Ontario has become the first province in Candada to ban the practice of “conversion therapy” for sexually diverse minors, who may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Legislation was passed Thursday to ban the therapy – a brand of counseling that aims to change sexual orientation – also covered under the public provincial healthcare system. Under the new legislation, medical practitioners will also be banned from billing the province for such services.
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Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s first out gay premier, said conversion therapy has no place in Ontario. Specialists say it can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide among young LGBT people.
“It’s so important that we make it clear that people have the right to be who they are in Ontario,” Wynne told the Toronto Sun.
The bill was brought forward by Cheri DiNovo, a representative from the left wing New Democratic Party, in April and won unanimous support from all parties Thursday.
Before the vote, members of parliament heard emotional testimony from locals who had undergone various forms of conversion therapy, including Mike Smith who was told as a youth that he needed to be “fixed” in order to be happy, a message that left him “contemplating suicide,” he said.
“The messages they were sending to me is you can only be happy as a straight man,” said Smith, who is now an LGBT support worker.
The legislation was passed just before Gay Pride week in the provincial capital Toronto, which begins June 19.
Last month, a similar law was passed in the U.S. state of Oregon banning the controversial therapy for LGBT youth. It was the third state to do so, after California, New Jersey and Washington D.C.