Pressed to go beyond criticizing Trudeau, Poilievre sides with Smith on transgender restrictions

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is siding with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith on her proposed restrictions on transgender youth, confirming Wednesday that he is against trans and non-binary minors using puberty blockers.

Facing a series of questions from reporters on Parliament Hill about his stance on gender-affirming medical care for children, Poilievre said, in his view, no one under the age of 18 should be allowed to use hormone therapies that help delay puberty-related development for gender reassignment purposes.

“I think we should protect the rights of parents to make their own decisions with regards to their children. And I believe that adults should have the freedom to make any decision they want about their bodies,” he said.

Last week, Smith released a social media video pre-positioning her plans to advance a series of changes around pronouns in schools and access to gender-affirming health care.

Framing the package in terms of “parental involvement” and “preserving choice,” Smith’s government is pursuing:

  •  A ban on “top and bottom” gender-affirming surgeries for all Albertans ages 17 and under;
  •  A ban on hormone therapy such as puberty blockers for those aged 15 and under who have not already started treatment;
  •  A requirement that parents are notified and consent before students aged 15 and under can change their names or pronouns at school; and
  •  A requirement that parents opt-in before teachers teach about LGBTQ2S+ issues such as gender and sexual identity, among other measures.

In the video, the premier said she was “not comfortable” permitting “prematurely encouraging or enabling children to alter their very biology or natural growth, no matter how well intentioned,” while vowing to “strictly” enforce child protection laws in cases where trans youth are rejected or abused by their parent.

In his remarks to reporters, Poilievre said he agrees that “we should protect children and their ability to make adult decisions when they are adults.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as several cabinet ministers were quick to condemn Smith’s plans last week as targeting a vulnerable minority for political points with “the most anti-LGBT policies of anywhere in the country.”(opens in a new tab)

But, until Wednesday—after his caucus was reportedly instructed not to comment—Poilievre had not offered his position on Alberta’s proposals.

During a pair of Toronto and Montreal news conferences on Monday and Tuesday, the Conservative leader responded to questions about his stance by accusing reporters who asked him to comment of “spreading disinformation” alongside the prime minister, while extolling parental rights.

“Justin Trudeau is again puffing out his chest, trying to divide Canadians and attack parents who are trying to protect their kids. He will in the end, back down on this,” Poilievre said Wednesday.

“Because he is not interested in protecting kids, he’s interested in using this as a divisive wedge to distract from doubling housing costs and quadrupling carbon taxes.”

Last September, at the federal Conservative convention in Quebec City, delegates voted to include a pair of policies(opens in a new tab) in the party’s playbook that would prohibit “life altering medicinal or surgical interventions” for transgender youth and oppose the inclusion of trans women in women’s spaces, such as on sports teams and in bathrooms.

Poilievre has yet to say whether he will campaign on these resolutions.

Reacting to Poilievre’s comments, out gay Alberta Liberal MP and Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault said conversations around puberty blockers “should take place between a young person and their doctor.”

“I don’t see ‘MD’ after Pierre Poilievre’s name, or Danielle Smith’s. So not their business,” he said. “It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. Trans rights are human rights, and everybody who values their human rights should be questioning Pierre Poilievre, and why he’s siding with Danielle Smith.”

Said to be currently consulting the LGBTQ2S+ community on next steps, the Liberals have left the door open to a more direct federal funding our court response. Boissonault said for now the message is: “kill the bill” before it makes it to the floor of the provincial legislature.

Accusing Poilievre of “attacking vulnerable communities,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his position is that these types of health procedures “should be a decision between a person and their healthcare provider.”

“Based on evidence, based on science, based on best practices, and not based on the opinion of Pierre Poilievre,” Singh said.

Echoing this, on his way in to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Trudeau said what Poilievre and Smith are proposing is “anchored in ideology” and will “take away the rights of parents and their kids to make the right choices for them.”

Earlier this week, Smith admitted in an interview on CTV’s Power Play(opens in a new tab) with Vassy Kapelos that the proposed gender-affirming surgery restraints are not based on current evidence of a problem, but rather a “concern of what will happen,” citing organizations advocating for “treatments to be done younger.”

Currently, Albertans under the age of 18 are already ineligible for bottom surgery funding through the Gender Surgery Program, and the required age for masculinization of the torso or “top” surgery (mastectomy) is 16. According to Alberta Health, there were a total of eight paediatric breast surgeries “performed for gender affirming reasons” in 2022.

As Smith stands by her proposed policies, Alberta students planned a walkout at schools(opens in a new tab) throughout the province on Wednesday, building on numerous demonstrations held across Canada last weekend.

Source: CTV News