Hyggen and Mauro move to delay Lethbridge conversion therapy bylaw

Last month, Lethbridge city council passed first reading of Bylaw 6228, which would prohibit the business practice of conversion therapy. Second reading was scheduled to occur on Monday. Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro want to delay it.

Last month, I reported that the Lethbridge city council passed first reading of Bylaw 6228, which would prohibit the business practice of conversion therapy in Lethbridge.

The first reading was passed by a vote of 7–2, with councillors Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro being opposed. That in itself is odd. First reading is a technicality. It’s held so that the proposed bylaw can become part of the public record. Then council can debate and discuss it at a later date, as part of second and third reading.

Even so, second reading was scheduled to occur on 13 July 2020. But Hyggen and Mauro want to delay second reading.

In a motion (item 6.2) published on the City of Lethbridge website, Hyggen and Mauro propose postponing the second reading to an unspecified date.

They claim that the information council received to create and debate the bylaw was insufficient and that there has been insufficient engagement with the public.

While a proposed date for the second reading wasn’t included in the motion, they did suggest 17 August 2020 for a public meeting of city council, during which the public could speak to city council on the topic. Presumably, second reading would be held at a later date, after city council had a chance to review all the additional public feedback.

They also ask for a new comprehensive report—a different report was provided prior to the first reading—that would be available to the public by 25 July 2020.

The motion also claims that “the public” has requested input into the bylaw, which I thought was interesting. I had no issue providing my input to city council.

Finally, one particular whereas stood out to me:

WHEREAS the City of Lethbridge affirms that it has a constitutional obligation to maintain neutrality and must abstain from taking a position in order to avoid adhering to a particular belief.

I’m unclear on what Hyggen and Mauro are suggesting here. Are they saying that outlawing the damaging practice of conversion therapy is adhering to a particular belief?

The following professional organizations oppose the practice of conversion therapy:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Canadian Association of Social Workers
  • Canadian Psychological Association
  • National Association of Social Workers

Does that mean they’re adhering to a particular belief?

The Canadian Psychological Association says this in their policy opposing conversion therapy:

Scientific research does not support the efficacy of conversion or reparative therapy. Conversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction. There is no evidence that the negative effects of conversion or reparative therapy counterbalance any distress caused by the social stigma and prejudice these individuals may experience.

Those don’t seem to be statements of belief. They even cite 15 research articles supporting their opposition to the practice.

Opposing conversion therapy is a health issue, not a belief. Opposing conversion therapy is harm reduction.

Opposing conversion therapy can’t be compared to thinking rocky road is the best ice cream flavour.

If you think the second reading of Bylaw 6228 should proceed on Monday, contact city council and let them know.

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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.

6 replies on “Hyggen and Mauro move to delay Lethbridge conversion therapy bylaw”

Every other municipality has understood the importance of allowing a public engagement session on this topic. If Lethbridge wants to uphold democracy, they ought to allow public input on a bylaw that threatens to take away individual rights.

Public input has been allowed. It first came to city council in February. Then again last month. Citizens have had 5 months to contact city council with their feedback. I personally contacted them twice without any difficulty.

Also, this bylaw doesn’t take away individual rights; it enshrines the rights of individuals to be free from harm.

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