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Laws needed at every level to end conversion therapy: researchers

Last Updated Feb 20, 2020 at 8:31 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – A municipal ban alone won’t stop conversion therapy according to some researchers.

As cities draft bylaws, a report says specific language and clarity is needed but all levels of government need to use their powers to ensure no Canadian has to endure the traumatic practice.

“LGBTQ2S youth living in a community where you feel relatively isolated, you might feel that nationally people have the right to come out and have this identity affirmed, well locally this is not the case,” said Travis Salway with the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity.

Municipal bans such as the one Calgary approved earlier this month, tend to focus on business licenses and land use according to the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

RELATED: City of Calgary passes motion to ban conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is a discredited practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Advocates have long called for a federal ban, written into the criminal code.

“It’s really saddening and surprising that I get new emails, new requests to meet frequently, almost weekly,” said Affirming Coordinator at Hillhurst United Church Keith Murray.

Aside from enforcement, the report recommends support groups lead by survivors.

The Hillhurst Church has become a sanctuary for survivors, with a group recently started and already has a number of people seeking help.

“There’s an extreme impact on someone’s mental health and well being as a result,” said Murray, “When you’re told who you are is unnatural and you are going to go to hell and be tormented for eternity, that has an impact on your psyche when you give these messages over and over again.”

While Ottawa is exploring a nationwide ban, Salway said provinces need to get involved as they govern publicly funded health services and child welfare laws.

“For instance, youth protection acts so where we look at provinces (that) have a role to play through social workers for example, in identifying cases where youth, they’re safety is being threatened.”

WATCH: Spruce Grove moving to ban conversion therapy 

Other communities such as Edmonton, Spruce Grove and St. Albert have recently passed similar motions to ban the practice, but provincially no legislation exists.