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Canadian Public Health Association

Statement on Transgender and Gender-diverse Rights and Health


Ottawa, Ontario

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial and territorial human rights codes, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child all recognize the right of children and youth to live free from discrimination, including that related to their sex, gender, gender identity and gender expression. In light of these commitments, the Canadian Public Health Association appeals to all levels of government in Canada to uphold fully the rights of trans and gender-diverse youth by protecting their rights to live at school with their chosen gender identity, to access gender-affirming healthcare, and to receive inclusive and comprehensive sexual health education. 

Public health is based on the principles of social justice, attention to human rights and equity, evidence-informed policy and practice, as well as addressing the underlying determinants of health. Our core commitment to health equity means it is crucial to identify and prevent any societal developments that threaten to worsen the health of structurally disadvantaged populations.

Such threats have been unfolding over the last several years, evidenced most recently by the January 2024 announcement of sweeping plans to limit the rights and opportunities of transgender (trans) and gender-diverse youth in Alberta, and the introduction of other harmful measures in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick in 2023. These developments include restricting youth access to gender-affirming healthcare; requiring parental notification for students wishing to change names or pronouns at school; requiring parental opt-in for any lesson on sex education, sexual orientation or gender identity; and limiting participation by trans and gender-diverse youth in sports competition.  

Evidence demonstrates the strong likelihood that grave harm will result from such measures and from the mental health impacts that will follow from heightened discrimination and stigma against trans and gender-diverse youth. As the Canadian Paediatric Society notes, trans and gender-diverse youth “report high levels of exposure to harassment and violence,” and “are at elevated risk for adverse health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide”. A 2022 study of Canadian youth found that trans and gender-diverse youth are 5 times likelier to consider suicide and 7.6 times likelier to attempt it, reflecting their greater exposure to risk factors for suicide including peer victimization, family dysfunction, and barriers to accessing mental healthcare. Given that the availability of gender-affirming care in the form of hormone therapy is known to reduce depression and suicidality, its limitation will certainly be harmful to the well-being of trans and gender-diverse youth.

2SLGBTQ+ youth are 120% likelier than other youth to be homeless. Policies that will force youth either to suppress their identities or be outed to potentially hostile parents create substantial risks of increasing homelessness, harassment, and alienation among trans and gender-diverse youth. 

For all of these reasons, it is inconceivable for any government to introduce policies with such dire implications for a structurally disadvantaged population. Such policies have no place in Canada.

For more information contact:
Dolores Gutierrez, Communications & Marketing Officer
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 190

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions that are necessary to achieve health for all.

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