Pierre Poilievre defends Alberta Premier Smith on transgender policies

Conservative leader says Trudeau should 'let parents raise kids and let provinces run schools and hospitals'

Federal Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre speaks about his car theft policy during a news conference at the Port of Montreal on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre defended Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her approach to transgender issues Tuesday, saying the Liberal government and the media have demonized her for policies that would give parents more say over their kids.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on car theft in Montreal, Poilievre said the Liberal government is "spreading disinformation" about what Smith has proposed.

"If you keep it vague and you actually refrain from describing the policies Premier Smith is putting in place, you think you can misrepresent them and misrepresent conservatives," he said.

"This is exactly what Justin Trudeau has done. You notice Trudeau has not given a single example of any of the policies that Premier Smith has brought forward that he individually disagrees with because he doesn't want to be specific about it. He and you want to peddle disinformation in order to demonize Premier Smith and parents," Poilievre added, addressing his comments to the reporter who asked the question.

Poilievre said Trudeau and his ministers need to "butt out."

"He should let parents raise kids and let provinces run schools and hospitals," he said.

When asked by a reporter if the policies could actually limit the rights of parents who support their child's pursuit of a gender transition, Poilievre said, "No."

Trudeau last week condemned what he called Smith's "anti-LGBT policies" and said such actions will worsen mental health issues and suicidal ideation among young people struggling with gender dysphoria.

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault, a gay man, has been more specific about what the Liberal government opposes.

Referring to proposed policies that would demand that Alberta trans kids aged 15 and under get parental consent to use their preferred names and pronouns in school, Boissonnault said Monday that Smith is intent on "forcing kids out of the closet before many of them are ready."

He said a child shouldn't be forced to reveal their gender identity to an unsupportive parent.

"By mandating that schools force kids out of the closet before many of them are ready, she's taking away the safe space for some young people," Boissonnault said.

"To ban young LGBTQ2 kids from being who they are puts lives at risk."

Poilievre suggested that the federal government and the media are shying away from talking about Smith's other policies, which deal with sensitive medical decisions that have become a lightning rod for debate in Canada and south of the border.

Smith is promising a ban on so-called "top" and "bottom" surgeries for minors aged 17 and under, a practice that's very rare in Canada because it goes against the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH)'s standards of care.

Smith also wants to restrict puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and under.

The premier has pitched these policies as a way to protect young people who may come to regret having made life-altering decisions in haste.

Smith is also trying to keep trans women and girls out of women's sports, a policy she said is motivated by safety and fairness.

LGBTQ groups, trans advocates and Alberta's medical association, among many others, have condemned the policies as an infringement on trans people's constitutional rights.

Alberta NDP MP Blake Desjarlais, who is two-spirit, said Smith is "denying trans kids their basic human rights" and restricting their access to "life-saving health care."

Desjarlais blasted Poilievre and the Conservatives for their stance on the issue. He also urged the federal government to use its powers under the Canada Health Act to withhold health-care funding from Alberta if the province denies access to these services.

Some health-care providers also maintain that limiting blockers and hormones could have consequences for young people suffering from dysphoria.

"This is a direct attack on trans youth," said Dr. Ted Jablonski, a Calgary family physician who specializes in transgender care. "This is an assault on their medical care.

"There's no medical evidence to make any kind of restrictions. We have very good guidelines to manage trans youth."

The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) has said that "gender-affirming medical interventions may be an important component of comprehensive care" for some transgender or gender-diverse adolescents.

The CPS, citing past scientific research, has said access to puberty blockers "has been associated with lower odds of suicidal ideation over the life course."

It has said these drugs should not be prescribed before the onset of puberty for medical reasons but also because the puberty process is "an important experience through which young people may develop clearer understanding of their gender identity."

The CPS says gender-affirming hormone therapy, which it says produces reversible and irreversible changes, should also only be provided to young people who "demonstrate the capacity to understand and appreciate both the benefits and risks of these medications, given their profound effects."