Alberta Premier Danielle Smith stood behind her government’s recently announced policies regarding transgender youth, gender-affirming care, sex education and parental notification.
In a news conference Thursday, Smith said she believes the suite of policies and guidelines, announced on Wednesday afternoon through a video shared on social media, “struck the right balance.”
The policy includes a prohibition on gender-affirmation surgery (top and bottom surgeries) for Albertans under 18 years old. It also prohibits puberty blockers and hormone therapy for Alberta youth 15 and under, unless they’ve already started treatment.
“We are supporting kids in their right to make decisions about their own journey at a time when they’re mature enough to make those decisions,” Smith said Thursday.
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“Age 16 is when they can begin with hormone therapies and age 18 is when they’ll be able to commence top and bottom surgery.
“We just think that’s the responsible way of approaching this issue so that kids are not precluded from all the future choices that come to them when they decide to make the decision that’s going to have potentially serious ramifications on their reproductive (health).
“So, we think this is preserving of choice.”
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Smith said she looked to other jurisdictions while considering these rules. While she said Saturday that the UCP “consulted very broadly” on this issue, she has not said who or what groups or experts were consulted.
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Still, on Thursday, the premier said she believes the majority of Albertans support this direction.
“I am confident that Albertans do not want children to make irreversible decisions that impact their reproductive health. I’m confident that they don’t think those are child decisions to make, that those are adult decisions to make. I am also confident that parents love their kids and they want to know what’s going on with their kids, it doesn’t matter what perspective they come from. They want to make sure they’re walking the journey with their child every step of the way.”
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She announced Alberta will pilot a project for additional counselling for trans kids and their parents. Smith also said Alberta was trying to attract one or more medical experts in the field of gender-affirming care for adults.
“I think it is supportive. And we want to make sure that in every step of that journey, that the kids feel supported by their families and supported by mental health support, if that’s what’s they need,” Smith said.
“But that is I think that when you’re talking about irreversible decisions, that falls into the category of adult choices,” she added.
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“We’re not stopping any covered service. We do about 100 transgender approvals for surgery every year and about a quarter of them are aged 18 to 25.”
Smith did not say if any patients were under 18.
She also pointed out that puberty blockers and hormone therapy are currently not covered by provincial health care.
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The UCP policies also address youth who want to change their name or pronouns in school. Smith said for children 15 and under, parental notification and parental consent will be required. For youth aged 16 and 17, parental notification will be required, but not parental consent.
When it comes to education in the classroom, Smith said any instruction that involves gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality will require parental notification and an “opt-in” approach to each lesson.
All third-party resources used for education in K-12 classes on the topics of gender identity, sexual orientation and human sexuality will need to be pre-approved by the ministry of education, Smith added.
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The premier said new policies would also address transgender Albertans in sport. She said female Albertans should have the choice to compete in “women’s-only” events and that transgender athletes could compete in “co-ed or gender-neutral” events.
In her video address, Smith assured transgender children that they are loved and supported. She asked adults to “depoliticize” the debate around this issue.
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