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news // no. 4

BC Greens table conversion therapy ban ››Legislation would protect minors from harmful, destructive practices

Bex Peterson Editor-in-Chief


ast month the BC Green Party put forward legislation to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors in the province. “This bill supports those with diverse sexualities, gender identities, and expressions,” said BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver in a statement on May 27. “It sends a clear message that it is okay to be who you are, that your elected officials and those in positions of power hear you and will act now to protect your human rights.” The ban is part of a larger bill titled the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act and would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy on individuals under 19 years of age. While the Ministry of Health has stated that conversion therapy has never been covered under the province’s medical services plan, BC does not currently have an outright ban in place to prevent it—though the City of Vancouver passed a law restricting businesses from offering conversion therapy last summer. Conversion therapy is defined as a pseudoscientific practice meant to

“change” one’s sexual or gender orientation, often with psychologically scarring and traumatizing results for LGBTQ2S+ people. The practice has long been criticized and debunked by psychologists, with US Surgeon General David Satcher stating in a 2001 report that “there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” The Canadian Psychological Association issued a policy statement strongly opposing the practice in 2015. “Scientific research does not support the efficacy of conversion or reparative therapy,” the policy states, adding that the practice “can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction.” Despite this, only two provinces have outright banned conversion therapy for people of all ages: Ontario and Manitoba, who took provincial action in 2015. Nova Scotia banned conversion therapy on minors in 2018. Alberta was making progress towards a ban, but such actions have since been cancelled by the new United Conservative Government—a decision that Weaver condemned in his statement, saying that “It is particularly

important and timely to be advancing this ban today, as we hear news that the [UCP] is walking back the previous government’s commitment to end the practice there.” A public push for a federal ban was spearheaded by Alberta LGBTQ2S+ activist Devon Hargreaves and presented in the House of Commons this past February by NDP MP for Saskatoon West, Sheri Benson. Though the federal government condemned the practice in their response, they rejected the proposal, calling it a provincial and territorial issue. Hargreaves was critical of the federal government’s decision. “If there isn’t a federal ban, we have a hard time tracking where this is still happening, and it shouldn’t be happening anywhere,” said Hargreaves in an interview with the CBC. LGBTQ2s+ activists in BC have voiced support for the BC Greens’ ban in a series of statements. “There is no place for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, as outlined in the BC Human Rights Code and the

Human Rights Act of Canada,” said Nicola Spurling, president of Tri-Cities Pride, in the BC Greens’ press release. “As such, I call on British Columbia’s provincial government to end this archaic and unscientific practice, and to send the message that our province will no longer tolerate these attacks on LGBTQ2s+ people.” Peter Gajdics, conversion therapy survivor and author of The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir, also voiced his support for the bill. “When I left my own six years of ‘therapy,’ in 1995 […] I had no words to describe what had happened to me,” Gajdics said in his statement on the matter. “In truth, so-called conversion therapy is soul-crushing torture that ends up not even being about ‘changing’ sexual orientation as it is about eradicating homosexuality, silencing it from the bodies of people who are gay. Legislative intervention helps prevent torture.”

A new hope for prescription medication ››BC to cover biosimilar drugs through Pharmacare Roshni Riar Staff Writer


C will be the first province in Canada to expand Pharmacare coverage to biosimilar medication—changing the type of drugs that the healthcare system funds. Biosimilar drugs are alternatives to the bioengineered drugs, which are called biologic drugs, that are currently available to treat specific conditions. Twenty years after the patent for an original biologic drug is filed, the patent expires and manufacturers are allowed to create biosimilar alternatives based off the original patent. The introduction of biosimilar medication will reduce costs of prescription medications by 25 percent to 50 percent. The lowered cost comes from a decreased need to conduct research or development, since biosimilar drugs are modelled after their original biologic versions. A six-month transition period will allow those taking medication for diabetes and specific arthritic conditions to switch to biosimilar medication before coverage for their current medication is eliminated. In conjunction with the introduction of biosimilar drugs, coverage for arthritis drugs will be broadened and coverage periods and pre-requirements will be modified under Pharmacare. As of November 25, Pharmacare will discontinue coverage for the original versions of drugs used to treat conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, diabetes, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Jardiance, a diabetes drug, and Taltz, a psoriatic arthritis drug, are available for patients to switch to immediately. Information on biosimilar drugs for Crohn’s and colitis patients will be available this summer. The BC government estimates that the transition to biosimilar drugs for arthritis, diabetes, and Crohn’s patients will save $96.6 million over the next three years. This announcement comes after the January announcement that revealed the BC government will invest $105 million over the next three years to reduce or eliminate deductibles and co-payments for low income residents. These are the first changes to be made to Pharmacare since 2004. Karen Sharma, a first-year Business student, shared her thoughts on the introduction of biosimilar drugs in an interview with the Other Press. “Hopefully this will be effective in saving everyone [involved in] the pharmaceutical industry a lot of money—from the developers to the patients,” Sharma said. Sharma hopes the immediate success of biosimilar drugs will be beneficial in having other prescription drugs redeveloped. “If [the implementation of biosimilar drugs] proves to be beneficial, that should encourage the industry to look at expanding development to as many prescriptions drugs as possible,” Sharma said, “Too many people are skipping medication because they can’t afford it and hopefully that will stop as biosimilar drugs [become more readily] available.”

Profile for Other Press

The Other Press - June 4, 2019  

The Other Press - June 4, 2019