Tory grassroots vote against surgical, pharmaceutical care for transgender kids

By Stephanie Taylor in Québec

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 and 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.

Before it did, two delegates came to the mic to urge others adopt the motion, suggesting minors are simply too young to make such decisions. 

Another pair of delegates said they stood against the matter, with one saying health care belongs in provincial, not federal jurisdiction. One said age is not tied to consent and chided a vote in favour of the change is like flying in the face of the freedom Conservatives value.

The vote comes as the issue of gender identity and children has gained increasing traction among conservatives in both Canada and the United States. 

Despite a push from some social conservatives to wade into debate, Poilievre has so far resisted doing so, instead focusing the party’s attention on issues of affordability which he spoke about at length during an hour-long speech to the convention’s more than 2,500 attendees Friday night. 

The premiers in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have also ushered in their own changes 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.

Poilievre was asked about New Brunswick’s decision earlier this summer, and 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. 

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. 

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.

A second gender-related motion that passed with nearly 90 per cent of the vote from delegates amends party policy to say it believes that women should have access to “single-sex spaces” in areas like prisons, bathrooms and sports. 

Limiting transgender individuals from accessing spaces that align with their gender identity has been banned by a series of bills in U.S. state legislatures. 

HE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

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