Calgary

Danielle Smith says Alberta's proposed transgender rules won't include public change rooms, jails

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith attended the annual Canada Strong and Free Network conference (CSFN24) in Ottawa on Friday, where she appeared as a keynote speaker and discussed a variety of provincial policies, including energy, the economy, health care and more.

Proposed trans rules set to roll out this fall, won’t include same-sex spaces

a woman in a suit points to something not pictured.
Danielle Smith addressed the crowd at the Canada Strong and Free Network event in Ottawa on Friday, where she confirmed that she has no plans to include single-sex spaces in the upcoming policies around transgender people in Alberta. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Premier Danielle Smith appeared as a keynote speaker at the annual Canada Strong and Free Networking conference (CSFN24) in Ottawa on Friday, where she confirmed there would be nothing about single-sex spaces in the Alberta government's proposed transgender rules surrounding the education and health care sectors, as well as sports and athletes.

Part of the premier's appearance at the  conference involved a fireside chat with True North radio host Andrew Lawton, who pushed Smith to dissect the details of the government's planned trans policies. 

"Let's discuss your approach to gender in Alberta, because I discussed with Premier Higgs yesterday how New Brunswick was the first to really go into this terrain, but Alberta was the most extensive in terms of what you proposed," said Lawton.

Lawton asked Smith about the "protection of single-sex spaces," referring specifically to whether or not the government's proposal would ban trans women from women's shelters and jails. 

"I've not seen anything in Alberta that leads me to believe I have to do anything about that. So I'm not going in that direction," said Smith.

two people sit in chairs on a stage, talking into microphones.
Danielle Smith sat down for a discussion with Andrew Lawton, a radio host with True North, during the Canada Strong and Free Network event held in Ottawa on Friday. Lawton asked Smith if the government's transgender policies would include a proposal where "biologically male inmates who identify as female would not be permitted to go into female jails." (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

And during a news conference following her keynote speech, Smith again confirmed that no same-sex space rules would be included in the bill that is still to come. 

But the debate around single-sex spaces is part of a larger conversation around trans policies, especially among the government's own supporter base.

During the UCP's 2023 annual general meeting in November, one of the policy resolutions members voted in favour of was refusing transgender women in women's correctional facilities.

While such policy resolutions are brought forward by members — and are non-binding for the government — they do provide grassroots direction on what party members believe the government's policies should be.

John Hilton-O'Brien, executive director of the Alberta-based advocacy group Parents for Choice in Education, says the government's plans must include rules around single-sex spaces when it comes to children in schools.

Hilton-O'Brien says he didn't listen to the premier's entire speech, but he believes she would need to exercise caution when discussing how these policies could affect transgender adults.

"It would seem unreasonable to ban people who have had surgical transitions — that is bottom surgery — from the bathrooms of the gender that they have changed to."

Still, he says he and his advocacy group will be watching for the Alberta government's policies in the fall.

"Due to the increased vulnerability of children, this must be a hard and fast rule," Hilton-O'Brien told CBC News.

"If it does not happen, we will say it is a failure of state craft. And I cannot imagine a more severe criticism of a premier."

Trans policies to roll out this fall

During the Canada Strong and Free Network event on Friday, the premier said that consulting other transgender conservative colleagues has been a helpful part in developing the framework for Alberta's gender legislation.

"I think the issue is modesty … If you have not been fully transitioned, then you shouldn't be exposing yourself in female-only spaces, because no one should know," Smith told Lawton.

"It's when women feel that their private spaces, when they're alone and they're naked, that's when they want to make sure that they're safe, their places are protected … I've not seen anything in Alberta that leads me to believe I have to do anything about that."

a woman speaks into a microphone. she stands in front of a screen that reads "CSFN24."
Alberta's Premier, Danielle Smith, appeared at the Canada Strong and Free Network conference (CSFN24) as a keynote speaker. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

The Alberta government has yet to table formal legislation surrounding its proposed transgender policies, which are set to roll out this fall.

"Our government will be moving forward with these policies, and we expect to have broad support as we do," Smith told the CSFN24 crowd about the Alberta government's policies on gender during her speech.

Smith's Friday appearance followed one on Thursday by New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, who discussed a policy restricting students' use of preferred names and pronouns in schools that Smith's government has emulated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lily Dupuis

Reporter

Lily Dupuis joined CBC News as a researcher for the 2023 Alberta provincial election. She can be reached at lily.dupuis@cbc.ca.

With files from The Canadian Press