Saskatchewan joins N.B. in changes to LGBTQ inclusion policy in schools

Click to play video: 'Canadian Civil Liberties Association says anti-LGBTQ sentiment on the rise'
Canadian Civil Liberties Association says anti-LGBTQ sentiment on the rise
WATCH: The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says a dangerous trend of anti-LGBTQ sentiment is on the rise. Saskatchewan has created a policy similar to changes made to New Brunswick’s Policy 713, and Manitoba’s premier is promising to follow suit if she is re-elected. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Aug 23, 2023

It’s been two months since the New Brunswick government made controversial changes to an LGBTQ inclusion policy in schools.

Now, Saskatchewan has followed suit.

In a letter signed by the province’s Minister of Education Dustin Duncan, the ministry was directed to review the “health education curriculum and relevant ministry approved or recommend resources to ensure alignment with the intent of the curriculum outcomes, as well as age appropriateness for use in a school setting.”

It used similar language as changes made to New Brunswick’s Policy 713.

“A new policy effective today will require parental consent when students under 16 years old wish to change their pronouns and/or preferred first name,” the letter read in part.

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It repeated the logic used by N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs and some members of his cabinet such as “recognizing the important role of parents in protecting and supporting their children.”

However, advocates say the language in New Brunswick’s changes violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Harini Sivalingam, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said it is concerned about the trend emerging in Canada.

“This is a dangerous trend, (because) governments are supposed to be implementing laws and policies that are constitutional,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Sivalingam said some of the policies being rolled out are blatantly discriminatory, adding queer youth need strengthening and support of their fundamental rights.

The CCLA said it is continuing to review changes to policies and legal frameworks around anti-LGBTQ policies in preparation for a potential lawsuit against the New Brunswick government.

‘Dangerous and divisive wedge politics’

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan aren’t the only ones mulling changes. In Manitoba, on the doorstep of an election, Premier Heather Stephanson is promising to make similar amendments if re-elected.

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But the trend of governments spear-heading policy changes like in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and potentially Manitoba isn’t new.

Political scientist Jamie Gillies said right-of-centre parties were likely already considering changes like these.

“I think what we’re seeing here a little bit is that politicians are responding to their base because they’re not hearing it from elsewhere. It didn’t become an issue until they made it an issue,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Gillies said wedge issues have not worked in Canadian politics.

“We saw this in the United States,” he said. “This is dangerous and divisive wedge politics in Canada — sometimes it might work in an election — but most times … if we have an election this will not be a vote-getter for the Progressive Conservatives.”

In fact, a June 2023 Angus Reid poll showed Blaine Higgs as the second-least popular premier in the country, after least popular Heather Stephanson.

Gillies said it could be Stephanson and Higgs trying to turn the tide for their popularity in the lead-up to an election. New Brunswickers are expecting to face another election in 2024.

“But ultimately, their unpopularity does stem from these decisions, it stems from their management of the government, whether it’s the economy or health care,” Gillies said.


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