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Guest post: Responding to the failed amendments to Lethbridge’s conversion therapy bylaw

Shortly after Lethbridge City Council passed the conversion therapy bylaw earlier this week, someone reached out to me to have me publish this follow-up story.

Shortly after Lethbridge City Council passed Bylaw 6628: A Bylaw of the City Of Lethbridge to Prohibit the Offering of Conversion Therapy Services this week, someone reached out to me to have me publish this follow-up story. The author addresses a 4-part amendment brought up by Councillor Blaine Hyggen, which was defeated 7–2 when brought to a vote.

The author wished to remain anonymous.


So, after an intense debate at the Lethbridge City Council Meeting on Monday, July 13, 2020, the consideration to further delay the conversion therapy ban bylaw was voted down 6–3. The bylaw was then given second and third readings (passing 7–2 each time) at 18:22.

Before the bylaw passing, however—after most everyone had left city hall—Hyggen brought forward an amendment to the bylaw which would have modified a number of definitions and wordings. In short, each and any of these would’ve created a loophole that would permit the continued practices of coercion and torture that 2SLGBTQ+ people face in our community.

These amendments were brought forward as an attempt to put anything in the way of actually banning these practices. When Hyggen didn’t get his way with the delay, he brought a bureaucratic shotgun to the table in an attempt to keep actual harm continuing in our community.

Bringing this forward at all was a stalling attempt to continue allowing harm in our community, all for the benefit of Hyggen’s electability. He’d put the whims and fancies of the politically regressive above the material and psychological safety of countless people in our City.

For shame, for doing this at all, Hyggen. For shame.

However, in the interest of demonstrating exactly how these amendments are an intentionally malicious attack against our community, I’ll address each attempt to continue this harm here.

Calling

That the word ‘or calling” be deleted from the definition of “Business” in Section 2(2)

Removing the language of “or calling” from the definition of business was a misunderstanding of how definitions and legislation work.

The “or calling” language comes directly from the definition of “Business” under the Municipal Government Act. The misinterpretation assumed that if “or calling” were removed, it’d allow someone through a personal or religious calling to continue this practice.

In terms of enforceability, language, precedent, and consideration at higher courts, this wouldn’t be allowed, even if the definition were changed, and this is an individual failing on Hyggen’s part to understand how law works.

The only reason to attempt to change this would be to allow this loophole, and the only way one could think that this would be the result is if one misunderstands how law works.

There’s sufficient reason to believe that this recommended amendment was drafted by Hyggen himself or someone in his personal circle.

This would not have been brought forward by any member of the city administration who has any reasonable understanding of legislation.

Person

That the word “person” be replaced with “licences professional counselor or psychologist, or other person licensed to do business” in Section 3 in line 1

Replacing “person” with “licensed professional counsellor or psychologist, or other person licensed to do business” would prohibit only licensed entities from performing this barbaric practice.

First, this includes health professionals that are regulated by the province and their own professional agencies, none of which allow this practice to begin with. The whole point is to redirect the focus of the conversation.

Even at that, including “person licensed to do business” still allows, as Councillor Rob Miyashiro noted in the discussion, one could practice this torturous procedure without any repercussions, so long as they do not have a business license.

Margaret from the Church group, for example, could go home and offer these services pro bono, without facing any repercussions.

In other words, any group, entity, or person wanting to practice conversion therapy could encourage members as private individuals—and not as participants in their organization—to practice this and completely escape the fine.

Again, this is an attempt to functionally make the punishment, whether that’s the full fine or the $100 fine for not having a business license, completely null. A $100 fee would be nothing to any powerful group with an interest in psychologically destroying marginalized peoples.

This is another attempt to completely de-fang the bylaw, making it nearly unenforceable.

Intention

That the following clause be added as Section 3(3)

“any practice. treatment, or service that is not intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Allowing “any practice, treatment, or service that is not intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity” simply leaves a rhetorical avenue open for bad-faith actors to say that their conversion therapy practice is not intended to change people; although behind closed doors that would not be determinable by anyone enforcing the bylaw, so long as the external rhetoric of the organization is that they don’t intend to convert anyone.

Again, the harm involved in this is apparent on the face of it.

Person (again)

that the word “person” be replaced with “licensed professional counselor or psychologist, or other person licensed to do business” in Section 4 in line 1

The fourth proposed amendment is substantially and tactically the same as the second. Yet another attempt to create loopholes.

Every single amendment presented above was an attempt to continue allowing harm. This was shot down, thank goodness, but these proposed amendments were only one component in a whole suite of tactics designed to emotionally and spiritually exhaust everyone involved.

Special credit to Councillor Joe Mauro for feigning ignorance about every single sentence the city solicitor said (no matter how simple) in order to further postpone this matter and to fatigue the other members of council.

This was also likely an attempt to make people get bored and tune out in order to minimize the impact this would have on his voting base. Regardless of intent, by constantly moving goalposts, begging the question, and generally gish galloping, Mauro has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that he’s a grifter.

Mauro said in response to federal and provincial initiatives to outlaw conversion therapy that he “didn’t want to support something just to make people feel good.”

That’s how he sees this issue.

He assumes the feds will (eventually) outlaw this practice and that this bylaw would just be to “make people feel good.” He’s completely blind to the real harm this practice brings. Either he’s blind, or blindness is a better face than outright hate.

Even assuming a federal outcome, until then, how much harm will be done?

Until something is done in our communities to keep our people safe, how many people will have a seed of doubt planted in their mind that whispers to them daily that “you aren’t worth it,” “you’re a freak,” and “maybe you should kill yourself.”

Mauro gish galloped again to the issue of electroshock therapy and completely ignored the real psychological harm of convincing someone that they’re broken.

This grifter navigated to every argument in their playbook, not because he has any actual principled and cohesive worldview to defend this practice, but because fundamentally, he lacks empathy for people who are unlike him. Nearing the end of the discussion, he put up pretensions of wanting actionable results, and positioned himself as a martyr for the regressive in the face of the vitriolic progressives.

In the final death-throws of his pitiful attempts to appeal to his base, he threw out one final bid to come out looking like a champion of the people. In light of all his bad faith acting, his final words truly demonstrated where his concerns lie.

All the points raised above should demonstrate that Mauro sees the preferences of his hateful base as more important than the potential lives lost—no matter how many or few—of those who have no power or desire to prop him and his ilk up.

Hyggen did the exact same thing, propping up his “friend” who underwent conversion therapy to speak to the benefits of the practice, then saying on several occasions that he in no way supports the practice, and that he sees it as harmful. His statements are internally inconsistent. No matter his intent, his rhetoric creates confusion, and gives ground to those who would wish to do harm.

Allowing harm to come to those who are different because one fails to see the harm in their actions is how our country allowed genocide in so many forms against Indigenous peoples. Actively refusing to prevent harm is just as much an act of hate as enacting that harm.

Both of these councillors are grifters, and they have demonstrated that they care more for their base than for the larger community they’re meant to serve.

For shame, both of you. The intent in your hearts is between you and God, but the material results of your actions and mindsets are evil.

Signed, The Ghost of Rosa Luxemburg

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

One reply on “Guest post: Responding to the failed amendments to Lethbridge’s conversion therapy bylaw”

This is a very important story. People need to see how easy it would have been to undermine the new policy and exactly who on council wants to do that. Blaine Hyggen should be ashamed of himself and should not be re-elected to a council that is trying to protect the innocent people who would be hurt if conversion therapy legally continues. Thank you to Kim Seiver and Rosa Luxemburg.

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