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

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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

Smith was in Ottawa along with members of her cabinet to participate in the official opening of a provincial trade office, only a few blocks from Parliament Hill. 

The occasion was meant to herald a new resource designed to better advance Alberta’s priorities and help create stronger relationships in the national capital. 

However, the divisions between Smith’s United Conservative Party government and the federal Liberals were on full display, the two sides exchanging barbs over proposed new pronoun policies for gender diverse children in Alberta schools, as well as new guidelines for hormone therapy. 

Last week, in a roughly seven-and-a-half minute video on social media, Smith detailed her government’s plan to ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger who have not already begun such treatments.

Her government also intends 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 — both at the grassroots level as well as from groups like the Alberta Medical Association.

Medical professionals “bear witness to the suffering and pain that arises from gender dysphoria,” the association said in a statement, as well as “questioning one’s identity without access to appropriate support to help them through their journey.”

 Smith defended her government’s plan despite a barrage of criticism, including from the Canadian Paediatric Society, about the risks to children. 

There is no “single voice” that can speak on behalf of the entire transgender community, Smith suggested at one point. She said has spoken to some transgender people who expressed concerns about the ability of children to transition at a young age.

Smith described 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. 

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 — and a snowstorm in Atlantic Canada that delayed Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc — Boissonnault stepped in and met the premier, alongside Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. 

Alberta’s controversial plan to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan was among the issues that were discussed, the Liberal ministers said. 

Boissonnault said he did not leave with any assurances Smith intends to budge on its proposed gender policies. He said he encouraged her to consult further with medical professionals and teachers before pressing ahead.

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,” he added. 

“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).”

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. 

“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, staged a protest late Monday outside where Smith and hundreds of others were planning to attend a reception. 

Earlier in the day she also delivered a speech and took part in a question-and-answer session at an event hosted by the Economic Club of Canada. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

<!– Photo: 20240204170232-65c010a35dc51081b2a7387fjpeg.jpg, Caption:

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is in Ottawa today where she is set to open a new provincial office. Smith answers questions at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol


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