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Canadian lawmakers take steps toward protecting parental rights

Provinces grapple with recognizing parental rights in school gender policies

Protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Sept. 20 Associated Press/Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Canadian lawmakers take steps toward protecting parental rights

Christian mom and Canadian TV talk show host Faytene Grasseschi started a grassroots organization in June to advocate for parental rights in Canada. She founded Don’t Delete Parents after Blaine Higgs, premier of the New Brunswick province, added parental notification requirements to the education system’s existing sexual orientation and gender identity policy.

“I appreciated his stance and believed he represented the majority view,” she said. “Our petition gave citizens a chance to express their appreciation for his work on this.”

Grasseschi’s group collected over 9,000 signatories from across Canada, which could help Higgs if his political party decided to call for a vote over whether he should stay in leadership.

“I think most parents are deeply uncomfortable with the idea that schools would actively keep anything from them that pertains to their children,” Grasseschi said. “Equally concerning is the possibility that some children might be encouraged to hide things from Mom or Dad. This is a dangerous precedent.”

In New Brunswick, disagreement over the policy reflects the debate occurring in other Canadian provinces. But while some politicians propose measures that safeguard parents’ rights, some national leaders and LGBTQ organizations are pushing back.

The New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development originally enacted the gender identity policy in August 2020, requiring public schools to use LGBTQ students’ preferred pronouns, make available at least one gender-neutral restroom, and offer LGBTQ-specific professional development resources.

Higgs’ Progressive Conservative Party government, a center-right political party in New Brunswick, conducted a review of the policy in May, referencing parent complaints. In June, Higgs amended the policy to require schools to receive parents’ permission before referring to students under the age of 16 by pronouns that do not match their biological sex.

Higgs’ policy amendments garnered backlash from LGBTQ activists, with many protesting outside of the New Brunswick Legislature on Wednesday. Higgs also received opposition from dissenting members of his party who pushed for a vote over whether he should remain in leadership, but the number of valid requests fell short.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit earlier this month, claiming that New Brunswick’s policy changes violate children’s rights to equality and nondiscrimination under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a component of Canada’s Constitution. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also criticized the changes while at a Pride event in Toronto.

But other Canadian provinces are also pushing for similar policies. On Sept. 7, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said that his government will introduce legislation this fall that would involve parents in the classroom. In late August, Saskatchewan’s former education minister, Dustin Duncan, introduced a new policy that prohibits third-party organizations from delivering sexual education courses and granted parents the authority to withdraw their children from such classes. Additionally, he enforced a requirement for parental consent for children under 16 who wish to use different names or pronouns while at school.

As in New Brunswick, opponents filed a legal challenge against the Saskatchewan policy, arguing that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moe announced that to protect this policy and future law he would go as far as using the notwithstanding clause, enabling his government to pass laws that temporarily supersede specific Charter rights for a maximum of five years.

“Given the importance of parents’ involvement in their child’s life and specifically in this case their child’s education, we are very serious,” Moe said. “Serious enough to introduce legislation to protect parental rights when we return to the legislature.”

In Manitoba, whose provincial election is set for early October, the province’s current Progressive Conservative Party Premier Heather Stefanson has campaigned that she would expand parental rights in the province’s policies if she is elected this fall.

Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has also said that LGBTQ decisions should be left to parents. Earlier this month, delegates voted on party policies at the Conservative Convention in Quebec City. They voted to approve policies protecting minors from transgender surgeries and safeguarding single-sex spaces designated for women. However, the party has no obligation to include the accepted policies in its platform.

Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, hinted at upcoming changes to pronoun policies, saying at a news conference that “parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children.”

The Christian Heritage Party of Canada, a minor social conservative party, advocates for Canada to be governed by Christian principles and ethics. Its leader, Rod Taylor, said his party has been advocating against the breakdown of the family since Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005.

“In Canada, some politicians are waking up—and they may only be waking up because they see the political benefit in it,” Taylor said. “We’ve been saying it [even] when it was a political hindrance.”

A recent study done by the not-for-profit Angus Reid Institute found that 43 percent of Canadians believe parents should be informed if their child wants to go by different pronouns. As public opinion begins to shift, Taylor hopes that people can recognize the innate nature of mankind.

“People need to remember where the roots of these things are,” he said. “I think we have to back up further and declare that God made us male and female for a purpose and that that distinction should be honored in our nation.”

Alexandra Ellison

Alexandra Ellison is a graduate of World Journalism Institute.

These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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