As Premier Scott Moe announced a number of changes to the provincial cabinet Tuesday, one of the biggest moves comes in the education sector.
Former education minister Dustin Duncan is out of the role, and Jeremy Cockrill is in.
When Cockrill and Moe spoke to reporters Tuesday, questions quickly turned to the province’s recent announcement that will prevent outside groups to give presentations on sexual health in schools.
Sexual assault and LGBTQ2 organizations across the province have been vocal with urges to scrap the policy.
“These policies are not designed to help Saskatchewan students. Instead, they undermine fundamental human rights and contribute to an unsafe and discriminatory educational environment. Policies like these are against the principles of equality, respect, and personal autonomy and are often politically motivated,” the Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan executive director Kerrie Isaac said in a recent interview.
Part of the new policy changes includes requiring students under 16 to seek parental consent to change their preferred names or pronouns at school.
Moe and the government, however, have no plans of backing down.
“The policy itself and by its very design is designed to be an inclusive policy,” Moe said. “It’s designed to include parents in their child’s school and bring parents closer to their child’s classroom.”
Moe said he has heard from families across Saskatchewan asking for a policy like this to be introduced.
“Parents have a responsibility now and an opportunity to become much closer to what is happening in their child’s school, what is happening in their child’s classroom and what the curriculum looks like,” Moe explained. “I would hope that parents take that opportunity and don’t let it pass by.
“It’s a policy that most certainly is supported by 100 per cent of our caucus.”
One of those members is newly-appointed education minister Cockrill. The policy has been receiving national attention over the last week, something Cockrill said is because the policy has support from everywhere.
“There’s broad support across the country for this policy around parental rights and inclusion,” Cockrill said. “As a government, (we) believe that parents should be at the centre of education.
“If you want to play the hypothetical game, if you’re a parent and something’s happening with your child, you want to know. You want to be engaged and involved in those discussions, and this policy does that.”
Cockrill said parents are generally the most important person in a child’s life, so if a student is looking to transition, the parent is in the best position to help support the child.
If the child does not feel comfortable getting consent from the parents to change names or pronouns, Cockrill said there will be supports in place at schools for the students.
“We’re going to make sure that there are supports wrapped around that student in school to bring them to a point where they’re comfortable engaging with their parents,” he said.