Federal health minister criticizes new Alberta rules on transgender youth

CALGARY — Canada’s health minister says Alberta’s proposed changes to rules surrounding transgender youth will put children at risk.

Mark Holland says one of the main reasons children commit suicide is due to questions and apprehensions around their sexual identity.

Holland says he plans to meet soon with Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange to find an “off ramp” to the policies announced Wednesday by Premier Danielle Smith.

Smith says her government is introducing policies to require parental consent for students 15 and under who want to change their names or pronouns at school.

Students 16 and 17 would not need consent, but their parents would have to be notified.

Smith also announced restrictions around hormone therapy and surgery for transgender teens and participation in sports for transgender females.

Holland, speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday, said he’s "deeply disturbed” by Smith’s announcement.

“I thought we were at a place in this country where we’re moving past this.

“It’s extremely dangerous to engage in this kind of thing, which I think is playing politics when you’re talking about children’s lives.”

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said it was too soon to comment on court challenges to Alberta’s policies.

“They’ve announced what they’re thinking about doing. They’ve not tabled anything. There’s no legislation,” said Virani, standing alongside Holland.

“There’s nothing to be taken to court. I’m not going to speculate.”

Virani agreed with Holland’s concerns that Smith is putting vulnerable children at risk.

“I’m a dad. Mark’s a dad,” said Virani.

“Parents have these conversations all the time with children. They need to be able to have those conversations with children.

“Sometimes children don’t feel empowered to have those conversations (but) that’s a small amount of children around the country and even smaller amounts in Alberta.

“I think actually targeting that small minority for some political purpose in Alberta — as it seems that the premier is doing — is not becoming of her office and is in fact actually targeting and perhaps even demonizing those children.”

Smith announced the changes in a video posted to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and said they came after discussions with her United Conservative Party caucus.

She was set to hold a news conference to discuss the changes in Calgary later Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 1, 2024.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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