Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson spearheaded the bylaw against conversion therapy. (The Canadian Press)

Vancouver’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban more than symbolic: experts

City passes bylaw that bans techniques that try to persuade people to change sexual orientation

A ban on the practice of so-called conversion therapy in Vancouver sends a powerful message of rejection for controversial “pray the gay away” treatments, say advocates and experts.

The city’s unanimous support for a bylaw prohibiting techniques that attempt to persuade people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity gives people reinforcement to reject the therapy, said Coun. Tim Stevenson, who spearheaded the bylaw.

Registered psychologist Ashleigh Yule said she has had young adults tell her stories of how as teenagers they were pushed into such programs.

“My youth pastor thought it would be important for me to go or my friend thought it would be good for me to go and see if I could pray the gay away,” she said in an interview from Calgary about what some young people have told her.

Yule, who works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited youth, said the Vancouver bylaw is hugely symbolic in its public support to many people, but it’s also practical because it offers non-judgmental direction to those examining their sexuality.

“My professional opinion would be having these pieces of legislation that are either at a municipal level, at a provincial level, ultimately at a federal level, would be very helpful,” she said. “I don’t feel conversion therapy is a form of therapy. I feel it is a harmful practice.”

READ MORE: Police uniforms, vehicles no longer allowed in Vancouver Pride parade

She said conversion therapy is happening in Canada, but is difficult to track because it is often linked to private events held by faith-based groups.

“Certainly, these groups exist,” she said. “It’s hard to find if you are doing a web search or looking in the Yellow Pages. I know for certain it’s happened at the clinical level because I see people who have survived that.”

Stevenson, 73, said he expects the bylaw to offer hope to many people facing dark times in their lives.

He said he struggled with his sexual identity until he was 30, and knowing there was a law offering support during his time of inner turmoil would likely have provided some comfort.

“I think it’s more significant than you might think at first blush because it really does show an attitudinal change within society,” said Stevenson, a former New Democrat member of the B.C. legislature and United Church minister. “Can you imagine 20 years ago this coming forward?”

Prof. Elizabeth Saewyc, director of the school of nursing at UBC and an expert on vulnerable youth, said Vancouver’s city council has shed light on an often hidden issue.

“It’s more than symbolic,” she said. “By doing this, they actually make visible, make public for people that this isn’t accepted practice.”

Saewyc said in the past she has had parents approach her about issues with their children’s sexuality, but she always steers them away from conversion therapy.

“This is not an evidence-based approach,” she said. “In fact there is evidence it can cause harm. The better strategy would be to better support and nurture the child, with whatever orientation they have.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Over-30 Cowichan Cougars edged by Vic West

Early goal proves insurmountable

Demolition of derelict buildings begins in Lake Cowichan

It’s taken a long time to accomplish but demolition is underway or finished at several sites

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Cowichan Red Arrow plays to Div. 4 soccer draw

Red Arrow remains among top teams in Div. 4

VIDEO: Huge 1,300-pound pumpkin take first place Old Farm Market weigh off

Blessed by a sunny day, the contest draws pumpkins from the Island, mainland, and the U.S.

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

VIDEO: Millionaire Lottery returns to give back and win big

Since 1996, Millionaire Lottery has raised $52 million for the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

‘A little odd’ B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

On the streets of downtown Vancouver, notably the Wild West of illegal marijuana, not a single legal store opened Wednesday, making for a rather anticlimatic kick-off

Most Read