Two federal ministers have asked two Yukon ministers to ban conversion therapy in the territory.
David Lametti, the minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the minister of Health, make the urging in a letter obtained by the Star this week.
It has been sent to Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.
Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to transform someone who is gay, transgender or bisexual into a heterosexual person.
“We are writing to urge you to take action to end the shameful practice of conversion therapy,” says the federal ministers’ letter, published on p. 16 of today’s Star.
“Conversion therapy is a cruel exercise that can lead to life-long trauma. It has no scientific basis.
“ ... We strongly encourage you to take action to discourage and end conversion ‘therapy’ within your jurisdiction.”
A territorial cabinet spokeswoman told the Star this week the federal ministers’ letter has been received. The Yukon government
continues to examine measures other jurisdictions have taken and to weigh its options, she said.
A petition calling for a ban of conversion therapy was presented to the Yukon legislature in April.
It had drawn more than 400 signatures of support in just a few months, thanks to help from students in Whitehorse schools.
Those schools included F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Secondary Schools, whose Gender and Sexuality Alliances gathered in the
legislature during a question period in April and earlier outside the building.
Mercedes Bacon-Traplin, a student at F.H. and LGBTQ2S+ rights activist, watched on as NDP MLA Kate White read the petition out in
It called for the ban “to minors in Yukon and prohibit transporting minors outside of Yukon or Canada for such purposes.”
Speaking to reporters in April, 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.”
She said she was “shocked” to find out conversion therapy has not been banned in the Yukon.
“So after the initial ‘oh my God’ kind of thing, we were like, ‘we need to do something about this – this is not OK,’” Bacon-Traplin said.
Conversion therapy, as she defined it, “is the practice of attempting to take someone who is gay or transgender or bisexual and turn them
into a cisgender, heterosexual person.”
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.
After the petition was tabled three months ago, White quizzed Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, on
Dendys said her and McPhee’s mandate letters from Premier Sandy Silver instructed them to “conduct a review of legislation, policies
and practices to ensure the Yukon government meets the rules and social standards for LGBTQ2S+ non-discrimination.”
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.