St. Albert Coun. Natalie Joly asked council to look at banning conversion therapy within its municipal boundaries.
Applause rang out from the public gallery of the St. Albert’s city council chambers Monday as council unanimously passed a motion to move forward with drafting a bylaw to ban conversion therapy in the municipality.
The motion, presented by Coun. Natalie Joly, advises city administration to draft a bylaw to impose a $10,000 fine for anyone advertising therapy to minors that would try to change their sexual orientation or identity. The motion also recommends the city refuse a business licence or development permit to organizations that have the practice as part of their business model.
“I’m delighted, St. Albert really shows a lot of leadership in terms of making sure our community members feel safe and I am thrilled this is unanimous today,” said Joly, speaking to media after the motion passed.
Vancouver became the first Canadian city to ban businesses from offering conversion therapy services last year. St. Albert is the first Alberta municipality to pass a motion on a ban while a number of other communities in the province are exploring similar options.
St. Albert’s motion was passed after a number of politicians, community and faith leaders and St. Albert residents spoke in favour of the motion. Among those leaders was Randy Boissonnault, MP for Edmonton City Centre and the special adviser to the prime minister on LGBTQ2 Issues.
Last month, Boissonnault said the federal government is looking to criminalize conversion therapy after they previously said it was an issue that mostly falls under provincial and territorial legislation. Currently, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have varying levels of restrictions on the practice.
“Municipalities have a really important role when it comes to licensing organizations. There are things we can do at the federal level, we can pull a federally incorporated license, there are all kinds of criminal code sanctions already,” said Boissonault. “But there are gaps in the legislation so we are trying to do our best to criminalize this behaviour.”
The current UCP government in Alberta disbanded an NDP-appointed working group designed to find a provincial response to the issue in June. While speaking to the motion, St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said the city’s motion wasn’t meant to be a response to the provincial government but said more can be achieved when all levels of government work together.
“This is not a party-politics issue at all, but if you have three levels of government pushing for the same ultimate result, you’re going to get way more success,” said Heron.
The draft bylaw is expected to be back before council before the end of the year.