Marking 20 years
of bold journalism,
reader supported.
Opinion
Politics
Alberta

Danielle Smith’s Strange Thoughts on ‘Parental Rights’

Inside the UCP’s take on the family.

Susan Jane Wright 7 Feb 2024The Tyee

Susan Jane Wright was a lawyer and an executive in the energy sector before she became a writer. Follow her work at Susan on the Soapbox, where this piece first appeared.

Last week, in pursuit of her “parental rights” agenda, Premier Danielle Smith announced a set of policies that limited medical treatment for transgender youth and did a whole lot more.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to explain these policies to someone not living in cloud cuckoo land.

Here goes.

Smith says this policy is necessary because…

The decision to access transgender medical treatment is an “adult choice.” It cannot be made by a minor because, as we all know, adolescence is a difficult and confusing time and the minor may make a decision they’ll regret for the rest of their lives. So the decision is reserved for adults.

Ah, so the intent of the policy is to ensure minors can’t access medical treatment without their parents’ consent. I thought this was already the case in Alberta.

It turns out not all adults can be trusted to make this decision on behalf of their minor children. In fact some well-intentioned but misguided adults may encourage or enable their children to alter “their very biology or natural growth.” This poses a “risk to that child’s future” that Smith will not allow.

OK, so the intent of this “parental rights” policy is to take away a parent’s right to consent to their children getting medical treatment. Isn’t this another version of “welcome to 1984” where the government tells you how to care for your children?

Yes, but…

Smith is going to let parents consent (or not) to schools teaching their kids about gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality by making the schools get parental consent every time the subject comes up.

So the kids who learn nothing about gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality at home because their parents think it’s nasty will be left in the dark?

Yes, but there’s also this…

For those parents who have no idea what’s going on in their children’s lives Smith will make the schools get the parent’s consent (if the kid is 15 or under) or notify the parents (if the kid is 16 or 17) if their kid wants to change their name or their pronouns.

What if that blows up in the kid’s face and their families abuse them or thrown out of the house?

No problem. Smith says the abused and traumatized kid can talk to Child Welfare Services who, according to its government website will notify the family and endeavour to keep the family together as they work through this with the folks.

I’m sure that’s comforting to the kid who just got thrown out into the street.

But wait, there’s more…

Smith says the “risks and unfair advantages” that young women and girls experience when competing against “biologically stronger transgender female athletes” in sports has grown too high.

What risks and unfair advantages?

She didn’t say. But she’s going to talk with sports organizations to ensure women and girls have the choice to compete in “women’s only” divisions while at the same time setting up co-ed and gender-neutral athletic competitions for the transgender female athletes to compete in.

Is this something athletes have been clamouring for? How is she going to get sports organizations to rip up their existing divisional structure in order to create new “women’s only” and “co-ed” and “gender-neutral” division?

I don’t know, stop asking questions.

You know what I think? Smith’s policies will increase intolerance for transgender people and will increase ignorance about gender diversity and human sexuality.

Also I would note that the stigmatization of sexual and gender minorities is a classic tactic of right-wing populist parties who oppose teaching sexual and gender diversity in schools and want to take away a woman’s right to abortion.

Is that where she’s headed?

Hold on please, we’re getting Take Back Alberta’s David Parker on the line.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Alberta

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion and be patient with moderators. Comments are reviewed regularly but not in real time.

Do:

  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Keep comments under 250 words
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others or justify violence
  • Personally attack authors, contributors or members of the general public
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Do You Think Trudeau Will Survive the Next Election?

Take this week's poll