One of Halifax's private Christian schools doesn't have much of an answer on whether it approves of conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth.
Sandy Lake Academy in Bedford is owned and operated by the Maritime Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church—the same church that's come under fire for bringing in two American speakers who say homosexuality is a sin.
The Youth Project's Sheena Jamieson made a petition this week asking the Maritime Conference to uninvite anti-LGBTQ+ speakers from an upcoming camp in Pugwash next month.
The speakers, Mike Carducci and Danielle Harrison, are both a part of Coming Out Ministries in Ohio—a group whose vision is to restore “all men and women back to the image of their Creator God” and which considers gay people “sexually impure.”
As reported by Star Metro Halifax, Carducci's presentation is all about sharing his personal experience about leaving behind a life of “sexual addiction” and homosexuality. He says the talk doesn't “condemn the homosexual,” only the practice.
Coming Out Ministries downplays any association between its camps and the discredited psychological practice of conversion therapy, but their mission is fundamentally the same.
“From my perspective, they’re going into it with the same objectives of conversion therapy,” says Youth Project executive director Kate Shewan. “They may not call it therapy because it’s not sort of sitting on a couch doing one-on-one therapy—it’s speaking to a group—but the message that they’re still sending is the same message that is used in conversion therapy...They’re telling people that there’s something wrong with them.”
Maureen Westhaver, principal at Sandy Lake Academy, would not answer questions about the school's stance on conversion therapy or the Maritime Conference's upcoming speakers.
“I’m not willing to go there because I do not know enough about it,”
Westhaver, a former Maritime Conference board member, subsequently stated that “what they do is not connected with me” and ended the call.
The petition by both the Youth Project and Halifax Pride has already drawn press coverage and concern on social media about the controversial practice's place in Nova Scotia.
Conversion therapy uses psychological interventions to try to make someone no longer LGBTQ+. The Canadian Psychological Association opposes any therapy designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation and those who’ve gone through the practice say it’s tantamount to torture.
Use of the practice on minors is illegal in Ontario and Manitoba, but similar legislation has not yet been proposed in Nova Scotia.
One such organization that does administer conversion therapy in Canada is Journey Canada. Nova Scotian representative Stephanie Robinson is also a worship leader at Grace Chapel in
Journey Canada recently cancelled a planned retreat in Rothesay, New Brunswick after a negative response from the local community. According to CBC, while Journey Canada is active in Halifax, the event would have been the first time such a retreat occurred in New Brunswick.
Coincidentally, this Friday night the OUT EAST film festival kicks off with an opening night gala about conversion therapy.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, from writer/director Desiree Akhavan, stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a young woman sent to a facility that seeks to eliminate same-sex attractions and will in all likelihood be a much better event for youths to attend than any conference in Pugwash.