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No public consultation as Canadian city bans help to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction

One member of the City Council voted to deny the people a voice because 'there's no way that a public hearing would accomplish anything.'
Wed Jul 15, 2020 - 8:21 pm EST
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Clock tower in downtown Lethbridge, Alberta. Tanya Plonka / Shutterstock.com

LETHBRIDGE, Alberta, July 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Canadian city in the province of Alberta has banned businesses from offering help to those with unwanted same-sex attraction, but unlike other cities in the province that have similar bylaws, it did so without any official public consultation.

On Monday, Lethbridge City Council voted 7-2 to pass Bylaw 6228, “A Bylaw to prohibit the Business Practice of Conversion Therapy.” Those found to violate the law face fines of “not less than $10,000” or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The Lethbridge bylaw follows the lines of recently passed similar laws in other Alberta cities and bans businesses from offering any type of  “counselling or behaviour modification techniques” or services “reducing sexual attraction or sexual behavior between persons of the same sex.”

Two Lethbridge counselors, Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro, had brought forward a motion that would have seen the city hold a public hearing on the “conversion therapy” bylaw before a final vote.

Their motion was voted down in a 6-3 vote, with only counsellor, Ryan Parker, agreeing with Hyggen and Mauro that further debate on Bylaw 6228 should be allowed for.

Councilor Rob Miyashiro was one of the six to vote against the motion for more debate and said he did so because “there’s no way that a public hearing would accomplish anything.”

Bylaw 6228 passed both second and third readings quickly. Both Hyggen and Mauro were the only city councilors to vote against the final version of the bylaw.

Mauro said his concern about the bylaw was that in his opinion, it does not have enough “teeth” to it and would not hold up in court.

“I just don’t believe it has any teeth, as most of our bylaws don’t have any teeth,” said Mauro in the council debate Monday.

Bylaw 6228 reads (page 1,229):

No person may engage in or operate a business that provides the offering or provision of counselling or behaviour modification techniques, administration or prescription of medication, or any other purported treatment, service, or tactic used for the objective of changing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or gender preference, or eliminating or reducing sexual attraction or sexual behavior between persons of the same sex, not including: (1) services that provide acceptance, support, or understanding of a person or that facilitate a person's coping, social support, or identity exploration or development, or (2) gender-affirming surgery or any service related to gender-affirming surgery.

Despite not allowing public debate on the bylaw, the final version did include an amendment from Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman to recognize one’s freedom of “conscience and religion.”

LifeSiteNews reached out to Spearman’s office to enquire about the wording of the amendment.

Nick Kuhl, communications consultant with the City Manager’s Office, responded by providing LifeSiteNews with the amendment, which states that “nothing in this bylaw affects the guarantee of conscience and religion.”

Mayor Spearman’s amendment reads “[t]hat Bylaw 6228 be amended as follows: 1.  Add the following whereas clauses: and a. Whereas everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and b, Whereas nothing in this bylaw affects the guarantee of conscience and religion.”

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Marty Moore, a lawyer for the Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), told LifeSiteNews that Spearman’s amendment is “weak” and will not protect clergy or counselors whose religious faith prohibits “same-sex intimacy.”

“A whereas clause generally only has any legal effect if the interpretation of the operative text is ambiguous. In regard to freedom of conscience and religion, Lethbridge’s bylaw clearly would prohibit providing support for ‘reducing ... sexual behaviour between persons of the same sex. This is an unambiguous attack on the teaching and practices of religious faiths which proscribe same-sex intimacy,” Moore told LIfeSiteNews.

“Clergy or counselors who provide support to individuals seeking to adhere to these religious teachings will not be protected by the Mayor’s weak amendment to the bylaw’s preamble.”

A Global News report quotes Mauro as saying the reason he and Hyggen had requested a public hearing was due to the overwhelming number of people asking him for the chance to talk about the bylaw.

“When I have 500 people that pay my wage — pay all of us — to be here, to listen, we always seek engagement,” Mauro was quoted as saying in the Global News report.

“We want the community (to engage), we get frustrated and angry when we have issues and we ask and beg the community to engage and nobody comes[.] ... And now, they are knocking on our door, and we’re going to say no to them? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The JCCF submitted a paper to Lethbridge City Council in early July that blasted the bylaw as unconstitutional.

“Lethbridge’s Proposed Bylaw is an overbroad infringement of Canadians’ liberty. It goes much farther than banning coercive and harmful practices justly condemned, and rather prohibits, under its expansive definition of ‘conversion therapy’, a broad range of medical, psychological and spiritual supports individuals may choose to receive in relation to their sexuality and gender. The Alberta Human Rights Act20 and section 15(1) of the Charter prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, religion, gender identity or expression.”

The JCCF also said the bylaw discriminates against LGBT Canadians, as it allows “opposite-sex attracted Canadians” to access help but not “same-sex attracted Canadians.”

“A bylaw that allows opposite-sex attracted Canadians to access support to reduce unwanted sexual addictions or behaviours — but bars same-sex attracted Canadians from doing so — is indisputable and egregious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” said the JCCF paper to Lethbridge City Council.

“Similarly, allowing medical, psychological and other therapeutic interventions to help an individual transition away from her or his natal gender, while prohibiting such help for individuals seeking to de-transition, is likewise discriminatory on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.”

In recent months, there have been a growing number of municipalities in Alberta that have banned businesses from offering “conversion therapy.”

In December of 2019, Edmonton passed a bylaw that comes with a “minimum” fine of $10,000 a day for any business that practices “conversion therapy.”

In May, in a 14-1 final vote, the Calgary City Council passed the third reading of the “Prohibited Businesses Bylaw-20M2020” to make it illegal for a business to offer help to those with unwanted same-sex attraction.

Unlike the Lethbridge City Council, which quashed a motion to allow for a community debate about the law, Calgary did allow for this. In May, the city council held a two-day public hearing of “The Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services” with regard to their “Prohibited Businesses Bylaw-20M2020.”

At the federal level, there are now two pieces of legislation that if passed would criminalize so-called “conversion therapy” nationwide. The first is Bill S-202, now before the Senate.

Bill C-8, now before the House of Commons, is farther-reaching than Bill S-202. It will make it a criminal offense in Canada to 1) cause a minor to undergo conversion therapy, 2) remove a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy, 3) cause a person to undergo conversion therapy against his will, 4) profit from conversion therapy, and 5) advertise conversion therapy.

In June, retired Canadian Judge Brian Giesbrecht blasted Bill C8 and S-202, calling them the most “aggressive assault on parental rights” ever attempted by a federal government.


  alberta, conversion therapy, democracy, freedom of association

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