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Calgary LGBTQ2 advocates call for boycott of theatre for hosting parental rights town hall

Click to play video: 'Trans advocates concerned over controversial UCP hosted Let Kids Be Kids Town Hall'
Trans advocates concerned over controversial UCP hosted Let Kids Be Kids Town Hall
WATCH: A town hall hosted by a UCP Constituency in southeast Calgary is layered with controversy. It’s promoted as a discussion about what the province calls the Alberta Parental Rights Legislation. But as Craig Momney reports, many feel the event will spread misinformation – Mar 19, 2024

LGBTQ2 advocates are calling for a boycott of Canyon Meadows Cinemas in southeast Calgary in response to a parental rights town hall scheduled for Tuesday evening.

The event, named “Let Kids Be Kids Town Hall”, is organized by the Calgary-Lougheed United Conservative Party Constituency Association. According to the event’s Eventbrite page, the town hall is an opportunity for community members to discuss the Alberta government’s proposed parental rights policy.

The policy was announced by Premier Danielle Smith in a video posted on social media on Jan. 31 and will require schools to notify and gain parental consent if their child aged 15 or under changes their name and pronouns in school. Smith said parents of children aged 16 and 17 will not need to consent to the changes but will need to be notified.

The policy will also ban gender-affirmation surgery for Albertans under the age of 18, as well as puberty blockers and hormone therapy for those aged 15 and under unless they already started treatment.

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Smith said on multiple occasions the policy aims to prevent youth from making “permanent” decisions about their bodies, citing concerns of infertility in adulthood. She also pointed to decisions made by England’s National Health Service and Nordic countries to double down on her government’s decision.

In an emailed statement to Global News, Calgary-Lougheed United Conservative Party Constituency Association president Darrell Komick said the town hall was created to have an “open dialogue with people who share a variety of views and perspectives.”

“We recently hosted an event with a transgender speaker,” Komick’s statement read. “These kinds of open debates are good for democracy.”

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Victoria Bucholtz, a professor at Mount Royal University, said they’re concerned the constituency association is emboldening transphobia throughout the province. They said the association is setting a dangerous precedent by hosting this event.

“These types of hateful attacks are (directed towards) a very small, marginalized community that already receives a lot of backlash and hate and misunderstanding, and (the community association) is leaning into it. They’re pandering to fear and hate,” Bucholtz said.

Bucholtz said they want to see the event cancelled, saying the theatre should just stick to showing movies and stay out of politics. According to Bucholtz, hundreds of people have called the theatre and left negative reviews on the theatre’s Google page demanding the theatre abandon the event.

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Queer Citizens United, a LGBTQ2 advocacy group in Calgary, also called for a boycott of the theatre on its social media pages.

“We’ve had massive levels of support … There’s a lot of awareness that this movie theatre, unfortunately, is no longer a safe place for queer people and those who support them,” Bucholtz said.

But John O’Brien, one of the panelists at Tuesday’s event, said the town hall focuses on issues revolving around education and “culture wars” in Calgary.

O’Brien, executive director of Parents for Choice and Education, accused the Calgary Board of Education of creating a “crisis of confidence” in the public and Catholic school systems by keeping secrets from parents, such as not notifying parents if their children join a gay-straight alliance.

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O’Brien claims this “creates an impression that the schools are teaching their children things about sex that they don’t get to know about.”

A Vanderbilt University survey of 6,000 teenagers in 2016 found that LGBTQ2 students with access to gay-straight alliances reduce the risk of substance abuse and other mental health issues.

The survey also found that gay-straight alliances foster a healthy, supportive environment for LGBTQ2 youth and adolescents because it sends a strong message that all people are accepted and homophobia isn’t tolerated.

Global News reached out to the Calgary Board of Education and Canyon Meadows Cinemas with requests for comment. The story will be updated once one is received.

— with files from Caley Gibson, Global News

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