Edmonton officially bans conversion therapy

Edmonton city council has officially banned the practice of conversion therapy.

The unanimous decision came down Tuesday morning following months of work to draft the bylaw necessary to prohibit the practice and promotion of conversion therapy within city limits. The bylaw carries a $10,000 fine for any businesses that don’t follow the new rules.

There are some exemptions, including any businesses that offer services around acceptance, support or understanding of a person or a business that helps in facilitating that. Gender-affirming surgery and any service related to that are also exempt.

MacEwan University associate professor Kristopher Wells, who advised on the bylaw, praised council for developing the most comprehensive bylaw in Canada prohibiting conversion therapy. He noted city council also did this on International Human Rights Day.

“This bylaw will be a model not just for municipalities in Canada, but across the world,” he said. “What makes this bylaw so powerful is that it captures all forms of conversion therapy whether they are medical, spiritual, or religious. Council has sent a strong and powerful message that conversion therapy has no place in our community and will be punished by the full extent of the law.”

Edmonton joins other municipalities in banning conversion therapy including Vancouver and Sherwood Park. St. Albert is scheduled to debate the matter next week while other municipalities like Spruce Grove, Calgary and Fort McMurray are in various stages of moving bylaws forward.

The ban has received its fair share of criticism.

Jose Ramos, who identified himself as a concerned citizen, attended the meeting in opposition to the bylaw. He argued city council has failed to target specific and harmful practices and instead passed a broad-reaching bylaw that could penalize anyone who chooses not to act on same-sex attractions and those who want to help them.

“Despite promising that prayer would not be included in this bylaw at the council meeting in August, Mayor Don Iveson supported a bylaw that could be used for regulating prayer,” he said. “This ban most negatively affects those in the LGBT community who want to be able to explore their opposite-sex attractions or maintain a celibate life because of their moral or religious beliefs.”