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Update: UCP Lacombe-Ponoka candidate issues apology after transphobic comments surface

A Lacombe-Ponoka UCP candidate is facing criticism for transphobic comments made at a forum in 2022.
UCP Lacombe-Ponoka candidate Jennifer Johnson is facing calls to resign from her political opponents after recordings of questionable comments leaked earlier this week. (Contributed photo)

A Lacombe-Ponoka UCP candidate is facing criticism for transphobic comments made at a forum in 2022.

The comments made by UCP candidate Jennifer Johnson, were at a Western Unity Group forum last September, according to several media reports.

In the leaked recording, Johnson said in regards to transgender youth, that “we’re allowing them to be chemically castrated and sterilized”.

She also allegedly accused teachers of showing elementary children hardcore pornography and suggested getting rid of sex education in K-12 schools.

Johnson issued an apology in an email statement Wednesday.

“Although I am concerned about potentially life altering medical procedures for young children, this is an extremely sensitive topic for so many and I need to do a much better job communicating my concerns and objectives in a manner that is respectful to teachers, parents and those in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community,” She said in a statement.

“I apologize for the way I discussed these issues in September of 2022. I have nothing but love and compassion for everyone equally and am embarrassed that I have caused hurt in this way.

“If elected as an MLA, I will seek advice and counsel on how to best communicate my views and discuss these issues meaningfully moving forward.”

“These comments do not represent Lacombe-Ponoka or anywhere in Alberta. They are extreme, appalling, discriminatory, backwards, and they risk inciting hate and violence against 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans,” said Janis Irwin, Alberta NDP candidate for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

“These are horrific lies about Alberta’s education system that are dangerous and disturbing. Claiming that teachers are showing children pornography does not have a place in this election. Jennifer Johnson owes Alberta’s teachers, parents, and students an apology, and Danielle Smith needs to do the right thing and immediately drop her as a candidate.”

In a statement Tuesday, Johnson said she was addressing issues she had heard about in the United States.

“The comments I made last year were based on what I saw parents’ experiencing in the United States and not about Alberta classrooms. Our situation in Alberta is quite different,” Johnson said in the statement.

“For example: if parents are concerned about content in classrooms there is a process that can be followed with the school division and ultimately could go to the teaching profession commissioner if there was a serious issue. Our party has an immense amount of respect for our teachers and front-line workers that work daily to make every single student feel safe, included, and cared for in our schools.”

Alberta Party Lacombe-Ponoka candidate Myles Chykerda said hate has no place in their riding.

“It’s easy to downplay these occurrences of hate when it’s some anonymous person driving by in a tinted-window vehicle, but another when they come from an individual who is seeking to become our MLA and take all the responsibilities that go with that position,” Chykerda said.

“There can be no room for this kind of hate and intolerance in our Alberta. We cannot have a government that rests its decision-making on internet rumours. And we must not let misunderstandings and unfounded fear shape our community.”

NDP candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka Dave Dale, a Grade 6 teacher in Delburne, called for Johnson’s removal.

“The comments made by UCP candidate Jennifer Johnson are shameful, dangerous, and harmful. As a teacher myself, I stand in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQ+ community and my colleagues in denouncing this hate,” he tweeted Monday night.

In parts of the recording, it was also suggested that Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School has litter boxes in bathrooms.

A debunked conspiracy theory that has widely circulated on social media has claimed that schools have litter boxes for students who identify as cats.

“The UCP’s conspiracy theory candidates put students and teachers at risk. Johnson’s actions have specifically attacked and slandered the teachers of Lindsay Thurber. Johnson must be removed as a candidate and the UCP must apologize,” said Jaelene Tweedle, Alberta NDP candidate for Red Deer-North.

“I call today on Adriana LaGrange to publicly denounce Jennifer Johnson and call for her removal,” Tweedle said.

“Will she reject these conspiracy theories, or continue to stand with Johnson and support them? The constituents of Red Deer-North deserve to know.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Johnson’s apology.

About the Author: Red Deer Advocate Staff

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