Kingston City Council awards contract for Conversion Therapy Survivors Program

Portsmouth district Councillor Bridget Doherty speaks in favour of the Conversion Therapy Survivors Program at a meeting on Tuesday night. Screen captured image.

During the regular Kingston City Council meeting held on the night of Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, councillors voted unanimously to award C.T. Survivors Connect (CTSC) with a contract to operate the City’s new Conversion Therapy Survivors Program. The contract will see CTSC provide “survivor-to-survivor” services for those who have experienced conversion therapy. 

Last September, Council approved a motion to allocate $20,000 per year, for three years, to establish a support program for survivors of conversion therapy. Since then, City staff have worked with the United Way, to seek out and evaluate proposals for the program. According to a report presented to Council on Tuesday, City staff received two proposals, with CTSC providing the exact services staff were looking for. 

“CTSC is a support group and service development program for survivors of conversion ‘therapy’ (traumas) in Canada. They aim to provide a safe, supportive, respectful space for survivors. A place to develop a community in Kingston. Over time, CTSC will be working to develop services and direction to offer supports for survivors in various areas across the country,” the report said. 

According to the funding guidelines, programming may focus on, but is not limited to, supporting survivors with: 

  • Improving their self-care
  • Repairing and rebuilding their social support and community networks
  • Navigating their relationship with faith
  • Recovering from the impact conversion practices had on their civic and economic participation
  • Correcting misinformation about 2SLGBTQ+ people and communities

Conversion therapy is understood as “any form of treatment including individual talk therapy, behaviour or aversion therapy, group therapy treatments, spiritual prayer, exorcism, and/or medical or drug induced treatments, which attempt to actively change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” as stated in the funding guidelines

Tuesday’s decision follows months of discussion by Council and planning City staff. In January 2021, Council passed a motion to ban conversion therapy in the City of Kingston. That bylaw was eventually deferred, with the recent federal ban on conversion therapy rendering such municipal initiatives unnecessary. At the same time, Council also approved initiatives to curb any potential “unregulated” conversion therapy in the City. 

Portsmouth District Councillor Bridget Doherty reflected on the events that led to Tuesday’s vote.

“Arriving at this stage has been a journey for all of us. First, we were made aware of the practice in our community, and then we learned from experts and survivors. And now we are supporting the first [from survivor to survivor] program in Canada,” said Doherty, who has championed Council’s efforts to ban the practice locally and support survivors of conversion therapy for nearly two years.

Ben Rodgers addresses a virtual sitting of Kingston City Council in January 2021. Screen captured image.

“I just want to acknowledge everyone involved, the people who had the courage to speak up, and especially Ben Rodgers, who didn’t only speak up, but persevered to make a real difference,” she added.

Rodgers has been a vocal advocate of a conversion therapy ban and additional support for survivors, often sharing his own experiences, which has helped raise awareness toward the existence of conversion therapy in Kingston, and its impact on members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Rodgers is one of the organizers of CTSC, which was named the winner of an Awesome Kingston microgrant in June 2021.

According to City of Kingston documents, CTSC will receive funding for the program to be delivered between September 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023. 

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