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Amnesty International Canada condemns ‘appalling’ anti-trans policy changes in Alberta

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed new policy changes to 2SLGBTQQIA+ health care, social services, public education and sports are an alarming affront to the rights of trans and gender-diverse people and must be withdrawn immediately, Amnesty International Canada urges.

In a video released Wednesday, the Alberta premier announced sweeping new measures aimed at limiting 2SLGBTQQIA+ children and youth’s access to gender-affirming health care and stifling discussion of gender identity and sexual diversity in the province’s schools. Major media outlets in Canada have called Alberta’s anti-trans proposals the most restrictive in the country.

Amnesty International joins Egale Canada, Momentum and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities in strongly condemning these policy measures. The changes not only violate the constitutional rights of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people but also pose inherent harm by perpetuating existing stereotypes, discrimination, stigmatization and exclusion. 

“What Premier Smith and the Alberta government are proposing is, in a word, appalling,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English-speaking section. “Trans Albertans, including trans children and youth, have a right to compassionate and distinctions-based gender-affirming health care, full stop. The potential long-term impacts of these policy changes on the health and wellbeing of 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth and communities are dire.”

Anti-trans proposals in Alberta echo restrictions imposed by some U.S. states

Following the lead of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, the Alberta government is also taking steps to impede the rights of gender-diverse children and youth in schools. However, Smith’s proposals appear to go further and draw heavily from draconian anti-2SLGBTQQIA+ laws and curriculum changes recently imposed by some U.S. states. 

In cases where the student is 15 or younger, Alberta’s teachers will be banned from using trans and non-binary students’ preferred pronouns and gender-affirming names without the consent of their parents or guardians. For students who are 16 and 17, parents or guardians will be notified when a name or pronoun change is formally requested. In addition, Alberta will require parent or guardian consent for students to participate in any formal classroom instruction involving gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual diversity.

“Furthermore, all third-party resource materials related to gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality in our K-through-12 school system will need to be pre-approved by the Ministry of Education to ensure the materials are age-appropriate,” Smith said in the announcement video.

‘These egregious new rules will have a chilling effect on the protection of gender rights and sexual diversity in Alberta.

Ketty Nivyabandi, Amnesty International Canada

“These egregious new rules will have a chilling effect on the protection of gender rights and sexual diversity in Alberta,” Nivyabandi said. “Children and youth struggling for representation, answers and community care may find themselves lost in the dark. And the changes send a shameful message to Albertans of all ages: that 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals are somehow other and should be treated with suspicion.” 

Alberta’s anti-2SLGBTQQIA+ measures extend to the realm of sports. Imposing restrictive regulations neglects the nuanced experiences of trans and gender-diverse athletes and fosters an environment of exclusion.

Channeling anti-2SLGBTQQIA+ hate into policy directly harms an already intersectionally marginalized group. According to a 2023 study, trans, gender-diverse and non-binary people in Canada report much higher rates of depression, suicidal ideation and self-harm than their cisgender peers due to experiences of misgendering, invalidation and other forms of gender-based discrimination. The rights of trans and gender-diverse people belonging to racialized and historically marginalized communities were found to be at increased risk.

Amnesty International Canada is deeply troubled that the government did not engage in meaningful consultations with 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities, advocates, community organizations and education and health care experts before implementing these policy changes.

Despite the serious threats to their rights, Nivyabandi urged 2SLGBTQQIA+ people across the country not to despair. “We are determined to mobilize in solidarity with you in the struggle against heteropatriarchal hate and discrimination,” she said. “You are valued and loved, and we will continue to resist with you against threats to your human rights.”   

Header photo credit: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta/Flickr