Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson spearheaded the bylaw against conversion therapy. (The Canadian Press)

Vancouver’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban more than symbolic: experts

City passes bylaw that bans techniques that try to persuade people to change sexual orientation

A ban on the practice of so-called conversion therapy in Vancouver sends a powerful message of rejection for controversial “pray the gay away” treatments, say advocates and experts.

The city’s unanimous support for a bylaw prohibiting techniques that attempt to persuade people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity gives people reinforcement to reject the therapy, said Coun. Tim Stevenson, who spearheaded the bylaw.

Registered psychologist Ashleigh Yule said she has had young adults tell her stories of how as teenagers they were pushed into such programs.

“My youth pastor thought it would be important for me to go or my friend thought it would be good for me to go and see if I could pray the gay away,” she said in an interview from Calgary about what some young people have told her.

Yule, who works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited youth, said the Vancouver bylaw is hugely symbolic in its public support to many people, but it’s also practical because it offers non-judgmental direction to those examining their sexuality.

“My professional opinion would be having these pieces of legislation that are either at a municipal level, at a provincial level, ultimately at a federal level, would be very helpful,” she said. “I don’t feel conversion therapy is a form of therapy. I feel it is a harmful practice.”

READ MORE: Police uniforms, vehicles no longer allowed in Vancouver Pride parade

She said conversion therapy is happening in Canada, but is difficult to track because it is often linked to private events held by faith-based groups.

“Certainly, these groups exist,” she said. “It’s hard to find if you are doing a web search or looking in the Yellow Pages. I know for certain it’s happened at the clinical level because I see people who have survived that.”

Stevenson, 73, said he expects the bylaw to offer hope to many people facing dark times in their lives.

He said he struggled with his sexual identity until he was 30, and knowing there was a law offering support during his time of inner turmoil would likely have provided some comfort.

“I think it’s more significant than you might think at first blush because it really does show an attitudinal change within society,” said Stevenson, a former New Democrat member of the B.C. legislature and United Church minister. “Can you imagine 20 years ago this coming forward?”

Prof. Elizabeth Saewyc, director of the school of nursing at UBC and an expert on vulnerable youth, said Vancouver’s city council has shed light on an often hidden issue.

“It’s more than symbolic,” she said. “By doing this, they actually make visible, make public for people that this isn’t accepted practice.”

Saewyc said in the past she has had parents approach her about issues with their children’s sexuality, but she always steers them away from conversion therapy.

“This is not an evidence-based approach,” she said. “In fact there is evidence it can cause harm. The better strategy would be to better support and nurture the child, with whatever orientation they have.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

A Surrey Mountie’s tale of reconciling her family’s history with the LGBTQ+ ‘purge’

PART TWO: Cpl. Sturko is spokeswoman of Surrey RCMP after her great uncle was ‘purged’ from the RCMP

Pollinator conservation area aims to save bees directly, and through education

Bees’ survival is challenged around the world, but action is being taken to help them in Langley

Delta mosque holds silent prayer vigil for Christchurch victims

Event emphasized the importance of acceptance, solidarity in the wake of the attack on Muslim worshippers

18 months conditional term for indecent caller

Incidents reported in Surrey, White Rock and Langley

White Rock water plant operational by month’s end

Utilities manager’s talk to Peace Arch Rotary also covers global water issues

The good, bad and the unknown of Apple’s new services

The announcements lacked some key details, such as pricing of the TV service

BREAKING: BC Ferry crashes into Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay

5 to start your day

Fatal crash in Coquitlam, stranger climbs onto balcony and lights fire, and more

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Vancouver Island home to B.C.’s luckiest lotto store

Five million-dollar winners have bought tickets from same Port Alberni corner store

Video of ‘shocking, chilling execution’ opens B.C. murder hearing

Sentencing underway for Brandon Woody after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in Nanaimo

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

SPCA seizes 54 animals from Vernon property

Animals weren’t receiving adequate care

Most Read