The Saskatchewan opposition leader says a new policy on names and use of gender pronouns in schools is motivated by politics and transphobia.
NDP leader Carla Beck called the policy announced by Education Minister Dustin Duncan “reckless, cynical and divisive politics”.
“What we saw from this administration was a policy calculated to solve its own political problems and a policy that we fear will put children who are already vulnerable at greater risk,” Beck said.
“We don’t support kids going on field trips.”
On Tuesday, Duncan announced that schools in the province must seek parental or guardian permission before allowing students under the age of 16 to change what the province calls “preferred” names and pronouns.
Beck said the policy is aimed at trans and gender diverse children, and is a “wedge issue” that has been used by parties in other parts of Canada and the United States.
When asked if the policy was transphobic, Beck said “yes.”
The Saskatchewan government’s gender and pronoun policy follows similar changes announced earlier this year by the New Brunswick government.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the policy changes were prompted by parental complaints, but he has not made any of those complaints public.
The issue sparked debates and protests, and even dissent within the province’s Progressive Conservative Party. A PC minister resigned from the cabinet and two others were ousted after voting on an opposition motion on the issue.
Last week, the New Brunswick Children’s Advocate said the change violates the province’s Human Rights Law, the Education Law and children’s rights.
Beck said she’s not sure how the Saskatchewan Party caucus and cabinet members will react to politics here, but she was “disappointed and frustrated” with members of Prime Minister Scott Moe’s cabinet.
“I suppose that’s a question that caucus and cabinet members will have to ask themselves if that’s what they got into politics for.”
Beck’s caucus colleague, Aleana Young, voiced her disagreement on X, formerly known as Twitter, with a post saying, “Scott Moe and Dustin Duncan are fucking cowards.”
Beck said the policy was aimed at solving a “political problem”
The government also announced changes to sex education in the province, banning third-party groups from performing in classrooms and allowing parents to exclude their children from “all or part” of the Human Sexuality unit taught in schools. of the province, according to Duncan’s letter. sent to all the presidents of boards of education in the province.
Beck said the provincial government adopted policies pushed by the Saskatchewan United Party (SUP) in the recent Lumsden-Morse by-election, in which the SUP came second to Sask. Party.
“I think this is a reaction to a political problem this minister and this government have. It is certainly not a policy designed to improve our schools or make our classrooms more welcoming and better places for children to learn.”
In June, a ninth-grader at Lumsden High School She picked up sex education graphic material left behind by Planned Parenthood after members of the organization showed up at her health class.
Planned Parenthood Regina has said the material was not directly related to the presentation and is not intended for children.
On Wednesday morning, Duncan told CBC morning edition presenter Stefani Langenegger said the controversy in Lumsden left the issue “out in the open”.
“I think parents are getting the sense that maybe they weren’t as involved as they’d like to be in some of these sensitive issues involving their children.”
On Wednesday, Jon Hronek, the SUP candidate in Lumsden-Morse, proclaimed victory for the government’s new policy.
“I’m proud to say that our efforts at Lumsden-Morse contributed to reforms in Saskatchewan’s education system. Next year, let’s elect a Sask United government that will take steps to proactively improve parental rights and child safety. students”.
Duncan says the changes make parents “more involved”
In the interview with Langenegger, Duncan said the changes to the naming and pronoun policy are aimed at increasing parental involvement.
“The government’s view is that parents need to be more involved, not less, and that’s why we’re going to work with school divisions to make sure kids are safe,” he said.
“We as adults put up barriers when it comes to children and I think that’s an appropriate measure.”
The Morning Edition – Sask17:02Sask. The Education Minister talks about a new policy that requires schools to get parental permission to change pronouns.
In both his interview and during Tuesday’s announcement, Duncan did not cite any research that led to the government’s decision.
Asked by reporters Tuesday if the ministry had consulted with the trans community, students or the Saskatchewan Federation of Teachers, Duncan said neither had been specifically told about the changes, but “the ministry has had discussions with various groups and organizations in recent years as policies have developed.
Asked how many students had requested a name change due to a gender change, he said he did not have the information, in part because not all divisions had consistent policies.
Langenegger asked Duncan what would happen in a situation where a child requested a name and pronoun change, but did not feel confident that their parents would notify them.
“There will be a provision that says in the case where a child expresses that there may be a danger in their parents knowing this information, that we need to support that child to get them to a place where, if this is what they feel and this is what they want in terms of how they want to proceed, we need to get them to a place where they feel comfortable telling their parents.”
Duncan said the assumption that children were safer before the policy cannot be tested.
“I don’t think we really know. What we want to be as sure as possible, knowing that every situation will be different, is that parents are involved in what, for many children, this will be, up to that point in their lives, the most important decision they are trying to make in their lives.
The executive director of Saskatoon Sexual Health said the policy change will not provide safety for queer students.
“This is pointing out queer students and highlighting their differences rather than providing a welcoming and compassionate environment,” said Caitlin Cottrell.
Cottrell said she fears that not allowing students to use the names and pronouns they identify with will harm them.
“That feeling of protection and security that Minister Duncan talks about, of being guaranteed a safe learning environment, is not going to be conducive to that. It’s not providing security.”