Alberta strikes working group to make recommendations to ban conversion therapy

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has created a working group to determine the most effective way to ban conversion therapy.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the practice is both damaging and hateful and she looks forward to acting on the group's recommendations.

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The committee, to be co-chaired by NDP Edmonton legislature member Nicole Goehring, will meet with stakeholders over the next five months, then draft recommendations.

Goehring has already been working on a private member's bill to outlaw conversion therapy, which has been previously banned in Manitoba and Ontario.

Conversion therapy refers to any treatment, counselling or behaviour modification to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The working group is to include representatives from the health and legal professions, faith leaders and the LGBTQ community.

Goehring says the recommendations need to be a broad-based effort.

"I've heard from Albertans and community leaders that any ban on conversion therapy must be community-driven and can't let anyone fall through the cracks," said Goehring in a statement Friday.

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan accused the NDP of playing politics with the issue and said the government should ban the practice immediately.

"Alberta’s youth cannot wait another five months for an NDP committee to reach the conclusion that is obvious to most people in this province. What further input is needed to convince this government?" said Khan in a statement.

"The NDP are willing to delay any meaningful decision in a desperate attempt to turn this into an election issue. This could put vulnerable children at risk.”

Voters will go to the polls this spring in a general election, which by law can be called any time now but must be over by the end of May.

Goehring had been expected to bring forward her private member's bill this past fall, possibly with the support of the government, but that never materialized.

United Conservative Opposition Leader Jason Kenney said at the time he couldn't comment on legislation he hasn't seen, but said he would keep an open mind on whether to support such a bill.

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