Hundreds of people gathered in Saskatoon on Sunday afternoon to protest new policies around student pronouns and sex education in schools.
Sunday’s demonstration took place in the Wildwood area, outside the office of Don Morgan, the Crown Investment Corporation’s minister for labor relations and workplace safety. It is the latest in a wave of opposition to education policies announced earlier this week.
“Stop this. It’s not in the interest of saving children or making children safe,” said Fran Forsberg, one of the rally’s organizers. Two of her children are transgender.
“They are endangering young people and children.”
On Tuesday, Education Minister Dustin Duncan announced several new policies around sex education and the use of pronouns in schools across the province.
If a student is under the age of 16, schools must now seek permission from their parent or guardian to change the child’s preferred name and pronouns. Consent is not required for students 16 years of age or older.
Parents and guardians must now be informed about the sex education curriculum and have the option to withdraw their children from participation.
School boards should also stop inviting third-party organizations (excluding provincial government and Saskatchewan Health Authority employees) to present topics on sexual health education in classrooms until the Department of Education finishes reviewing their submissions. materials for the curriculum.
Meanwhile, only teachers can teach sex education in the classroom.
The announcement stems from an incident that occurred at Lumsden High School in June, just before the end of the school year.
Planned Parenthood Regina, a sexual health clinic that offers community programming, among other things, presented in a ninth-grade health class on contraception, consent, and sexually and blood-transmitted infections, which aligned with the curriculum.
The presenters left additional resources if the students wanted to learn more. A student picked up a copy of a deck of cards titled Sex from AZ, which was unrelated to the presentation and not age appropriate.
The new policies are an attempt to further involve parents in their children’s education and create uniformity among school divisions when it comes to addressing these issues, Duncan previously said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Moe posted on social media defending the policies.
He has been touring the province and, at “every stop,” has received positive responses to the new policy, he said.
However, since Tuesday morning, the move has been strongly opposed by the opposition NDP, educators, health professionals and sexual health stakeholders, suggesting that the policies could harm transgender and non-binary children as well as well as students in general, through less sexual education.
“Kids do better [in school] when parents are involved,” said Matt Love, an NDP education critic who attended Sunday’s rally. “The fact is that these policies are forcing schools and teachers into a position that could put kids in risk”.
Lisa Broda, an advocate for children and youth in Saskatchewan, has announced that her office will review the new pronoun policy, which she said they were not informed about.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on protecting human rights and freedoms, suggests that the pronoun policy specifically discriminates against gender-diverse students and could violate privacy rights if someone was discovered.
Critics have questioned which experts the government consulted when crafting (and moving forward with) the new education policies, as there is a body of research suggesting just how damaging they could be.
Breaking: asked Duncan that question earlier this week. He declined to answer directly, but said the government would conduct future inquiries and investigations.
At every stop these past few days, we’ve heard positive feedback about the new education policy on Parental Inclusion and Consent.
I was asked which experts we consulted to create the parental consent and inclusion policy.
I believe that the main experts in raising children are their parents.
On Sunday, Moe acknowledged on social media that she had been asked the same question.
“I think the main experts in raising children are their parents,” he said.
‘It’s not safe to involve all parents’
People who spoke to Breaking: on Sunday did not fully support Moe’s belief, because not all parents are open to gender diversity.
Teresa Mead, a therapist, has consulted with schools to identify safe people — teachers, in particular — with whom gender-diverse youth can talk between therapy sessions, she said.
“They need to be validated in the world they live in,” he said.
Mead has also seen the role teachers can play in her personal life. Mead is an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ community, she said. However, her own son waited nine months to tell him that he was transgender.
Her son first told a teacher, Mead said.
“They were still worried that I would kick them out of the house,” he said.
Wilbur Braidek, 14, calls the new pronoun policy “really stupid.”
He changed his preferred name last year, so for him, the new policy (and the accompanying paperwork) would be an inconvenience “just to be called by my first name,” Braidek said.
Braidek changed her name without telling her parents, said Jessica Fraser, her mother.
“It’s not safe to involve all parents,” he said.
“Our kids should be able to be themselves in school. School should be a safe place, where you can trust the people around you and be yourself, and sometimes home isn’t that.”
Don Kossick, who was made a Member of the Order of Canada this year in part for promoting human rights and social justice, was in the crowd in Saskatoon on Sunday.
He wants the government to “immediately back off and apologize,” Kossick told Breaking:.
“They have caused a commotion in this province. It is not fair, and it is not fair for people who want to be who they are,” he said.
Trans Lifeline provides a national phone line operated by transgender people for people who are transgender or who question their gender identity. Canadians can access support by calling the 24-hour service at 1-877-330-6366.