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Sask. NDP calls on province to reveal private lawyer spending on pronoun case


The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province to reveal an estimate of how much public money the province has paid to private lawyers for its pronoun court case.

During question period on Wednesday, NDP MLA and Human Rights Critic Meara Conway asked Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre to reveal that number.

“When it comes to the public dollars that are flowing out to a private law firm on that case, the Sask. Party is refusing to disclose the amount,” Conway said.

Conway said NDP MLA and Justice Critic Nicole Sarauer asked Eyre the same question at committee on Tuesday, where Conway said Eyre refused to answer.

“I’ll ask again, how much public money is being spent on private lawyers fighting this pronoun case in the courts?” Conway asked.

Eyre said the reason she can’t say anything is because of attorney-client privilege.

“It’s our position that parental rights are worth defending,” Eyre said in response on Wednesday. “We are defendants in active legislation, Mr. Speaker, solicitor client privilege goes to the heart of any legal case and ensures that strategical and tactical choices to defend that case remain confidential.”

“The retainer is a part of that and subject to that privilege, I don’t intend to violate that.”

Conway said she thinks people deserve basic answers and accountability for public dollars being spent, citing a past carbon tax case.

“When the Sask. Party hired private lawyers to fight the carbon tax case, it cost taxpayers half a million dollars, and the Justice Minister at the time, to his credit, was crystal clear about what costs were being downloaded to taxpayers,” she said. “Things have sure changed with the Sask. Party.”

Eyre said there is an important distinction between that case and the current pronoun policy case.

“In that case, we brought forward the reference,” she said. “In this case, we are defendants in active litigation in a case that was brought against us.”

“Once that case is resolved then all of that information will, of course, come out as it does every year, every single year to private firms.”

Speaking to reporters following question period, Conway said they are interested in knowing the numbers now for several reasons.

“This is a case of considerable public interest,” she said. “I think that a lot of people think this in an example of the government’s misplaced priorities.”

“I think there’s a lot of interest in knowing what this is going to cost, particularly given this is a questionable priority to begin with.”

Conway said she thinks using attorney-client privilege is a deflection on Eyre’s part.

“Even if it applies, the client can waive it,” she said. “There’s examples of previous justice ministers doing just that.”

“They’ve done it before, they can do it again.”

The Parents’ Bill of Rights, initially known as the pronoun policy, requires parental consent when children under 16 want to go by a different name or pronoun at school.

The policy was first introduced on Aug. 22, 2023 and was soon legally challenged by UR Pride, an organization at the University of Regina which offers support for 2SLGBTQ+ students.

The provincial government recalled the legislature early to enact the notwithstanding clause, which was meant to shield the policy from the court order.

However, in February, an appeal court judge said UR Pride’s case could proceed anyway, as the judge could decide if the law violated the Charter rights of children.

The Saskatchewan government turned to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to intervene with the appeal court’s decision and are awaiting the court’s schedule.

--With files from David Prisciak and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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