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Edmonton committee approves banning of conversion therapy pending full-council vote

Last Updated Aug 21, 2019 at 6:25 pm MDT

EDMONTON – An Edmonton city council committee voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with an official ban on conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling or electroshock therapy.

“I think there is a fundamental right for Edmontonians and Canadians to not be subjected to any form of psychological abuse. Whatever you call this practice, it amounts, in my mind, to a form of psychological abuse,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

“It precedes from the premise that there’s something wrong with someone because they don’t fit into someone else’s categorization, often a simplified–black and white, male and female, gay and straight–categorization.”

Pending a full-council vote next week, administration will move ahead drafting a bylaw prohibiting the licensing, practice, and promotion of conversion therapy in Edmonton.

Those caught breaking the bylaw, which is expected to be in place by the end of the year, could be fined up to $10,000.

“There are 932,546 different expressions of what it is to be an Edmontonian. And trying to simplify that–and in any way force any of our fellow citizens into a box that we think is right, or saying the box they live in is wrong–is an abuse. It’s violence,” said Iveson.

“I think we are in a position as a community to send a signal that that is wrong.”

The vote is largely symbolic as the practice is already banned in Alberta, however, it is not a criminal offense.

St. Albert and Spruce Grove banned conversion therapy earlier this year.

WATCH: Conversion therapy ban in Spruce Grove

Meantime, the Alberta government has confirmed it sent a letter to the federal government saying it opposes conversion therapy and has rules in place that constitute a complete legal ban.

“The Government of Alberta has been clear that we oppose and condemn conversion therapy,”  reads the letter, signed by Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer.

“We support other provinces who have joined us in speaking out against conversion therapy, which is a prohibited practice and cannot be provided by any regulated health professional in Alberta.”

The letter also states the province would be open to any federal proposals to criminalize the therapy.

-with files from Courtney Theriault, The Candian Press