The Alberta Government has struck a new committee tasked with finding the most effective way to ban conversion therapy in our province.
The working group will be co-chaired by NDP Edmonton MLA Nicole Goehring, and it will meet with stakeholders over the next five months to determine draft recommendations.
Conversion therapy - the practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions - is already banned in Manitoba, Ontario and most recently Nova Scotia, who introduced a ban in September.
"I've heard from Albertans and community leaders that any ban on conversion therapy must be community-driven and can't let anyone fall through the cracks," said Goehring in a statement on Friday.
The chair of Central Alberta Pride says it’s a step in the right direction, but also an indicator of a much bigger problem.
“It is shocking to me that this is still a conversation that is being had considering it is a violation of constitutional rights and freedoms. Conversion therapy and camps are unconstitutional in and of itself and should absolutely be illegal,” says Shannon Humphrey.
“I think the debate on this topic illustrates just how far we still have to go in the fight for equality and basic human rights. People often ask why things like Pride Week, Pride Month, or Pride societies exist. This is why, because despite the perceived absence of inequality and limitations on freedom, unfortunately they still exist.”
Alberta Liberal leader David Khan says the provincial government should ban the practice immediately.
"Alberta’s youth cannot wait another five months for an NDP committee to reach the conclusion that is obvious to most people in this province. What further input is needed to convince this government?" Khan says.
"The NDP are willing to delay any meaningful decision in a desperate attempt to turn this into an election issue. This could put vulnerable children at risk.”
UCP leader Jason Kenney has stated that he can't comment on legislation that is yet to be tabled, but noted he would keep an open mind on the subject.
Conversion therapy is banned in 15 American states, including New York which enacted a ban in late January. It was also recently the subject of a successful lawsuit by a man in central China who sued a mental hospital over forced conversion therapy.
(With files from The Canadian Press)
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