Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre suggested Wednesday that transgender women should not be permitted in “female spaces.”

Poilievre made the comment in response to a question from a fringe right-wing website asking about transgender women’s participation in sports and access to “female spaces.”

“Female spaces should be exclusively for females, not for biological males,” Poilievre told reporters at a press conference in Kitchener on Wednesday.

“But obviously female sports, female change rooms, female bathrooms should be for females, not for biological males.”

Asked if a Conservative government would bring in laws to enforce that position, Poilievre said that most of the “spaces” the question referred to are provincially or municipally controlled, so it’s not clear what impact legislation from Ottawa would have. But he did not rule out federal legislation.

Global News asked Poilievre’s spokesperson, Sebastian Skamski, how Poilievre defined a “biological female” and whether his position is that transgender women should not have access to “female spaces” or participate in female sport.

Skamski had not responded to those questions as of the time of this publication.

Video: Poilievre weighs in on Alberta trans policies for kids, says he’s against puberty blockers

The Conservative Party’s policy declaration, last updated in 2023 and adopted from proposals brought forward by the party membership, defines “woman” as a “female person.”

“The Conservative Party of Canada believes that women are entitled to the safety, dignity, and privacy of single-sex spaces (e.g., prisons, shelters, lock rooms, washrooms) and the benefits of women-only categories (e.g., sports, awards, grants, scholarships),” the policy, which was proposed and supported by the Conservative rank-and-file, reads.

In a statement Wednesday, the Society for Queer Momentum — a group founded last year to combat the rise in "anti-queer and anti-trans" hatred — accused Poilievre of bulling a "small and vulnerable minority group" and said his comments make him unfit to lead Canada.

"Pierre Poilievre should issue a retraction and apologize to queer and trans people across the country for his harmful comments. Attacking LGBTQ+ people for political gain is just gross," said Fae Johnstone, the group's executive director, in a statement.

Speaking to reporters in Edmonton later Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused conservative politicians of using transgender rights as a distraction from some of the more substantial issues facing Canadians.

Video: ‘Shame’: Trudeau responds to Poilievre remark that ‘female spaces should be exclusively for females’

"One might wonder why this is the theme that right-wing politicians are trying to stir up as much as possible. For me, it's fairly obvious that they don't want to be talking about housing, they don't want to be talking about bringing in more competition in the grocery sector, as we are as a government," Trudeau said.

"So let far-right politicians pick fights with trans kids. Shame on them. And of course, as a government, we're going to be there to protect our most vulnerable."

In Canada, all provinces and territories provide health coverage for individuals seeking sex re-assignment surgeries, though access to that care varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. According to Statistics Canada, 100,815 Canadians aged 15 or older identified as transgender (59,460) or non-binary (41,355) in 2021, roughly 0.33 per cent of the population.

Conservative governments in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have attempted to put limits on children’s ability to choose how they’re addressed at school, including their preferred pronouns and chosen name.

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A Saskatchewan judge ruled on Friday that a Charter challenge can proceed against that province’s law, which requires parental consent for a student to change their pronouns or name.

The laws are widely seen as an import from the United States’ culture wars, where several Republican-controlled states have introduced sweeping laws targeting transgender citizens.

The Liberal government brought in new protections to protect gender identity and gender expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2017. The law also extended hate speech provisions to gender expression and identity.

The bill passed with the support of 38 Conservative MPs, while 40 voted against it — the only MPs from any party to vote against the bill. Poilievre was not listed as voting on Bill C-16 in Parliamentary records.

Speaking to reporters in Toronto Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Poilievre of not “being serious” about tackling threats to women and said evidence shows where violence against women is coming from.

Video: ‘Standing with the bullies’: Boissonnault slams Poilievre for silence on trans youth rights

“If you’ve got clear and ample evidence that the real causes of violence against women are from partners, male partners, and you know that the real threat against women in sports is discriminatory pay … and violence by coaches by women, that’s the real serious concerns women are raising. And you don’t address that?” he said. “It shows that Pierre Poilievre is not serious.”

Poilievre was also asked about a controversial Senate bill that would require porn sites to verify users’ age.

The bill, brought forward by independent Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne in 2021, would fine sites up to $250,000 per infraction if they fail to verify their users’ age.

No method of verification is set out in the legislation, however.

Asked if a future Conservative government would enact similar legislation, Poilievre responded, “Yes.”

Skamski, Poilievre’s spokesperson, later clarified that Conservatives would not allow the imposition of “digital IDs” for Canadians or “infringe on the privacy of adults and their freedom to access legal content online.”

2024-02-21T22:53:10Z dg43tfdfdgfd