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Analysis

Take Back Alberta and Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremists Are Celebrating Danielle Smith’s Attack on Gender Rights

Alberta is set to implement extreme rules targeting transgender youths

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith just announced a severe attack on the rights of trans children and youth – and her far-right base is celebrating it as a victory.

In an apparent effort to appease the party’s far-right flank, Smith announced this week that the United Conservative Party government will push through with the most severe anti-trans policies in the country.

The policies include a prohibition on gender reassignment surgery for those 17 and under, a ban on puberty blockers for children 15 and under, while hormone therapy for the purposes of gender reassignment surgery will only be permitted with parental consent and physician and psychologist approval.

Predictably, far-right figures are celebrating the move, including far-right activist groups that spent much of last year organizing anti LGBTQ2SA demonstrations across the province, such as Take Back Alberta.

TBA founder David Parker has made numerous anti-trans statements, describing “gender affirming therapy” as “castration” and “genital mutilation” and claimed the trans advocates have “only a desire to destroy the fertility and God-given bodies of our children.”

Parker also stated that “radical sexual extremists must be stopped at all costs” and on another occasion called on society to “eradicate gender ideology.”

David Parker (Twitter)

Parker has also made it his mission to mobilize supporters to take control of the UCP through taking over board elections and sending members to annual general meetings in numbers to control votes on party policy.

TBA candidates currently account for half the United Conservative Party’s board.

David Parker (Twitter)

Despite acknowledging TBA pressured Smith’s government to make the move,  Parker attempts to distance TBA from Smith’s policy.

“I don’t think TBA’s pressure played any role,” Parker told PressProgress. “It’s the right moral and political move.”

But Parker’s attempt to distance TBA from the policy is at odds with comments from other top organizers.

Benita Pedersen, a former TBA organizer who organized training sessions for amateur election fraud “scrutineers” during the last provincial election, has led  protests against rainbow crosswalks and organized anti-sex education protests against teachers over the last year.

“All of our hard work paid off!” Pedersen posted to Facebook, citing several of her group’s recent anti-LGBTQ2SA campaigns, which included:

  • Protesting outside the Alberta Teachers Association building in Edmonton
  • Gathering protestors at Pride Corner in Edmonton in October
  • An anti-sex education petition campaign
  • Bringing TBA members to the UCP AGM in November to pressure the party on “parental rights”
  • A November meeting with Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides’ Chief of Staff

Benita Pedersen (Facebook)

Also celebrating the Premier’s announcement was James Lindsay, a far-right culture war figure who regularly spreads “groomer” rhetoric against the LGBTQ2SA+ community and promotes conspiracy theories about a communist world takeover.

Lindsay was brought to Calgary for a TBA sponsored speaking event in one of Pedersen and Parker’s more recent collaborations.

James Lindsay (Twitter)

Lindsay spent much of the day boosting far-right accounts praising Smith’s announcement, and mocking Alberta public figures who opposed the move and calling people “groomers,” including Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

James Lindsay (Twitter)

Another notable anti-trans activist cheering Smith on is “Billboard” Chris Elston, who is known for hanging around outside schools with signs about children and puberty.

Chris Elston (Twitter)

Elston, who has been described as a man who travels around the world targeting schools, is part of a network backed by a foreign right-wing think tank called the Heritage Foundation to fight “gender ideology.”

The group Gays Against Groomers, also Heritage Foundation-tied, took the opportunity to applaud Smith as well. The organization is one of the most notable propagators of anti-trans rhetoric according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Gays Against Groomers (Twitter)

The term “gender ideology” has been described as an “ambiguous conspiracy theory” designed to attack women’s and LGBTQ+ rights and revolves around the idea that nefarious groups are trying to “forcibly turn kids gay or force children into identifying as transgender.”

That conspiratorial and hateful language is increasingly being adopted by Canadian right-wing groups:

Alberta Proud, True North (Twitter)

2SLGBTQI+ groups are already vowing to fight Smith’s “draconian” policies in court, describing it as an attack on their “constitutional rights” and vowing “legal action to protect our communities.”

“The draconian measures announced run directly counter to expert guidance and evidence, violate the constitutional rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people, and will lead to irreparable harm and suffering,” said a joint statement from Egale Canada and Skipping Stone Foundation.

“The Government of Alberta is playing politics with some of the most vulnerable members of our society: trans and gender diverse youth, attacking them for cheap political points. We will not stand for it.”

Under the new rules, children 15 and under will not be permitted to choose a pronoun or chosen name in schools other than what they were given at birth, Smith said in a press conference Thursday.

While students 16 and 17 won’t require permission, schools will be obligated to notify parents of the change.

The announcement provoked a statement from the province’s pediatricians through the Alberta Medical Association Thursday evening, where they pointed out that forcing kids into a gender identity they don’t identify with will only increase dangers of mental illness and suicide.

“The mental health of these children and youth will be markedly worse when denied care. These new medical restrictions single them out and reinforce stigma. This will add to the current and future burden of mental health issues on a system that is already inadequate to meet the needs of the population.”

Transgender people have 7.7 times the rate of suicide attempts, and 3.5 times the rate of suicide deaths compared to the rest of the population, according to a study out of Denmark drawing from four decades of health data.

For the anti-sexual education aspect of the recent far right protests, or SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity), Smith has something for them too. New rules will require parents to opt in to every lesson on sexual education, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Any third party materials on the subjects will need to be cleared by the education ministry before teachers can use them.

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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