Tory grassroots vote against surgical, pharmaceutical care for transgender kids

QUEBEC — Conservative party delegates voted Saturday that as a future government, it should prohibit "medicinal or surgical interventions" for gender-diverse and transgender kids.

Members were gathered in Quebec City for the final day of the party's three-day policy convention, where delegates voted on a suite of amendments to the party's policy handbook, ranging in issues from foreign affairs, the environment and health.

The proposal that any future Conservative government prohibit "life-altering medicinal or surgical interventions" for those under 18 who are looking to transition came from a riding in British Columbia.

It passed with assent from 69 per cent of voting members.

The vote comes as the premiers in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick usher in their own changes to education policies that would require schools to seek parental consent if a child under 16 wanted to be referred to by a different name or pronoun.

That decision has been met with backlash and concern from families with LGBTQ+ children, advocates, teachers' unions and the respective provinces' children's advocates.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has not on his own waded into the situation in either province. But when asked New Brunswick's decision earlier this summer, he suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should stay out of the issue, saying he believes the matter is one for the province and parents to decide.

The vote by his party's delegates Saturday could pull Poilievre into a debate on the issue of gender identity and children, which has gained increasing traction among the conservative movement in Canada, as well as the United States.

Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Heather Stefanson also promised that if re-elected, her government would give more "parental rights" to families when it comes to the curriculum and presentations by outside groups.

The term "parental rights" is increasingly used to refer to the concerns some families and individuals have about what schools teach children about sexual orientation and gender expression, with a particular focus on policies around transgender and nonbinary students.

So far, Poilievre has focused his agenda largely on economic issues. He delivered an hour-long speech to the convention's more than 2,500 attendees Friday night, discussing the need to offer Canadians an alternative to Trudeau's Liberals and restore the promise of hope, which he says has been lost because of the high cost of living and unaffordable housing.

Like leaders before him, Poilievre has said he is not bound to include the policies adopted at policy conventions into an eventual election platform.

However, he told reporters heading into the convention that he will consider them, and he declined to comment on any of the suggestions before delegates cast their votes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press