Policy regarding gender identity and parental rights sparks controversy

(Courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

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:

“Formal use of preferred first name for transgender or non-binary students under the age of 16 will require parental consent.”

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.

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By Kieran Lee


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Frank Sterle Jr.

I can appreciate parents’ decisions to homeschool their children, especially with the proliferation of mandatory K-12 sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in public schools.

As for the public-school system, I’d like to see child-development science curriculum implemented for secondary high-school students. It would also include neurodiversity, albeit not overly complicated.

It would be mandatory course material and considerably more detailed than what’s already covered by home economics, etcetera, curriculum: e.g. diaper changing, baby feeding and so forth.

I don’t think the latter is anywhere near sufficient (at least not how I experienced it) when it comes to the proper development of a child’s mind. For one thing, the curriculum could/would make available to students potentially valuable/useful knowledge about their own psyches and why they are the way they are.

Additionally, besides their own nature, students can also learn about the natures of their peers, which might foster greater tolerance for atypical personalities. If nothing else, the curriculum could offer students an idea/clue as to whether they’re emotionally suited for the immense responsibility and strains of parenthood.

There’s so much to know and understand about child development (science) in order to properly/functionally rear a child to his/her full potential in life.

By not teaching child-development science to high school students, is it not as though societally we’re implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount, if any at all, of such vital knowledge they happen to have acquired over time?

Frank Sterle Jr.

Meantime, in protest to newly mandated elementary school curriculum that teaches something undoubtedly controversial, a picket sign read, “We don’t co-parent with the government”. But maybe a lot of incompetent yet procreative parents nowadays should.

Owing to the Only If It’s In My Own Back Yard mindset, however, the prevailing collective attitude (implicit or subconscious) basically follows: ‘Why should I care — my kids are alright?’ or ‘What is in it for me, the taxpayer, if I support social programs for other people’s troubled families?’