Advocates for banning conversion therapy say they’re encouraged, and not disappointed, by council’s decision last week to delay a decision on a bylaw that would ban conversion therapy in the Kingston area.
The bylaw would become the first of its kind in Ontario and would both strengthen local support systems for survivors and look to take stronger action against perpetrators.
Nick Schiavo of No Conversion Canada says the City of Kingston deserves to be commended for taking this step as a municipality, but that there’s more work to be done to ensure the bylaw is effective.
He’s hopeful city council and staff taking the extra few months to deliberate will make the final bylaw effective and comprehensive.
“This is a very complicated and nuanced enemy that we’re up against so it requires a very complicated and nuanced response,” Schiavo said.
“The deferral to me means there’s more time to listen to survivors, to listen to the experts, to look at the research and to see how we can make this bylaw even stronger.”
After hearing from delegates at city council last week, councillors voted to delay a decision on the bylaw so city staff could explore strengthening the language of the bylaw, especially as it pertains to religious exemptions.
Councillor Bridget Doherty, who tabled the motion for deferral until January, says it’s important to take the necessary time to get the wording right, but that she will ensure this process slips no further than January as proposed.
Schiavo says the bylaw, as such, is worded in a way that leaves too much open space for religious abuse and could even set a harmful precedent for the rest of the province.
“Abuse is abuse is abuse, and whether you are committing it in the name of religious ideology or you are a physician who is committing it, it’s still harmful,” Schiavo said.
Schiavo added that although it’s encouraging to see council truly listening to the community, it’s obviously disappointing to see the some increased supports proposed in the bylaw delayed as well.
“I think it’s fair to say that every time a bylaw or a piece of legislation around this is delayed it’s heartbreaking,” Schiavo said.
“The reality is we’re talking about torture, the reality is we know that those who have experienced conversion practices are at a much higher risk of suicide.”
Ben Rodgers, a survivor of conversion therapy who has been closely tied to the bylaw, says a local resource list has been made for survivors and should soon become available.
Rodgers has also gotten CT Survivors Connect off the ground in the past few months, a support group that he hopes to continue to grow.
He added that he’s okay with the delay on the bylaw as it seems to demonstrate a commitment to doing this the right way, and encourages the community to stay on their councillors and demonstrate the importance of the issue.
The municipal ban has been seen in cities like Calgary, but would be a first in Ontario.