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

Prince Rupert Rampage fall to River Kings

The Prince Rupert Rampage were eliminated by the River Kings Sunday, sparking a massive post-game brawl.

Rampage bounce back, force a game 3

Prince Rupert beat Terrace River Kings 8-1 on Feb. 16

All Native Basketball Tournament: Seniors Final

Kitkatla holds off upstart Vancouver squad to repeat as champions

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

All Native Basketball Tournament: Masters Final

The Hydaburg Warriors claimed their fifth straight masters division title Saturday.

Ice skating on the North Coast, a rare treat

Seawolves hockey players bring their gear to Oliver Lake this week to play on the outdoor rink

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read