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Premier Smith says Alberta's gender identity policies are based on a concern about 'what will happen'

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Just days after announcing controversial changes to Alberta's transgender policies, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith admitted Monday that the proposed measures around gender-affirming surgeries are not based on current evidence of a problem, but rather a "concern of what will happen."

In an interview with CTV's Power Play on Monday, host Vassy Kapelos asked Smith whether she was aware of anyone in Alberta under the age of 18 who has received gender-affirming surgery without parental consent, and Smith said "not bottom surgery."

Albertans under the age of 18 are already ineligible for bottom surgery funding through the Gender Surgery Program, and the required age for masculinization of the torso or "top" surgery (mastectomy) is 16 years of age.

The premier could not point to any incidence of "top" surgery performed on an Albertan under the age of 18 without parental consent.

"There has been some organizations advocating for those treatments to be done younger and younger, and I guess I'm uncomfortable with that," Smith told Kapelos.

Last Wednesday, Smith unveiled sweeping policy changes that included a ban for all gender-affirming surgeries for minors aged 17 and under.

According to Alberta Health, 23 Albertans younger than 18 years of age received top surgery in 2023. But the health organization does not track whether those surgeries are related to gender identity or for medical reasons, such as cancer or breast reduction due to pain.

When pressed again by Kapelos on whether there is evidence to inform the proposed policy, Smith admitted it is based on a "concern of what will happen."

"I don't want any child to feel regret for their decision or feel that they made it prematurely. That's why we want to make sure that we take the extra time so that those kids are making the decisions and they can live with the consequences," Smith said.

Smith was in Ottawa Monday to open a new Alberta office in the nation's capital, and faced heavy criticism from the federal government over the proposed changes. Employment Minister and Alberta Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault urged Smith to rethink the policy.

"I think the bigger question to ask, is what and who is she solving for? What's the problem she's trying to fix, right? Queer kids don't need to be fixed. They're fine the way they are and so this bill should never see the floor of the legislature," Boissonnault told reporters on Monday.

The medical community has also voiced disapproval. After the announcement, the Canadian Paediatric Society said it is concerned the policies "will lead to significant negative health outcomes, including increased risk of suicide and self-harm." The Alberta Medical Association has also condemned the measures, saying: "We strongly urge the Premier to reconsider the proposed policies and offer her the opportunity to collaborate with experienced professionals."

But when asked by Kapelos whether she is open to any changes, Smith would only say "I've been consulting widely on this issue for a long time."

"We've got to make sure that trans adults are supported with their health care for the rest of their lives. If there are other ways in which trans individuals can feel supported in their health care decisions, and of course, I'll be open to those ideas," Smith said.

Other proposed restrictions on transgender and non-binary youth include requiring parental consent for students aged 15 and under who want to change their names or pronouns at school, and a ban on hormone therapy for gender assignment purposes for those aged 15 and under unless their treatment has already begun.

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