A Kitchener city council motion denouncing conversion therapy and calling on the federal government to also ban it passed unanimously after public input at the meeting.
Coun. Debbie Chapman of Ward 9 proposed the motion. A federal bill banning conversion therapy in Canada, a practice which has been denounced by scientific and medical organizations the country over, stalled in the Senate.
The motion seeked to outlaw the practice of conversion therapy, which is a blanket term used to describe various techniques designed to change a person’s sexual or gender orientation.
Coun. Chapman, along with Mark Hartburg and Nicholas Schiavo from No Conversion Canada, spoke in support of the motion, which aims to see that “Kitchener City Council formally denounce conversion practices as dangerous and harmful, perpetuating myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”
Hartburg, having been subjected to conversion therapy in the past, spoke of his disdain for the practice.
“When I speak to people they almost always ask, ‘this is still happening in the 21st century?’”
A copy of the resolution will be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford in addition to municipalities across Canada in an attempt to promote visibility about the issue.
There was some discussion about the legal differences between a bylaw and federal law, with Schiavo saying that there would be discussion with legal experts to try and create an ideal “made in Ontario” bylaw that would cover all the bases. Some examples provided include the prohibition of donations, licences or permits to organizations that facilitate conversion practices in Ontario in any form.
Coun. Chapman’s closing statement put the cap on the discussion with a concise historical reflection about Alan Turing, a mathematician who broke the Enigma code during the Second World War.
“He was gay at a time when it was illegal to do so. In 1952, he was convicted of gross indecency, that is, of being homosexual,” said Chapman shortly before the vote. She described how Alan Turing opted for conversion therapy and chemical castration as punishment for his sentence.
“Turing’s case is just one example, but an important one, given that it has brought this inhumane, unscientific and dangerous practice to our attention, a practice that continues today,” Chapman said.