A petition calling for a ban of conversion therapy was presented to the Yukon legislature Tuesday afternoon.
It has drawn more than 400 signatures of support in just a few months, thanks to help from students in Whitehorse schools.
Those schools include F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Secondary Schools, whose Gender and Sexuality Alliances gathered yesterday in the legislature during question period and earlier outside the building.
Mercedes Bacon-Traplin is a student at F.H. and LGBTQ2S+ rights activist. She, along with her peers, watched on as NDP MLA Kate White read the petition out in the legislature.
The petition for the ban “to minors in Yukon and prohibit transporting minors outside of Yukon or Canada for such purposes.”
Speaking to reporters, Bacon-Traplin reflected on her experience and involvement in the movement, which first began with a friend over lunch.
“I was welcomed because my parents are gay themselves; I was totally accepted when I came out,” she said.
“But there are children, people I know myself, who if they were to come out, would not be accepted – and I want to make sure that those people are protected and safe no matter what their home life is like.”
A part of the LGBTQ2S+ community herself, Bacon-Traplin explained that seeing actress Ellen Page (who is gay) take political figures to task for their views on gay marriage and conversion therapy got her thinking of the Yukon context.
“We decided to look it up and we were shocked to find out it (conversion therapy) hadn’t been (banned),” she said.
“So after the initial, oh my God’ kind of thing, we were like, ‘we need to do something about this – this is not OK.’”
That led to speaking with school alliances, media and White, and yesterday saw the petition being presented.
“Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to take someone who is gay or transgender or bisexual and turn them into a cisgender, heterosexual person,” Bacon-Traplin explained.
Methods have varied throughout the years. They have included electroshock therapy, icepick lobotomies, chemical castration and developed into things like psychotherapy – some of which date back to the 1900s.
As for just how big of a role they play, if any, here in the territory, it was hard to tell, she added.
“These things are often quite underground,” Bacon-Traplin said.
While it was possible that there may be zero instances of it happening here, the group hoped to be proactive rather than reactive by presenting the petition.
“We’re here to make sure it never will happen.
“If political views or societal views ever shift, we want to make sure that the laws are already in place to protect the youth.”
While there is uncertainty about how or if at all that was common here, Bacon-Traplin is sure about one thing: “I do know we want to make sure we’re protecting the really vulnerable youth.”
After the petition was tabled, White quizzed Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, on the topic.
Dendys rose to say that both her and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee’s mandate letters from the premier instructed them to “conduct a review of legislation, policies and practices to ensure the Yukon government meets the rules and social standards for LGBTQ non-discrimination.”
Dendys pointed to engagement on LGBTQ2S+ inclusion that wrapped up March 29 and concerns around the ban being “part of the considerations going forward” in a What we Heard document following that engagement.
The Canadian Psychological Association is among the groups that have condemned the use of conversion therapy, and Dendys noted that the
government does not support it in any form.