Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith in Ottawa as Liberals decry ’draconian’ policies

Smith announced last week that her United Conservative Party government would ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger who have not already begun those treatments.

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith defended her controversial new suite of proposed transgender youth policies Monday in Ottawa as federal Liberals accused her of pushing an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Smith announced last week that her United Conservative Party government would ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger who have not already begun those treatments.

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Her government also plans to require parental consent for kids 15 and under to go by a different name or pronoun at school. Teenagers aged 16-17 would not need permission, but schools would have to notify their guardians.

The policies have spurred several days of protest.

There is no “single voice” that can speak on behalf of the entire transgender community, Smith suggested during an event in the national capital to mark the opening of a new provincial-federal liaison office.

She said has spoken to some transgender people who expressed concerns about children’s ability to transition.

Smith defended the package of proposals as part of a “considered approach” she wants to take when it comes to children with diverse gender identities.

The goal is to ensure children are “fully informed” about the decisions they are making in the event they may regret them later in life, she added.

“We had to have a conversation about what is the appropriate ages to be able to make those life-altering decisions.”

Earlier in the day, Liberal Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault said he requested a meeting with Smith to discuss the proposed changes.

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Boissonnault, who is openly gay and the only Liberal cabinet minister from Alberta, said Smith is pushing “draconian” measures on some of the province’s most vulnerable youth.

After some back-and-forth between their respective offices, the pair had been expected to meet later Monday.

The federal government’s ability to ask for a Supreme Court reference on any use of the notwithstanding clause by provinces is an “important legal tool,” Boissonnault noted.

“We will be playing very close attention to see what’s in Premier Smith’s legislation, which I hope never makes it to the floor of the (legislature),” he said.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, asked about the proposals during a news conference Monday in Brampton, Ont., said: “Let parents raise kids and provinces run schools and hospitals.”

Poilievre did not specifically address Smith’s proposals — notable, since his office told MPs last week to “refrain” from speaking about Alberta’s specific measures, and to “flag” any related media requests that come in.

In Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford signalled that his government had no plans to follow Alberta’s lead.

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“No. We have a law here and we’re leaving everything alone,” he said, echoing previous remarks from the province’s health minister.

Local advocates in Ottawa, meanwhile, were organizing an “emergency” protest downtown later Monday in light of Smith’s visit to the capital.

The Alberta government office Smith opened in Ottawa is intended to help advance the province’s priorities and fortify federal-provincial ties, the Alberta government said in a news release.

It said the office would “help create stronger relationships with governments in Ottawa and across Canada while increasing the province’s advocacy on matters of importance to Albertans.”

The Canadian Press

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