A committee that is waiting to hear whether the Alberta government will allow it to keep studying ways to ban conversion therapy held a rally Thursday to send the message that they won’t go down quietly.
“How people respond to the dismantling of this working group sets the tone for what this government can get away with for how they treat our community,” committee co-chair Glynnis Lieb said at the rally, which attracted about 100 people to the Alberta Legislature building.
The committee was appointed in February and given five months to provide recommendations on the practice that tries to change people’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression through counselling or religious teaching.
However, its members don’t know whether their work will continue under the new United Conservative government. They are expecting Health Minister Tyler Shandro to provide that answer on Friday.
“We can’t let this go. We can’t let ourselves relax. The minute that it looks like the public is forgetting about this issue, it’s going to make it a lot easier for them to let it go and let it slide,” said Lieb, who is also executive director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.
Allison Alberto is a mother of two children, aged 12 and 15. She said she came to the rally because she wants her children to be able to grow up with human rights.
“What they’re learning is important. It’s important that they feel comfortable to be themselves — and things like conversion therapy are not OK,” Alberto said.
Lieb said the committee was hoping to have recommendations completed for the province by June.
Members of the committee include an Anglican archdeacon, the executive director of the Edmonton Pride Centre, a theologian and a survivor of conversion therapy.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, the health minister said that the province opposes conversion therapy and “are assured that no regulated health professional would be allowed to provide it.”
The health minister said he will “give due consideration to any input” he receives from the working group.
“Anyone with a concern or evidence that conversion therapy it is being practised in Alberta should bring that forward to the proper authority or to me or any member of our government,” the statement said.