Members of Porter Creek and F.H. Collins Secondary School’s gay-straight alliance organizations rally in front of the Yukon government’s administration building in Whitehorse on April 9. The students were there to witness the tabling of a bill, which they helped create with a petition, banning conversion therapy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Petition calls on YG to ban conversion therapy

‘There may come a time in which our society is not as welcoming of LGBT youth as it is now’

A petition entered into the legislative assembly on April 9 urges the Yukon government to ban conversion therapy.

“It’s really hard to know for sure that it’s happening in the Yukon,” said Mercedes Bacon-Traplin, a Grade 12 student at F.H. Collins and one of the people who started the petition.

But, she continued, “there’s nothing confirming that it isn’t happening here.”

The petition, which is signed by 401 people, also states that the transportation of minors outside the territory or Canada for the purposes of conversion therapy should be prohibited.

Conversion therapy is a controversial practice which claims it can turn people straight.

In case such a practice does occur here in the future, Bacon-Traplin said, it would be illegal.

“Ultimately, why we still decided to bring this up is because … political views, they shift, societal views, they shift. There may come a time in which our society is not as welcoming of LGBT youth as it is now, right, so we wanna make sure those laws are in place now to protect the youth of tomorrow, to protect the youth of 20 years from now.”

The issue was raised during question period, with NDP House Leader Kate White asking how Jeanie Dendys, minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, can be so sure conversion therapy isn’t occurring in the Yukon. White said that Dendys told this to the media. It’s unclear where this statement appeared, exactly.

White also said the federal government indicated that it’s up to provinces and territories to decide whether to make conversion therapy illegal.

“Without legislation, queer youth and adults can be subjected to conversion therapy,” she said. “Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain how she is able to assure all Yukoners that conversion therapy isn’t currently happening and assure Yukoners that it will not happen to any Yukon resident, in or out of the territory, in the future without legislation?”

Dendys said a What We Heard document is being reviewed following a public engagement period concerning LGBTQ issues in the Yukon. She said that, during 12 focus groups and three “community dialogues,” conversation therapy wasn’t raised. Since high school students brought it up, however, it has been added to the document.

“I am not saying that we will not ban conversion therapy,” Dendys said. “That is something we will work together on. The minister of justice and I both have this within our mandate letters and we will continue to work with the community to determine what their priorities are.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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