Alberta may legislate parental rights once and for all, pending a policy vote by United Conservative (UCP) members at next month’s convention — the first with Premier Danielle Smith at the helm.
The upcoming annual general meeting will debate 30 policy proposals, including gender pronouns and parental consent which is sure to spark intense discussions within the party and province.
The Edmonton-West Henday UCP constituency proposed mandating written consent by parents in order for a child under 16-years-old to use a different name or pronoun at school.
“Parents, not schools, are the legal guardians of their children,” reads the policy — an offshoot of Bill 137 that passed Saskatchewan’s legislature earlier on Friday.
Bill 137, the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act, mandates that educators and other school administrators inform parents when a child under 16 years of age changes their name or uses different pronouns to affirm their ‘gender identity.’
It also bans third-party sex education organizations from classrooms, such as Planned Parenthood, and makes it mandatory for schools to display the Saskatchewan flag.
“Schools should not be in the business of going behind parents’ backs,” reads the UCP policy proposal.
“It’s incumbent upon us as adults to make sure that we keep a safe, supportive environment for kids,” added Smith.
As first reported by the Western Standard in August, the premier had yet to clarify her position on whether schools should inform parents of changes to their child’s ‘gender identity’.
“I have said that we don't want to politicize these issues because these issues are very private, family issues,” she said then. “We're trying to avoid turning it into a political hot potato because we want […] kids [to] feel supported [while] also respecting parental rights.”
At the time, Smith told the publication she had yet to speak with the UCP caucus. “We have a caucus retreat in September, so I have to discuss this with the caucus,” she added.
The premier told True North October 17 that her caucus is currently looking into the matter, but maintained the same timidity to the contentious policy.
“We have to always be mindful as we have these conversations that there are young people who are really struggling with gender identity, they’re struggling with puberty, struggling with how they fit in,” said Smith.
“These are really complicated family matters [and] very personal decisions,” she added.
If the resolution passes, the party is not required to legislate it as they are non-binding.
“The policy process is one of the measures that our cabinet and caucus use in making a decision, but we also confer with stakeholders, and we also talk to Alberta,” continued Smith.
“I want to see how the debate goes, and then we’ll make some decisions once we see whether or not [the policy] passes.”