By Shurtz, Delon on July 15, 2020.
City council has given third reading to a bylaw prohibiting conversion therapy in Lethbridge, despite efforts by three councillors to delay approval so the City can hold a public hearing on the issue.
Councillors Joe Mauro, Blaine Hyggen and Ryan Parker urged fellow councillors Monday to delay final reading of the controversial bylaw, and hold a public hearing so residents can provide their input. But many councillors believe there has already been plenty of input, although primarily through emails.
“Have you not read your email?” Coun. Jeff Carlson asked Mauro during Monday’s council meeting. “We’ve had lots of public input.”
Mauro argued, however, that emails aren’t enough, and residents deserve to be heard through a public forum in which they can directly tell councillors how they feel.
“We get frustrated and angry when we have issues and we ask and beg the community to engage and nobody comes,” Mauro said. “And now they are knocking on our door and we’re going to say no to them? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Hyggen pointed out public hearings are integral to open and effective government, and Parker suggested more than 500 emails council received from residents on the issue is “reason enough” to hold a public hearing.
But the rest of council disagreed, and said the public has provided enough input for council to approve the bylaw, and it shouldn’t be delayed.
“I respect public input, but this is not the time,” Coun. Belinda Crowson said.
Council rejected the motion for a public hearing 6-3, then later approved the bylaw 7-2 after considerable discussion over wording of the document and whether it will be enforceable. Mauro said he feels the bylaw may not be effective and do nothing more than give people false hope.
“This, to me, is only symbolic.”
The bylaw prohibits the business practice of conversion therapy and includes a $10,000 fine for a violation.
The bylaw states “no person may engage in or operate a business that provides the offering or provision of counselling or behaviour modification techniques, administration or prescription of medication, or any other purported treatment, service or tactic used for the objective of changing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or gender preference, or eliminating or reducing sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between persons of the same sex.”
The bylaw does not include services that provide acceptance, support or understanding of a person, or that facilitate a person’s coping, social support or identity exploration or development, or any gender-affirming surgery or any service related to gender-affirming surgery.
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