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Federal justice minister accuses Alberta Premier Danielle Smith of ‘demonizing’ trans kids | CBC News

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Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said Thursday he has serious reservations about a suite of measures Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is about to introduce to curb access to certain transgender health services for kids and ban gender-diverse people from some sporting events.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Virani said Smith’s promised measures amount to “targeting and demonizing” trans children.

“I have significant concerns about that,” the Toronto-area minister said. “I think targeting that small minority for some political reasons, as it seems the premier is doing, is not becoming of her office.”

Asked if he plans to pursue a legal challenge, Virani pointed out that the province hasn’t enacted the measures yet.

Health Minister Mark Holland said he’s “deeply disturbed” by the province’s plan, which he said will put children at risk.

“We know that the number one reason why kids take their life is problems around sexuality identity,” Holland said.

A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told CBC News the party has no comment on what Smith is doing in Alberta.

A majority of Conservative Party delegates at a recent policy convention endorsed adding similar measures to their policy book.

Most of the federal Tories (69 per cent) at the Quebec City meeting agreed that young people should be barred from gender-affirming care.

Delegates also supported a policy that calls for single-sex spaces that are open only to women, along with other trans-related initiatives that have been called discriminatory by some.

The Liberals’ reaction comes a day after Smith took to social media to announce her plan to “preserve for our children the right to grow and develop into mature adults” and block them from making “permanent and irreversible decisions regarding one’s biological sex.”

WATCH: Alberta to put limits on gender-affirming care for trans youth 

Alberta to put limits on gender-affirming care for trans youth

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced policy changes that would put minimum legal age limits on surgeries and hormone therapies for transgender youth. It will also require parental notification — and permission, depending on the student’s age — if a student wants to change their name or pronoun at school.

The proposed policies include banning so-called “top” and “bottom” surgeries for minors aged 17 and under and restricting puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and under.

The sorts of surgeries Smith is promising to ban are rarely available to children in Canada.

According to the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH)’s standards of care — which is followed by clinics like Montreal’s GrS, where many such surgeries are performed — a person must reach the age of majority (18 in most provinces) before being allowed to undergo gender surgery. Some exceptions are made for top surgery (mastectomy) for kids 16 and over.

Puberty blockers are hormone-suppressing agents that pause the progression of puberty for as long as people are on them. They are sometimes prescribed for younger children after consulting with a doctor. They may sometimes be combined with hormone therapies, some of which could have long-term, irreversible effects.

Smith said teachers will need to get third-party instruction material on gender identity, sexual orientation and human sexuality approved by the province before using them in the classroom, and parents will have to opt students into every classroom discussion of sex education, sexual orientation or gender identity. Parents are allowed to opt out of such classroom discussions now.

Minors age 15 and under will also need parental consent to change the names and pronouns they use at school.

a politician speaks while putting two hands in fists.
In introducing her government’s new policies, Premier Danielle Smith assured Albertans she cares ‘deeply’ about the gender diverse. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Kids aged 16 and 17 will need to notify their parents of such a change, but they don’t need their consent to use the names or pronouns they choose.

The new policy also bans transgender women from competing in women’s sports leagues. Smith suggested these trans athletes could instead be accommodated in “coed” or “gender neutral” sports divisions.

“The risks and unfair advantages that young women and girls are experiencing when competing with biologically stronger transgender females in sporting competitions have also grown too high,” Smith said in a seven-minute video announcing the proposed policy changes.

Holland claims Smith is ‘playing politics’ with kids’ lives

While the new policies would restrict what transgender children can do, Smith said she cares “deeply” about the gender diverse and supports the right of adults to pursue transgender care.

“I will ensure you are supported and your rights are protected,” she said.

WATCH: Alberta policy on gender identity ‘places kids at risk,’ says federal health minister 

Alberta policy on gender identity ‘places kids at risk,’ says federal health minister

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland says he’s ‘deeply disturbed’ by changes to gender-affirming care for youth announced by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

She also vowed to recruit at least one medical professional who specializes in transgender surgery to practice in Alberta so people don’t have to travel to other jurisdictions like Quebec.

Holland said Smith’s moves are “extremely dangerous” and accused her of “playing politics with children’s lives.”

Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien called the Alberta measures “reprehensible.”

She said she was disturbed by Smith’s video, which she said featured the premier speaking in soft tones over “spa-like” background music as she announced a plan to restrict rights.

“First, it’s the queer community. Who comes after that? What’s next?” she said.

Ien sought to tie the measures to Smith’s recent meeting with conservative TV personality Tucker Carlson, who visited Alberta last week and made a homophobic joke about the prime minister.

“Here we are days later, with these policies or guidelines that squarely denigrate trans kids and trans youth,” Ien said, suggesting the ousted Fox News host may have swayed the premier.

A man in a black suit and red tie gestures with his hand as he speaks in the House of Commons.
Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault said he’s been speaking with trans kids in Alberta alarmed by the provincial government’s new policy. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault, a gay man who represents Edmonton in the House of Commons, said he spent the night on the phone consoling trans kids who are worried about what these changes could mean for them.

He said there’s a pervasive fear among some trans kids that their classmates will “out” them to teachers and parents before they’re comfortable with revealing their sexual identity.

“This is our NATO moment. An attack on one of our communities is an attack on us all,” Boissonnault said, referring to the military alliance. He urged LGBTQ people and their allies to stage protests.

“Alberta needs to stand up and tell Danielle Smith enough is enough,” he said.

Boissonault also raised the possibility of clawing back federal health transfers to Alberta to send a message that the changes won’t fly.

“Is this an issue with the Canada Health Act, a legal issue? We’re going to look at what Danielle Smith puts on the table. But this is not on,” he said.

While Smith’s plan was condemned by Liberals in Ottawa, it earned the praise of the Campaign Life Coalition, a social conservative group that has derided same-sex marriage and has campaigned to limited abortion access.

“A political miracle has just happened,” said the group’s national president, Jeff Gunnarson.

“With these new policies, a Canadian premier has essentially told the seemingly unstoppable transgender movement to stop in its tracks and leave Alberta kids alone. I commend Premier Smith for her proposed policies that will go a long way in protecting children.”

LGBTQ groups promise legal action

Egale Canada and the Skipping Stone Foundation, two LGBTQ groups, issued a joint statement vowing legal action if the policies are enacted.

They accused Smith of playing politics with “some of the most vulnerable members of our society: trans and gender diverse youth.”

“This is a direct and unprecedented attack on 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians, and trans and gender diverse youth in particular,” the groups said, using an acronym for gender diverse people and sexual minorities.

“The draconian measures announced run directly counter to expert guidance and evidence, violate the constitutional rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people, and will lead to irreparable harm and suffering.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which is challenging New Brunswick’s trans-related measures in the courts, called the policies “a clear and blatant attack on freedom” and promised to fight them.

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