The BC father who was unsuccessful preventing his 14 year old daughter from medical gender transition was sentenced to 6 months in prison last week. He had shared information about the therapist and doctors treating his daughter and had continued to voice his concerns about medical transitioning. This was in violation of a publication ban on the court case in which the names of the professionals treating his child were protected from being disclosed and he was not authorized to speak about the case or circumstances surrounding the case.
Canadian Gender Report spoke with the father some time ago. Medical transition of children is an issue of moral conscience and it was obvious that he was very distraught that his daughter was making life-changing decisions with the full support of “professionals” who didn’t seem to consider whether medical transition was the only or best option for his daughter.
Like many other parents of trans-identified teens, the BC father was concerned that schools are introducing the idea of “being transgender” with their SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) curriculum and resources. He told us that his daughter had been comfortable with in her body until the school had introduced the idea of “gender” and promoted identifying as a gender that is different from your biological sex.
The girl started to identify as a boy and the school introduced her to a counsellor where she began to receive therapy. The therapist who counselled his daughter has recently come under investigation by his College for telling children and parents to threaten suicide to get what they want. This statement was recorded on video at an event where the therapist appeared frustrated that trans-identified children were not receiving access to medical transition fast enough.
The BC father also expressed to us that there was no objective assessment of the evidence for medical transition. Any attempts by his lawyers to raise concerns about the lack of evidence was met with “we follow the WPATH standard”. The WPATH “standard of care” is a loose guidance document that has undergone a dramatic shift in recent years away from objective evidence and caution. Given the recent finding of fact in the Kiera Bell case in the UK that medical gender transition of young people is an experimental treatment, the WPATH “standard of care” is effectively meaningless. A well-positioned court case in Canada in future will be able to determine the same finding of fact.
The court also found his insistence upon referring to his daughter by her biological sex to be unacceptable and at one point issued a court order against this by referring to it as “family violence”. This court order was eventually overturned.
The BC father’s case reflects a very difficult and unfortunate situation in Canada. The onus of responsibility for consent to medical gender transition is being placed solely on the shoulders of vulnerable young people. This can create conflict within families when parents are not supportive of their children’s decisions.
There is no minimum age for children to be able to consent to these life-changing medical procedures in BC or Ontario, though age 14 appears to be the point where healthcare professionals are comfortable allowing children to make their own decisions. The federal government’s Bill C6, purported to be a ban on conversion therapy, will further prevent parents and healthcare professionals from advocating against medical gender transition for a child if they don’t consider it to be in a patient’s best interest because this would not be “affirming”.
The BC father’s original court case tested whether one parent could prevent their child from transitioning when the child and another parent and healthcare professionals were in support. This case was unsuccessful, however, it’s ill-advised that the burden of consent be shouldered solely by children and young people given the experimental nature of these medical interventions.
It is the position of Canadian Gender Report that young people do not have the capacity to consent to life-changing medical gender transition and that the responsibility to determine whether a child’s request for medical transition will be in their long term best interest must be shouldered by parents and healthcare professionals. In the case of foster children, the State must shoulder this responsibility.
The ruling in the Kiera Bell case in the UK determined that medical gender transition of children and young people is “experimental”, that there is insufficient evidence of long-term outcomes and that young people are therefore unable to consent to treatment when the healthcare professionals themselves do not understand the potential outcomes or risks. A subsequent ruling clearly passed the burden of consent to parents and healthcare professionals for transitioning children and adolescents up to age 18.
“The gravity of the decision to consent to puberty blockers is very great, but it is no more enormous than consenting to a child being allowed to die.”Justice Lieven
The effect of the recent court rulings in the UK will be to ensure that an independent second opinion is sought and presented to the court for consideration if there are any conflicts or disagreements between parents or clinicians. We’d like to see a similar practice in Canada to ensure that our healthcare professionals are acting in the best interests of children and that all perspectives, including from parents, are being taken into consideration. The current model of a child-led process for medical gender transition which reputable Canadian children’s hospitals have started referring to as a “gender journey” is irresponsible given the risk of regret and life-changing impacts that are involved.