Meaningful Change Begins with You

Knock Knock Blog
3 min readFeb 1, 2022

In today’s digital age, the temptation to limit one’s advocacy to what can be accomplished from behind a keyboard is overwhelming. We are inundated with calls to share, copy and post, retweet, or sign online petitions (many of which have no real standing with the appropriate level of government in Canada). It would be remiss to blame this on the ongoing pandemic; it’s been an issue for as long as social media has dominated our means of communication.

In early 2017 at a Pride event in southern Alberta, I was approached by a local advocate who was passionate about banning conversion ‘therapy’ in Alberta. Conversion therapy is the heinous practice of attempting to change one’s gender identity or expression to heterosexual or cisgender (the U.N. Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, likened it to torture).

We quickly partnered up to lobby the provincial government to enact meaningful change in this regard. After further research, we discovered that municipal bans on this practice only applied to organizations that held business licenses, and provincial bans were largely enforceable through that province’s Ministry of Health. In short, while bans at both levels of government were important and potentially lifesaving, they were limited in scope, and left many loopholes open for this practice to continue. We realized that, to create meaningful, long lasting and effective change, we had to direct our efforts towards the federal government.

Following extensive discussion and consultation with MP Randy Boissonnault’s office, E-Petition 1833 was launched in September 2019, calling on the federal government to enact changes to the Criminal Code to prohibit this practice. (Of note, the only electronic petitions admissible to the Government of Canada are those launched via the website, adhering to proper formatting and procedures.)

The first challenge that arose was discovering that, somewhat unsurprisingly, many Canadians did not realize that conversion ‘therapy’ was still legal in our nation, or that it still took place. With this understanding, we were able to include an educational aspect to our work, launching a ‘Frequently Asked Question’ document, conducting interviews with print, radio, and television from coast to coast, and conducting in-person presentations. Concurrently, we continued to advocate at the provincial and municipal levels, with varying degrees of success, including a successful attempt at a ban in the City of Lethbridge.

When the petition ended, with 18,200 verified signatures, we waited in anticipation for a response from the government. Two pieces of legislation followed (introduced in different sessions) in the Senate, followed by Bill C-6 in the House of Commons. As you know, this legislation was delayed during the 2021 federal election, and was reintroduced with stronger language as Bill C-4.

The rest is history; Bill C-4, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) unanimously passed the House of Commons and the Senate and came into force on January 7th, 2022. Of course, this is a very condensed telling of over four years of activism with many survivors, advocates, and organizations playing key roles in raising awareness and advocating.

As we move into a new year, it is imperative to understand that we are all capable of creating a positive impact in our own communities. The steps that I have found most helpful are to identify what the need is, followed by determining what the ideal end goal would be. Research is key. It is essential to educate oneself to be able to educate others. Determine what has been tried, what has succeeded, and what has failed. Speak to the experts. There are many lived experiences that can be vital to success. Then, push ahead. Be patient — results don’t always appear quickly.

There are already many existing frameworks to maximize the impact of one’s efforts, or to learn and support existing endeavors. Community boards, electoral district associations, policy committees, and many more are actively seeking engaged citizens to contribute, engage, and advocate.

I encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you can contribute to Canada’s future. We are privileged to be living in a crucial moment in time, as our nation and the world look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic towards the future we want for ourselves and our children. Let’s not wait for change — let’s make it.

Submitted by Devon Hargreaves, Southern Alberta Regional Chair for the LPC(A) and past candidate for Lethbridge.



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