Pride P.E.I. is hoping that a celebratory year for 2SLGBTQ+ rights in the province will only see more steps taken to protect its youth.
The group is calling on political leaders to outlaw conversion therapy in legislation this year, which is the 25th anniversary of the first Pride March on P.E.I.
It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which has been seen as a pivotal moment for the community.
“This would be a great year to commemorate those two events, by passing some major legislation that shows the 2SLGBTQ youth on P.E.I. we do support them,” said Pride P.E.I. advocacy director Andrea MacPherson, adding the group was also acting on the community’s desire for the organization to be more involved in activism. “We want to show our 2SLGBTQ youth that we do care about you, we’re still fighting for you and we want you to be who you are.”
While conversion therapy has occurred on P.E.I. in the past, MacPherson said Pride P.E.I. has not received reports of it now happening. It can take several forms and go by different names, although MacPherson said it largely comes down to repressing feelings and behaviour in regard to gender and sexual orientation.
“Therapy is very good for letting your emotions out, but when therapy is used in such a way to repress your feelings or your thoughts, it can be very harmful,” said MacPherson. “We just want to make sure that doesn’t get to take hold (in P.E.I.)
“We want to cut that off before it even takes root.”
What is conversion therapy
Conversion therapy is a discredited practice of pressuring 2SLGBTQ+ people to change their sexuality. The practice has been largely condemned by the medical community in Canada and by the World Health Organization. Despite this, there have been some documented cases of health professionals in Canada billing health insurers while undertaking the practice.
The World Health Organization and many other health organizations also state conversion therapy practices have no legitimate science behind them and can threaten health and well-being of those affected.
A motion condemning the act was passed unanimously in P.E.I.’s legislature during November’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Pride P.E.I. was thrilled to see the support, said MacPherson.
“It showed everyone was willing to work towards such a goal,” she said. “But a motion is one thing, we kind of want teeth behind it. We want the province to acknowledge they will put resources behind this to fight it.”
MacPherson said legislation would hopefully include reporting structures for agencies that would raise red flags for anything resembling conversion therapy.
There are currently bans or restrictions on conversion therapy in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Vancouver.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who introduced November’s motion, said his party has been drafting legislation since before the election and hopes to have it ready to present in the fall.
Following B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver’s introduction of a bill earlier this year, nearly half of Canadian provinces have brought forward or are debating some form of legislation.
Bevan-Baker said P.E.I. could also be at-risk of becoming a “destination” province if it’s the last to pass legislation.
“You don’t want to be the last province in on something like this,” said Bevan-Baker, who was hopeful the eventual bill would pass.
He pointed to unanimous support of the motion and, although an election has changed the make-up of government, noted many of the MLAs who supported the motion were re-elected.
“I have no reason to believe we wouldn’t get full support if we bring in the legislation.”
MacPherson said Pride P.E.I. felt the legislation would be a good start for the new minority government, which has seen calls for collaboration between parties.
“We thought, ‘well you all were unanimous in your support of it in November and if you’re looking for collaboration, here’s what we thought would be a great step for you all to get together’,” said MacPherson.
She said while Pride P.E.I. was excited to hear the Greens have been working on legislation, she noted the group also hopes MLAs take the time to “get it right”.
“If it takes until the fall sitting, it takes until the fall sitting. We’re just glad they’re working on it. We want to try and keep it in the public discourse.”
P.E.I. Pride Festival plans
- The 25th P.E.I. Pride Parade will make its way through Charlottetown streets on July 27.
- Organizers are expecting to release more details about the parade, including entry forms within the week.
- The parade is part of the Pride Festival. This year will be the longest yet in P.E.I. and will run from July 20 to 31.
- Details of the events planned for those 12 days are also expected to be released soon.
- Those looking for more information, or wishing to volunteer for the festival, can visit Pridepei.ca.