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Regina city council, public set to debate bylaw banning conversion therapy

After hearing from 35 members of the public at the end of April, Regina city council voted unanimously to fast-track plans to draft a local bylaw banning conversion therapy. Eduardo Lima / The Canadian Press

Members of the public will join council for another chance to debate the bylaw that would ban conversion therapy in Regina at city council on Wednesday.

At the end April, council heard from 35 members of the public, and voted unanimously to fast-track plans to draft a local bylaw banning conversion therapy in July.

Many of those delegates, some of whom attended virtually from outside of Regina, opposed the city taking action, resulting in a discussion some advocates found harmful.

For them to get another chance to voice their displeasure, has cause for concern for Regina’s LGBTQ2+ community.

Read more: Regina city council requests report on conversion therapy bylaw by July

“If it’s a practice that’s causing harm to a group of people, then it shouldn’t be a debate as to whether or not it’s something that needs to be changed,” said Branden Dickie, who experienced conversion therapy as a child.

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“And it shouldn’t be a debate that’s being had with speakers that are from other countries and other provinces.

“Especially, when you’re looking at the increased rates of suicide that come out of [conversion therapy] and the effect it has on these kids, not being able to feel like they can really be true to themselves.”

A group of affirming ministries within The United Church and other congregations from other denominations support the ban and sent a letter to the mayor’s office, city councillors and the media Tuesday, showing that support.

“Simply put, we believe that 2S-LGBTQIA+ conversion efforts or practices are a form of abuse,” the letter read.

“We believe that any attempt to discourage, repress or even try to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is harmful, especially for our vulnerable  2S-LGBTQIA+ children and youth.

Read more: Regina’s LGBTQ2+ community reacts to council’s decision on conversion therapy

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“As people of faith, we affirm the personhood, inherent worth, and dignity of members of the 2S-LGBTQIA+ community, especially the “Q”: those who are questioning and exploring their sexual and gender identities. As people explore and develop who they are, they deserve our support and encouragement, not judgement, shame, or rejection.”

Dickie now leads the Queer Youth Choir in Regina and says he’s looking forward to the day the bylaw officially comes into practice.

“A big part of this bylaw being passed and getting put through would be a signal to the community that maybe things are starting to be taken a little more seriously,” Dickie said.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of stuff happening in the last while like the finding of the Indigenous kids behind the schools in mass graves.

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“We’re starting to see that these are humanitarian issues, where if these are things that are impacting large groups of people, change can make a community of people feel safe. It’s something we’ve been asking for years.”

Click to play video: 'Regina’s LGBTQ2+ community reacts to council’s decision on conversion therapy' Regina’s LGBTQ2+ community reacts to council’s decision on conversion therapy
Regina’s LGBTQ2+ community reacts to council’s decision on conversion therapy – Apr 29, 2021

If Regina does approve a bylaw, it will join a growing list of governments banning conversion therapy by law.

Vancouver became the first Canadian municipality to take such action in 2018.

“We’re talking about marginalized, and often victimized, members of the community who were looking for people in leadership to take a position,” Regina Mayor Sandra Masters told reporters in April as to why she is supporting the bylaw.

The public had until 12 p.m. Tuesday to submit their request to speak at city council on Tuesday.

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