The video Premier Danielle Smith released today was remarkable. In it, she wrapped new restrictions on health care, privacy, and sports participation for trans kids in a velvet glove of kindness and words of inclusion.
“I strongly believe that we as a society must support and reach out with kindness and inclusion to those who identify as transgender and work to eliminate the discrimination they often experience in their lives.”
And we will do this, she announced, by discriminating against trans kids in our schools. Until age 16, they cannot use different pronouns in school without their parents’ permission. (This is the policy that Saskatchewan has adopted, invoking the notwithstanding clause to circumvent a Charter challenge). If trans kids exercise their choice to change their pronouns at 16 or 17, parents still need to be “informed.”
Unlike New Brunswick and Saskatchewan’s foray into this area, Alberta will go significantly further: Trans girls will not be permitted to compete as girls in sports. No surgery before age 18. No hormones before age 16. (Does the province even have jurisdiction over these matters? Does it regulate amateur sport outside schools? Can it legislate access to an approved pharmaceutical based on age? And if it does have authority in these areas, is is prepared to use the notwithstanding clause? More questions than answers here today, I’m afraid).
The video released today was Smith at her finest: communicating with empathy and sounding entirely reasonable, while doing the bidding of the very social conservatives she claims to disagree with. Her attempt to depoliticize the issue appears to entail acceding to the full policy agenda being pushed by social conservatives, but wrapping it in kind words and an improbable promise to recruit a physician specializing in this area to practice in the province.
Here’s my question: why did Smith decide to go so much further than Higgs or Moe? Is the pressure on her from the right that strong? Or does she really believe that her stance reflects a compromise?
Today’s video was Smith at her most dangerous. She is presenting the harshest, least inclusive policy regime for trans kids in Canada as a depoliticized compromise. She is using her formidable communication skills to paint this discriminatory set of policies as “inclusive.” And I fear that many Albertans will be satisfied with this “compromise.”