A Saskatchewan judge has granted an interim injunction halting a government policy that requires parental consent when children under 16 want to go by different names and pronouns at school — and the premier is vowing to take action.
The decision by Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Megaw stops the policy for now.
“On the whole of the evidence, I am satisfied that those individuals affected by this Policy, youth under the age of 16 who are unable to have their name, pronouns, gender diversity, or gender identity, observed in the school will suffer irreparable harm,” Megaw said.
Lawyers for UR Pride sought the injunction, arguing that it could cause teachers to out or misgender children and that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. notwithstanding clause will be invoked to push the policy forward.The province’s lawyers say the policy has been misinterpreted. They say parents should be involved when their children decide to change their names or pronouns. In a statement following the court’s ruling, Premier Scott Moe said the
“Our government will take immediate action to ensure the rights of Saskatchewan parents are protected and that this policy is implemented by recalling the Legislative Assembly and using the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian constitution to pass legislation to protect parental rights,” Moe said.
He said the government is extremely dismayed by the court’s decision, claiming it blocks the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy.
“It is in the best interest of children to ensure parents are included in their children’s education, in their classrooms and in all important decisions involving their children.”
Moe noted that both those for and against the legislation have been publicly protesting.
“We need to have a reactive and a responsive education system here in the province and that is the goal. As we find our way to that policy and the implementation of it, we are always working with our school divisions to ensure that we are supporting all of our students in the province to the greatest degree that we are able.”
Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said that the policy is widely supported by parents across Saskatchewan.
“We don’t plan on amending the policy as it stands today. This policy has wide support from parents across the province that are reaching out to government. We believe that this is the right policy going forward.”
Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said that violating individual rights should not be a decision taken lightly.
“We note that the government is choosing to do this despite today’s injunction which should have given them pause,” Virani said in a statement. “A judge agreed that what the government is doing may cause irreparable harm to some of its most vulnerable young people. Just as important, they are acting before a court has had the opportunity to review their proposed policy for its constitutionality.”
Education critic Matt Love said the government shouldn’t rely on the notwithstanding clause to force the policy into law.
“The government should scrap this policy, which will force schools to out vulnerable kids,” Love said. “The Children’s Advocate has already determined that this policy violates the rights of vulnerable children.”
Love claimed that the Ministry of Education didn’t include the school system in any consultations about the policy.
“They didn’t consult any teachers or any school divisions — and let’s be honest — they didn’t consult parents. They are relying on seven emails from folks. That is not consultation.”
The assembly to pass legislation will be recalled on October 10.
— with files from The Canadian Press.
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