United Church seeks conversion therapy ban from Saskatoon city council

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United Church seeks conversion therapy ban from Saskatoon city council
WATCH ABOVE: Church writes to committee seeking ban on conversion therapy in Saskatoon – Feb 13, 2020

Grosvenor Park United Church wants Saskatoon to become the latest Canadian city to ban conversion therapy through a bylaw.

The widely discredited practice aims to put a person through counselling in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, scientific research doesn’t support conversion. It can also result in negative mental health outcomes for LGBTQ2 people, according to the association’s policy statement.

READ MORE: Calgary moves to ban conversion therapy

Fran Forsberg, a member of the church’s affirming committee, told Global News conversion therapy is happening in Saskatoon.

“There’s marginalized people in the sexual and gender diverse community that are suffering and it needs to be stopped,” Forsberg said.

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Saskatoon city council has never been asked to consider banning conversion therapy before. Forsberg said seeking a bylaw would result in action faster than lobbying provincial and federal governments.

“It’s the time to strike,” she said.

“It should’ve been done a long time ago as far as I’m concerned because how many people have we lost to suicide because of this abhorrent practice?”

In June 2019, federal cabinet ministers wrote to their provincial counterparts on the topic. At the time, the federal government was exploring reforms to the Criminal Code to ban the method.

READ MORE: Edmonton city council moves to ban conversion therapy

To date, conversion therapy is not illegal Canada-wide, but municipalities including Edmonton and Vancouver have banned it. Earlier this month, city councils in Lethbridge and Calgary voted in favour of drafting anti-conversion therapy bylaws.

A letter from Grosvenor Park United Church in favour of a bylaw will go to Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s governance and priorities committee.

The church’s letter also calls on the city to advocate to the provincial and federal governments in order to ban conversion therapy in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

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After city council’s consideration, Forsberg said the next step will be to lobby the province.

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

A spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s justice ministry described conversion therapy as “an outdated practice” that isn’t supported by the government of Saskatchewan.

The province does not provide coverage for any practice that claims to be able to change sexual orientation.

“The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General and the Ministry of Health are considering the province’s options for discouraging conversion therapy,” the statement reads.

In addition to the Canadian Psychological Association, numerous professional associations also oppose conversion therapy, including the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Association of Social Workers.

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