Pride organizations in Saskatchewan say that Canada’s ban on conversion therapy is being tested at events planned this week in Yorkton and Swift Current.
Ann Gillies is scheduled to speak at city-owned facilities in Yorkton on October 3rd and Swift Current on October 4th, advertising the “conversion therapy phenomenon” on posters. Gillies has been denounced by the Psychological Association of Alberta as being unaccredited and unlicensed. Swift Current Online reported Friday that RCMP are investigating Gillies and the organizers, Saskatchewan Freedom Patriots.
“Her use of terms like “affirmation therapy” co-opt the language of legitimate transgender health care, aligning it instead with the tactics of conversion therapy. This kind of bait and switch represents a public safety concern,” said Shaun Hanna from Southwest Saskatchewan Pride.
Yorkton Pride and Southwest Saskatchewan Pride are calling for RCMP and crown prosecutors to monitor potentially illegal events, and to uphold the nationwide ban on conversion therapy.
“I’ve spoken to several concerned parents who are supporting this cause without a clear understanding,” said Margo Allaire of Yorkton Pride. “The community is divided. They are good people who genuinely think their children are being corrupted in schools because of this rhetoric.”
Allaire said these events prey on people’s fears and lack of understanding about hot button topics, while social media is used to spread misinformation quickly.
UR Pride Centre for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, an organization currently embroiled in a legal challenge of the Saskatchewan Government’s anti-trans “Parental Inclusion” policy condemns these events.
“We here at UR Pride are shocked that city officials in Yorkton and Swift Current are standing aside while proponents of hateful anti-trans rhetoric are given a platform to spread dangerous misinformation,” said Ariana Giroux, Executive Director, UR Pride Centre for Sexuality & Gender Diversity. “We find it even more disturbing that the city would welcome a known practitioner of conversion ‘therapy’ – a torturous and immensely harmful practice outlawed by the Federal Government in January of 2022.”
Government Bill C-4 makes it illegal to provide, promote or advertise conversion therapy. This includes the treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, or to change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.
Saskatchewan Freedom Patriots organized local rallies on September 20th, part of a national radicalizing event targeting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, while calling for the “elimination” of sexual health curriculum and the visibility of the queer community in public schools.
Demonstrators bore signs, such as Leave our kids alone, No kids born in the wrong body, There are only two genders, Let kids play tag not drag, School is for ABC and 123’s not perversion, and This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are.
This intimidation, along with events in Yorkton and Swift Current, coincide with the Saskatchewan government’s pledge to use the notwithstanding clause to bypass Canada’s Charter of Rights to require students to get parental consent before using a name or pronoun other than the ones indicated by their birth certificate in schools.
This happened after a Regina judge ruled in favour of UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, and issued an injunction blocking the rule from coming into effect.UR Pride Executive Director Ariana Giroux said the upcoming events in Yorkton and Swift Current add to the challenges facing queer people in Saskatchewan.
“As queer individuals who work with queer individuals every day, we know all too well that the ways in which giving space to conversion ‘therapists’ results directly in harm; a fact which is recognized by the criminalization of promoting or advertising conversion ‘therapy’,” Giroux said.
The City of Swift Current says it won’t discriminate against any individual and/or group when renting their facilities, according to a statement. “The City is currently working with legal and the RCMP to ensure this event is abiding by current legislation and the RCMP are prepared to take any necessary action required should illegal activities take place.”
Southwest Saskatchewan Pride says the event undermines the City of Swift Current’s Safe Places program, developed with Sheldon Kennedy who survived abuse while he was a junior hockey player. The program is specifically designed to eliminate bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.
Concerned citizens of Swift Current