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Federal ban on conversion therapy “huge” for Smithers youth

It really gives people the credence to live their authentic lives — LGBTQ+ podcaster Russel Adams
The federal government passed legislation on Dec. 1 protecting LGBTQ+ youth by making conversion therapy illegal. Angelo Octaviano said he is proud to be his true self, at a gathering of LGBTQ Prince Rupert community members, supporters and allies to celebrate Pride month on June 19. (Photo: supplied, Kyle Hilliard)

Smithers LGBTQ+ youth will be protected under a new federal ban on conversion therapy passed by the Canadian government on Dec. 1.

Conversion therapy attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, using psychological, physical or spiritual interventions.

“Shockingly, conversion therapy is still something that is practiced in Canada — and this bill makes that practice illegal,” Taylor Bachrach, Skeena-Bulkley MP said. “It’s a horrific and harmful practice, and I’m really pleased to see that it will finally be prohibited in our country.”

Russel Adams, co-host of The Rainbow Nation’s Podcast and manager for Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, said that the legislation’s passing is a “huge deal.”

“It really gives people the credence to live their authentic lives,” he said.

Bachrach congratulated the efforts of the unified House of Commons to fast-track the legislation.

“It was a really emotional and significant moment yesterday,” Bachrach said. “I couldn’t help but think about all of the LGBTQ youth in Northwest B.C., in places like Prince Rupert and Terrace and Smithers and Kitimat, who aren’t going to be made to feel like who they are is wrong.”

North Coast MLA

“As someone who has experienced a form of the practice, I am glad to see the federal bill banning conversion therapy has passed unanimously in the House of Commons, ” Jennifer Rice, MLA for the North Coast, told Black Press Media.

Bachrach’s [and Rice’s] support of the legislation reflects how the region’s people have changed, Adams said.

“It definitely is showing that this region is more inclusive and representation matters. So, with everyone in this region that Taylor takes care of it’s a huge deal — especially living somewhere remotely, away from urban centres where this wouldn’t be as much of a big deal,” Adams said.

In the larger urban centres, there is less apprehension to hang out and be yourself as there is in the North, he continued.

Through his co-hosted podcast on LGBTQ people and their allies, Adams shows that people can live their own lives and that it’s okay to do so in Smithers.

“With this [legislation], it’s even more of a positive step, to say that on a more national scale.”

The legislative change looks different to the younger generation than to those who grew up without it, he said.

“I can definitely see what that looked like when there wasn’t this kind of decision,” Adams said. “It’s a great thing because you don’t have to worry about, and it’s going to be something that they hopefully don’t ever have to worry about again.”

Rice said it was in 2019 that the BC NDP government wrote to the federal government requesting a ban on conversion therapy and for it to be added to the criminal code.

“At the same time, we have heard from advocates and understand a provincial response is also needed,” she said. “Once we have had a chance to review the federal bill more closely, we will be able to determine how we can best complement that action at the provincial level.”

with files from K-J Millar

Norman Galimski | Journalist
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