Alberta has a reputation across Canada as a particularly conservative province, and its most recent election shows it swinging dramatically to the right. But even in Alberta, the news isn’t all bad.
The city of St. Albert, northwest of Edmonton, is taking a bold step in the direction of equality for LGBTQ people.
Earlier this week, city councillors unanimously passed a motion to condemn conversion therapy, the practice — now thoroughly discredited — of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through either secular or religious-based counseling.
Onlookers in the council chambers burst into applause when the motion passed.
While the motion itself does not ban the practice of conversion therapy, it allows St. Albert’s city council to amend municipal by-laws in ways that will effectively make conversion therapy impossible. For instance, businesses could be prevented from obtaining licenses if they intend to offer conversion therapy or fined heavily for marketing the practice to minors.
Like many cities, St. Albert flies the appropriate flags during Pride month, hosts Pride celebrations, and even paints rainbows on its crosswalks. Such symbolic gestures may be heartwarming, but St. Albert’s councillors are taking their support even further, recognizing that an inclusive community cannot support conversion therapy efforts:
On June 11, 2018, Council approved “St. Albert’s Declaration to be a Welcoming & Inclusive Community” in order to publicly identify the City of St. Albert’s intention to enhance its capacity for social, cultural, and economic excellence due to the diversity of the community and inclusivity of all residents. The provision of conversion therapy services is inconsistent with this Declaration.
The only other municipality in the province known to be considering some form of ban on conversion therapy is the province’s capital city of Edmonton. The previous provincial government had a working group investigating the possibility of a province-wide ban, but they’ve been left in limbo by the change in governance.
Councillor Natalie Joly, who brought the motion forward, acknowledges that this victory is only the first step in creating an environment where LGBTQ Albertans — especially young ones — can thrive.
Everything we can do to make you feel supported and safe is great, and I think some of the speakers today implied that it never ends. We need to keep making sure that we’re making youth safe, and it doesn’t stop with one particular action.
Given that the current provincial government in Alberta has shown itself to be unfriendly to LGBTQ Albertans, notably through recent legislation targeting GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) and LGBTQ school employees, it’s heartening to see politicians at any level willing to make those actions reality.
(Image via Shutterstock)