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Sask. MLA: Only 'gay agenda' is keeping 'queer and trans kids alive'

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Saskatchewan's only out, gay MLA spoke for nearly six hours Wednesday as the province's opposition NDP continued to delay the passage of a controversial piece of legislation.

"I'm not honoured to stand and talk to this, but I will stand and do my duty as a legislator in defence of human rights; in defence of the most vulnerable in our province, especially the queer and trans community of which I'm a part," Saskatoon-Meewasin MLA Nathaniel Teed said.

The majority Saskatchewan Party government introduced its "Parents Bill of Rights" last week after recalling the legislature early to pass the bill into law. Under the legislation, schools would be required to alert parents if a youth under 16 asks to use a different pronoun or name.

"I represent a minority community that has had a history of oppression. I have a duty to raise the voices of my community and nowhere in my career thus far has it been more pertinent," Teed said.

"I want to say that the only 'gay agenda' I have in front of me today is to keep queer and trans kids alive. I want them to still live, as long as it gets better, until the point where it gets better," Teed said during his remarks.

Members of the opposition NDP have been taking turns speaking for hours at a time in an attempt to stall the legislation.

"Sometimes a parent or guardian is not supportive. Sometimes they kick kids out of their house. Sometimes those kids run away from home." Teed said.

"Sometimes it takes other affirming and caring individuals in someone's life."

During his time, Teed cited statistics showing trans youth face an increased risk of self-harm and homelessness.

"It's an attack on the most vulnerable one per cent of our population and I really do believe this is a calculated political move," Teed said.

While the Saskatchewan Party government extended debate on the bill from 20 to 40 hours, its passage appears to be a foregone conclusion after the time expires.

The government plans to shield the legislation from Charter challenges by invoking the federal notwithstanding clause. The move was announced after a King's Bench judge ordered a pause on the policy until it could be reviewed in court.

"The government's using the notwithstanding clause to force teachers to out vulnerable kids," Teed said.

"They're going forward even though they know that it's a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

While he held the floor on Wednesday, Teed read letters from those critical of the bill, including a trans person who shared their experience of being outed to their parents prematurely by someone who breached their confidence.

"The impact on my relationship with my parents was immediate and profound. I felt growing isolation at home. The toll on my mental health was significant. I experienced anxiety and depression as I grappled with the aftermath of being outed," Teed read into the legislative record.

The school pronoun policy was first announced in August after the upstart Saskatchewan United Party carved out a significant slice of the vote during a by-election in a Saskatchewan Party stronghold.

Saskatchewan United campaigned on the controversy sparked by a Planned Parenthood sexual health resource that was provided to Grade 9 students in the town of Lumsden.

"After the loss of some votes in (a) stronghold of the Saskatchewan party government. We saw the government just absolutely lose it," Teed said.

"They still won the seat, Mr. Speaker. Yeah? (They) just didn't have ballot boxes full of ballots."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said the proposed legislation "is an opportunity for parents to reassess their involvement in their child's life."

"Let's not forget this is about supporting children, bringing parents closer to their child's education."

Moe said members of his caucus "are very much supportive of this policy due to the conversations that they have had with their constituents across the province."

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