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It’s Not Therapy, It’s Abuse

The powerful short film is the result of a collective of 21 LGBTQA+ charities, coordinated by Stonewall, coming together to depict the abuse of a young trans person undergoing so-called ‘conversion therapy’ more accurately described as sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGIECE). The abuse seen in the 2.5-minute-long film is currently completely legal in the United Kingdom.

Directed by Zhang + Knight through Academy, the film, titled It’s Not Therapy, It’s Abuse, sensitively depicts heartbreaking scenes showing the abuse, coercion, and psychological harm inflicted on a young trans person forced into conversion therapy.

Accompanied by Douglas Dare’s rendition of the Pet Shop Boy’s It’s a Sin, the film shines a light on the various abusive methods that are used to attempt to ‘cure’ LGBTQA+ people and serves to raise awareness of the harm that continues to be inflicted on people in the United Kingdom while the practice remains legal.

This film is based on first-hand United Kingdom survivor testimonies and the campaign supports the introduction of legislation for a full ban on conversion therapy that includes trans people and protects the whole LGBTQA+ community.

Toby Allen, Executive Creative Director at The&Partnership said: “At The &Partnership, we champion belonging, diversity, and inclusion as a company and across society. We believe no one should be forced to change who they are, and our film makes clear that ‘conversion therapy’ is not therapy, it’s abuse. We’re proud of all our LGBTQA+ people, and proud to work on this campaign to promote a full ban.”

The campaign makes a clear distinction between valid forms of therapy intended to support LGBTQA+ individuals and so-called ‘conversion therapy’ intended to cure, change, or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Canadian Pastors Plan Sermons Attacking Bill C-4

A call has gone out for evangelical pastors across Canada to preach against Bill C-4 which bans “conversion therapy” and comes into law on January 8th. “A call to pastors to stand united on biblical sexual morality,” has been issued by Andrew DeBartolo, Teaching Elder at Encounter Church in Kingston, Ontario.

Sunday, January 16th is the date when churches across Canada and the United States have been asked to join in preaching on God’s design for marriage and a biblical ethic of sexuality. According to DeBartolo and John MacArthur of Grace Church in California, they will be doing so illegally under the new law.

In a blog post, MacArthur states “We are all well-aware of the evil power and destructive influence of the homosexual and transgender ideology.” He goes on to mention the hundreds of LGBTQ people Obama appointed to serve in government and states “All sinners need conversion, but the list focuses specifically on “the sexually immoral…adulterers…effeminate…[and] homosexuals,” who will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”

Pastor James Coates from GraceLife Church in Edmonton has also joined the chorus and according to MacArthur has emailed him lamenting that the new law will be used to criminalize evangelism. Coates made the news earlier this year when he was jailed for defying public health laws.

“According to Canadian law, as of Jan. 8, 2022, the belief in God’s design for marriage and sexuality will now be seen as a myth.”

Andrew DeBartolo

What is clear, these pastors who refer to themselves as “faithful men” are determined to continue further stigmatizing and harming the LGBTQ2S+ community with their debunked practices based on a Biblical interpretation that modern scholars have disputed.

Every major medical and mental health organization has condemned the use of conversion therapy. There is no documented evidence that conversion therapy is effective in changing sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.

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Conversion “Therapy” Ban Becomes Law

Kelowna, BC, December 8, 2021 — Advocacy Canada joins with survivors and advocates across the country in celebrating Bill C-4, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) into law. After a whirlwind of activity by members of parliament and senators to fast-track the bill, it received royal assent today making it now illegal for practices that have been going on in Canada and around the world for decades.

The UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity released his report entitled Practices of so-called “conversion therapy” in the spring of 2020. To quote from this report:

All practices attempting conversion are inherently humiliating, demeaning and discriminatory. The combined effects of feeling powerless and extreme humiliation generate profound feelings of shame, guilt, self-disgust, and worthlessness, which can result in a damaged self-concept and enduring personality changes.

These practices also violate the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, since they take point of departure in the belief that sexually diverse or gender-diverse persons are somehow inferior – morally, spiritually or physically – than their heterosexual and cisgender siblings and must modify their orientation or identity to remedy that inferiority. Therefore, any means and mechanisms that treat LGBT persons as lesser human beings are degrading by their very definition and may amount to torture depending on the circumstances, namely the severity of physical and mental pain and suffering inflicted.

Bill C-4 defines conversion therapy as a practice, treatment, or service designed to:

(a) change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;
(b) change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;
(c) change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
(d) repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;
(e) repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or
(f) repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.

This bill expanded on the previous Bill C-6, and to quote Senator René Cormier who sponsored the bill in the Senate, “Bill C-4 is specifically designed to protect the dignity and equality of LGBTQ2+ Canadians by ending conversion therapy in Canada. It would do so by criminalizing conversion therapy in all settings, regardless of age or consent. Although former Bill C-6 would have comprehensively protected children, it would only have protected adults from forced conversion therapy and prohibited the commercialization of the practice. Bill C-4’s comprehensive approach is intended to target the different types of harms that conversion therapy poses. These harms can manifest themselves at the individual level, including for persons who had consented to undergo conversion practices.”

“I’m thrilled to see this bill advance so quickly after many false starts,” says Wilbur Turner, founder of Kelowna-based Advocacy Canada. “Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we will be rolling up our sleeves to continue working to ensure that survivors have the resources they need to heal, as well as those who still face these practices know where to turn for help.”

About Advocacy Canada

Advocacy-Canada.lgbt is a Kelowna based non-profit organization with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices in support of creating positive change on important issues. The organization was founded by Wilbur Turner, inspired by his social and political awareness of issues that impact the 2S-LGBTQIA+ (queer) community. Wilbur previously led the Kelowna Pride, Fierté Canada Pride, and Living Positive Resource Centre, boards.

Media Contact

For media inquiries please contact Wilbur Turner:

Tel: 587-432-4100

Email: [email protected]

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Advocacy Canada Welcomes Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) to support LGBTQ2S+ Canadians

Kelowna, BC, November 29, 2021. — The 44th Parliament had the first reading today of Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), tabled by the Minister of Justice, David Lametti. Three previous bills have been brought forward to ban conversion practices that were not successfully passed. Bill C-4 is the most comprehensive, with improvements to protect more Canadians from these harmful practices.

“It is important to ensure that all Canadians are protected from these practices that have proven to have no benefits, and have been shown to cause lasting harm to individuals who have become victims of them. This should not be a partisan issue, therefore we call upon all members of parliament to expediently approve this important piece of legislation,” says Wilbur Turner, found of Advocacy Canada. “We expect nothing less than full cooperation from our elected representatives in the Okanagan, and we hope they understand the seriousness of this issue.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression change efforts (SOGIECE) are deeply harmful, scientifically discredited practices that target vulnerable LGBTQ2S Canadians. To protect people from this cruel treatment, all levels of government should work to undermine the efforts of people and organizations conducting SOGIECE – as well as support the development of positive, affirming programs and services.

As many as one in five sexual minority men (gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit and queer or “GBT2Q”) report having ever experienced sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression change efforts (SOGIECE) – and of them, nearly 40 percent (or as many as 47,000 GBT2Q men in Canada) have experienced conversion therapy according to a 2021 report.

Okanagan residents are invited to use Advocacy Canada’s prewritten email to request their Members of Parliament support this bill. The form is located here.

About Advocacy Canada

Advocacy-Canada.lgbt is a Kelowna based non-profit organization with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices in support of creating positive change on important issues. The organization was founded by Wilbur Turner, inspired by his social and political awareness of issues that impact the 2S-LGBTQIA+ (queer) community. Wilbur previously led the Kelowna Pride, Fierté Canada Pride, and Living Positive Resource Centre boards.

Media Contact

For media inquiries please contact Wilbur Turner:

Tel: 587-432-4100

Email: [email protected]

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Community Call to Action: Conversion Practices Legislation

Kelowna-based Advocacy Canada joins No Conversion Canada along with over 100 Canadian organizations calling on the federal government to take action on conversion practices.

Along with over 100 Canadian organizations, Advocacy Canada signed on to a Community Call to Action (announcement and links to document) prepared by No Conversion Canada requesting the 44th session of Canadian parliament takes specific actions relating to conversion practices. These actions include:

  • Prohibiting all forms of conversion practices,
  • Developing accompanying policies and funding to support survivor healing, and
  • Creating public education and awareness programs to prevent future conversion practices.

Conversion practices are used to attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. These practices have been proven to be not only ineffectual but extremely harmful.

We, the undersigned, call on all Parliamentarians to affirm the inherent dignity and human rights of all Canadians, including those from the 2SLGBTQI+ community, to live free from discrimination, prejudice, and harm. We call on the 44th session of the Canadian Parliament to take immediate action to prohibit all forms of conversion “therapy” practices and sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression change efforts (collectively “conversion practices”).

No Conversion Canada Call to Action

As many as one in five sexual minority men (gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit and queer or “GBT2Q”) report having ever experienced sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression change efforts (SOGIECE) – and of them, nearly 40 percent (or as many as 47,000 GBT2Q men in Canada) have experienced conversion therapy according to a 2020 report by Vancouver’s Community Based Research Centre.

The previous parliament passed Bill C-6: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), however, it died in the Senate due to the 2021 federal election being called. 62 members of the Conservative Party of Canada, plus one independent voted against the bill, including Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray. Five of those who voted against the bill did not get re-elected.

The Call to Action specifies actions to be taken that expand on Bill C-6 including deregistering charities or organizations that carry out conversion practices. It also calls on the federal government to empower all levels of government, including municipalities to enact complimenting legislation.

The federal government should continue to consult with all provinces, territories, and municipalities to ensure optimal protection from conversion practices is achieved in Canada so that each government enacts complimenting legislation at their respective levels. Every level of government has different powers and a responsibility to protect Canadians by prohibiting all forms of conversion practices.

No Conversion Canada

Advocacy Canada has called on the City of Kelowna to enact a bylaw prohibiting conversion efforts, however, the city has opted not to take action, citing the British Columbia Community Charter. “We fully support the Call to Action, particularly with respect to enacting legislation at the municipal level,” says Wilbur Turner, founder of Advocacy Canada. “It is incredibly important to have mechanisms to prevent these harmful actions at every level of government.”

Advocacy Canada is currently seeking a legal opinion on the powers of municipalities in British Columbia relative to conversion efforts. The City of Nanaimo is currently considering enacting a ban. “The decision by the City of Kelowna may have far reaching consequences and we want to ensure every avenue for legislative action at the local level is explored,” says Turner.

About Advocacy Canada

Advocacy-Canada.lgbt is a Kelowna based non-profit organization with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices in support of creating positive change on important issues. The organization was founded by Wilbur Turner, inspired by his social and political awareness of issues that impact the 2S-LGBTQIA+ (queer) community. Wilbur previously led the Kelowna Pride, Fierté Canada Pride, and Living Positive Resource Centre boards.

Media Contact

For media inquiries please contact Wilbur Turner:

Tel: 587-432-4100

Email: [email protected]

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Pride Festival Participants Support Conversion Therapy Ban

We have some important updates to share in our efforts to have conversion efforts banned. We participated in the Kelowna Pride Festival yesterday, October 30th, and are grateful for the many supporters who visited our booth and signed the petition in support of a ban. We need a few more signatures to reach 1,000 supporters. That is wonderful news and we appreciate your support in sharing the petition to be able to reach this goal.

Global News Okanagan also highlighted our booth and message in the news yesterday which was great! It is so important to get the message out that these harmful practices to attempt to change sexual orientation, gender identity or expression are still happening and need to be stopped. 

Our request to the City of Kelowna to enact a ban on conversion therapy has so far resulted in Mayor Basran providing a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau supporting the implementation of a federal criminal ban. Kelowna Now interviewed Advocacy-Canada.LGBT founder Wilbur Turner recently on this. You can read the article and see the letter from the mayor here.

Based on advice from City Clerk Stephen Fleming, the mayor and council did not proceed with passing a motion for a ban. The mayor stated that they did not have the power to institute a bylaw. They did pass a motion supporting the letter to the Prime Minister and stating their condemnation of conversion therapy. You may read a news story about this here.

Advocacy-Canada.LGBT is seeking a legal opinion on the Community Charter that governs the powers of local governments with respect to a conversion therapy ban. “It is incredibly important that due diligence is carried out and every avenue explored,” says Turner. “We feel strongly that every level of government has a responsibility to implement mechanisms to deter those seeking to carry out these practices. Municipalities throughout British Columbia may be looking at the decision made by the City of Kelowna to inform their own decisions. We want to ensure it is the right one.”

Some eighteen municipalities across Canada have already implemented laws to prohibit or ban these practices.

In the meantime, we will be carrying on with gathering signatures on the petition before we present it to the City of Kelowna.

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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 Advocacy-Canada.lgbt 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 Advocacy-Canada.lgbt 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 advocacy-canada.lgbt 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

Advocacy-Canada.lgbt 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.

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Pray Away – A Film Documenting the Abuses of the Ex-Gay and Conversion Therapy Movement

Pray Away - Conversion Therapy

Feature-length documentary Pray Away, which examines the enduring harm of conversion therapy and the “pray the gay away” movement, is now available on Netflix. In the film, former leaders of the “pray the gay away” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma. 

This heartbreaking documentary tells the story of how the conversion therapy movement started and the lives traumatized in its wake. The ex-leaders of this movement describe their motivations and subsequent guilt after realizing it was all a scam and no longer being able to live the lie that they had become straight.

For the hundreds of thousands of 2S-LGBTQIA+ people who have endured these now-debunked efforts to turn them straight through prayer, faith, and the Bible this will be an all too relatable film.

The story is woven together by former members of Exodus International, a group founded in the 1970s by five “ex-gay” men in an evangelical church who felt prayer and their faith could cure them of their homosexuality and find out why they were that way. The group became a sensation as so-called ex-gay leaders shared their stories on TV shows across the United States. Conditioned by society and religion that being gay was a sin and perversion was the impetus for the movement, however, the lies that it was working from those involved were what helped it achieve massive uptake. It offered an alluring roadmap to those who were vulnerable through shame, self-loathing, and confusion. People from other countries including Canada were attracted to the programs leaving victims scattered around the globe.

In addition to telling the story of Exodus International, the largest organization involved in so-called conversion therapy, Pray Away also features Julie Rodgers, a former leader of the ex-gay movement who went through conversion therapy and became a prominent spokesperson. The film tells her story of trauma, survival, and redemption.

Viewers should be mindful that so-called conversion therapy and other efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression are still widely practiced among Christian groups who believe that homosexuality is a sin and being transgender is a discrepancy caused by sin.

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A Peek Into Transphobia and 2S-LGBTQIA+ Change Efforts in the Okanagan

Faith-based organizations don’t all agree on conversion therapy and change efforts

From mild to wild, faith-based organizations across the Christian spectrum have quite differing views on so-called conversion therapy or conversion efforts. Some are openly hostile and vilify the LGBTQ2S community, while others couch homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in words that disguise an agenda. Others completely oppose it.

Conversion Efforts in the Okanagan

Kelowna Harvest Church made their hate for the queer community known in a Facebook post on July 21, 2021. The post was taken down after several users reported it for hate speech. A meme depicting a clawed hand with a rainbow sleeve reaching out to a symbol of male and female figures holding children’s hands was posted with the caption “Time to stand and fight for our kids.”

“Ever since the Stonewall Riots of 1969 this evil has moved ahead at great speed to destroy Godly sexuality, marriages and family structures, and it’s amazing how many peole have been dooped into blindly following along.”

–Facebook user commenting on the Kelowna Harvest Church post

Art Lucier, the leader of this Kelowna church has made it his mission to attack the transgender community. In a Youtube video, Lucier interviews someone who, although he states he is just an ordinary citizen, carries on to give misinformation and lies about the treatment of transgender youth. He likened the healthcare options for transgender youth to the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools. Ironically, the agenda of this type of “Christian” is to erase the queer community, exactly what churches were trying to do to Indigenous culture. This video, which provides no information about medically sound life-saving healthcare for youth is sickening to watch. This isn’t just conversion efforts, it is repulsive, hurtful and blatantly transphobic.

Lake Country Alliance Church has been exposed for pressuring an Okanagan gay couple to “go straight.” After joining the church they began receiving emails with suggested books and videos of “ex-gay” people who had become straight by accepting Jesus into their lives.

Much of the opposition to Bill C-6, An Amendment to the criminal code (conversion therapy) has come from Catholic and evangelical churches. What seems clear is while they say they’re against the harmful aspects of conversion therapy, they fail to acknowledge that all conversion efforts are harmful. The lobbying against the bill points to their concern over the practices they wish to continue and their fear the net of the law will catch them.

Some Christian Organizations Fully Support the Queer Community

It is important to understand the progress that has happened in the Christian community with respect to accepting and affirming the queer community. Forty faith leaders from Regina recently wrote a joint letter to the City of Regina when that city was debating a conversion therapy ban. The letter is clear in its support for the dignity of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

In 2018 a Christian lobby group protested SOGI 123 implementation in BC schools. SOGI 123 is a set of resources for schools, teachers, and parents to create safe and inclusive learning spaces. Several BC Christian leaders signed a letter of support for SOGI 123.

Kelowna has a few churches that are openly accepting, and/or affirming. This includes Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, First United Church, and Kelowna Unitarians.

Many churches do not publicly reveal their stance on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The BC Human Rights Act forbids discrimination on these grounds, however, it doesn’t mean these churches won’t condemn what they call the sin of homosexuality, or carry out conversion efforts on queer members. It is also important to note that even if a church declares they are accepting, these words may be hollow if all members don’t live up to this expectation.

Advocacy Canada Compiling List of Supportive Churches in the Okanagan

We are compiling a list of churches in the Okanagan and including information on what their stance is on the queer community. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you have information to share on this please contact us.

Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images