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- Susan Leblanc holds a “Ban Conversion Therapy” sign during this summer’s Halifax Pride parade.
Opposition parties in Nova Scotia plan to put an end to conversion
Nova Scotia’s New Democratic Party is putting forward a bill as early as this week to end the payment of medical professionals who bill the province for the discredited and harmful practice.
The bill, which will also cover gender identity protections, essentially disallows counsellors or medical professionals from billing the province for any practice designed to “convert” LGBTQ+ individuals to heterosexuality, says Susan Leblanc, spokesperson for LGBTQ Affairs in the NSNDP.
“So if I’m a physiologist and I try to, you know, counsel being gay out of somebody, I’m not allowed to be paid by the province, she says. “That’s what would happen. That’s the essence of the bill.”
Conversion therapy on minors is illegal in Ontario and Manitoba and was recently banned outright by the city of Vancouver. There is currently no legislation prohibiting the practice in Nova Scotia, however.
The Canadian Psychological Association opposes any psychological intervention or therapy designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation. Those who’ve previously endured conversion therapy say it’s tantamount to torture.
The practice made headlines this summer when the Maritime Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists invited speakers from Ohio-based Coming Out Ministries to a Bible camp in Pugwash. Both Pride Halifax and the Youth Project opposed the invitation for the American organization, which views homosexuality as a sin. The guest speakers were ultimately uninvited.
Leblanc says the NDP’s bill was influenced by the protests against Coming Out Ministries.
“There was a call for allyship and a call to speak out against this practice,” says Leblanc. “So along with doing that and helping to circulate petitions and that kind of thing, as a political party and as lawmakers, as the NDP we knew it was important that we somehow affect legislation so that, in fact, this kind of therapy or practice wouldn’t be allowed in Nova Scotia.”
The NDP hopes to bring the bill forward this week once the Legislature opens. “As soon as we get a chance,” says Leblanc. “Very early I hope.”
At the same time, Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party is also planning on tabling a bill to end conversion therapy in the province.
According to Catherine Klimek, senior communications officer with the Conservative Party, the Tories’ bill is still being drafted, but has the intention to make it illegal for anyone to provide conversion therapy for any individual
under the age of 18.
Interim Party leader Karla MacFarlane launched a petition to the House of Assembly back in July calling for an end the practice on minors.
“Our children and youth need love and acceptance, not harmful conversion therapies that only serve to hurt them for years to come,” MacFarlane wrote in a press release at the time.
Like the NDP, the Tories are also planning to end provincial payments for counsellors or psychologists practicing conversion therapy on anyone of any age.
“We have not seen the NDP bill, but we will be seeking consensus from all parties to pass legislation which is the most comprehensive possible, and we will work with all members of the Legislature to ensure this is the case,” says Klimek.
The most important goal, says the spokesperson, is not who tables the bill, but that the practice ends.
“At the end of the day, we would like to see the practice of conversion therapy banned in Nova Scotia,” Klimek says. “Whether that’s our bill, the NDP bill or another bill, we just want to see this harmful practice stopped. People should be free to be who they are.”
The Nova Scotia Liberal Party did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed bill.