Parent Groups Concerned Over Ontario ‘Gender Affirming Health Care’ Bill

Parent Groups Concerned Over Ontario ‘Gender Affirming Health Care’ Bill
The Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 18, 2021. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
Tara MacIsaac
Four NDP MPPs have introduced a bill seeking to expand the availability of “gender-affirming health care” in Ontario. It would mandate the creation of an advisory committee including representatives of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to advise the health minister on how to proceed.
The bill, Gender Affirming Health Care Advisory Committee Act, had its first reading on Nov. 16. Since then, two parent groups have responded with concern—one with a Dec. 5 letter to the legislature criticizing the bill and another with a petition against it.
One of their concerns is that the bill would make physical gender transitioning more easily available to minors. WPATH advocates for children in Tanner Stage 2 of puberty—at about 11 years old—to receive these treatments.

Another concern is that the bill does not consider research that shows other forms of mental health therapy may better help gender dysphoria. Finland and Sweden are among the countries that have limited gender transitioning after reviewing such research.

The MPPs who introduced the bill did not reply to inquiry from The Epoch Times as of publication regarding their response to these criticisms. A post on the website of NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam, one of the authors of the bill, says, “We understand that gender affirming health care is life-saving care.” Proponents have said some suicides are due to people being unable to access these treatments quickly.

Teresa Pierre of Parents as First Educators, the parent group that started the petition against Bill 42, told The Epoch Times that the idea that these treatments prevent suicide is unproven. A study that suggested so was later found to be flawed and its authors issued a correction.

The authors listed multiple flaws in the study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2020, including that “The study did not employ an adequate comparison group.”

Pierre said, “The best way to deter suicide is to provide psychological counselling.”

Health Minister’s Choice

Bill 42 is a new version of Bill 17, which died before making it to a third reading when Parliament dissolved for the June election. If the bill passes, the new committee would have six months to formulate recommendations for expanding gender-transitioning health services.

The health minister would then have 90 days to choose which recommendations to follow. The health minister would also be able to choose members of the committee, in addition to the mandated WPATH and other transgender advocates.

The Epoch Times asked Progressive Conservative Health Minister Sylvia Jones what her take is on these gender-transitioning treatments. Her spokesperson replied with a list of programs, mostly focused on mental health, that the ministry has made available.

Those programs include “specific clinics for trans populations which provide interdisciplinary primary care services, including mental health services.”

Objections to WPATH Advising Policy

Canadian Gender Report is the name of the group that wrote a letter to the Ontario Legislature on Dec. 5. The group describes itself as parents and professionals concerned about the medical transition of children and gender identity teaching in schools.

It wrote that WPATH “is not a reliable source of medical guidelines. The organization consists of professionals who earn their income providing gender-affirming care and activists who have an ideological commitment to this model.”

One of the criticisms that Canadian Gender Report raises against WPATH is that in its published Standards of Care recommendations, it includes a chapter on eunuchs, the opening paragraphs of which link to a website hosting stories of castration fantasies including some involving children.

The website in question includes a chatroom, forum, and fictional stories available to members only. The Epoch Times read one such story copied and cited by the blog and podcast Women’s Voices.

The group Parents as First Educators said in the introduction to their petition against Bill 42: “The Bill provides a list of who should be consulted for advice, and guess what? Parents are not even listed. … Bill 42 proposes that the committee take its guidance from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) instead.

“This organization is staffed by physicians and activists with a pronounced bias toward the gender affirming model of care, which will compromise their ability to issue neutral, objective guidelines on the treatment of gender dysphoric individuals.”

The ‘Watchful Waiting’ Model

Canadian Gender Report cites in its letter the actions taken in Finland and other countries to limit access to gender transitioning.

The Finnish Health Authority issued new guidelines in 2020, saying that psychotherapy should be the first line of treatment for minors with gender dysphoria. It found that adolescents with gender dysphoria were more likely to have psychiatric disorders and developmental difficulties, including autism.

An unofficial translation of the recommendations, done by the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine, says, “Clinical experience reveals that autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are overrepresented among adolescents suffering from gender dysphoria.”

It says, “In light of available evidence, gender reassignment of minors is an experimental practice. …  Information about the potential harms of hormone therapies is accumulating slowly and is not systematically reported.”

Both parent groups expressed concern that co-occurring mental health conditions are not properly considered or treated in cases of youth with gender dysphoria.

Canadian Gender Report’s letter said, “There is a large cohort of people who experience gender distress as children but found that it resolved without the need to transition. Additionally, there is a rapidly growing group of detransitioners who have found that gender affirming care harmed their physical and mental health.”

The group cited James M. Cantor of the Toronto Sexuality Centre whose 2019 study criticized endorsements of gender affirmation treatments for youth as ignoring “any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases.” He said “almost all clinics and professional associations in the world use what’s called the watchful waiting approach.”
Some human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Liberty have argued in favour of physical transitioning, particularly the use of puberty blockers. These two groups wrote a joint statement in 2020, saying “There must be no further curbs to the bodily autonomy and determination of any young person, particularly young trans people and anyone who wants to access gender-specific health care.”

Parents as First Educators (PAFE) said, “Instead of travelling further down the road of incredibly damaging and life-altering ‘health care,’ the Ontario government ought to scrap this unproven and high risk ‘care’ model.”

With a Progressive Conservative majority, this opposition bill may not make it far. But another NDP-proposed bill PAFE opposed surprised them when it made it through last year. Bill 67, Ontario’s Racial Equity in the Education System Act—which critics including PAFE say brings the controversial critical race theory into Canadian classrooms—passed first and second reading almost unanimously in the last session of legislature before an election was called.