News

Published October 12, 2023

Saskatchewan government tables school pronoun bill, invokes notwithstanding clause

By Jeremy Simes in Regina

The Saskatchewan government has tabled legislation and the notwithstanding clause to prevent children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental consent.

A judge granted an injunction at the end of September pausing the Saskatchewan Party government's pronoun policy.

Premier Scott Moe pledged the same day to recall the legislature early to put the policy into legislation and invoke the notwithstanding clause. The clause is a rarely used provision that allows governments to override certain sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for up to five years.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said Thursday he was pleased to table the parents’ bill of rights act.

"Parents should always be involved in important decisions involving their children," Cockrill said in a news release.

Opposition NDP house leader Nicole Sarauer said the bill tramples on the rights of children

"Here's a government willing to call a sitting in an unprecedented way, change rules of procedure … to pass this bill.

"Way to go guys, and doing it for the purpose of using the notwithstanding clause to trample on the rights of children."

The bill says if it's believed a student would be harmed because of the pronoun consent requirement, the school's principal is to direct the student to a counsellor.

It also says parents must be given at least two weeks' notice before any sexual health content is presented in schools so they can withdraw their children.

Moe has said the policy, announced in August, has strong support from the majority of Saskatchewan residents and parents.

Saskatchewan's child advocate Lisa Broda said in a report that it violates rights to gender identity and expression.

Lawyers for UR Pride had sought the injunction, arguing the policy could cause teachers to out or misgender children and that it violates Charter rights.

A judge ordered the injunction until a constitutional challenge can be heard in court later this year. 

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2023.

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