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Hundreds of Albertans protest ‘uninformed’ provincial gender policies

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Hundreds of Albertans took to the streets in Calgary and Edmonton Saturday to show their support for the transgender community.

The massive protests come days after controversial provincial policies were unveiled that will limit access to medical treatments for trans youth.

LGBTQ2S+ community members, activists and their allies gathered to demand the UCP government roll back those legislation proposals that deal with gender in schools, sports and health care.

“You just hope the (government) is actually listening,” Calgary protester Alyssa Quinney said. “We would all rather be anywhere else, but here we are.”

At a Thursday press conference, Premier Danielle Smith said the rules are meant to protect trans youth and offer their parents more peace of mind.

But her announcement has been met with swift opposition across the country — specifically from people arguing the proposals are going to have the exact opposite effect.

Many in Calgary call the move political posturing meant for the fringes of Smith’s base.

“‘Parental rights’ is a big blanket umbrella term being used to get people fired up about a non-issue,” parent Victoria Desjardins told CTV News.

“It speaks to the fact that the UCP doesn’t know what the majority of Albertans want,” Leah Zurbrigg added.

Roughly 1,200 people gathered in Calgary, including representatives from city council, the Alberta NDP, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and more.

Cardinal policies

So just how did we get here?

On Thursday, Smith said she had help in creating the new proposals.

“I've been very influenced over many years talking to many individuals in the transgender community,” she said. “I met with Lois Cardinal, who, as you may know, has felt that she was rushed into bottom surgery and is having consequences of that.”

CTV News caught up with Cardinal this weekend.

She says she came out and began transitioning at 19-years-old.

Two years later — at 21 — she was approved for surgery and flown to Montreal. She says she felt “pushed through” the system and is angry doctors didn’t stop her.

Cardinal now refers to herself as being “sterilized.”

“I had several complications with vaginoplasty and also with a neurological condition,” she said. “I was at a breaking point.”

Cardinal has met with Smith and been mentioned by the premier multiple times.

She’s on board with the proposed changes.

“What we are giving (kids) is time,” she said. “There’s no rush.

“It’s such a personal experience, and I think loving parents and guardians should be involved.”

At least partially inspired by Cardinal, Smith says she wants to make sure the post-op experience is improved. That’s especially where Cardinal says she felt let-down once she returned home.

“We want to attract somebody into our province who can do the surgeries here,” Smith said Thursday. “So the aftercare can be done here.”

Not the same?

CTV News asked multiple protestors on Saturday about Cardinal’s impact on the premier.

Jake Donaldson, who is a family physician, says he feels for the Saddle Lake resident.

“Unfortunately, regret is just a reality of life,” Donaldson said. “What we’re weighing is the risk of regret for these young individuals versus the risk of doing nothing and forcing them through a puberty that doesn’t match their gender identity.”

And there are multiple marked differences between Cardinal’s story and the story of those who will be impacted by what Smith has brought forward.

Firstly, Cardinal was 21 when she transitioned: no longer a child who needed parental supervision.

And though she feels rushed, many younger teens in the gender affirming process have even longer than two years to figure out what they want. Alberta’s current system has a lengthy waitlist and backlog, and surgeries are reserved for adults only.

Lastly, the data suggests Cardinal is an outlier.

Multiple North American studies — including a report out of Princeton University in 2022 — show the overwhelming majority of those young people who transition stick with it.

Donaldson says it‘s unfair to colour the policy with one case.

“People regret having kids,” he said. “And getting tattoos. We’re not going to ban those.”

Smith is expected to turn the proposals into legislation this autumn. 

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