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Stepping Beyond Rainbow Crosswalks

Kelowna City Hall
The easy work has been done. It’s time for the next step by municipal governments.

October 24, 2021 – Kelowna, BC — Statement from and the Kelowna Task Force to Ban Conversion Therapy.

Historically, it has been a tug-of-war between Pride activism and city halls over declarations and flying Pride flags. One might say we’ve made progress and have learned to work together, however in a new era of activism where rainbow crosswalks adorn intersections across the country, locally elected officials are being asked to do more and some are pushing back.

Such is the case in Kelowna, where we sent a letter to the mayor and council requesting the city impose a ban on conversion therapy. While the official response from the City stated support for a ban at the federal level, including a copy of a letter from the Mayor to the Prime Minister, a local ban will not be considered on the grounds that the City has no jurisdiction in criminal matters.

While we acknowledge the fact that the City cannot impose laws that criminalize certain acts, that is in fact not what we are asking for. We are asking the City, under powers given by the B.C. government, to impose restrictions through bylaw.

Many municipalities across the country have implemented bylaw changes that prohibit businesses from providing conversion therapy services. This is what we are asking of the City of Kelowna. “What I find interesting is the City has restrictions in its business regulation bylaw on what tow truck drivers can do, but can’t see a way to stop conversion practices,” says founder Wilbur Turner. “I really hope council will reconsider their decision. We stand ready to support them in whatever way we can,” he added.

We believe it is reasonable to request a change to the business bylaw to prohibit businesses from providing services that seek to change the sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity of any individual.

We are calling upon our elected officials in Kelowna to step beyond symbolic acts of Pride declarations and rainbow crosswalks, all of which we appreciate, and take the opportunity to affect real change where it counts. We desire our city to be a safe space for everyone, including our LGBTQ2S+ youth who are most vulnerable to the cruel and harmful practices of conversion therapy.

Sign the petition to ban conversion therapy in Kelowna here.

About Advocacy-Canada.LGBT

We are a Kelowna-based nonprofit with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices and their allies in the community to affect positive change on important issues that make a lasting difference.

The idea for a community task force to address the issues around conversion efforts in Kelowna was formed by founder Wilbur Turner. He presented the idea to the board of Kelowna Pride Society at a meeting on June 22, 2021, and requested the support of the society. The board voted unanimously in favour of supporting the task force.

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Campaign to Ban Conversion Therapy in Kelowna has launched a campaign to have the City of Kelowna enact a bylaw to ban so-called conversion therapy in Kelowna. Conversion therapy is a medically and scientifically debunked practice used to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. There is no evidence that this practice is effective, and a great deal of evidence that it causes lasting harm.

To support a formal request to the mayor and council an online petition has been started to gather support. You may view and sign the petition here.

A conversion therapy ban has been in the news with the federal government introducing Bill C-6 to criminalize certain aspects of this practice, and with parliament being dissolved for a fall election the bill did not clear the Senate. The Liberal government has promised they will bring the bill before parliament again to get it passed. Dozens of conservative members of parliament voted against the original bill, mainly citing concerns with the definition of conversion therapy which appear to have originated from a religious lobby group.

There are 18 municipalities in Canada that have either introduced or are drafting bylaws to ban conversion therapy within their jurisdiction. Many of them have passed motions supporting the federal ban as well. You may ask, why is it important for a local ban if there will be a federal ban? This is a great question. All levels of government should be addressing this issue as we need all the tools possible to ensure this harmful practice has no place in our communities. One of those tools is a local ban. What this means is that individuals and organizations that do practice conversion efforts will think twice before carrying them out here. The following are some of the other reasons municipalities have enacted a ban:

  • promoting the physical and psychological well-being, safety, security, dignity, inclusion, and equality of LGBTQ2 persons and all city residents;
  • protecting vulnerable citizens of all ages from dangerous, deceptive, and abusive practices;
  • restricting and preventing harmful, unscientific, and fraudulent practices from occurring within their community;
  • encouraging citizens to report conversion therapy practices if they are occurring within their community; and
  • reiterating a city’s values and beliefs in creating and supporting a diverse, welcoming, inclusive, safe, and supportive community for all of its citizens.

Dozens of municipalities, counties, states, provinces, and territories across North America have passed bylaws, ordinances, and policies prohibiting conversion therapy within their communities. In the case of municipalities, most
provincial or territorial governments allow cities, towns, and counties the flexibility to create their own bylaws relating to:

  • respecting the safety, health, and welfare of people;
  • protection of people and property;
  • people, activities and things in, on or near a public place;
  • businesses, business activities, and persons engaged in business; and
  • enforcement of bylaws including the creation of municipal offences and also allows for each offence, fines up to a set amount or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

Most municipal governments are also allowed to:

  • pass bylaws regulating or prohibiting, and providing for a system of licences, permits or approvals including establishing fees for licences, permits and approvals;
  • prohibit any activity, industry, business or thing until a licence, permit or approval has been granted;
  • impose terms and conditions on any licence, permit, or approval and who may impose them;
  • identify the conditions that must be met before a licence, permit or approval is granted or renewed, the nature of the conditions and who may impose them;
  • provide for the duration of licences, permits and approvals and their suspension or cancellation for failure to comply with a term or condition or the bylaw or for any other reason specified in the bylaw; and
  • provide for an appeal, and the body that is to decide the appeal and related matters.

It is time that it is made known these harmful practices are no longer welcome in our city. Together we can help make Kelowna a safer place for all.