Alphabet activists target parental rights with lawsuit against Saskatchewan pronoun policy

The injunction defies the majority-favoured parental consent policy and will halt it's implementation while awaiting legal review.

LGBTQ group files lawsuit over Saskatchewan's 'pronoun' policy
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards, Justin Tang, Stephen MacGillivray
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An LGBTQ lobby has joined forces with law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP to sue the government of Saskatchewan over its recently unveiled 'pronoun' policy, despite the majority of parents being opposed to school-sanctioned secrecy.

Egale Canada, an LGBTQ advocacy group, contends the government policy violates the Charter of Rights of sexual minorities.

"The policy will cause devastating and irreparable harm to gender diverse students […] who do not feel safe coming out at home," they penned in a letter on behalf of UR Pride.

The policy gives Saskatchewan parents reassurances that students under the age of 16 must receive their permission to change their name or pronouns at school.

An Angus Reid poll this week said that 43% of Canadians want to be informed and provide consent on name and pronoun changes. Whereas 35% want to stay informed on changes to their child's gender identity.

Only 14% said parents should have no role in their children's decisions.

Half (50%) of parents in Saskatchewan clarified that parental consent is necessary.

"We're concerned about the legality of the new policy. We think it's important that this policy is challenged," said Harini Sivalingam, CCLA Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) equality program director.

"These policies have a discriminatory impact on trans and gender-diverse students," she said, claiming that 'cisgender' students who want to use a nickname don't require parental consent. "This has a discriminatory effect that will cause harm to trans students."

On August 31, UR Pride, a regional LGBTQ advocacy group in Saskatchewan, filed for an injunction in Regina's Court of King's Bench with the province's 27 school divisions as respondents. 

Sivalingam adds that CCLA supports the legal challenge by UR Pride as it will pause the implementation of the 'pronoun' policy until a judge can rule on its lawfulness.

The court action follows through on an ultimatum issued Tuesday by legal counsel in a letter to Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill.

However, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education "remains committed to implementing the policy."

"The Government maintains its position that parents and guardians have a key role in protecting and supporting their children as they grow and develop and will do everything in its power to protect parental rights," they said in a statement.

For concerned residents like Nadine Ness, the "unified grassroots" in the province opposes the injunction and believes the province has its right to the policy.

"Parents need to be involved in all matters when it comes to their kids," she posted on X, formerly Twitter. "We are working with a legal team representing parents and parental rights."

Alongside UR Pride, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is also exploring potential legal action against the New Brunswick Tories over a similar policy that took effect on July 1.

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 undergoing a similar review of the provincial policy.

"[The legal action] demonstrates the fundamental flaws in these policies that restrict and violate students' rights in schools, and they should be carefully evaluated," said Sivalingam.

The application will be heard on September 14 at the King's Bench in Regina.

When asked about New Brunswick's policy change, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre urged the federal government to stay out of provincial matters.

"The prime minister has no business in decisions that should rest with provinces and parents. Let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids," he said.

Marci Ien, Canada's minister for women, gender equality, and youth, however, denounced the policies, claiming it put transgender and 'non-binary' kids in a "life-or-death situation."

Minister Marci Ien said the federal Liberal government keeps an eye on what unfolds but declined to comment further on Ottawa's involvement in any court challenge.

On Thursday, NDP LGBTQ critic Randall Garrison said, "Words are not enough."

"The government must immediately implement concrete measures to protect 2SLGBTQI+ kids — like increasing funding for trans and gender-diverse organizations and making comprehensive gender-affirming health care a reality across Canada," he said. 

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