A shadow of Policy 713 has been cast over Ontario, striking controversy. Following both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce made it clear that the province’s position on the matter seems to be leaning towards parental rights.
Policy 713 was originally legislated in August 2020 to accommodate transgender-identifying students of New Brunswick. The policy was a step forward in creating a safe and welcoming learning environment. It ensured that every school had at least one gender-neutral washroom, and that students would be recognized by their chosen names and pronouns.
Despite this, in May 2023, NB Minister of Education Bill Hogan announced that Policy 713 was under review. In June he announced that changes were to be made.
The source of the controversy was section 6.3.2, the biggest change made to the policy. The beginning reads:
This policy has received heavy criticism, argued to be transphobic and counter-intuitive in terms of student safety. Kelly Lamrock, the child and youth advocate of the province, even found it to violate the New Brunswick Human Rights Act.
Hogan also claimed that teachers and school staff were not allowed to informally use a student’s chosen pronouns without parental consent. Parental consent is exclusively required to change names and pronouns in formal usage. The policy still only enforces the recognition of chosen names and pronouns for students who are 16 or older.
The review and eventual change of Policy 713 was issued due to hundreds of complaints sent to the provincial government, as well as “misinterpretations and concerns,” according to Hogan. Despite this, when Lamrock requested the complaints, he only received copies of three emails, none of which mentioned the specific policy.
Following Hogan’s footsteps on Aug. 22, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Education Dustin Duncan had his own announcement.
“As of today, schools must seek parental consent when changing the preferred name and pronouns used by a student under the age of 16 in the school.”
As it creates changes to the Saskatchewan Education Act, the new policy has received major pushback — so much so that NDP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Matt Love and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association have requested a pause on the new ruling.
A lawsuit was also filed by Advocacy Group Egale Canada, supported by McCarthy Tetrault LLP, on the basis that the new policy infringes on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Upon review, Sasckatchewan’s Child and Youth Advocate Lisa Broda, agrees.
Despite Broda’s recommendation, Saskatchewan’s provincial government has decided to continue trying to cement this policy. As of Sept. 14, Premier Scott Moe mentioned that his party would be willing to use what tools they have available to fight the lawsuit, including the Charter’s Notwithstanding Clause.
Given Lecce’s stance on the matter, tensions continue to rise in Ontario.