By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press on February 7, 2024.
OTTAWA – After Pierre Poilievre confirmed Wednesday he opposes puberty blockers for kids, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went on the attack, saying the Conservative leader wants government to take away parents’ and kids’ rights.
Transgender children are much more likely to attempt suicide, Trudeau said, arguing governments should not be proposing to take away their options.
The prime minister took aim not only at Poilievre but also at Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who announced plans last week to ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger who have not already begun such treatments.
“The fact that Premier Smith and Pierre Poilievre want government to take away the option for parents and their vulnerable youth, in consultation with their doctors, to make the right decisions for them is anchored in ideology and is not about protecting the most vulnerable,” he said on Parliament Hill.
“Our government will do whatever it takes to protect the most vulnerable.”
Puberty blockers, as they’re known, are used to prevent the body from producing the sex hormones that fuel both male and female development.
The Alberta Medical Association has released statements voicing concern over Smith’s policies, saying transgender and gender-diverse youth who lack access to such care face an increased risk of depression and suicide.
Smith also proposes to require that parents give their consent for kids 15 and under to go by a different name or pronoun at school. Teenagers aged 16 and 17 would be able to make such changes without permission, but schools would have to notify their guardians.
The proposals have spurred protests in Alberta and Ottawa and drawn condemnation from Liberal politicians including Trudeau, who accuse Smith of pushing an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.
Her move also prompted a barrage of media questions to Poilievre this week about his views on gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender youth.
Asked directly on Wednesday whether he opposes the use of puberty blockers for gender-diverse youth under the age of 18, Poilevre said, “Yes.”
“We should protect children and their ability to make adult decisions when they’re adults,” he said.
For months, the federal Conservative leader has said he supports the rights of parents to raise their children as they wish, and urged Trudeau to “butt out” of provincial decisions about schools and hospitals.
He accused the prime minister on Wednesday of launching attacks against families “who are trying to protect their kids.”
“He will, in the end, back down on this,” Poilievre suggested.
“I think we should protect the rights of parents to make their own decisions with regards to their children and I believe that adults should have the freedom to make any decision they want about their bodies.”
Liberal cabinet minister Randy Boissonnault, an openly gay MP who represents an Edmonton riding, paused before the party’s weekly caucus meeting Wednesday to deride Poilievre’s position.
The decision to use puberty blockers should be based on a conversation between a young person and their doctor, Boissonnault said.
“I don’t see M.D. after Pierre Poilievre’s name or Danielle Smith’s,” he said. “So, not their business.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh struck a similar tone in reaction to Poilievre’s position, saying he believes health-care decisions should involve an individual and their doctor.
“Based on evidence, based on science, based on best practices and not based on the opinion of Pierre Poilievre,” Singh said.
“We’re seeing Pierre Poilievre spend time attacking vulnerable communities.”
Since becoming leader, Poilievre has tried to keep the Conservatives’ focus on cost-of-living issues and crime, which the party sees as winning messages.
Some of his supporters, however, have pressed him to veer further into the debate around how schools handle issues of gender diversity and sexual orientation among their students.
At last year’s policy convention in Quebec City, grassroots party members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution that calls on a future Conservative government to prohibit “medicinal or surgical interventions” for gender-diverse and transgender children.
Poilievre has yet to say whether he has any plans to ink that party policy into a future election platform.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, support is available 24/7 by calling or texting 988, the national suicide prevention helpline.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2024.