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No, Canada Will Not Take Your Child Away If You Disagree With Their Gender Identity

Ontario's Bill 89 does add protections for children in care, but the government says it will not have unfettered power to take kids away from their parents.

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Stories claiming that a new Canadian law lets the government remove a child from a family if the parents don’t accept the child’s gender identity have gone viral on conservative websites in the US. But the government says the reports are false.

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Ontario's Bill 89 became law on June 1. The Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act is an update to the province's child welfare laws, including child protective services, foster care, and adoption.

One of the most noteworthy changes is around gender. Accommodating a child's gender identity or gender expression is now given the same protection as race, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation, bringing it in line with the province's human rights code.

While the passage of Bill 89 received little attention from mainstream Canadian news outlets, it was big news on many conservative websites.

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Some of the stories have described Bill 89 as a "totalitarian" law, suggesting that government agents will have the power to remove children from their homes for opposing "gender ideology," or that the bill was targeting Christian families in particular.

A story on the conservative news site Heat Street received more than 167,000 Facebook shares, comments, and reactions with the headline "Canada’s New Law Lets Government Take Children Away If Parents Don’t Accept Their Gender Identity."

The government of Ontario, however, says those stories are misleading.

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"Bill 89 does not give the government power to seize children from families based on a parent that disagrees with a child’s gender identification. Any suggestion of the sort is false," Alicia Ali, a spokesperson for Michael Coteau, Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth Services, told BuzzFeed News in an email.

Coteau said earlier this year that it could be considered abuse "when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying no," according to QP Briefing.

Coteau appears to have been talking specifically about children in foster care. He said denying a child's gender identity would be akin to "a child in care being told not to believe in Jesus Christ."

The Ontario child advocate’s office, an independent watchdog organization that reports to the provincial legislature, also said fears over Bill 89 were not matched by what is in the legislation.

Mere disagreement with a child about their gender identity or gender expression is not enough to bring the child into care. Instead, it has to be part of "a pattern of abuse, neglect or serious emotional harm" before removing the child can be considered, according to Akihito Tse, a spokesperson for the advocate's office.

The reasons a child may require protection are laid out in section 74(2) of Bill 89. There is no specific reference to gender identity or gender expression, but if a child is suffering sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, including "serious" psychological effects, child welfare agencies may intervene.

As Tse noted, there is a high threshold for ever removing a child from their family, and the decision to take a young person into care cannot be made by government bureaucrats and child aid workers alone.

"There is a clear process through which the final decision is made by a judge," Tse said.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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