In the wake of Alberta premier Danielle Smith’s announcement of Alberta’s new policies around trans youth and athletes Thursday, political officials, medical organizations, LGBTQ2S+ organizations and allies are speaking out, saying that the policies are stigmatizing and do not reflect the best practices and standards of healthcare for trans youth.
While the policies will not be finalized till the fall, they stand to be the harshest in Canada yet. Smith has promised to ban gender-affirming surgery for anyone under 18, and puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for anyone under 15.
The policies extend to schools as well: for students who wish to change their pronouns or names at school, parental notification and consent will be required for students 15 and under, and parental notification will be required for students aged 16 or 17. Parental consent will also be required for sex education or any kind of education on sexuality or gender, with third-party education resources requiring approval by the Alberta Ministry of Education.
The policy also includes a wholesale ban on trans women’s and trans girls’ participation in women’s sports.
@xtramagazine Alberta premier Danielle Smith just introduced a set of new policies restricting gender-affirming care, pronoun use in schools, and trans womens’ participation in sports in what is probably Canada’a harsest anti-trans legislation to date. The policy follows similar moves in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, but takes it to a new extreme. And we should be very worried. 🏳️⚧️🇨🇦 #fyp #foryoupage #lgbtqnews #canadanews #daniellesmith #alberta #trans ♬ original sound – Xtra Magazine
Queer and trans people and their allies are promising that they won’t take the changes lying down. Here’s what they have to say:
This article will be updated as organizations continue to release statements. Last updated: 4:45 p.m. ET, Feb. 6, 2024.
Doctors and medical providers: “Decisions about medical care must not be left to politicians”
A number of medical associations have spoken out against the policy, pointing that it goes against established best practices for trans healthcare. Dr. Sam Wong, medical director of the Canadian Paediatric Society, called the policies “disheartening.”
“Transgender patients who are youth and adolescents have suffered enough mental health issues as it is without being picked on by the government and being denied treatment,” he told Global News.
The Alberta Medical Association disputed some of the medical claims Smith expressed in her press conference, pushing back on her statement that the effects of puberty blockers are “irreversible” and highlighting the mental health impacts of denying care to trans youth in a statement. “The mental health of these children and youth will be markedly worse when denied care,” the statement reads. “These new medical restrictions single them out and reinforce stigma. This will add to the current and future burden of mental health issues on a system that is already inadequate to meet the needs of the population.”
Several associations of medical professionals, both Alberta-based and nationwide, have also spoken out.
Politicians and parties express disapproval
A number of officials have spoken out in response to the policy. “It’s extremely dangerous to engage in this kind of thing, which I think is playing politics when you’re talking about children’s lives,” said federal health minister Mark Holland, speaking to reporters at a press conference in Ottawa.
Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek called the legislation an “infringement on human rights” in a thread on X, adding that “this proposed legislation, plus the vitriolic debate that will follow, have placed the trans community in harm’s way once again.” Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi also wrote on the social media platform to express solidarity with LGBTQ2S+ Edmontonians and allies, and urging Smith to “engage with healthcare professionals and other experts, children’s advocates, teachers and most importantly, the LGBTQ2S+ community before implementing any new policy changes or legislation.”
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley also criticized the policies, calling them “horrifying,” according to CityNews. “At its core, Danielle Smith is playing dangerous politics with the lives of young people,” she said.
A number of other officials from across the country also spoke out, criticizing the policy. The federal conservative party has reportedly been advising its MPs to not comment on the policy, according to an email obtained by the Globe and Mail.
Organizations and businesses call out Smith’s “direct and unprecedented attack”
On Feb. 3, 47 Alberta-based advocacy organizations and businesses issued a joint statement calling for an immediate halt to the policy. “[…] The UCP’s proposal interferes with Canadians’ protected charter rights and runs contrary to the evidence-based medical practices and research over the past 80 years,” the statement reads. “If implemented, this suite of measures risks placing trans youth who have unsupportive families in harmful situations, segregates trans women from participation in social activities, and limits access to resources for trans youth, even with parental consent.”
A number of national queer and progressive organizations expressed disapproval over the policy, with Egale Canada issuing a statement calling the policies a “direct and unprecedented attack” on LGBTQ2S+ Canadians and trans youth in particular. Along with the Skipping Stone Foundation, Egale has promised to bring legal action in response to the policies.
Other organizations, including the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Amnesty International Canada, and Momentum, also spoke out.
Educators criticize parental notification policies
Educators and education organizations criticized the policies, particularly as they pertain to parental notification and restrictions on sex education, and expressed solidarity with trans youth in Alberta. “I want all students to know, especially those students who identify or have family members that identify as gender or relationship diverse, that we support and care about you,” said president of Alberta Teachers’ Association Jason Schilling on X.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association also released a statement expressing concern over the impact of the policy on teachers’ ability to create a “safe, caring and inclusive space for all students.”
Canadian women in sports: “This is exclusion, not inclusion”
Federal minister of sport Carla Qualtrough criticized the policy, writing, “This is exclusion, not inclusion,” in a post on X. “All kids have a right to be included in sport,” she added. “As a policymaker and a mom, this means advancing policies that are inclusive and respect rights, not denying access to sport for ideological reasons.”
Canada Soccer also spoke out in a statement: “We want soccer to be a sport where everyone feels they belong. To actively be passing policy—void of facts—creates even more barriers and is not how we build a fun, safe and accessible sports system in our country,” per the Edmonton Sun.
Canadian Women & Sport denounced the policy, calling it “not based on evidence” and saying that they intend to work to reverse the policy.