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NDP, Plains Cree doctor slam Alberta premier’s transgender policy changes

February 1, 2024

APTN News: A Plains Cree physician who practices family medicine in Alberta says it’s shameful that Conservative Premier Danielle Smith is playing politics with transgender issues.

“It’s really important to know that people don’t do this [gender affirmation] lightly,” said Dr. James Makokis, who identifies as Two-Spirit and works directly with trans patients. “It is something that they’ve known their entire life.

“And clinicians do thorough assessments of ensuring that people when they say they’re trans, they’re trans and we just ensure that there’s not medical contra-indications to doing so and there is a thorough assessment process of that.”

On Wednesday, Smith announced a number of policy changes on social media that will restrict medical access to those seeking gender affirmation therapy – especially transgender youth.

“One of the greatest responsibilities we as parents, teachers and community leaders have is to preserve for our children the right to grow and develop into mature adults so that they are better prepared to make the most impactful decisions affecting their lives,” Smith said.

Under the proposed changes, gender reassignment surgeries for those under 18-years-old would be banned, hormone therapy for children under 16 would not be allowed and parental consent required for students 16-and-under who want to use preferred names and pronouns.

NDP MP Blake Desjarlais with NDP opposition leader Rachel Notely, left, at a news conference in Ottawa. Photo: Fraser Needham/APTN.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, along with NDP MPs held a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday to address the proposed changes.

“I am so deeply, deeply concerned for what this means for transgendered and other marginalized youth within the community,” Notley said. “We know that houseless children disproportionately come from these communities because the relationships with their families have broken down.”

Blake Desjarlais, who is the first MP to openly identify as Two-Spirit, said the proposed restrictions would be nothing short of draconian.

“We know exactly the outcomes of these types of programs when young people are targeted,” he said. “The outcomes of these programs are horrific. Whether it’s the program that tells them their identity isn’t real or if it’s the program that they ought not to exist in these spaces. This continues in that tradition.”

Makokis, from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation and practices medicine in Kehewin Cree Nation south Edmonton, said regardless of what happens, the Alberta government’s transgender policy proposals won’t change the work he does.

“I want to affirm to my patients, my Indigenous patients, my non-Indigenous patients, my gender diverse patients, my trans patients that I will continue to practice trans and gender affirming care on the reserve in a place where we have our own jurisdiction and continue to prescribe these life-saving medications that absolutely make a difference,” he said.

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Fraser Needham,