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

Team BC advancing undefeated in junior nationals

A Langley-based team is 6-0, thus far, at the Canadian curling championships.

South Surrey mother ‘never called 911’ after killing daughter, court hears

Crown submits evidence shows Lisa Batstone wanted eight-year-old Teagan to die

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Feds earmark $7.5 million to help keep Surrey teens out of gangs

It’s expected as many as 4,730 teenagers in Surrey will benefit from it

A look inside Brendan McLeod’s ‘Brain,’ in Surrey on tour

INTERVIEW: Toronto-based artist at Centre Stage with words and music

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

M’s legend Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina also make the grade

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Video: Runaway Coquihalla dog returned to owner

Archer, the dog found roaming along Coq. Hwy. on Jan. 19, has been reunited with owner

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Abbotsford woman speaks out after she fainted and bystanders ignored her

Meghan Canavan says bystanders walked by with no offer of help after she fainted recently

Most Read