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‘Historic moment’: Conversion therapy officially banned in Saskatoon

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WATCH: Conversion therapy is officially banned in Saskatoon, a decision that's exciting for many people, especially those in the LGBTQ2 community – Feb 23, 2021

It wasn’t a unanimous decision, but conversion therapy is officially banned in Saskatoon.

OUTSaskatoon’s co-interim executive director said the city’s decision to support Bylaw 9747 to ban conversion therapy is a “historic moment.”

“Conversion therapy has been around for decades and centuries and it has existed here in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan for the same period of time,” she said.

“It’s any sort of interaction in which a person is being pressured to change their identity in favor of a heterosexual or cisgender identity.”

Read more: LGBTQ2 community sees gaps in health care services, calls for proper training

At times, it has been violent.

Conversion therapy survivor Ben Rodgers shared the experience he had when he was 19 years old.

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“I had to fast for three days with no food and no water before having to go through a service after which I was prayed over. They were screaming and yelling, running their hands on my head and my shoulders until the point where I was brought down to the ground and screaming in these tongues, these languages casting off the demons of homosexuality,” Rodgers said during Tuesday’s public hearing meeting, calling from Ontario.

“To make a 19-year-old go without food and water for three days… that’s torture.”

While Ward 5 councilor Randy Donauer was against the violent approach, he was the only member of council who didn’t vote in favor of the ban.

“The danger here is that we’re actually taking rights away from individuals to obtain a service that they may want and that’s not our role. Our role is to protect people,” he said.

Read more: Counselling sessions on hold at Saskatoon sexual assault centre due to COVID-19

Guthrie didn’t agree with Donauer’s stance.

“He referred to 2SLGBTQ people and our identities as lifestyles and that’s simply not the case. My identity is not a lifestyle,” she said after the meeting.

Mayor Charlie Clark, who voted in favor of the ban, said he reached out to both Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi about backlash their city’s have received since banning conversion therapy in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

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“Neither of them are aware of concerns being brought forth to the city about this happening as a result and our bylaw is modeled very much after the language of those bylaws,” Clark said about his conversations with Iveson and Nenshi.

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The ban in Saskatoon was initially brought forward to council last year by Grosvenor Park United Church. It says the passing of Bylaw 9747 is something to celebrate.

“Grosvenor Park United Church celebrates with the City of Saskatoon and the Two Spirit, LGBTQIA+ community and allies, in the passing of Saskatoon’s bylaw to ban so-called ‘conversion therapies’. These therapies falsely claim that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed to hetero-normative,” affirming ministries spokesperson Lia Storey-Gamble said in an emailed statement.

Guthrie said the ban shows the city supports the LGBTQ2 community. She hopes it can inspire other municipalities in Saskatchewan to follow suit.

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