New Brunswick is now the second province to be taken to court over its 'parental rights' legislation despite earning praise from most Maritimers, according to Angus Reid polling.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which pressed Saskatchewan to reconsider similar legislation, is taking the New Brunswick government to court over its pronoun policy that became official on July 1.
Policy 713 establishes that transgender or 'non-binary' students under 16 cannot change their names or pronouns in school without parental consent. Their legal name would be present on report cards and official documentation.
Published in August, an Angus Reid poll reported that 34% of Atlantic Canadians want to be informed and provide consent on name and pronoun changes.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of Maritimers said parents should have no role in their children's decisions. In contrast, a third (33%) want to stay informed on changes to their child's gender identity.
According to the CCLA, the policy's consultation process was "fundamentally flawed and unfair," citing a lack of consultation with education, medical and legal experts, reported Saltwire.
"The minister has created confusion throughout the education system that is causing great harm to 2SLGBTQ+ students," said Harini Sivalingam, the association's equality director.
"Worse, the minister of education has kept revising and changing government rules that apply only to trans and gender students, creating discrimination, disadvantage and harm."
New Brunswick Education Minister Bill Hogan and his ministry began their review of Policy 713 on April 21 "after hearing concerns and misunderstandings of its implementation" and fielding hundreds of complaints "at least" from parents worried about school board policies.
Faytene Grasseschi, a mother of two from Quispamsis, authored a petition defending Premier Blaine Higgs with more than 11,000 signatures.
Pro-life advocacy organization RightNow also received 800 signatures on its petition that claimed opponents to the premier had more bark than bite.
"We want to have a conversation with New Brunswickers so we can hear their views, address misconceptions and concerns, and provide the very best educational environment for all our students," said Hogan, excluding the New Brunswick Teachers' Association and others.
While opponents of the policy worry it would lead to harsh repercussions at home for some students, Higgs said not amending Policy 713 results in "keeping secrets" from parents.
"For it purposefully to be hidden from the parents, that's a problem," he told reporters then. "To suggest that it's OK that parents don't need to know — just stop and think about that question for a moment."
"We're teaching kids to develop and grow, and they need to be making decisions as they get older and they get wiser. Are we trying to teach tolerance and acceptance, or are we trying to teach promotion?"
However, the CCLA claimed that invoking 'parental rights' in the new policy contradicts the Education Act and the Human Rights Act to the detriment of 'gender-diverse' students.
"The policy discriminates against trans and gender-diverse students. It treats them differently than their peers because they are trans and gender-diverse," said Sivalingam.
"We are commencing legal action because the minister's changes to Policy 713 erode protections for some of the most vulnerable students in the province."
In June, six government MLAs voted against the policy, triggering a review by New Brunswick's child and youth advocate, who found it violated children's rights.
Saskatchewan's advocate is also undergoing a similar review of its provincial policy.
On September 8, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe addressed budding criticism from "interest groups," including the September 14 court challenge by UR Pride.
"In light of some criticism and court challenges funded by out-of-province interest groups, our government has been asked if we are serious about protecting parents' rights in education or if we plan to back down," said Moe.
"We are not backing down."
"Given the importance of parents' involvement in their child's life and specifically […] their child's education, we are very serious. Serious enough to introduce legislation to protect parental rights when we return to the legislature," he said.
Half (50%) of Saskatchewanians want to be informed and provide consent on name and pronoun changes. Whereas 36% want to stay informed on changes to their child's gender identity.
Only 10% said parents should have no role in their children's decisions.