Calgary city council has unanimously voted in principle to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions, has already been banned in other Canadian cities including Vancouver, Edmonton, and St. Albert.
The ban resolution passed in a 14-0 vote on Feb. 3. at the Municipal Building.
A group of more than 100 supporters were present in the council chamber for the vote.
The notice of motion was brought forward by Coun. Evan Woolley on Jan. 14 and was co-sponsored by Coun. Druh Farrell, Gian-Carlo Carra, Jyoti Gondek and Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The proposed bylaw would allow city administration to prohibit the approval of business licenses to those who offer conversion therapy in the city.
It would also allow the mayor to advocate on council’s behalf to the provincial and federal government, urging them to use the tools within their jurisdiction to ban conversion therapy.
A draft bylaw will now be prepared and will go to a city committee in March.
During the meeting, councillors voiced their opposition to the practise.
“Forcing anyone to do conversion therapy is a barbaric practise,” said Coun. Sean Chu.
“There’s absolutely no place for conversion therapy anywhere in any city,” Gondek said.
“Let’s just get this done.”
Coun. Woolley said that the city will bring teeth to the bylaw, noting that there are people out there playing games with the lives of others.
“If you are practicing this in our city, we will come at you with everything we’ve got,” he said.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Woolley said he was proud of the decision made by city council.
“That unanimous vote sends a clear signal that we are working very hard to be a welcoming community for all, regardless of your gender or sexual identity.”
LGBTQ activist Pam Rocker said she’s thrilled about the decision.
“It’s amazing to me to see how many councillors stood up for the LGBTQ community and say that the city isn’t a place where people need to be fractured in order to belong.”
If you are practicing this in our city, we will come at you with everything we’ve got. – Coun. Evan Woolley
Although the vote was just a first step to a bylaw, Rocker said it was worth it.
“It’s a symbol, but a symbol stands for something. This sends a message that we are going to support really strict and enforceable bylaws so that it isn’t a symbol without teeth and something that’s able to have recourse for those who are victims of these practices.”
Rocker said that council’s decision would help put pressure on the provincial and federal governments to ban conversion therapy.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are subjected to this in Canada, so we need all levels of government to really care about this and to be able to eradicate it,” Rocker said.
Graeme Lauber, who identifies as a gay man but follows traditional Biblical beliefs, said he supports the ban but wants to make sure that the wording in the proposed bylaw works for all Calgarians.
“This is an important discussion and we want to make sure that the LGBTQ community is protected. We want to make sure that all Calgarians are protected. We want to make sure that the religious community is respected and their ability to believe and teach what they believe about sexuality is respected,” he said.