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Alberta premier’s pronoun policy spurs concern from law expert about vulnerable children

Click to play video: 'Danielle Smith unveils Alberta’s proposed guidelines on parental consent, gender-affirming care rules'
Danielle Smith unveils Alberta’s proposed guidelines on parental consent, gender-affirming care rules
WATCH ABOVE: (From Jan. 31, 2024) Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shared the province's proposed rules regarding parental consent for student names and pronouns, as well as age restrictions for gender affirmation medical care. The premier also mentioned restrictions on transgender athletes in her video posted to social media. Ina Sidhu reports. – Jan 31, 2024

A professor who specializes in the law and children’s rights says policy changes affecting transgender Albertans are concerning.

The changes include requiring parental consent for students 15 and under who want to change their names or pronouns at school.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says students 16 and 17 would not need consent, but their parents must be notified.

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

Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich, a law professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, says her main concern is the changes deal with a group of children who are already the subject of mental health issues, depression, violence and bullying.

She says her secondary concern is that it’s political dog whistling.

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“It’s a new way to be homophobic,” Jaremko Bromwich said in an interview Wednesday after the changes were announced.

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“People get more nuanced and subtle with their language as the discourse progresses.

“I’m cynical about the extent to which it is, you know, politicking. And it is at the expense of vulnerable children.”

Other policy changes include restrictions on hormone therapy and surgery for transgender teens, and participation in sports for transgender females.

Smith was scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday.

LGBTQ advocacy groups Egale Canada and Skipping Stone Foundation said in a joint statement Wednesday it would bring legal action if Alberta moves ahead with the changes.

Jaremko Bromwich said the rhetoric around parental rights is similar to what was has been said in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Those two provinces brought in similar rules last year requiring parental consent for students to change their names or pronouns, but with the age set at 16 and under.

The Saskatchewan and New Brunswick governments, which are facing court challenges over their policies, have said they made the changes after hearing from many parents that they wanted them.

Smith said she wants transgender people to know they are supported, but she can’t allow youth to make life-altering changes until they are mature enough.

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“One of the greatest responsibilities we as parents, teachers and community leaders have is to preserve for our children the right to grow and develop into mature adults, so that they are better prepared to make the most impactful decisions affecting their lives,” she said in the video.

Jaremko Bromwich said it’s good Smith told transgender people they are loved and supported.

“I mean you’ve got to walk the walk, though. What matters is the action people take.”

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