Despite unanimous political support for the bill, Ontario's medical self-regulatory organizations remain silent on the issue.
A private member’s bill proposing to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy in Ontario has received full party support after a second reading at Queen’s Park last week. But that the province’s doctors and self-regulatory medical associations had yet to ban the practice is confounding some critics.
Bill 77, tabled by Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo in March, aims to prohibit medical “conversion” practices that seek to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth under 18 and delist practitioners who receive OHIP funding for the therapies. The suicide of transgender Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn inspired the bill.
At the time of publication, no medical associations or organizations have spoken out about the issue. Prithi Yelaja, who handles communications for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario declined to comment on the matter. “The College does not comment on specific treatments or therapies,” she wrote in an email to Torontoist. “If we received a complaint, however, we would investigate.”
The Canadian Medical Association could not be reached for comment.
In fact, one of the only practitioners to speak out about the issue is Centre for Addiction and Mental Health psychiatrist Susan Bradley, who came forth last week denouncing DiNovo’s bill. According to a NOW Magazinearticle, Bradley, an academic who sat on the MPP’s panel during the tabling of the bill, issued a letter to DiNovo that claimed the proposed bill “infringes on [a] patient’s and parent’s rights to seek appropriate treatments for their children.”
The American Psychological Association denounced practice in 2009, and many Canadian practitioners agree that conversion therapy is harmful. The New York Times reports that even President Obama is set to call for a ban against the practice at the state level this week. “But here’s the problem,” DiNovo told Queen’s Park during the bill’s debate. “It’s still going on.”
Donna Turner, the communications coordinator at Rainbow Health Ontario, says the onus has been put on legislators to ban conversion therapy because “doctors just aren’t doing it.”
“There are more professional organizations coming out saying our members aren’t doing this,” she says. “But having it written it in law is so much more powerful.”
At Queen’s Park, support for the bill was received unanimous support across party lines. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Health Eric Hoskins also backed the bill.
“People have the right to be who they are in Ontario,” Wynne said. “And there’s no place for conversion therapy in Ontario.”
This isn’t the first time an LGBTQ bill has received all party support. In 2012, Bill 33, better known as “Toby’s Law,” added gender identity and expression to the Human Rights Code. DiNovo (who proposed the bill), PC MPP Christine Elliott and Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi co-sponsored the bill.
DiNovo hopes Bill 77 will pass the legislature by Pride Week in June.
For Turner, passing the bill is a necessity. “The very existence of conversion therapy is harmful to LGBT people across the board because it says there’s something wrong with us,” she says. “It needs to be stopped.”