LGBTQ2+ advocates, councillors ask for conversion therapy ban

Lethbridge LGBTQ2+ advocates, Councillors ask for conversion therapy ban
Calgary became the latest municipality in Alberta to pass a motion banning conversion therapy. Now Lethbridge LGBTQ2+ advocates are hoping for similar results when they bring forward a motion at Monday's council meeting. Taz Dhaliwal reports.

It’s a practice that one Lethbridge man described as dangerous and harmful. Now he’s asking the city to put a stop to conversion therapy once and for all.

Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation through counselling, behaviour modification and religious teachings.

It’s been a controversial topic at the forefront of cities across Alberta, with both Edmonton and Calgary making moves to ban the practice in recent months.

READ MORE: Calgary moves to ban conversion therapy

Now, Devon Hargreaves, an LGBTQ advocate, is hoping his city will follow suit.

“This is not an LGBTQ2+ issue. It’s a human rights issue,” Hargreaves said.

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“Let’s show that Lethbridge is an open and accepting community for the LGBTQ2+ population of Alberta and Canada.”

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Hargreaves is part of the YQueerL Society for Change, and said banning conversion therapy is a cause he’s been fighting for years.

Councillor Jeff Carlson plans to present a motion at Monday’s council meeting to put a stop to the practice.

Carlson said he and other council members have spent a lot of time perfecting the proposal.

“After some consultation with leaders in our community that have really been working on this issue for some time, several of us on council thought it was time for Lethbridge to move forward,” Carlson said.

“We know the province sometimes needs some input from their municipalities to move forward.”

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Extended: Victor Szymanski opens up about conversion therapy
Extended: Victor Szymanski opens up about conversion therapy

YQueerL Society for Change member Jen Takahashi said it’s not always obvious that conversion therapy is happening, and in Lethbridge, the practice often happens very subtly.

“A lot of it right now is talk therapy and ‘praying away the gay.’ It’s the kinder, gentler form of conversion therapy,” she said.

“We don’t really see the extreme end of things on a local level as frequently.”

READ MORE: Edmonton city council moves to ban conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is done across the country and while changing local bylaws won’t affect federal laws, Hargreaves said this is still a step in the right direction.

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“Recent research from the University of British Columbia has indicated that at least over 30,000 Canadians have gone through conversion therapy. That’s a huge number,” he said.

“I think we need to step up to protect everyone in Canada.”

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