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UCP legislature members banned from Alberta Pride events in push for policy changes

An Alberta queer community organizer says a ban on United Conservative Party MLAs attending pride events across the province this summer aims to pressure the government until its policies match its rhetorical support for trans and queer people. A large pride flag is passed along during the Pride Parade at English Bay in Vancouver, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA — An Alberta queer community organizer says a Pride ban on United Conservative Party legislature members challenges Premier Danielle Smith to start matching words with actions.

"There's absolutely no reason to invite the UCP to engage in our cultural celebrations while they are legislating against us," James Demers of Queer Citizens United said in an interview Tuesday.

"They're trying to appeal to their extremely radicalized right-wing base by attacking queer people.”

Demers' comments came after the Calgary-based organization, representing 14 groups provincewide, announced Friday that members of Smith’s caucus are not welcome to attend Pride events this summer.

It said the ban is a rebuke to the premier for rule changes and legislation coming later this year surrounding transgender and queer people.

Alberta proposes that students 15 and younger must have consent from their parents to change their preferred names or pronouns at school. For those 16 and 17, their parents must be notified.

Smith has also pledged to ban medical treatments for some transgender minors and ensure there are sports leagues only for biologically female players.

Demers said by restricting medical treatment, the UCP would be interfering in decisions that should be made between parents, their child and their doctor.

The Friday statement was timed to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

On that day, Alberta Culture Minister Tanya Fir released a statement saying the government stands against all forms of discrimination.

Demers called Fir's statement "a cruel joke at best," and said the group is fighting the government's attempt to disingenuously frame itself as a supportive ally.

"They are a violently discriminatory and homophobic and transphobic party," said Demers, who is transgender.

At the legislature Tuesday, Fir, who attended Pride events last summer, including in Calgary and Red Deer, told reporters the events should be about uniting people.

"It was disappointing to receive that news and to be excluded," she said.

Queer Citizens United said the proposed changes threaten the safety and well-being of their community. But Fir said she believes the new rules would be balanced and compassionate.

"They're about protecting children's rights to make adult decisions when they're adults," she said.

Fir ruled out the possibility her ministry would deny community grants to Pride organizations in response to Friday’s letter.

Lizette Tejada, the Opposition NDP critic for LGBTQ+ issues, said Pride groups are justified in excluding the United Conservatives.

"We have a government proposing policies that will cause active harm," Tejada said.

Alberta is following New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in mandating parental involvement when a child wants to change their pronouns or names at school.

In Saskatchewan, Pride organizers in Regina have responded by denying a request from Premier Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party to participate in the capital city's event this summer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press

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