The Regina Archdiocese claims it misled a delegate who spoke at a city council meeting on July 14 about a bylaw prohibiting conversion therapy.
Kevin Philip stated at the meeting that he was representing the archdiocese at the start of his presentation and when a councillor inquired. Philip discussed the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) stance on Measure C-6, a government bill that would allow for conversion therapy.
In his presentation to the council, Philip restated the CCCB position, stating that the Catholic Church opposes all forms of coercive and manipulative practices that violate a person’s sacred dignity and the freedoms that come with that dignity.
On July 14, Philip told councillors that his issue with the city’s bylaw is the phrasing and concept of conversion therapy.
Regina’s proposed bylaw defines conversion therapy as “the offering or provision of counselling or behaviour modification techniques,” and “any other purported treatment, service, practice or offering or sale of any goods,” when used for “the purpose of changing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or for the purpose of repressing or reducing non-heterosexual attraction or non-heterosexual sexual behaviour.”
Philip said the proposed bylaw “labels all sorts of therapy, counselling, talk therapy, and even, dare I say, conversations between parents and children, I wonder, as conversion therapy.”
The proposed bylaw does not include treatments or counselling that “relate to a person’s exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
Mayor Sandra Masters told reporters on July 14 that she’s confident individuals will still be able to get the help and support they need.
“Because it’s a business prohibition bylaw, to talk to a pastor, to talk to your parents, to talk to your friends, that’s all completely within the realm of personal choice. That’s not been removed,” Masters said. “It’s about receiving money for the provision of a service which seeks to suppress or convert or anything within that realm as it relates to gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”
In his written statement to council and during his delegation, Philip compared the situation to residential schools and parents having their right to parent taken away from them.
“You do this, after you removed the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald as a sign of respect for our Indigenous communities (who) suffered under the plight of residential schools. Residential schools that told our Indigenous communities that they ought not be the primary educators of their own children, that they do not have a right to instruct their own children … their sacred traditions, beliefs and morality.
Philip told the city council that by their endorsement of Bill C-6, they are “guilty of the very crime (they) accused Sir John A. Macdonald of.”
“This bill, which you seek to endorse, tells all Canadians, that we ought not be the primary educators of our children.
“This bill, which you seek to endorse, puts us all into a type of residential school system by telling us that parents do not have a right to instruct our own children our sacred traditions, beliefs, and morality.”
Speaking with Global News, Philip said he understands how these comments could have been perceived as “tone deaf” given the recent unmarked grave findings at residential school sites.
“Perhaps I should have used a different example but I think the connecting line is strictly this whole thing of mandating parents and educators, community and civic leaders, cultural leaders, (that) communicate (and) educate (and) pray with and heal most of our vulnerable people.”
In a statement to Global News, the archdiocese said Philip is not employed by them but was asked to represent the position of the archdiocese on the bylaw discussion regarding the statement from the CCCB.
“Comments that Kevin Philip made beyond what is contained in the CCCB statement were his own and do not represent the position of the Archdiocese. Archdiocese staff were not clear enough with Kevin Philip on his representative role and are sorry for the ambiguity of that role and the pain and confusion that resulted,” the statement read.
Kristopher Wells, a MacEwan University professor and Canada Research Chair in sexual and gender minority issues, has researched conversion therapy and written a legislative action guide. Raising worries about conversion therapy legislation that restricts parental choice, he told Global News, is a “typical technique” used to prevent any legislation or action that promotes LGBTQ2 youth.
“Frequent parental objections to gay-straight alliances in schools, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, and even school-based regulations aimed to foster safe settings for LGBTQ kids, for example, are all common. So it’s not strange to hear the same reasons used to oppose conversion therapy legislation,” Wells added.