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Working group seeing pushback, says co-chair

A working group formed under the auspices of the minister of health to examine conversion therapy in the province and seeking ways of having it banned has been experiencing some pushback from opponents of its work, says Dr. Glynnis Lieb.

A working group formed under the auspices of the minister of health to examine conversion therapy in the province and seeking ways of having it banned has been experiencing some pushback from opponents of its work, says Dr. Glynnis Lieb.

The co-chair of the Government of Alberta Conversion Therapy Working Group, Lieb is also the executive of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.

“There’s always pushback,” Lieb told the Gazette. “There are some groups out there that have really focused on this issue for sure.

"Through my work with the institute we regularly get pushback from parent groups and others who insist they are focusing on their rights as parents or the well-being of kids, but use that as an avenue to really attack services that support the LGBTQ2S+ community.”

Conversion therapy is treatment, counselling or behaviour modification that aims to change or modify someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, says Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

The working group is made up of government and health officials, as well as other stakeholders.

“Conversion therapy is a damaging, hateful practice that has no place in our province,”  Hoffman said when forming the working group.

“Albertans deserve to trust that any measures to end this practice are as strong as possible, will withstand legal challenges and have the support of those who need them most.”

There are no United Conservative Party (UCP) representatives on the working group.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House- Sundre UCP MLA Jason Nixon says the party will await the working group’s final report before taking a position on conversion therapy.

“We need to see the results of the committee and understand what is taking place before we can figure out the best way to deal with it,” Nixon told the Gazette.

For her part, Lieb says the group has determined that conversion therapy is in fact taking place in the province, including in rural communities.

“It’s a bit more covert than some of the things you might see south of the border, where you still have people who have so-called counselling practices that are blatantly advertising that this is their area of specialization ” said Lieb.

“Because the psychiatric association here have condemned these practices people can’t bill for conversion therapy, but you still can get people calling it therapy for anxiety or depression. What they are doing is pointing to this as the root of your anxiety or depression.”

The working group is expected to report back to the minister this fall, she said.

“We are hoping to be able to better protect people, youths and people over the age of 18 as well,” she said.