Lethbridge councillors ask for delay in conversion therapy ban, want public hearing

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Lethbridge councillors ask to delay reading on conversion therapy ban
WATCH ABOVE: Two city councillors have requested to schedule a public hearing on the proposed bylaw to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy in Lethbridge. Eloise Therien explains why. – Jul 10, 2020

City of Lethbridge Councillors Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro have put forward a motion for Monday’s council meeting to delay the second and third readings of the city’s conversion therapy bylaw.

The motion to create the bylaw was put forward by Councillor Rob Miyashiro and Councillor Jeff Carlson in February.

Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation through psychological tactics, and has been recently banned in other Alberta cities such as Edmonton and Calgary.

Hyggen says a lack of detail is why he didn’t vote for the motion in the first place.

“The concern that most people have spoken with me about with conversion therapy is the torture, the chemical castration, the lobotomy, et cetra,” Hyggen said. “None of that is even mentioned in here. So to protect all of those, anyone in our community, it should be in the bylaw and it’s not.”

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Hyggen said he’s gotten many inquiries over the last few months about having a public hearing on the matter.

“We’ve just received multiples emails asking for community input and just a better understand of the bylaw,” Hyggen explained. “So we just thought it was important that we [have] this public engagement session.”

However, not everyone agrees that a public hearing is appropriate. In a statement to Global News, Carlson said it’s not required.

“Residents have had an extended length of time to make their opinions known,” he wrote. “We appreciate everyone who has taken the time to make their opinions known.

“My biggest concern with a public hearing is possibly re-traumatizing individuals who have had to experience this archaic, harmful, and frankly bogus ‘therapy.'”

Peter Gajdics, who lives in Vancouver, B.C., wrote an open letter to the City of Lethbridge outlining why he believes the bylaw is so important.

Gajdics was subject to six years of conversion therapy, and said he wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

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“It was torturous,” he said. “Nobody should have to go through any form of conversion therapy across any spectrum.”

Local LGBTQ activist and co-president of YQueerL, Devon Hargreaves, said he believes this recent request is a tactic to delay the bylaw.

“It’s telling that the same two councillors who voted against the [motion] to create a bylaw, who voted against the first reading — which is very unusual in municipal politics — are now trying to drag that out until August,” Hargreaves said.

Meanwhile, Hyggen and Mauro said in their request for public input that “the City of Lethbridge affirms that it has a constitutional obligation to maintain neutrality and must abstain from taking a position in order to avoid adhering to a particular belief.”

“Other municipalities allowed public input with one having more than 100 speakers and 1,500 written submission received in the agenda prior to second reading of their conversion therapy ban bylaw,” the councillors said.

Gajdics said he listened to Calgary’s public hearing during their bylaw process, and he viewed it has a way for people to “degrade” the LGBTQ community.

“It was one of the most distressing things I’ve ever witnessed,” he said. “One person even went so far as to say he still believed in shock treatment for gay people.”

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If the request is passed by council on Monday, the public hearing will take place on August 17. If it is voted down, the bylaw will go into its second and third readings.

Hargreaves says YQueerL is planning to rally in front of City Hall at 1:30 p.m. on Monday to show their support for the bylaw.

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