More than 400 Canadian artists sign letter denouncing 'anti-trans' policies

More than 400 Canadian artists from the worlds of music, film and literature are denouncing what they describe as "alarming and destructive" anti-trans legislation in an open letter released Sunday by music superstars Tegan and Sara.

The list of stars who signed the letter includes actor Elliot Page, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, actress Elisha Cuthbert, folk music legend Neil Young, recent Grammy winner Allison Russell and the two surviving members of classic children's entertainment act Sharon, Lois and Bram.

"The anti-trans policies taking root in Canada go beyond discrimination — they present a clear risk to the mental and physical well-being of trans individuals throughout the country," reads the letter.

The letter calls out Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s planned pronoun policies for gender diverse children in schools, as well as proposed restrictions for youth seeking gender-affirming care. It also highlights similar school-based pronoun policies in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as examples of discriminatory legislation targeting transgender youth.

Last week at the Juno Awards, Tegan and Sara were recognized with the humanitarian award, and on the red carpet the sisters discussed their concern about the government policies that target trans youth.

“Right now we are seeing this wave of anti-trans legislation across Canada, across the United States,” Sara Quin said March 24, moments ahead of the awards ceremony.

“So we see our work as being proactive to make sure people understand that this is happening now and not later.”

Tegan Quin said she’d “encourage all government and all the adults out there that are obsessing over these things to focus on things that are more pressing," she said, listing climate change, the housing crisis and sharp rise in opioid-related deaths.

The artists who signed the letter, including singer Anne Murray, director Deepa Mehta and author Michael Crummey, say they are against these school-based pronoun policies and proposed bans on hormone therapy, and are calling on all levels of government to put a stop to such harmful legislation.

Other notable signatories include Juno award-winning singer-songwriter Aysanabee, comedian Colin Mochrie, and musical acts Feist, Tokyo Police Club, Metric and The Beaches. The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois, Schitt’s Creek actress Emily Hampshire and Rufus Wainwright also signed the open letter.

The timing of the letter coincides with Transgender Day of Visibility, which is dedicated to raising awareness of discrimination faced by the trans community.

Tegan and Sara were recognized by the Junos last week for their work with LGBTQ+ youth with an award presented to them by Halifax-born actor Elliot Page.

"We are at a time in history where the rights of 2SLGBTQ+ people are being revoked, restricted and eliminated throughout the world, and the effects of which are devastating," Page said before presenting the duo with the award.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2024.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press