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BC-based conservative group views NB’s LGBTQ policy change as a potential precedent for Canada


The Higgs administration’s changes to its policies toward LGBTQ students in New Brunswick’s schools are drawing national attention.

The controversy leads at least one LGBTQ person to question whether they want to live here — while at the same time prompting some recruiters to lure New Brunswickers into leaving.

And a conservative Christian group in British Columbia says the debate is a test case for their efforts to roll back LGBTQ policies in schools across the country.

“Counties across the country are paying attention to what is going on in New Brunswick as these decisions will impact the rest of the country,” said Tanya Gaw, the founder of Action4Canada, who is inundating MLAs in New Brunswick with emails.

“I believe this program should be removed from the school system across the country,” Gaw said in an interview.

Tanya Gaw, the founder of a conservative Christian group in British Columbia, lobbies vigorously with MLAs in New Brunswick. (CBC/Zoom)

Secretary of Education Bill Hogan announced the results of the review of Policy 713 on June 7.

One of the changes is ending the obligation for teachers to respect the names and pronouns of children under 16 in the classroom, regardless of parental consent.

Wren Hicks, who grew up in Fredericton and runs a customer support department for a Montreal company, was thinking about moving back to the province to do that work remotely until they heard about the Policy 713 review.

“Seeing some of the conversation topics that I see reflect things that we’re seeing from the United States, and that’s really terrifying,” said Hicks, who identifies as non-binary and uses gender-neutral pronouns.

“And on top of that, to be the very first place in Canada to actually roll back rights — it really makes you think, how much of a part of the province thinks like that? How many people are there that hate me without knowing me?”

A person with square glasses with a black rim and short teal hair
Wren Hicks, who grew up in Fredericton and works in Montreal, was thinking about moving back to the province until they heard about the Policy 713 review. (Submitted by Wren Hicks)

Hicks and their partner were “quite a lot of months away” from moving, but see the government’s move as reflecting at least some degree of public support.

“I hadn’t stopped to think about what the sentiment was in New Brunswick around LBGTQ. Things like this don’t really come up until there’s enough basis that someone thinks they’re reaching out to.’

“We welcome,” says the minister

Haley Flaro, the executive director of Ability New Brunswick, says she was recently approached about an out-of-county job by a recruiter who correctly suspected she was dissatisfied with the policy changes.

“They said, ‘Listen, we’re watching the dialogue that’s happening in New Brunswick. We know you’re passionate about inclusion and we can tell you our province is moving forward. We’re moving forward, justice is important and you need to go to our province,” Flaro said.

A portrait of a smiling woman.
Haley Flaro of Ability New Brunswick says she was asked questions on a recent work trip to Calgary about “why all those steps back” on Policy 713. (Radio Canada)

“I thought, okay, this makes sense. The discourse is reaching the rest of Canada.”

Hogan told reporters Wednesday that there is no reason for anyone to leave New Brunswick or hesitate to come here.

“I think in New Brunswick we welcome all cultures and all identities,” he said.

“I don’t see any evidence against that. … We want people to come to New Brunswick. We’re moving. This is the place to be.”

Liberal leader Susan Holt warned in the legislature on Tuesday that the policy review would have “a chilling effect on our county’s critical health recruitment, teacher retention and economic development efforts.”

On Thursday afternoon, MLAs in the legislature will debate a Liberal motion calling on the government to return to the original 713 policy.

A blond-haired woman wearing a blue top looks over her left shoulder while a man in a suit holds a tape recorder next to her on her right.
Liberal leader Susan Holt hopes some Progressive Conservative MLAs will vote for the Liberal motion calling on the government to return to original policy 713. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Holt hopes some progressive Conservative ministers and MLAs who last week expressed “extreme disappointment” with the policy review process will vote in favor of the motion.

Dozens of emails to politicians

But all elected members are also vigorously lobbied by Action4Canada, a group Gaw founded in 2019.

Breaking: has been copied on 138 emails to county MLAs since Sunday night.

Most of them use a template that thanks Prime Minister Blaine Higgs for the decision and urges him to stand firm and also keep groups like Pride in Education out of the county’s schools.

A man with glasses in a gray suit sits behind a desk with flags behind him.
Education Secretary Bill Hogan told reporters Wednesday that there is no reason for anyone to leave New Brunswick or hesitate to come here. (CBC)

Action4Canada endorses positions on issues such as climate change and COVID-19 vaccines that go against established science and says the United Nations and the World Health Organization are enforcing gender identification policies in schools around the world.

In January, Gaw was barred from giving presentations to a BC school board after administrators stated that her material contained misinformation.

The group has three chapters in New Brunswick in Saint John, Fredericton and Woodstock.

Gaw would not say how many members she has, but said the number “far exceeds” the number of emails sent to MLAs to date.

“We are all over Canada. Our goal is to be in every city and community and build communities of like-minded people with the same concerns for our children.”

She says the policy change in New Brunswick will send an encouraging signal to supporters in other counties to lobby their governments.

She also hopes that Higgs will move on.

She calls Policy 713 “the first step” and points out that some countries, and some U.S. states, ban hormone therapy, which can be part of sex reassignment.

Gaw says she “100 percent, absolutely” wants New Brunswick to do that.

Hogan said on Wednesday that “as far as I’m concerned” the government has no plans for more changes to LGBTQ policies.

The health department did not respond to a request for comment on Medicare’s coverage of gender-affirming surgery and hormone treatment.

Hogan and Higgs have both said repeatedly that Policy 713 is a matter of parental notice and that they will respect all LGBTQ rights.

But Hicks says they don’t seem to understand that they’re fueling a wider backlash.

“As soon as you open a discourse about something that affects someone’s rights in the LGBTQ community, you open that up as a possible discussion,” they said.

Flaro said on a recent work trip to Calgary that she got several questions about “why all these steps back” on Policy 713.

“We need to be so careful as leaders when we look at policy changes, our communicated messages,” said Flaro, who chose not to take the job offer outside of New Brunswick.

Hicks started thinking about returning to the county during the pandemic when it was impossible to visit.

“It just struck me that family is important enough that I wanted to move back home,” they said.

Now they estimate the chance of that happening at about 40 percent.

“And as I watch this, and my stomach gets sick to my stomach, and I lie awake, frankly, about this for the poor kids they’re targeting, I feel like it’s dropping daily.”

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