A local LGBTQ2S+ advocacy group is urging the City of Kelowna to pass bylaws to ban conversion therapy locally.
Advocacy-Canada.LGBT launched a petition calling on city councillors to support a local and federal ban on conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a blanket term to refer to harmful and traumatic practices that attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Many medical and psychiatric associations have denounced conversion therapy as a valid medical practice, including the Canadian Psychological Association.
“I’ve heard several stories of people here who have experienced conversion therapy in their own churches through prayer and services. We need to send the signal out to the youth that we as a city don’t condone this,” said Advocacy-Canada.LGBT founder Wilbur Turner.
But this issue is nothing new. Turner and Mayor Colin Basran have had informal conversations about a municipal conversion therapy ban since June this year. Turner said he gave Basran some papers and research about conversion therapy and that Basran was receptive to the idea of a local ban on the harmful practice.
Turner has reached out to the mayor and city councillors since the petition launched, urging them to pass a bylaw to ban conversion therapy in the city. So far, Turner said he has heard back from Coun. Maxine Dehart, Coun. Mohini Singh and Coun. Luke Stack.
Turner has also received a letter from the City of Kelowna that outlined its support for a federal ban on conversion therapy. Advocacy-Canada.LGBT, however, will continue to advocate for a local ban.
“We want to present the petition to city council once this petition is closed. We would like to engage in the conversation and support whatever needs to be done to get this bylaw passed,” he said.
Turner also acknowledged that this process isn’t going to be quick and easy. “I know this is going to take some time since council has other things that need to be done. I’m not sure what direction the city will take, but we want to support them and whatever the community needs to do to have this take place.
So far, the community has been receptive to the petition. As of Thursday (Oct. 14), the petition has gathered 507 signatures. The goal, however, is to get to 2,000 signatures and Advocacy-Canada.LGBT is planning on canvassing the community during Pride Week later this month for more.
“We’ve heard from councillors that there might not be enough resources for a bylaw on this matter, but it’s going to impact the city’s finances whether a ban comes federally or locally,” said Turner. “Something is happening in our city that is harmful, and most of this is happening without any risk and often in secret.”
“We need every tool that we have to deal with this problem. It sends a message to people that this is not okay and this is unacceptable,” Turner added.
When asked for comment on the petition, the city’s communications supervisor Tom Wilson said Basran is not available to speak on the topic. “Council has not received this petition and they have not discussed the petition as a group,” said Wilson.