Proponents of the conversion therapy ban say they are encouraged, and not disappointed, by the council’s decision last week to delay a decision on a statute that would ban conversion therapy in the Kingston area.
The ordinance would become the first of its kind in Ontario and would strengthen local support systems for survivors and seek stronger action against perpetrators.
Nick Schiavo of No Conversion Canada says the city of Kingston deserves to be commended for taking this step as a municipality, but that there is more work to be done to ensure the statute is effective.
He is hopeful that the city council and staff taking the extra months to deliberate will make the final statute effective and complete.
“This is a very complicated and nuanced enemy that we face, so it requires a very complicated and nuanced response,” Schiavo said.
“The postponement for me means that there is more time to listen to the survivors, listen to the experts, look at the research and see how we can further strengthen this ordinance.”
After hearing from delegates at city council last week, councilors voted to delay a decision on the statute so city staff could explore strengthening the statute’s language, especially in regards to religious exemptions. .
Councilor Bridget Doherty, who tabled the motion to adjourn until January, says it is important to take the time to get the wording correct, but that she will ensure that this process is not delayed beyond January as proposed.
Schiavo says the statute, as such, is worded in a way that leaves too much room for religious abuse and could even set a harmful precedent for the rest of the province.
“Abuse is abuse is abuse, and if you commit it in the name of a religious ideology or if you are a doctor who commits it, it is still harmful,” said Schiavo.
Schiavo added that while it is encouraging to see the council really listen to the community, it is obviously disappointing to see some of the major supports proposed in the statute being delayed as well.
“I think it’s fair to say that every time a statute or law is delayed on this is heartbreaking,” Schiavo said.
“The reality is that we are talking about torture, the reality is that we know that those who have experienced conversion practices have a much higher risk of suicide.”
Ben Rodgers, a conversion therapy survivor who has been closely associated with the ordinance, says a list of local resources for survivors has been made and will be available soon.
Rodgers has also gotten CT Survivors Connect off the ground in recent months, a support group that he hopes to continue growing.
He added that he agrees with the delay in the ordinance, as it appears to demonstrate a commitment to doing this in the right way, and encourages the community to stand on their councilors and demonstrate the importance of the issue.
The municipal ban has been seen in cities like Calgary, but it would be the first time in Ontario.