A local LGBTQ2S+ advocacy group is accusing the City of Kelowna of not doing enough to support its queer and transgender constituents.
In a press release published on Sunday (Oct. 24), Advocacy-Canada.LGBT and the Kelowna Task Force to Ban Conversion Therapy called on the city to go beyond rainbow crosswalks and performance activism.
They urge the city to pass bylaws to ban conversion therapy to protect LGBTQ2S+ youth in the city. Conversion therapy is an umbrella term to refer to traumatic and harmful practices that aim to change someone’s gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression.
“We are calling upon our elected officials in Kelowna to step beyond symbolic acts of Pride declarations and rainbow crosswalks, all of which we appreciate, and take the opportunity to effect real change where it counts. We desire our city to be a safe space for everyone, including our LGBTQ2S+ youth who are most vulnerable to the cruel and harmful practices of conversion therapy,” wrote Advocacy-Canada.LGBT founder Wilbur Turner.
The press release comes after the mayor’s office sent an email to Turner, saying that the city has no authority to enforce criminal law. In a copy of the email obtained by the Capital News, Mayor Colin Basran said he agrees that conversion therapy must be made illegal but only the federal government has the power to enact such a ban.
“Cities that have passed such bylaws are doing so purely as a symbolic act,” wrote Basran in the email.
Turner disagreed, saying other municipalities have implemented bylaw changes that prohibit businesses from providing conversion therapy services. Vancouver, for example, was the first Canadian city to ban the practice in 2018.
“What I find interesting is the city has restrictions in its business regulation bylaw on what tow truck drivers can do, but can’t see a way to stop conversion practices,” said Turner. “I really hope council will reconsider their decision. We stand ready to support them in whatever way we can.”
But the city maintains that it has no legal authority to ban conversion therapy locally. During a council meeting on Monday (Oct. 25), councillors passed a resolution to have a motion written to condemn the practice instead. The motion would also allow Basran to send a letter to the federal government supporting a nationwide conversion therapy ban if passed.
“It’s challenging for local governments, we have limited power on certain issues,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said.
Other councillors said this is the right move for the city to take. “I think it’s a very strong position,” said Coun. Brad Sieben.