Controversy surrounds Alberta’s new transgender guidelines

Critics slam proposal but one Indigenous advocate onside

Some of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s new transgender guidelines have support from one First Nations transgender human rights activist.

The controversial rules introduced earlier this week include a requirement for parental consent for students aged 15 and under seeking to change their names or pronouns.

Chevi Rabbit, a member of the Montana First Nation and a transgender human rights activist, said she agrees with the balance proposed by the legislation although she is aware it is not a popular stance.

“I feel like if I was a parent and I love and adore my child…I am really wanting to know what is going on in my child’s life,” Rabbit told APTN News.

Smith announced the transgender guidelines which ranged from restrictions on hormone therapy and surgery to participation in sports in a seven-minute video.

While her government wants transgender people to know they are supported, Smith said she disagrees with allowing youth to make life-altering changes until they are mature enough.

“It’s to those children and teens that I want to say just how much we love you and support you in becoming the person you want to be,” Smith said in the video.

Rabbit believes the guidelines will eventually become legislation and feels there should be more funding for organizations that support transgender youth, particularly those who do not have support at home.

She was happy to hear about plans to recruit a doctor who specialises in gender confirmation surgery to the province.

“I felt heard as an adult LGBTQ person who is in transition because [Smith] said she is bringing in a doctor which is ground-breaking,” said Rabbit.

Presently people seeking gender confirmation surgery need to travel to Quebec for the procedure.

Rabbit says her current medical transition is on pause as she wants to leave the option open to become a parent.

She has been open about her journey toward gender confirmation surgery but admitted she felt rushed to decide by a previous doctor. She wants people who are gender nonconforming to have time they need to make the decision.

However, Rabbit was disappointed to see changes to the sexual education curriculum. Smith has proposed a review of each instance where a teacher plans to teach on LGBTQ topics.

“It’s not the 1950s, we really need sex education everywhere,” said Rabbit. “We really need proper sex education on consent and gender identity everywhere.”

Critics of the proposed legislation have strong words for Smith’s United Conservative Party.

Kristopher Wells, Canada research chair for the public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University, said on X (formerly Twitter) the announcement was “the most draconian legislation ever introduced in Canada” and “it is not only immoral, it is illegal.”

Premier Danielle Smith speaks about new transgender guidelines which included a litany of topics like parental notification and age that transgender youth can begin puberty blockers

Medical experts dispute Smith’s guidelines

Smith elaborated on her guidelines at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

“We should be very clear about when a child is able to commence hormone therapy that will be at age 16…and very clear when they can make permanent irreversible changes to their body in top and bottom surgery and that will be 18 and above,” she said.

But, the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) released a statement that disputed many of the claims Smith made during the news conference.

“As for treatments, the effects of puberty-blocking agents are not irreversible; and once treatment stops, puberty goes forward. Treatment allows the patient time to determine their options without permanent effects,” says the AMA in a written statement.

The AMA also said that “transgender youth have higher rates of mental health issues and suicidality because of the stigma attached to their status.”

Child welfare is a part of the strategy

Some have raised concerns about parental notification leading to children being outed in households where they are not supported.

“In the handful of rare situations where one or both of the parents reject or become abusive to a child who identified as transgender we have child protection laws that will be strictly enforced,” Smith said in the video.

But Alberta NDP MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, from Michel First Nation, does not think foster care and social worker intervention is a solution to conflict between transgender or Two-Spirit children and their parents.

“That is compounding the trauma. Here again, lies the fundamental issue with investing in the systems that are broken instead of working to fix the systems that are broken,” said Calahoo Stonehouse.

Calahoo Stonehouse said that it was troubling that Smith recently attended three speaking engagements with the former Fox News television host Tucker Carlson this month, who is outspoken against people who have transitioned.

Carlson told an event in Alberta he felt sorry for transgender people and had never met a person who “castrated themselves” who was happy.

“Trans rights groups, parents groups came out and said there was zero consultation,” said Calahoo Stonehouse.

She also raised the issue that many organizations, such as the Alberta Teacher’s Association and AMA, were not consulted on these new transgender guidelines.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has said “LGBTIQ+  people comprise 20 to 40 per cent of the homeless population, whilst only comprising five to 10 per cent of the wider population.”

It cites the reasons for this as a failure of “support systems in early life, including sexual abuse, foster care, discrimination, and stigma and family.”


With files from the Canadian Press

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