Green bill follows Simons’ motion on conversion therapy

Just two weeks after a motion from Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons that the legislature “affirm its opposition to the practice of conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, questioning, transgender, queer, two-spirited, intersex or any other minor,” the Green Party has introduced a bill that would ban the practice.

The legislation would send a message that conversion therapy, which aims to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, is homophobic and transphobic, and has no place in B.C. society, said Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver on Monday.

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“While many of us aren’t aware that the issue of conversion therapy is going on, it very much is going on in British Columbia as we speak,” Weaver said. “This is an issue whereby a very clear signal from government will ensure that this practice no longer occurs in British Columbia.”

The bill would not prohibit conversion therapy for adults, Weaver said, because adults have freedom of choice. However, medical professionals would be prevented from billing the Medical Services Plan for counselling related to changing a person’s sexual or gender identity.

Weaver introduced his private member’s bill, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, two weeks to the day after Simons received unanimous support for his motion.

“We've seen legislation across North America, Europe and other countries that specifically prohibits the practice of trying to change the character of a young person through therapy,” Simons said in presenting the motion on May 13. “I'm kind of disappointed, in a way, that this even has to be talked about, not because it's not an important issue, but because I think – what we know as a society – we should be a little further past this. We shouldn't even be considering that this is even a possibility… It’s a practice that we would and should collectively denounce as a problem, as bordering on abuse to a child, if in fact they’re subject to any effort from any adult to change who their essential being is.”

Simons told Coast Reporter after the Green bill was tabled that he’d discussed the issue with Green house leader Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, and the NDP offered the assistance of Legislative Services in drafting the bill.

“Any opportunity to reinforce, to young people especially, that it’s against the law for someone to try to change your sexuality through therapy, is one we should take,” Simons said. “That’s because it doesn’t work, and because it is ignorant to suggest, and unhealthy to believe that anyone’s sexuality or gender identity is wrong.”

 – With files from Katie DeRosa, Victoria Times Colonist

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