By Lethbridge Herald on February 10, 2020.
Lethbridge city council voted to bring in a ban on the advertising and business practice of conversion therapy in the City of Lethbridge, and to advocate to the Kenney government for a total provincial ban on conversion therapy.
While there was some disagreement and dissent on the issue of local bylaw enforcement of such a ban among councillors, council unanimously supported advocacy to the province to ban the practice in Alberta.
Coun. Joe Mauro asked that the original motion be split into two separate motions untying the provincial advocacy front from a local bylaw enforcing a local advertising and business practice ban. He supported advocacy to the province but opposed drafting a local bylaw on conversion therapy.
“My opinion, belief systems, values, morality, etc., aren’t addressed in a bylaw,” he stated. “Whatever the issue in question is, and I totally agree there is maybe something morally reprehensible for many, I can’t see that captured in a bylaw. We definitely may have a public position (as a council), which we do, and we voted unanimously on that — and the letter to the province will clearly identify that.”
Mauro was supported in his opposition by Coun. Blaine Hyggen.
However, Coun. Rob Miyashiro, who co-sponsored the motion, said it certainly was within the City’s jurisdiction to ban advertising and to block anyone applying for a business licence to offer the service in Lethbridge.
“This type of resolution speaks to what we have jurisdiction over,” he stated. “We have jurisdiction over licensing a business, and what business practices can occur. We can’t tell them they can’t do it, but we can tell them we are not going to license them to do it. Ottawa is looking at this from a Criminal Code perspective, something they have full jurisdiction over. We’re looking at it as a business licensing and business operational aspect, something we have full jurisdiction over.”
Coun. Jeff Carlson, who was the other co-sponsor of the motion, said such conversations on the feasibility of bylaw enforcement regarding conversion therapy were really beside the point anyway. This is clearly the right thing to do, he stated.
“As I tried to tell my colleagues,” he said, explaining the actual wording of the bylaw has yet to be composed, “we can do this now. Other orders of government move at a glacial pace. We’re quick. We’re nimble. We can direct our city manager to do this, and I believe it is to come back by June. We can have it in place years, perhaps a decade, before other orders of government act. So let’s get it done here.”
YQeerL Society for Change co-president Devon Hargreaves, who is also co-sponsoring the national E-Petition 1833 which would have conversion therapy criminalized in Canada, said he, too, was disappointed Councillors Mauro and Hyggen did not see the larger picture regarding the issue.
“E-Petition 1833 to call on the federal government to ban conversion therapy started in Lethbridge; that’s where that whole national movement began,” Hargreaves said, flanked by his petition co-sponsor Jennifer Takahashi. “It’s great to see it coming home to see our city council stepping up, and to see the support. I do wish it had been unanimous on both parts of the resolution, but we’ll take the support we received. We look forward to working with council to see this move forward.”
Hargreaves called conversion therapy a “heinous practice that does harm mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically.”
“I want to send my heartfelt appreciation out to Councillors Carlson and Miyashiro for putting their names behind this and moving this forward,” he stated. “I wanted to thank everyone who voted against (conversion therapy). I think it is a shame there were some votes against the second part of the resolution. I think the science is out there, the evidence is there. In this day and age being a member of the LGBTQ2+ community is no longer considered a mental illness; so to be arguing about why we shouldn’t be standing up for protections for everyone in 2020, over 50 years after homosexuality is decriminalized, is a shame.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter