Nanaimo city council is looking at banning conversion therapy in the city. To uplift the LGBTQ community, Councillor Sheryl Armstrong motioned to call for a staff report indicating options for the City of Nanaimo to stop conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy refers to several discredited practices with the goal of changing a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation to heterosexual. The Canadian Psychological Association has deemed it psychologically damaging. According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year than those who did not.
Nanaimo City Council passed the motion with ease, with two councillors expressing strong support in the ban. It comes after the Nanaimo Pride Society’s president, Alessandro lachelli, did a presentation on conversion therapy recently - but he doesn’t know of any situations happening in Nanaimo. In response, the City’s advisory committee on accessibility and inclusiveness came to an undivided decision to recommend a conversion therapy ban.
“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,” lachelli said in the presentation. He added it would be a preventative measure as the City is responsible for giving out business licenses.
“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 added. “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.”
Federally and provincially, laws banning conversion therapy are at a standstill. Iachelli hopes that if municipalities make such efforts, it could push other levels of government to do the same. The Mayor of Nanaimo, Leonard Krog, seemed doubtful about the city’s ability to authorize a conversion therapy ban. Still, he said it’s important for council to set a tone that shows they do not support it.