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Calgary students join walkout to protest province's proposed gender policies


Hundreds of Alberta students left their classrooms Wednesday as part of a province-wide protest against the UCP government's controversial proposals regarding transgender youth.

Beginning at 10 a.m., students walked out of their schools to take part in demonstrations against the far-reaching medical intervention policies announced by Premier Danielle Smith.

Those proposals include parental approval for sex education, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Students from Calgary's Western Canada, Crescent Heights, William Aberhart and Henry Wise Wood schools opted in to the protest, among others.

They were joined by teens in Okotoks, Airdrie, Cochrane, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Leduc.

"It's important to me because I am a trans kid and I am personally in a safe situation but I know a lot of people — even at this school — that aren't," Grade 12 student Akira Hesslein said.

"(The government is) literally denying us the effectiveness of our health care for the sake of parental rights.

"We're not going to be quiet. This is our fight."

"(Smith is) taking away the rights of people who haven't done anything wrong," Yomade Akapo added.

"It's a violation of human rights. It's absolutely disgusting."

The Calgary Board of Education said it was aware of the demonstrations and wouldn't stop any students from participating.

"We will not prevent students from leaving class during this time; however, any students who were not present in class will be marked as an unexcused absence," it said.

"We can't just stand by and watch this awful stuff happen," Grade 11 student Rebecca Malach told CTV News.

"It's not right." 

Provincial response

Smith has said the fall sitting of the legislature would bring new rules, including restrictions on youth changing their names or pronouns at school and getting hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery.

Her education minister defended the policies to media Wednesday.

"We understand that there are a diverse range of opinions and that's ok," Demetrios Nicolaides said.

"It's important to have these kinds of conversations."

Critics have lamented over what they call a complete lack of consultation.

When asked about who was spoken to before the announcement, Nicolaides pointed to meetings he had over the weekend and on Monday.

He promised to engage more "with partners to ensure that these policies are implemented in the most efficient manner possible."

Smith has claimed the long-term goal is to ensure children are "fully informed" about the decisions they are making because they might regret them later in life.

In defending her proposals during a trip to Ottawa on Monday, the premier said there is no "single voice" that can speak on behalf of the entire transgender community.

She said she has spoken to some transgender people who expressed concerns about the ability of children to transition at a young age.

"We had to have a conversation about what is the appropriate age to be able to make those life-altering decisions," she said.

Lethbridge participates

At 10 a.m., students from Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (LCI) began to file outside and across the street.

Dozens took part, chanting and giving speeches in opposition of the UCP's proposed gender identity policies.

"My biggest thing with wanting to come out here to start up these protests was really just to try to empower students and show that everyone has a really great voice and a really powerful voice," said LCI student and walkout organizer Kaz Raham.

Across the city, students at Chinook High School staged a similar event.

Several expressed concern over the new policies' potential to harm trans students.

"It's just dangerous in general, this bill. I have friends, who will not be named, who would in fact be in danger if they were exposed to their parents in any form," said Chinook High School student Shev Twedt.

Some students support the new policies and believe teenagers are too young to be making decisions about their gender identity.

"A child is not at the full mind capacity to make a decision like that. I wouldn't want to make a decision like that," said Jaydan Miranda, a student at LCI.

Those protesting the government's actions were happy with the turnouts they saw and plan to continue.

"I think it's really great that schools and students are coming together across Alberta, protesting the changes Danielle Smith has put out," said Theo, a student at Chinook High School who did not want to share their last name.

(With files from The Canadian Press) Top Stories

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