Politics

Pierre Poilievre says minors should not have access to puberty blockers

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Wednesday he does not support trans kids taking puberty blockers — medicines that are used to pause puberty before a possible gender transition or other interventions, like hormone therapy.

'I think we should protect children,' Conservative leader says

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Wednesday he does not support trans kids taking puberty blockers — medicines that are used to pause puberty before a possible gender transition or other interventions, like hormone therapy.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill before a Conservative caucus meeting, Poilievre said the decision to pursue transgender treatments should be reserved to adults alone.

"Puberty blockers for minors? I think we should protect children and their ability to make adult decisions when they're adults," Poilievre said.

"I think we should protect the rights of parents to make their own decisions with regards to their children."

Asked to state definitively if he's opposed to puberty blockers for people under the age of 18, Poilievre said he is.

That's a step further than what Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has proposed in her province.

Smith, who announced a series of transgender policies last week, has pitched restrictions on puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and under.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned what he describes as Smith's "anti-LGBT" policies, which he said could lead to mental health troubles and an increase in suicidal thoughts among teens.

"The fact that Premier Smith and Pierre Poilievre want government to take away the option for parents and their vulnerable youth — in consultation with their doctors — to make the right decisions for them is anchored in ideology and is not about protecting the most vulnerable," Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.

Puberty blockers — hormone-suppressing agents that pause the progression of puberty — are typically prescribed to people in the early stages of puberty to halt unwanted physical changes, such as breast development or facial hair.

They are prescribed to children only after consultation with a doctor.

They may sometimes be combined with hormone therapies, which can have long-term, irreversible effects.

WATCH | Poilievre says he's against puberty blockers for transgender children 

Poilievre opposes puberty blockers for people people under 18

2 months ago
Duration 2:04
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says he does not support puberty blockers for minors. His comment comes after Alberta's government proposed restricting the medical treatment for children under 15.

The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) has said that "gender-affirming medical interventions may be an important component of comprehensive care" for some transgender or gender-diverse adolescents.

The CPS, citing scientific research, has said access to puberty blockers "has been associated with lower odds of suicidal ideation over the life course."

It has said these drugs should not be prescribed before the onset of puberty for medical reasons — and also because the puberty process is "an important experience through which young people may develop clearer understanding of their gender identity."

Cross-sex hormone therapy is a treatment used by trans people to transition and to look physically more like the gender with which they identify.

Trans men, for example, can take testosterone to help deepen their voices, increase muscle mass and promote body and facial hair.

Trans women sometimes use estrogen to increase breast size, reduce male-pattern baldness and reduce testicle size.

The CPS says hormone therapy produces both reversible and irreversible changes and should only be provided to young people who "demonstrate the capacity to understand and appreciate both the benefits and risks of these medications, given their profound effects."

Poilievre said he thinks adults with gender dysphoria should "have the freedom to make any decision they want about their bodies."

While the national conversation about trans care was prompted by Smith's policy announcement, Poilievre said Trudeau is to blame for whipping up the public and the media.

Poilievre called trans health care "a divisive wedge" that's being used by the Liberal government to "distract from doubling housing costs and quadrupling carbon taxes."

"Justin Trudeau is puffing out his chest, trying to divide Canadians and attack parents who are trying to protect their kids," he said.

Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault listens to a question as he speaks with reporters
Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault listens to a question as he speaks with reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons, Monday, February 5, 2024 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault, a gay man who has become a vocal critic of Smith's plan, has spoken out about Alberta's push to demand that some trans kids get parental consent before using their preferred names and pronouns at school.

Boissonnault told reporters Wednesday that neither Poilievre nor Smith should have a say in who should have access to certain treatments.

"That's a conversation that should take place between a young person and their doctor," he said. "I don't see MD after Pierre Poilievre's name or Danielle Smith's, so [it's] not their business."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Poilievre and Smith of "attacking vulnerable communities."

"It should be a decision between a person and their health-care provider ... not based on the opinion of Pierre Poilievre," Singh told reporters Wednesday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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