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So-called Parental Rights Policies Cut Against Indigenous Self-determination



This is part one of a four part series that discusses how Danielle Smith’s Proposed so-called parental rights policies parallel and contribute to ongoing settler-colonial violence.


Among the proposed policies are bans on hormone therapy and puberty blockers for people under 18 years of age, even with the consent of their parents and mandating that teachers out their trans students who wish to go by a different name or pronouns at school. 


The policies affect all transgender youth, but uniquely affect Indigenous youth. At the individual level, poorer lifetime health outcomes associated with being Indigenous compound with poorer outcomes associated with being transgender. This places transgender and two spirit Indigenous youth in an unfairly precarious position. Not to mention the despair that can follow knowing that this a distraction from recent bad press such as a complete lack of wildfire planning [1], disastrously bad water resource management [2], encampment clearings [3] and recent near-failures of the power grid. [4]


At the level of intersocietal relations, these policies continue a long tradition of gender-based colonialism. Gender essentialism is a means and ends of colonialism. Professor Val Napoleon writes that prior to colonization, Indigenous societies were more tolerant and welcoming of various sexualities and gender identities than they are today. [5] When we talk about how Indigenous societies have different ways of being and knowing, we are talking about gender identity.


So-called parental rights, or the idea that children are the property of their parents, has no place in any democratic society. On Secwepmec child rearing practices, Nancy Sandy writes that children are first bundled tightly, and taught to see the world in 360 degrees. [6] As children come to understand their place in the world by observing, their bundles are loosened and they begin to interact more with the world around them. [7]  Children are not directed to conform to a particular role in society, but instead are encouraged to pursue whatever identity comes most naturally to them. [8]


Perhaps, if they took the time to listen, Premier Danielle Smith and her entourage could learn something.


On Tuesday, we will write about the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Reference re An Act Respecting First Nations, Metis and Inuit Children Youth and Families, before resuming this series.


Until next time,


The ReconciliACTIONyeg team


[5] Val Napoleon, "Raven's Garden : A Discussion about Aboriginal Sexual Orientation and Transgender Issues" (2014) 17 Can JL & Soc

[6] Nancy Sandy, “Stsqey’ulecw Re St’exelcemc (St’exelemc Laws from the Land”(2016) 33 Windsor YB Access Just 187

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid


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