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At the recent Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)’s convention, Pierre Poilievre sought to focus on the cost of living, highlighting the economic needs of Canadians across the country. However, his party decided to go down a different, much darker path: disregarding science, trampling on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and importing foreign conspiracy theories into the very fabric of Canadian politics.

A motion to “protect children’s physical and mental health” was passed by 69 per cent of Conservative delegates. If this motion were adopted by a Conservative government, it could result in the outlawing of gender-affirming care for trans youth. Indeed, and despite the pleas of physicians, supportive parents, and trans people themselves, the party claiming to defend the idea of ‘freedom’ in Canada, is now trying to break the privacy and trust behind the doctor-patient relationship. What is more, this motion positions the CPC at odds with mainstream medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, to impose what is effectively a fringe viewpoint on 2SLGBTQ+ people.

It doesn’t end there. A motion attempting to redefine a woman as a ‘female person’, with trans-exclusionary intent, was adopted. A motion accusing diversity, equity, and inclusion training as being ‘ideologically motivated’, and thus seeking to forbid it within the public sector, was also adopted. A motion seeking to ban hiring practices designed to further include marginalized populations in the workplace was also overwhelmingly adopted. It is clear that the CPC’s membership, regardless of Pierre Poilievre’s real intent, wants the party to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. Republican Party by targeting some of the most underrepresented and marginalized people in our society.

It was not that long ago that Canada became one the of the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage. Since that time, the federal government and all provincial and territorial jurisdictions have expanded human rights protections for gender identity and/or gender expression. Most recently, in fall of 2021, the government of Canada passed a ban on conversion practices with unanimous all-party support. And yet today, the capacity of trans people to access health care and basic human rights protections is suddenly and terrifyingly in peril.

The CPC convention built upon a summer of provincial governments targeting trans people. Most recently, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan introduced policies that restrict the ability of trans students to be recognized by their chosen names and pronouns at school; the governments of Manitoba and Ontario may well follow suit. Should Manitoba and Ontario pass similar policies as they are currently intended, nearly half of trans Canadian students with unaccepting parents would be faced with a disastrous choice: either have their transness revealed against their will to their parents by their teachers, which could cause life-threatening consequences such as homelessness, or live with the daily harm of being misgendered, simply because the government said so.

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A 2019 study of more than 1500 trans Canadian youth showed that six per cent of trans youth never or almost never feel safe at home. The consequences of this lack of safety are severe: indeed, decades of research shows that as many as 40 per cent of trans and queer youth end up on the streets or in care settings. And yet, young people with unsupportive parents are far more likely to experience suicidal ideation and attempt suicide, than those who do not.

Most Canadians today would never agree to teachers revealing a student’s sexual orientation to their parents without consent. So what’s so special about gender? What justifies granting parents an absolute, property-like right over their children’s gender identity, and what justifies allowing the government to override the best interests of mature minors, supportive parents, and their doctors to impose view in which, “protecting children’s physical and mental health” comes at the cost of their well-being and even lives, by denying them the very scientifically-proven healthcare they need?

In a 2013 survey, more than 90 per cent of Canadians agreed that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is one of the most important symbols of Canadian identity. As such, disregarding science, trampling on the Charter, and actively attacking the rights of minorities — is undermining the very thing that makes us Canadian.

Conservatives: this is not Canada.

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Celeste Trianon is a transfeminine award-winning jurist, legal clinic operator, and human rights defender based in Montreal. She frequently contributes to the media regarding trans people in Quebec and Canada.
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Kimberley Manning is Principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and Professor of Political Science at Concordia University. She is part of a national team of SSHRC-funded researchers studying parents of trans and non-binary youth.

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