There is no credible scientific evidence indicating that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed, and attempts made to force someone to live contrary to their sexual orientation or gender identity are abusive and trauma-inducing. There is no place for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, as outlined in the BC Human Rights Code and the Human Rights Act of Canada.
In March 2019, the federal government responded to a plea by Canadians to ban conversion therapy by calling the practice “immoral” but placing the responsibility for implementing a ban on provinces and territories.
Just months later, the federal government walked back those remarks and said it would look into banning conversion therapy but it’s not clear that this change will come any time soon.
In lieu of a federal ban, it’s up to British Columbia to take action.
BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, introduced legislation back in May to ban conversion therapy. At the time, he made it clear he was looking for non-partisan collaboration to ensure this torture of LGBTQ2+ British Columbians ends. Unfortunately, the BC NDP has been politicizing this issue while the BC Liberals have remained largely silent.
Nov. 20, with just a week left until the legislature session ends and the bill dies, Morgane Oger, who lists her title as vice-president of the NDP, raised concerns about the proposed provincial ban on conversion therapy, calling it “window dressing” and “dangerous.” Back on May 29, she raised these same concerns and, following the BC Green Party’s responses, claimed she was crafting an amendment.
Nov. 21, Premier John Horgan announced that he’s awaiting action from the federal government while Minister of Health Adrian Dix said he believes the legislation would be “purely symbolic.”
With little time left before the fall session of the legislature ends, this is an indication that the BC NDP plan to kill the bill.
The proposed provincial ban on conversion therapy is not merely symbolic, it is incredibly important to survivors and for those who are being forced to endure this torture, it would implement penalties for the practice and it would apply to the practice both inside and outside of the medical system.
While advocates for the bill are also supporting federal action through Criminal Code changes, this may take years, and the province has the ability to take action now.
Provinces have a history of intervening early in matters of human rights, such as with the legalization of same-sex marriage and the addition of gender identity and gender expression protections in the BC Human Rights Code.
The latest reluctance by the BC NDP to ban conversion therapy has been met with outrage by survivors of the practice and some view it as a betrayal of LGBTQ2+ people by a purportedly queer-friendly party. The bill already has support from the BC Greens and BC Liberals, and could pass without BC NDP support, however the decision to call the bill for debate and a subsequent vote lies with the BC NDP. Despite push-back from the BC NDP, the BC Greens have been reaching out to the party since May to work together in a collaborative and non-partisan manner to ensure that concerns are addressed and the legislation can be passed.
This proposed legislation has the support of survivors of conversion therapy, LGBTQ2+ advocates, lawyers (including well-known human rights lawyer Barbara Findlay) and experts. Similar legislation has been successfully implemented provincially and municipally across Canada.
Nicola Spurling, Coquitlam
Editor's note: Nicola Spurling is a former BC Green Party candidate.