Less than a week after appearing alongside American commentator Tucker Carlson, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith managed to ignite controversy again by announcing her government’s new parental rights policy in a video address released online. Critics are calling it the most “restrictive” gender and sexuality legislation in the country, while proponents say it strikes a fair balance between respecting the rights of parents and those of trans youth.
The new measures included prohibiting hormonal treatment, puberty blockers, and gender-affirming surgery for children aged 15 and younger, and banning top and bottom surgery for all children under 17. Hormone therapy for 16- and 17-year-olds will require parental, physician, and psychologist permission. Parental permission will also be necessary for students aged 15 and under to use names or pronouns at school different from their birth identity.
“Prematurely encouraging or enabling children to alter their very biology or natural growth, no matter how well-intentioned and sincere, poses a risk to that child’s future that I, as premier, am not comfortable with permitting in our province,” Smith said.
When it comes to education, it will be mandatory for teachers to receive Ministry of Education approval for using third-party instruction material on gender identity, sexual orientation, and human sexuality. Alberta teachers will also have to tell parents ahead of every lesson that touches on “gender identity, sexual orientation, and human sexuality” and they will have to sign off on their children’s participation.
When it comes to sports, the policy will forbid transgender women from competing in women’s leagues.
The premier also said the province will begin to attract specialists to Alberta so that transgender surgeries can be performed in her province.
“As Premier of this province, I want every Albertan that identifies as transgender to know I care deeply about you and I accept you as you are. As long as I lead this province, I will ensure you are supported and your rights are protected,” Smith explained.
The premier insisted her decision was meant to depoliticize the subject.
The announcement was met with a firestorm of praise and criticism from within Alberta and across Canada. Here is a roundup of Tweets demonstrating the polarizing nature of the Alberta government’s new policies on parental rights.
Angelo Isidorou, executive director of the Conservative Party of British Columbia, praised the announcement as a return to “common sense” in Alberta.
Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples also thought the policy struck the right balance.
Journalist Jonathan Kay insisted Alberta’s policy was not that extreme, drawing comparisons to how European nations have approached the issue.
Others denounced Premier Smith’s policy. 2SLGBTQI group Egale Canada condemned what they called a “draconian” announcement that was an “unprecedented attack” on their community. They said it would cause “irreparable harm”. They announced they would be seeking legal action.
Critics say the Alberta government is restricting citizens’ rights to health care. Minister of Labour and Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan condemned the Smith announcement.
Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi acknowledged that Premier Smith had communicated the message “well and with compassion.” However, he stated her policies would go even further than New Brunswick’s controversial parental rights policy, and involved no “prior consultation.” Some teachers and trans rights groups say they were not consulted while the policy was being formulated.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs introduced parental rights legislation last summer that mandated that a parent must be informed if their child, who is under 16, changes their name or pronouns at school.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned that legislation, calling the policy “far Right”. He stated, “We have to stand against this. We have to stand up for the freedoms we believe in and continue our work of letting love be louder than hate.”
Federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has said publicly, “I trust parents to make the right decision for their kids.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe introduced his own version of parental rights legislation last fall. The Parent’s Rights Bill passed in early October after the notwithstanding clause was invoked, mandating parental consent before a child under 16 can change their name or pronoun in schools.
The word is still out as to when the Alberta plan will become law.