What’s Happening in Alberta?
Egale Explains

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith released a video outlining the United Conservative Party’s plan for a sweeping attack on 2SLGBTQI people in Alberta.

The policy measures announced are completely unprecedented in Canada. They go against every expert opinion, including medical professionals. If implemented, the policies would force medical and education professionals to take actions that they know will cause harm and suffering to the youth in their care. 

Here is what Smith said her government plans to do: 

The Policy

  • Ban gender-affirming hormonal treatments, including puberty blockers, for anyone under the age of 16, except where a young person has already begun hormone therapy. 

  • Require parental consent for 16- and 17-year-olds to begin hormone therapies. 

  • Ban gender-affirming top and bottom surgeries for anyone under the age of 18.

The Policy, Explained

All reputable medical associations, including the Canadian Paediatric Society, agree that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and often lifesaving. No one makes healthcare decisions lightly, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Decisions about gender-affirming care must be made like all decisions about health care for young people: as the result of a medical professional’s careful consideration of a young person’s individual circumstances and needs. These decisions must remain between young people, their doctors, and their families.

The government is politicizing healthcare and imposing untold suffering on vulnerable young people for cheap political points. 2SLGBTQI youth are three to five times more at risk for suicidal ideation compared to their peers. Researchers have found that being able to access medical transition, if desired, is linked to a variety of mental health benefits for trans and gender diverse people, including a reduction in suicidal ideation. Youth need the support of medical professionals who they can trust, not to have necessary healthcare withheld from them.

The Policy

  • Require parental notification and a parental opt-in before any instance of classroom instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity, or human sexuality.

  • All classroom materials related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and human sexuality are to be pre-approved by the Ministry of Education.

  • For young people under the age of 16, parental consent will be required for name and pronoun changes at school.

  • For 16- and 17-year-olds, the parents will be notified if they request a different name or pronoun to be used at school.

The Policy, Explained

Part of the role of public education is allowing young people to learn about the society in which they live in all its diversity. All young people must be allowed to see themselves and their families reflected at school, as well as to learn about families that are different from theirs. 

The government is purposefully making schools less inclusive and welcoming to 2SLGBTQI students and students with 2SLGBTQI parents. Egale’s school climate survey, Still in Every Class in Every School, found that trans students in Alberta faced the highest incidence of verbal harassment in the country, with 90% of trans students in Alberta having been verbally harassed based on their gender and/or sexual identity. 2SLGBTQ students in Alberta were also more likely than students in any other province to report that topics around 2SLGBTQI dating or sexuality were never discussed in their classrooms (58%), and that when 2SLGBTQ relationships were discussed, they were framed in a negative way (14%). Students in Alberta’s schools need more support from the adults around them, not less.

The study also found that trans participants who were prevented from using a chosen name or pronoun felt far more negatively about their schools than trans students who were not denied the use of a chosen name or pronoun. Trans students who were prevented from using their chosen name and pronouns were more likely to agree with the statements: “It is hard for me to feel accepted at my school” (77% versus 50%); “I wish I were in a different school” (59% versus 29%); “I don’t like being at school” (80% versus 57%). Research has shown that trans and gender diverse students who feel like they belong at school are much less likely to report extreme despair. The government is taking away schools’ ability to promote 2SLGBTQI students’ wellbeing. 

Forcing young people to choose between being misgendered and being outed against their will is unconscionable, and so is forcing teachers to ignore their professional ethical standards and harm their students in this way.

The Policy

  • Work with sporting organizations active in the province to ensure that cis women and girls can choose to compete in “women-only” divisions that exclude trans women. 

The Policy, Explained

We don’t know yet what this policy promise might look like in practice because sport organizations set their own standards for competition. However, here, again, the Alberta government is clearly responding to a moral panic that has gained traction in recent years. 

The government of Alberta has proposed banning trans women and girls from competing in women’s and girls’ athletic competitions simply because they’re trans.

This runs counter to the International Olympic Committee’s 2021 Framework on Fairness, Inclusion Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations, which advises sporting institutions to ensure that “athletes are not excluded solely on the basis of their transgender identity or sex variations.”

Historically, 2SLGBTQI people have already experienced barriers to participation in both formal and informal sporting organizations and opportunities. A lack of safe and accessible washrooms and changerooms, threatening language and violence, and requirements of neatly fitting into the gender binary are just three of these barriers. The barriers that 2SLGBTQI people experience in sports are especially concerning as the benefits of participating in sporting communities serve to potentially offset the many heightened physical and mental health issues experienced by 2SLGBTQI people.

Research confirms the numerous and growing physical and social benefits that sports offer: physical activity has long-term health benefits that include stress and anxiety reduction, positive cardiovascular impacts, and improvements in self-esteem and confidence. And yet a Trans PULSE Ontario study from 2014 found that 44% of trans people and 54% of nonbinary people have avoided going to a gym or a pool for fear of harassment and/or violence. A study in 2017 surveying 1,008 Canadian athletes showed that 67% of LGB athletes and 85% of trans athletes experiences at least one homophobic episode.

We expect to learn more as the issue progresses and we will be bringing legal action to challenge these assaults on our rights.

But to do that, we need your support.

We have never faced such a direct attack on our communities by an elected government. We need you to donate today.