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EDITORIAL: Potential provincial legislation attack on trans youth

EDITORIAL: Premier Danielle Smith’s announcement to bring forth legislation that would restrict medical treatment for trans youth is a direct attack on the 2SLGBTQI+ community.
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/

Premier Danielle Smith’s announcement to bring forth legislation that would restrict medical treatment for trans youth is a direct attack on the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

The move, which is expected to hit the legislature in September, could have devastating impacts and consequences for transgender people in the province.

Smith has said the aim is to provide youth be “fully informed” on the decisions they may regret. Often calling herself a libertarian throughout her political career, Smith has fully embraced the far-right elements of her party to maintain a strong grip on power.

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have previously introduced parental rights laws, but Smith has taken it several steps further. The stance will be the most hardline across the country.

Though not yet formally on the floor of the legislature, Smith said the UCP would ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger who haven’t already started such treatments. Parents would also have to consent to kids 15 and under going by a different name or pronoun at school, while 16- and 17-year old’s could make a change but schools would have to tell their parents or legal guardians. It would also exclude transgender athletes from women’s sporting events.

Gender-affirming surgeries for youth under 17 would be halted, though bottom surgery is already limited to people 18 and older across Canada and top surgeries are rare.

Smith said parents and legal guardians will have to be notified and opt-in their kids when a teacher plans to teach about gender identity, sexual orientation and human sexuality, which would handicap the ability of youth to learn about such issues.

If such legislation is brought forward, which is likely a matter of if not when due to the UCP’s majority government, it will undoubtedly be challenged in court.

The federal government has insinuated it would be willing to ask the Supreme Court to block the provincial government’s ability to use the notwithstanding clause to shutter a legal challenge.

Saskatchewan moved last year to require parental consent for kids’ to change their names or pronouns. When it drew a court challenge, Premier Scott Moe invoked the notwithstanding clause that allows the province to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years.

Across Alberta, there have been several protests and Liberal Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault – the lone Liberal Party MP in Alberta – called it “draconian” and said it “puts lives at risk.”

Smith was also met with protests Monday (Feb. 5) when she arrived in Ottawa for ongoing talks regarding provincial and federal relationship as well as opening a new provincial office in the nation’s capital.

The announcement also throws shade at significantly more pressing issues facing people across Alberta. From the ongoing doctor shortage, the hospital crisis, opioid addiction that only seems to get worse, to the growing and pressing need for more housing, the challenges facing the province need the full attention of government as opposed to it chasing sideshow policies.

While Smith is appealing to the far-right conservative base, it sidelines the immediate concerns of the entirety of Alberta.

Critics have been clear if such a policy is passed, it could force a vulnerable population deeper into hiding.

The medical community such as the Canadian Paediatric Society and Alberta Medical Association has also raised a red flag about the lack of consultation with professionals and the evidence she has used to support the potential policy. The Alberta Teachers’ Association has equally brought forward concern about transgender youth being more likely to suppress their identities and not reach out to teachers for support.

Smith has said she and members of the UCP government have heard from people in the transgender community, but talking to a handful of people is woefully insufficient public engagement before making policy change.

If the goal was to create political theatre, Smith succeeded.

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