Pierre Poilievre finally broke his silence on Policy 713 after weeks of not saying if New Brunswick teachers should inform parents when children change their names and pronouns.
On Tuesday, the Tory leader told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he has no business weighing in on provincial policy. He called Trudeau to "let parents raise [their] kids."
Earlier this month, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs passed education reform on the gender identity of students after parental backlash sparked considerable debate.
On June 8, the province passed Policy 713. It 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.
A SecondStreet.org-sanctioned poll said 57% of Canadians believe schools should inform parents if their child discusses changing their gender pronouns or transitioning. Only 18% disagreed with this statement, while 25% didn't know.
Nationwide, most schools are not legally required to inform parents about gender transitions. However, the highly-anticipated reform - first introduced in 2020 - balances protecting parental rights while maintaining a 'safe' learning environment for sexual minorities.
The policy comes into effect on July 1.
On Tuesday, reporters in Moncton asked Poilievre whether he stands with Higgs on parental rights. He called it "provincial policy."
"I know that Justin Trudeau has butted into that. The prime minister has no business in decisions that should rest with provinces and parents," he said. "My message to Justin Trudeau is, 'Butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids.'"
Soon after the New Brunswick Tories passed the legislation, Trudeau claimed: "Trans kids in [that province] are being told they don't have the right to be their true selves."
"Trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians," claimed the prime minister. "We need to stand against this."
Opponents of the amended policy, including cabinet ministers, worry it may lead to harsh repercussions at home for some students should their parents learn they changed their gender identity.
Arlene Dunn, minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, signed a letter expressing disappointment in the amended Policy 713.
Former ministers Dorothy Shephard, who served as social development minister, and Trevor Holder, who had been labour minister, voted against the government over the issue. Both resigned before Tuesday's cabinet shuffle by Higgs.
In addition, he dropped Daniel Allain, who served as the local government minister, and Jeff Carr, transport minister, on Tuesday, joining their colleagues who resigned earlier in June.
The new cabinet sworn in Tuesday succeeds the recent resignations of two ministers who objected to the premier's leadership style and his changes to school policy on LGBTQ students. Higgs named five new ministers to the 18-person cabinet, and he changed eight positions in the shuffle.
"I think when you have cabinet ministers that take a position against the government in the legislature, voting against [it] in the legislature, it's very significant," he told reporters. "If you look at the parliamentary system we operate under, cabinet support is paramount."
On May 18, the premier said the current policy results in "keeping secrets" from parents and is thereby "a problem."
"For it purposefully to be hidden from the parents, that's a problem," he said. "To suggest that it's OK that parents don't need to know — just stop and think about that question for a moment."
Education Minister Bill Hogan concurred that parents have a right to know something significant as their little girl suddenly identifies as a boy or something else altogether.
The education ministry began its 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.
"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.
The province did not consult the New Brunswick Teachers' Association on the new policy.
Higgs added that drag queen story hours are also not appropriate for children.
"Are we asking whether elementary and kindergarten kids should be exposed to drag queen reading time? That's what you're asking because I don't think they should be at that age."