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Calgary conversion therapy ban gets approval at city council

Calgary has joined other Alberta cities with a bylaw banning the business practice of conversion therapy.

After some council debate, the bylaw was passed 14-1 at the May 25 city council meeting. Coun. Joe Magliocca was the lone dissenting vote in both the second and third readings. It was unanimous on the first reading.

This decision comes after unanimous committee approval, and hundreds of pages and two days of public submissions during that meeting.

“This is a massive win for [the LGBTQ2s+ community],” said Shone Thistle, the Board President at Calgary Pride.

“It honours survivors, and it honours those we’ve lost along the way. This is for them.”

Thistle commended city councillors and their work on this bylaw. She said they showed up time and time again to have “incredible conversations” concerning the matter of conversion therapy.

“This is a made-in-Calgary solution and bylaw, and one that we should be exceptionally proud of,” said Thistle.

‘Clear statement,’ said Coun. Gondek

Despite what Coun. Evan Woolley called a “feedback loop” on both sides of the issue, the bylaw pushed forward.

This decision marks a historic event in Calgary’s history, as the city joins Edmonton and five other Alberta municipalites in banning the business practice of conversion therapy.

“What this bylaw does is deliver a clear statement that none of us have the right to determine what another human being’s identity should be,” said Coun. Jyoti Gondek.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas gave an emotional plea at an online town hall last week in support of this bylaw and in Monday’s meeting was quick to counter arguments on the kind of conversations to which this would apply.

“[This bylaw] will not apply to those who provide support to persons questioning their sexual orientation, feelings, or gender identity,” he said.

This includes private conversations with teachers, school councillors, pastoral councillors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members.

Business bylaw – not personal

In its pure form, the bylaw applies to Calgary businesses – a prohibited businesses bylaw.

The bylaw defines conversion therapy like this:

According to the bylaw, “proof of one transaction in the business or that the business has been advertised is sufficient to establish that a person is engaged in or operates the business.”

Those that violate the bylaw could face a fine of up to $10,000 or a year in prison.

Both Couns. Sean Chu and Joe Magliocca attempted amendments to change some of the wording, but none of their amendments succeeded.