The federal Conservative Party advised its MPs not to comment publicly on Alberta’s new transgender medical care and education policies in an internal e-mail obtained by The Globe and Mail Thursday.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s team sent an e-mail to caucus members that also provided them with suggested talking points if they are asked to react. The talking points emphasize parental rights about decisions related to their children.
The Opposition Leader’s Office sent the e-mail to the Conservative caucus a day after Ms. Smith released her policy that sparked a widespread backlash among LGBTQ groups and condemnation from the federal government. Mr. Poilievre has not commented on the new policy and his office declined to comment about the internal e-mail when asked by The Globe.
The e-mail asks all Conservative MPs to notify the leader’s office about all media requests and directs MPs not to comment themselves.
On Wednesday, Ms. Smith unveiled Canada’s most aggressive package of proposals limiting transgender rights, including restricting access to medical treatments for youth and excluding transgender athletes from women’s sporting competitions.
She released the plan in a video posted to social media Wednesday and, at a Thursday press conference, she defended the moves, saying gender-affirming surgeries are “adult decisions” and shouldn’t be made by kids.
The province also intends to require schools to obtain parental permission before every lesson involving gender identity, sexual orientation and human sexuality. Alberta will also ban teachers from using a student’s preferred pronouns or name without parental notification, Ms. Smith said.
Whether “parental rights” should trump those of kids on issues such as pronoun selection at school has become a flashpoint between conservatives and progressives. Alberta’s announcement saw the province join conservative governments in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in codifying the rights of parents by requiring their consent before changing a student’s pronouns. However, Alberta’s policy is far more restrictive than those announced last year by the other two provinces.
The federal Conservatives suggested four main messages to their MPs. They include no explicit comment on the Alberta policy changes, but Mr. Poilievre’s office suggested his MPs emphasize the role of parents.
It notes that parents should be the decision-makers on how they raise their kids.
The internal e-mail then goes on to highlight that provincial governments have jurisdiction over areas such as education and health care and says premiers should be left to determine policies in those spheres.
A third point suggested by Mr. Poilievre’s office to his MPs underscores the right of adults to exercise their freedoms and live how they want to.
Lastly, his office recommends Conservative MPs note that all Canadians deserve respect regardless of factors including but not limited to sexuality and gender identity.
As of Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had not yet commented on the policies announced by Ms. Smith, but several of his ministers were quick to condemn the changes on social media and on Parliament Hill.
Health Minister Mark Holland said he is “deeply disturbed” by Alberta’s plan.
“It’s extremely dangerous to engage in this kind of thing, which, I think, is playing politics when you are talking about children’s lives,” Mr. Holland told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday. He said that one of the key reasons that kids die by suicide is problems around sexual identity.
Mr. Holland said he would be speaking about the new policies with his provincial counterpart next week.
The new policy from Alberta was also condemned by Marci Ien, the federal Minister for Women, Gender Equality and Youth, and Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault. Asked what their government planned to do in response, Ms. Ien said “everything is on the table” and the minority Liberals will first hold consultations.
Asked if she was worried about the new policies violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Canada Health Act, Ms. Smith said she would leave that question to lawyers but said parents are expected to be responsible for their kids and noted that people are not able to make “fully adult decisions about a lot of things until they’re 18.”