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Protestors gather against new proposed provincial policy

February 8, 2024

By: Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative

A protest against the province's newly announced “transgender policy” saw about 80 protestors outside city hall on the weekend. 

Protestors first gathered outside the offices of local MLAs, leaving signs and letters posted to the doors and windows, and then moved outside city hall on Sunday.

“We believe that human rights are important and that trans rights are part of human rights, and to infringe upon that, to abuse, that we cannot let that stand,” said Dustin Archibald, protest co-organizer.

About 80 protestors were outside city hall against the provinceÕs recently released Transgender policy in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. Premier Danielle Smith announced, on Feb. 1, the province's policy, which includes changes to medical, education, and sports regulations regarding transgender people. Critics of the policy say it could be harmful to youth. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Premier Danielle Smith announced on Feb. 1 the province's proposed policy that includes changes to medical, education and sports regulations regarding transgender people.

The province says the policy will “preserve the choices children and youth have before potentially making life-altering and often irreversible adult decisions involving the alteration of their biological sex while also ensuring women and girls have the opportunity to participate safely and meaningfully in sport.”

Critics say it could be harmful to youth. 

A poster from a protestor on the offices of local MLA's Ron Wiebe and Nolan Dyck. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

“We know that trans-affirming care saves lives, pediatricians, doctors, they can all confirm this,” said Archibald. 

The policy prohibits the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapies “for the purpose of gender reassignment or affirmation will not be permitted for children aged 15 and under, except for those who have already commenced treatment.”

Teenagers aged 16 and 17 will only be able to begin hormone therapy and puberty blockers with parental, physician and psychologist approval. 

The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) released a statement after the premier's announcement, saying medical decisions should be made by medical professionals and the families of children. 

“We know that transgender youth have higher rates of mental health issues and suicidality because of the stigma attached to their status,” says the AMA. 

“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.”

The AMA also says that puberty-blocking agents are not irreversible, and once stopped being used, puberty continues. It notes that puberty blockers allow patients time to determine their options without permanent effects.

“If these people actually wanted to protect children's rights, they would be in support of puberty blockers because it allows the child time to consider this decision,” said Sam Ellwoood, 17, at the Grande Prairie protest, 

The provincial policy also includes Alberta Health developing a private registry of medical professionals who specialize in care for transgender patients so that it is easier for patients to access medical treatment. 

The AMA says the registry is unnecessary. 

“It is an unnecessary bureaucratic process given the current existence of effective referral processes and networks.” 

(Photo by Jesse Boily)

The United Nurses of Alberta also released a statement saying the province is “infringing on the rights of young people and their families” and is a “denial of human rights.”

“UNA also strongly believes appropriate medical treatment for all patients must be determined by qualified health care practitioners based on clinical evidence, not politicians who want to meddle in medical decisions for political and ideological reasons,” it said in a news release. 

UNA said political decisions to block a medical treatment could lead to more political decisions to block others in the future; it also notes that the announcement comes at a time when access to health care in Alberta is becoming a growing concern. 

“This policy decision by the government appears also to be an attempt to distract Albertans from the desperate problems and needs of the health care system,” said UNA. 


The policy will also have effects on the education system.

Under the new policy, parents will be required to opt into any instance when a teacher provides formal instruction on subject matter involving gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality. 

Parents will also need to consent for their children aged 15 and under to alter their name or pronouns used by teachers, administration and other educational staff, and parents will be notified if their teenager 16 or 17 alters their name or pronoun. 

Sam Ellwood tapes a sign to the office of local MLA's Ron Wiebe and Nolan Dyck during a protest against the province's recently released Transgender policy. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Ellwood said the policy was “outing” children who may not feel safe telling their parents about their sexual orientation or pronouns.

“I have friends who are out at school but cannot be out at home because they will face violence or be kicked out,” she said. 

The Alberta Teachers’ Association released a statement with its concerns, saying it has concerns for the safety and wellness of students under the announced policy. 

“We are concerned about the chilling effect placed on classrooms and schools, impacting our ability to provide safe, caring and inclusive spaces for all students,” said Jason Schilling, ATA president. 

“We are concerned about how students may feel forced to suppress their identities and to be afraid of reaching out to teachers as an avenue for support.”

He said he is worried the policy will affect vulnerable students. 

“We want all students to know, and especially those students who identify or have family members that identify as gender or relationship diverse, that teachers support you and care for you.”

Premier Danielle Smith announced, on Feb. 1, the province's policy, which includes changes to medical, education, and sports regulations regarding transgender people. Critics of the policy say it could be harmful to youth. (Photo by Jesse Boily)


The province says it will begin working with sports organizations to “ensure biologically born female athletes are able to compete in a biological female-only division without having to compete against transgender female athletes.”

It says it will also begin working on “co-ed or other gender-neutral divisions for athletic competitions to ensure that transgender athletes are able to meaningfully participate in the sport of their choice.”

Ellwood says she hopes people  “open their hearts to compassion.”

“I think that this is a very compassionate thing to stand for,” said Ellwood. 

“Alberta isn't a place of belonging; I think it should be and can be if we work harder.”

There were large-scale demonstrations against the UCP’s new policy in Edmonton and Calgary last weekend.

Demonstrations also happened in Valleyview and Peace River.

A poster from UNA on the on the offices of local MLAs.
(Photo by Jesse Boily)
A letter posted to the offices of local MLAs. (Photo by Jesse Boily)
A letter posted to the offices of local MLAs. (Photo by Jesse Boily)
(Photo by Jesse Boily)