Spruce Grove council to debate possible conversion therapy ban

A rally at the Alberta legislature in Summer 2019 with participants calling for the end of conversion therapy. Global News

Another Alberta municipality could soon ban conversion therapy.

Spruce Grove Coun. Erin Stevenson put forward a notice of motion Monday night, asking that administration research the possibility of banning conversion therapy in the city west of Edmonton.

Conversion therapy is the practice of counselling people in an attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In her notice of motion, Stevenson asked administration to look into the legal process to ban the practice, the bylaw changes that would need to be made, which enforcement and fine options should be applied to anyone found to be practising conversion therapy and information on what other Alberta municipalities are doing to end conversion therapy practices.

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The notice of motion was accepted by council Monday night and will be an agenda item at the Aug. 12 council meeting. If passed, administration has been asked to report back to council with its research by Oct. 15.

The move in Spruce Grove comes just over a week after St. Albert city council unanimously voted to ban the practice. St. Albert is believed to be the first municipality in Alberta to take such steps to try to ban conversion therapy.

Mayor Cathy Heron said she hoped passing the motion would send a message to other governments and to the community that such practices are not acceptable.

“Those tears were partly for the motion, partly for working with such a really good group of councillors who think progressively.”

WATCH: (July 8, 2019) St. Albert city councillors voted to crack down on conversion therapy

Click to play video: 'City of St. Albert takes steps to crack down on conversion therapy'
City of St. Albert takes steps to crack down on conversion therapy

The motion that was passed by St. Albert city council allowed for changes to local land use and business licensing bylaws to clarify that conversion therapy is “neither a permitted nor a discretionary use in any land use classification.”

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The motion also establishes that “conversion therapy is not a lawful business activity in St. Albert, and no business licence shall be issued for any person or organization that has conversion therapy as part of its business activities.”

The bylaw changes still need to be drafted and approved by council, which is expected to happen before the end of the year. Once the changes are approved, city councillors would like a $10,000 fine for anyone who offers or advertises conversion therapy services to young people.

One day after St. Albert passed the ban, federal cabinet ministers reached out to all provincial and territorial governments, urging them to halt conversion therapy. The federal Liberals are also exploring changes to the Criminal Code to “prevent, punish and deter” the discredited practice.

—With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich

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