Spruce Grove City Council unanimously passes motion to explore conversion therapy ban

A file photo of Spruce Grove City Hall.
A file photo of Spruce Grove City Hall. City of Spruce Grove

A municipality west of Edmonton has become the latest municipality in Alberta to explore a ban on conversion therapy.

Spruce Grove’s city council unanimously passed a motion Monday night to have city administrators prepare a report on options for how to ban the practice, Coun. Michelle Gruhlke told Global News.

“[I’m] thrilled that there was unanimous support to move one step closer to banning conversion therapy in Spruce Grove,” Kristopher Wells, the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University, told Global News after the vote.
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“I think it’s a positive development we’re seeing across Alberta with more and more municipalities taking up the issue of conversion therapy in their own communities.”

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

Last month, Coun. Erin Stevenson put forward the notice of motion that was voted on Monday night.

READ MORE: Spruce Grove council to debate possible conversion therapy ban

Administration has been asked to report back to council with its research by Oct. 15, at which time council will discuss the options presented.

“I think many people are surprised that conversion therapy is still happening in Canada,” Wells said. “I think that people are quite shocked and outraged and I think it’s great that councillors want to take action to end this abusive practice.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge advocate pushes for province-wide ban on conversion therapy

Earlier last month, St. Albert became what is believed to be the first municipality in Alberta to take steps to try to ban conversion therapy.

The motion that was passed by St. Albert City Council was to allow for changing 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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LISTEN: MacEwan University’s Kristopher Wells joins the CHED Afternoon News to discuss another Alberta municipality moving to ban conversion therapy

The motion also sought to establish 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.”

In St. Albert, the bylaw changes still need to be drafted and then approved by council, something that is expected to happen before the end of the year.

READ MORE: St. Albert City Council unanimously passes motion to crack down on conversion therapy

Watch below: (From July 2019) St. Albert city councillors voted on Monday to crack down on conversion therapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Sarah Komadina reports.

City of St. Albert takes steps to crack down on conversion therapy
City of St. Albert takes steps to crack down on conversion therapy

“Many municipalities are showing the leadership where the provincial government isn’t,” Wells said, noting that Edmonton and Strathcona County are at different stages of looking at bylaws regarding the practice.

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“I think with more and more municipalities in Alberta taking action to ban conversion therapy it shows that this is an important issue and it also places pressure on the new Alberta government to take action.”

READ MORE: Email from Alberta health minister offers mixed message on conversion therapy group’s status

Wells also indicated he was pleased that conversion therapy is on the federal government’s radar, noting that Canada’s is exploring the possibility of making the practice a criminal offence.

READ MORE: Canada is exploring Criminal Code reforms to halt conversion therapy

“[Conversion therapy is] a clear example of what we call ‘pray away the gay’… where LGBTQ are considered to be disordered, broken or sinful, in need of a cure, or their sexual orientation to be fixed,” Wells said. “We know that those kinds of pastoral messages are not supported by any science or research or evidence — we know you can’t change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“What we do know is that sexual orientation change efforts as they’re called do great harm and damage and can lead young people to take their own lives because they feel that there’s something wrong with them.”

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