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'We won't accept': Hundreds spend weekend protesting new UCP policies aimed at trans youth


Hundreds of protesters gathered in Edmonton over the weekend to speak out against proposed legislation that would limit access to medical treatments for trans youth.

LGBTQ2S+ community members, activists and their allies gathered Saturday and Sunday to decry the UCP's recently announced policies regarding gender in schools, sports and health care.

At a Thursday press conference, Premier Danielle Smith said the rules are meant to protect trans and non-binary youth.

Trans Rights Yeg, who organized a rally in Old Strathcona Saturday, said the rules will only hurt young trans and non-binary people.

"Hate is born in ignorance, and a governmental body is pushing a narrative that is misinformed, untrue and unjust," said Rowan Morris, of Trans Rights Yeg.

"It's hard enough to exist as a queer person, as a trans person in this world already, and I think that introducing legislation like this is really putting us backwards in terms of where we should be going," said protester Megan Bohach.

If the legislation passes, schools would need to notify parents and get consent for students wanting to use a different name or pronoun, and trans girls and women would not be allowed to compete in sports against biologically female athletes.

The policies would also limit how and when trans and non-binary youth can access gender-affirming medical care like puberty-blocking medication, hormone therapy or surgery.

Zim Halldorson is 14 and identifies as non-binary. They said they're scared of what the new rules might mean for their own health-care journey.

"I want to be able to feel comfortable in my body," Halldorson said. "Especially here in Alberta, it's not always the most welcoming place, so I was really hoping to get on some of the gender -affirming treatments so I can be able to feel more happy."

Smith said, under the new legislation, age limits on gender-affirming health care would exist even in cases where parents and medical professionals have agreed on the treatment plan.

New legislation from the UCP would prevent young people from accessing gender-affirming puberty blockers, which the Canadian Pediatric Association considers a reversible and safe treatment for trans and non-binary youth. (Jeremy Thompson/CTV News Edmonton)Protester Liz Greenaway said Smith used "fear based rhetoric" when she announced the legislation.

"I just felt sick," she added. "I have a trans kid, I would support them to the ends of the earth."

"What the UCP is doing, and what [Smith's] doing … is making a marginalized group of people more vulnerable," Greenaway said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the province's new policies the "most anti-LGBT of anywhere in the country."

Trans Rights Yeg believes the policies were created without consulting community members, teachers or trans youth.

Premier Smith's office declined to comment on the protests Saturday and did not respond to questions over the consultation process for the new legislation.

Instead, Smith's press secretary reiterated that the polices intend to "preserve the choices children and youth have before potentially making life-altering and often irreversible adult decisions."

On Monday, at a press conference in Ottawa, she said: "I think we have announced our intention on a number of policy items and we're going to be putting the architecture and legislation in place in the fall, so we've got lots of time for consultation and we'll be able to get that feedback. But there are things about the process that I do want to investigate just to make sure there is that level of rigour that has been recommended. You are supposed to have a long period of time of counselling and living in the opposite gender, or the gender of choice, and just from some of the stories I've heard, I just need to make sure that process is being followed.

"So there'll be a bunch of consultation in the next number of months."

'We will continue fighting'

A second protest was held at the Alberta Legislature Sunday. 

High School teacher Kevin McBean said it was encouraging to see hundreds of people show up for the second day of demonstrations. 

"That gives me hope and optimism. I hope that the government's listening when we tell them that this is not okay for trans kids, that we won't accept the danger they're putting trans lives into," McBean said. 

Multiple medical professionals, including doctors who specialize in treating trans youth, have called the policies harmful and questioned the reasoning behind them.

"It's devastating for the mental health of a young person who's struggling with this, for your identity – for your entire existence – to be questioned by every single person in the province," said Dr. Simone Lebeuf, an adolescent medicine pediatrician specializing in gender-affirming care, on Friday.

"I have so many patients who have been extensively bullied, harassed, who've been kicked out of their homes … because of their gender identity. And this is just going to escalate all of that."

Patrick Masse, a Canadian country music artist, was at Sunday's protest.

He lost a trans friend to suicide. He believes the policies announced by Smith will lead to more deaths in the community.

"People have the right to be who and how they are," Masse said. "[She] should not be speaking on these topics, because [she's] not an expert."

Protesters gathered for the second day Sunday, Feb. 4, to decry proposed legislation affecting trans and non-binary Albertans. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton)Local politicians joined in protests Saturday and Sunday, encouraging demonstrators to voice their concerns to their local MLAs and MPs.

"We will continue fighting, but we need the tools," said NDP MLA Brooks Arcand-Paul Saturday. "We need letters from you, we need petitions, we need things that we can introduce into the legislature so we can fight this."

Saturday, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley said the policies would take Alberta "back 50 years."

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault said Sunday that Smith's government should be focused on improving health care in her province and not "going after a minority community."

"The trans community, the queer community and our allies and champions are all standing up to say that Danielle Smith has got the wrong side of this," said Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault Sunday. "She's trying to insert herself between youth and their families, between people and their doctors." 

Saturday, Smith's office confirmed the new legislation includes attracting more specialized medical professionals to Alberta and creating a private registry of doctors who specialize in trans health care.

The party would also develop a "counselling pilot project to help youth identifying as transgender and their families work through often difficult and complex issues and discussions."

Smith's office said some of the policies will be implemented through regulation and ministerial orders, while others may require legislation. 

"In addition, some policy implementation will require consultation and feedback from various stakeholders," Smith's press secretary Sam Blackett said in a statement Sunday. "The premier and cabinet will work together through this process with the goal of having these policies fully implemented by the end of the year."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Marek Tkach Top Stories

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