July 26, 2021
Member of Parliament, Kelowna-Lake Country
Dear Ms. Gray,
Re: Your Vote Against Bill C-6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)
In the midst of Pride month, following posts by your office expressing support for the 2S-LGBTQIA+ community, on June 22nd, 2021 you chose to vote against the majority of MPs in the House of Commons and place your vote against the adoption of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code and ban the horrific practice of conversion therapy. Luckily the bill still passed by a margin of 263-63, with even the leader of the conservative party, Erin O’Toole, voting in favour of the ban. Your decision to dissent has deeply shaken our local community members and allies, and a virtual town hall was held to discuss your vote in which over 350 concerned individuals participated - the result of which is a number of actions which will be undertaken including this letter to you.
As outlined in Bill C-6, conversion therapy refers to "a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender identity or gender expression to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour or non-cisgender gender expression.” This practice can go by many names including “gender critical therapy”, “reparative therapy”, “reintegrative therapy” or “aversion therapy” amongst others and may include individual talk therapy, behavioural or aversion therapy, group therapy treatments, and medical or drug-induced treatments. It can be practiced by licensed or unlicensed professionals in religious or non-religious settings and may be performed for a cost or for free. Although faith-based conversion therapy can be found across a spectrum of religions, a growing number of faith communities have also spoken out in protection of 2S-LGBTQIA+ youth from harmful conversion therapy practices.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of ineffectiveness and active harm from conversion therapy, the practice is still prevalent in Canada today. According to an article published in June 2021 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, "as many as one in ten (10%) gay, bi, trans, and queer men and Two-Spirit and non-binary Canadians have experienced conversion practices.” Even more concerning is that the data found that 72% started conversion therapy before the age of 20, meaning that this practice disproportionally affects vulnerable 2S-LGBTQIA+ youth. This type of therapy is based on the outdated and incorrect assumption that being 2S-LGBTQIA+ is a mental illness that can be cured, which is not supported by any major reputable medical association including the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Canadian Psychological Association, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics amongst numerous others. Not only is this practice ineffective, it is also actively harmful to those who are subjected to it. Let us be perfectly clear - conversion therapy is nothing short of abuse. A peer-reviewed study published June 2021 in the American Journal of Public Health found that 2S-LGBTQIA+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were "more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year” not to mention the many other harmful effects including shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, loss of faith, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, social withdrawal, feeling dehumanized, depression, increased substance abuse, and high-risk sexual behaviours. This is nothing short of horrific and a completely preventable plague on our community which should absolutely be outlawed in modern-day Canada.
Statistics Canada announced on June 15th that 4% of the Canadian population over the age of 15 self-identified as 2S-LGBTQIA+. In local terms, this represents an estimated 8,000 of us in your constituency, not including the allied friends, colleagues, and family of these individuals. Despite this, representatives of this community were not consulted by you or your office regarding this bill, which we find very disturbing given that it directly impacts our mental and physical wellbeing. You personally know a number of prominent individuals in our community and we can assure you that they were all surprised and shocked by your vote.
We have read and heard your prepared statement attempting to justify your vote. An attempt to paint the wording in Bill C-6 as ambiguous which would prevent parents from being able to explore gender issues with their children is simply disingenuous, especially given that the bill explicitly states that “for greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” It has not gone unnoticed that your talking points precisely mimic those from the right-wing religious opposition to the bill without any real substance or data to back them up. Your support of this lobbying group at the cost of protections against the horrific harms of conversion therapy is both shocking and hurtful. It sends a clear message to the youth in our community that you support their continued victimization by these medically and scientifically debunked practices and practitioners, and to the community at large that you are not interested in working to protect our most vulnerable.
In your responses to those who have questioned your vote, you have stated that we should look to your past to know that you are an ally. While support for rainbow crosswalks are gestures that are appreciated, such performative acts ring hollow when a real issue causing explicit and significant harm to our community is unable to garner similar support from you. To us, it feels as though the clock has turned back to the 1990s where battles were fought in courtrooms and in front of tribunals to be afforded the most basic of rights and protections.
At the town hall meeting, there were calls for your resignation. However the loudest call was for a public apology, and that is what we are asking for in this letter. We ask that you apologize for overlooking our community input, for voting against our legal protections, for violating our trust in you, and for ignoring the impacts and trauma your vote has caused.
We trust that you will see fit to do the right thing.
A Coalition of Kelowna-Lake Country 2S-LGBTQIA+ Citizens and Allies