Conversion therapy bylaw to come to Lethbridge city council soon

In February, Lethbridge City Council passed a resolution to have administration to draft a bylaw regarding conversion therapy.

In February 2020, Lethbridge City Council voted on two motions regarding conversion therapy.

The first motion was for the mayor to write to the provincial government on behalf of city council to protect queer youth from conversion therapy in Alberta. That motion passed unanimously.

The second motion was to direct administration to draft a bylaw that protects queer youth from the practice in the city, then to bring the bylaw back to council for review and potential approval. That motion passed 7–2, with Hyggen and Mauro opposing.

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The draft bylaw was supposed to be before city council by 1 June. No matter how much searching I did, however, I couldn’t find any indication that a draft had come forward to council yet, and yesterday was 1 June. Presumably, there was a delay in its drafting.

Conversion therapy is any form of talk therapy or similar activity that tries to prevent a person from acknowledging and accepting their sexual orientation or gender identity as valid. For example, a gay person not wanting to be gay anymore or a trans person wanting to be the gender that was assigned to them at birth rather than their true gender.

Conversion therapy, by its vary nature, prioritizes certain gender and sexual identities over others. As such, it is often used by people who see sexual orientation and transgender identity as mental illnesses, and so see conversion therapy as a cure to treat them.

Making the practice illegal protects queer kids (primarily) from the harm that comes from having to endure the practice. The American Psychiatric Association, for example, states that trying to change one’s sexual orientation

represents a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change. No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed.

Several other professional medical organization oppose conversion therapy.

To pass the bylaw, city council must receive the bylaw, hold first reading (which makes the bylaw public), hold second reading (which introduces debate), and hold third reading (which debates technicalities). If approved at third reading, it passes and becomes binding. Often second and third reading happen in the same meeting.

Without seeing what the draft bylaw looks like, it’s hard to address its points. Regardless, it’s important for everyone—queer or not—in Lethbridge to contact city council to indicate support for the passing of a bylaw that protects queer kids.

Despite the resolution to create a draft bylaw already receiving majority support in city council, the possibility always exists for the actual bylaw to not be passed. Letting council know that you support its passing helps them to do the right thing.

To contact city council, you can write to them at

200-910 4 Ave S
Lethbridge AB T1J 0P6

Or you can email them at:

When you’re writing them, avoid using the word ban. Your language should focus on protecting queer kids. Instead of saying “ban conversion therapy”, for example, you can say “protect queer youth from conversion therapy”.

Also, if you feel uncomfortable using the word queer, a good synonym is LGBTQ+.

The next city council meeting is 15 June, and it’s possible the draft bylaw could be presented then. The agenda typically is released the Thursday before, which is next week. As such, anyone wishing to show support for this bylaw should contact city council as soon as possible.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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