens made the announcement alongside members of the LGBTQ2+ community, describing conversion therapy as a “pseudo-scientific practice” of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

WATCH: Anti-Conversion Therapy Bill

“This bill supports those with diverse sexualities, gender identities and expressions. It sends a clear message that it is OK to be who you are, that your elected officials and those in positions of power hear you and will act now to protect your human rights,” Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said.

“All British Columbians deserve to be loved, supported, and accepted — not persecuted — for who they are. The time to act is now.”

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Weaver is hopeful the NDP and BC Liberals will support the legislation. The B.C. government describes “conversion therapy” as a terrible, abusive practice.

The province says a health professional cannot bill the public healthcare system for the service. If they billed for this under a different billing code, it would be considered fraudulent and the practitioner would be referred to the Medical Services Commission for inquiry.

READ MORE: Petition to ban conversion therapy across Canada gains steam, survivor says it’s ‘long overdue’

The government would not commit to supporting the legislation.

“The B.C. government continuously looks at what further steps can be taken to ensure all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live without fear of discrimination, that includes bringing back the Human Rights Commission, and providing publicly funded reconstructive gender-affirming surgeries,” a statement from the Ministry of Health reads.

WATCH: BC man fights to have gay conversion therapy banned across Canada

BC man fights to have gay conversion therapy banned across Canada
BC man fights to have gay conversion therapy banned across Canada

The province says none of the professional regulatory colleges recognize conversion therapy as an appropriate or ethical treatment. Any professional found to be offering the service would be referred for inquiry or discipline. According to the regulatory colleges, any professional offering the service would be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

Peter Gadjics wrote about his experience in therapy. He says for six years a therapist tried to convince him he wasn’t gay and that he “had no words to describe what had happened to me.”

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READ MORE: Green MLA, LGBTQ+ group calling for N.B. to ban conversion therapy

“Bans on ‘conversion therapy’ are important because they destabilize a belief system, an ideology, still held by too many people that says gay or trans people are inherently ‘broken,’ by virtue of their homosexuality or trans identity, and must, therefore, be ‘fixed,'” Gadjics said.

“It’s not so much that I wanted to kill myself as I thought I was already dead. In truth, so-called conversion therapy is soul-crushing torture that ends up not even being about ‘changing’ sexual orientation as it is about eradicating homosexuality, silencing it from the bodies of people who are gay.”

Manitoba and Ontario have already banned the practice. The proposed B.C. legislation would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy for anyone under age 19. It does not limit access to gender-confirming surgery or legitimate counselling and support services.

“The practice of ‘conversion therapy,’ continues to occur, particularly in smaller cities, and we need our government to step in and protect our community,” queer activist Yogi Omar said.

“‘Conversion therapy’ survivors have expressed that this practice does not actually convert anything, it will only lead to the feeling of self-hatred, isolation, and depression. Banning this practice provincially will not only help LGBTQ2+ community in British Columbia, it will also lead the movement to ban this practice nationally in Canada.”

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