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  • Writer's pictureSas Miller

Identity Politics Infringing on Rainbow Rights in Canada

Canada has long been known for being a diverse, progressive country, having legalized same-sex marriage in July 2005. But increasingly, the rise of conservative, anti-trans legislation seen enacted throughout our neighbour to the south, has made its way north and is having a tremendous impact on the lives of trans Canadians nationwide. With municipal and provincial elections occurring in 2024, and federal elections in 2025, the targeting of the trans community is a deliberate political manoeuvre, as conservative politicians seek to galvanize their base. Trans youth, who are the most vulnerable within this group, have become the focus of a series of new policies across the country.


Premier Danielle Smith announced the following policy items for the Fall 2024 legislature sitting:

  • Students ages 15 and under will have to seek parental consent in order to change their names and/or pronouns at school. Students ages 16 and 17 will not need their parents’ consent, but the school will notify their parents. This could potentially out some students to their families, which may place them in precarious situations. 

  • Gender-affirming surgeries are banned for students ages 17 and under, in addition to hormone treatment and puberty blockers being banned for those ages 15 and under. 

  • Teachers must get any third-party instructional material regarding gender identity and human sexuality approved by the Ministry of Education.

  • Parents will have to opt their students into every lesson regarding gender identity and sex education.

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan 

  • In 2020, New Brunswick’s Minister of Education, Dominic Cardy, introduced Policy 713, which required personnel in public schools and districts to use students’ chosen names and pronouns, and required schools to provide gender-neutral bathrooms and LGBTQ+ training for teachers. In 2023, Premier Blaine Higgs placed the policy under review, and changes were made including requiring students under 16 to have parental consent in order to change their names and/or pronouns at school.

  • In 2023, Saskatchewan passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act (Bill 137) which, like Alberta’s policy, requires parental consent for students who wish to change their names and/or pronouns, and makes it easier for parents to opt their children out of sex education.

Why do these policies matter?

The current political environment and educational restrictions are impacting the mental health of trangender, two-spirit, and non-binary youth disproportionately.  “Around 41% of transgender students reported significant depressive symptoms, 20% had attempted suicide in the past year, and 46% had self-injured in the past year. These rates were much higher than the cisgender youth in the sample.” 

Another study of transgender 12 - 19 years olds in Canada highlighted more troubling statistics when compared to their cisgender counterparts:

  • They had a 3 times greater risk for a diagnosis of anxiety or depression.

  • They were 3 times more likely to have had suicidal ideation or an attempt.

  • They were 4x more likely to self-harm.

Adult Allies

Childhood is a critical time for identity development, and it can be difficult for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, their parents, educators, and school administrators, to receive the community support or resources to assist queer youth during this critical stage. Thankfully, there are many groups online and in-person nationwide, available to provide guidance on how best to get started.

Within Quebec:

  • Project 10 is a Montreal based organisation which supports the physical and mental well being of 2SLGBTQ+ youth, and provides services in both English and French.

  • The Coalition of LGBTQ+ Youth Groups/Coalition Jeunesse is a youth-led organisation comprised of members from different youth and LGBTQ+ organisations, which works with different levels of government to increase the visibility and well-being of 2SLGBTIQA+ youth.

Canada wide/Online Resources:

  • The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity provides various training and workshops for Grades 7 through 12, with topics including Intersectionality and Diversity, Queer History, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

  • It Gets Better Canada is a registered charity whose mission is to empower and uplift 2SLGBTQ+ youth across Canada. Their site provides stories, resource articles and news.

Given the politics around gender and identity expression is becoming more fraught, all Canadians need to inform themselves, advocate for, and show up as allies for our 2SLGBTQ+ youth.

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