Kingston’s City Council will look to provide $20,000 in annual funding towards conversion therapy support group for the next three years.
Tapping into the Working Fund Reserve, council will prioritize the support of survivor led groups and continue working with local health agencies, like Addictions and Mental Health Services, and local faith-based organizations to enhance available programming and communications.
After previously deferring a motion pertaining to the bylaw in September, council heard from city staff that in their opinion, the city’s role in enforcement has been “superseded by the federal government” after the comprehensive Bill C-4 became law as of January 7.
However, advocates say despite a federal ban, there is still a role to be played by municipalities like Kingston.
Two delegates, Ashley Perna and Ben Rodgers, told council members that enforcement against conversion therapy practices and supports for survivors should be dealt with separately so the network of services can expand immediately, and not be delayed in further discussions around a bylaw.
Perna added that despite council continually discussing this bylaw and the issue of conversion therapy, eventually discussion serves no purpose.
“The city has been working on this matter for over a year, meaning that we have been saying we want to help survivors without actually putting any money where our mouths are,” Perna said.
“At a certain point we have to actually do something, not just talk about how much we want to do something.”
In her delegation, Perna noted to council that prioritizing survivor led groups should lead to more thorough and better focused support systems, pointing towards programs like CT Survivors Connect run by fellow delegate Ben Rodgers.
She called Rodgers a trailblazer for taking the initiative with his support group, and thinks funding being available will inspire more survivors to take an active, leading role in healing.
“From the survivors I’ve spoken with, now knowing that there’s funding to help them fund these initiatives is helping them feel more confident and comfortable in taking that leadership role,” Perna said.
In Rodgers’ own presentation, he supported the idea of splitting the discussion into two separate sections, and implored council to not let the recently passed federal ban minimize the urgent need for improved support systems and education.
A number of resources expected to come through this funding could be utilized by the broader LGBTQ2S+ community, and Perna says the community will be made safer for the community as a whole.
“People are going to feel safer being queer in the city,” Perna said.
“We’re the first city in Ontario that really tried its best to fight conversion therapy and queer people can feel comfortable living here knowing we worked our asses off trying to get this passed.”
The motion carried with a vote of 11-1, with Deputy Mayor Chappelle voting in dissent saying the cost of such programming is not the responsibility of municipal government.
Staff are expected to create and present a conversion therapy support system, accessible by any member of the LGBTQ2S+ community no later than June 30, 2022.