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Sask. pronoun policy: Judge to hear arguments in injunction application

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A hearing for the injunction application filed against the Government of Saskatchewan’s parental inclusion and consent policy is scheduled for Tuesday morning at Regina’s Court of King’s Bench.

UR Pride, co-represented by Egale Canada and McCarthy Tétrault LLP, is challenging the constitutionality of the new policy, which requires teachers to obtain parental consent for any student under the age of 16 to change their preferred name or pronouns in school.

Adam Goldenberg, a partner with McCarthy Tétrault and co-representative for UR Pride, argues the new policy discriminates against gender-diverse children, and forces teachers to misgender students and potentially “out” kids to their parents.

“Expert evidence that we’ve filed shows that that is harmful and that causes permanent, irreparable harm to students to deny them that safe, respectful and accepting interaction with a trusted adult in the school learning environment,” Goldenberg said.

UR Pride’s main argument centres on what it believes are violations of two sections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to Goldenberg, the policy violates Section 7 and Section 15, which relate to personal security and equality, respectively.

UR Pride’s legal representatives are seeking an injunction that would prevent the policy from being implemented until a judge can decide if the policy is constitutional.

“If a policy could be unconstitutional and it’s going to inflict irreparable harm on Canadians, in this case, young, gender diverse students in Saskatchewan schools, then the policy should not go enforce and that harm should not be suffered while we figure out if it’s lawful or not,” Goldenberg said.

Late last week, Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth released her findings after a review of the policy.

“Gender identity is a prohibited ground of discrimination under provincial human rights legislation, and the education system has a duty to accommodate the needs of transgender and gender diverse students,” said advocate Dr. Lisa Broda in a press release.

Broda acknowledged that children have a fundamental right to parental support and guidance, but said children’s other rights, including gender identity and freedom of expression, must not be hindered in the process.

Broda agreed with the government’s desire to place a high importance on parent’s involvement in education. However, she said that can be achieved without strict rules around consent, which could result in a violation of children’s human rights.

The advocate made two recommendations, including a policy amendment that would recognize children’s rights to gender identity and expression, remove ambiguities around the scope of the policy and respect the preferred names and pronouns of students able to demonstrate the capacity to make personal decisions.

Broda also recommended the Ministry of Education develop a concrete plan to increase supports to help facilitate parental inclusion when in the best interests of the child.

CTV News reached out to Broda for further comment, but she was not immediately available.

Following the advocate’s report, the Ministry of Education said it acknowledges the comments and agrees that there are “various positive impacts derived from the policy, such as recognizing the importance of parents and guardians in supporting a child’s development.”

“The Government of Saskatchewan remains committed to protecting the right of parents to be involved in their children's education and to implementation of the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy,” a statement read.

Premier Scott Moe has previously stated his government plans to introduce the policy as legislation in the upcoming fall session and will use every tool available, which could include the notwithstanding clause, to protect parental rights.

The court hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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