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St. Albert MLAs respond to Smith's proposed gender-identity policies

Renaud says measures target vulnerable youth, Nally calls them 'compassionate'

The UCP’s latest policy announcements on health care for transgender youth, gender pronouns in schools and education on sex, sexuality and gender identity are regressive and based in ideology, said St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud.

Announced last Wednesday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the policies will ban all hormone therapies including puberty blockers for children 15 and under; require schools to report to parents when students under 18 come out as transgender; make parents opt in to lessons involving sex, sexual orientation and gender identity; and ban transgender girls from playing on teams made up solely of girls who were assigned female at birth. 

“It essentially puts targets on the backs of a lot of really vulnerable youth,” Renaud said.

Premier Danielle Smith did not consult with experts, transgender people, parents or schools when designing the policies, Renaud said.

However, during a press conference last Thursday, Smith said she has “been consulting with members of the transgender community since the last time [she] was in office.”

The Alberta Teachers' Association said no one reached out to them about the changes.

The Alberta Medical Association's section of child and adolescent psychiatry issued a statement on Monday asking Smith to reconsider her stance and to “collaborate with experienced professionals.”

“We are fortunate to live in an era where there is clear scientific evidence supporting safe and effective treatments for youth that alleviate their suffering and save lives. It is essential that all youth have access to these interventions in a timely, safe and appropriate manner,” the statement reads.

Renaud said that Smith’s government isn’t listening to Albertans.

“It feels like it's dog whistling and throwing red meat to part of her base,” Renaud said. “She's got a leadership review coming up this year. And, you know, who is she speaking to? Because this isn't about keeping children and youth in Alberta safe."

“We've got some really serious problems right now, in terms of homelessness, poverty. Our health care system is a disaster. And this is what she’s choosing to focus on.”

After the announcement, Renaud “instantly got messages and emails” from “really frightened parents, and some youth,” she said.

Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally, MLA for Morinville-St. Albert, called the policies “balanced” and “compassionate.”

“I think we need to tone down some of the rhetoric because it's not helpful. We need to remember that we're talking about kids,” he said.

The UCP feels strongly that children aren’t old enough to make such permanent decisions, he said.

“If they do choose to transition, that path towards transition is available to them as they as they get older.”

Last Monday, at a press conference celebrating red tape reduction week, Nally said Smith is “passionate about” — and that Albertans “have said loud and clear that they’re passionate about”  — the proposed legislation.

“I have four kids, and so I absolutely value parental rights,” he said at the conference. “I'm also the minister that is responsible for cutting red tape, so I know that there are groups in Alberta that default to government knows best when it comes to your children. That is not our government, and it is certainly not me. My default position is that nobody loves their kids more than [their] parents.”

A video of the press conference was uploaded to the Government of Alberta’s YouTube channel with Nally’s comments on the proposed policies removed. The entire video was later removed from the website, and then uploaded again in full.

Smith said the province will also ban gender-affirming surgeries on minors and ban the use hormone therapies for minors aged 16 and 17 who haven’t received parental consent. However, “bottom” surgeries on minors aren't done in Canada, and “top” surgeries (breast removal) on youth (16 and 17 years old) are very rare.

The Canadian Paediatric Society said it is concerned with Smith’s approach and suggested the policies will harm the mental health of transgender children and elevate suicide risks.

About the Author: Riley Tjosvold

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