The City of Nanaimo wants to take a step to support members of the LGBTQ community to be free to be themselves.
At a meeting Monday, Nanaimo city council voted unanimously in favour of Coun. Sheryl Armstrong’s motion to request a staff report outlining options for the City of Nanaimo to ban conversion therapy.
The practice, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or their gender to cisgender, has been denounced as harmful by the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatry Association and other groups. The federal Department of Justice says conversion therapy has been shown to lead to loneliness, illicit drug use, suicide ideation and suicide attempts.
The City of Nanaimo’s advisory committee on accessibility and inclusiveness unanimously recommended a conversion therapy ban following a presentation from Nanaimo Pride Society president Alessandro Iachelli last month.
“From personal experience and through conversations with other people in my own life who have been subjected to this practice, it was super important to me that we took the lead and put it out there,” Iachelli told the News Bulletin.
He said he doesn’t know of conversion therapy happening in Nanaimo specifically, but pointed out that it’s municipalities that issue business licences and suggested a “comprehensive solution” involving all three levels of government would be most effective.
“Political leaders definitely need to take a stand against this and make the statement that Nanaimo is a welcoming and inclusive city, respects its queer communities [and] doesn’t tolerate this kind of thing,” Iachelli said. “It’s also important for our youth here in Nanaimo to hear that … if they’re exploring and expressing their sexual orientation and gender identity and so on, they need to feel that they are supported by everybody.”
Legislation to ban conversion therapy has stalled at both the provincial and federal levels. Iachelli said he hopes those pieces of legislation are reintroduced soon, and said bans in cities like Calgary and potentially Nanaimo could be an impetus for other levels of government to act.
Council passed the motion with little discussion. Coun. Don Bonner said he’s “totally in favour” and Coun. Zeni Maartman said as much as she’d like to go ahead and implement a ban, she understands the need to go through a proper process to do so.
Mayor Leonard Krog expressed doubt about the city’s ability to enact a ban, but said it’s important to “make a statement that conversion therapy is not something that’s appreciated by members of this council.”