The Archdiocese of Regina has apologized and backed away from remarks made by a representative that compared a proposed bill banning conversion therapy to the harm done by residential schools to Indigenous communities.
Kevin Philip, the archdiocesan representative, argued that residential schools deprived Indigenous parents from instructing their children in “their sacred traditions, beliefs, and morality.” He went on to say that Bill C-6 that would ban conversion therapy would make Regina City Council “guilty of the very crime [they] accused Sir John A. Macdonald of,” continuing:
“‘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.'”
Philip’s statement comes only months after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked grave sites at residential schools owned by the Catholic Church.
Global News reported the following statement from Archdiocese of Regina regarding Philip’s words:
“‘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.”
Some LGBTQ advocates such as Kristopher Wells want more from the church. Wells said “the archdiocese needs to apologize to Indigenous communities, including two-spirit people, as well as the LGBTQ2 community for the comments that were made by Philip,” continuing:
“‘Let’s be clear, the Catholic Church is the last organization that should be lecturing anyone on residential schools to make the comparison between this conversion therapy bylaw and residential schools is not only offensive, it’s shameful.'”
Wells further commented that “raising concerns about conversion therapy legislation restricting parental autonomy is a ‘common tactic’ used to limit any legislation or activity that supports LGBTQ2 youth,” such as proposals for gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ curriculum and policies. He added:
“‘It’s disingenuous because there’s nothing within these legislation or within the proposed law, by the City of Regina that deals with private conversations of parents towards their children. We would hope that all parents have open and supportive conversations and behaviours when it comes to their children. . .
For his part, Philips acknowledged he “should have used a different example,” but did not back away from the idea that the conversion therapy ban is connected to the way residential schools harmed children and their families.
In a time when the Canadian Catholic Church is actively grappling with its history and relationship to Indigenous communities, it is disappointing to hear such an insensitive comment that harm both Indigenous and LGBTQ people. The Regina Archdiocese’s statement to Global News is a step in the right direction, and a direct apology to the harmed groups could continue the movement toward accountability and reconciliation. When conversion therapy has been proven to be harmful and damaging, especially in the lives of LGBTQ youth, the archdiocese should reconsider its un-Christian opposition to this life-saving bill.
—Barbara Anne Kozee, New Ways Ministry, September 2, 2021