In a bold move, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced his intention to utilize Canada’s “notwithstanding clause” to push forward with a contentious pronoun policy. This policy mandates that young students must obtain parental consent to change their names or pronouns, and it had faced a legal challenge from an LGBT organization, which argued its unconstitutionality. Premier Moe’s decision comes on the heels of a Saskatchewan judge’s ruling to pause the parental consent policy.
Expressing deep disappointment at the court’s decision, Premier Moe defended the policy, officially known as the “Parental Inclusion and Consent Policy,” stating, “The default position should never be to keep a child’s information from their parents.” He asserted that the policy enjoyed the “strong support of a majority of Saskatchewan residents, in particular, Saskatchewan parents.” Moe’s plan is to recall the legislative assembly on October 10th to invoke the notwithstanding clause, which permits a government to enforce a law despite any conflicts with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This pronoun policy, introduced last month in Saskatchewan, prohibits teachers from using preferred pronouns and genders for students under 16 without parental consent. The recent ruling by Regina Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Megaw has temporarily halted its implementation until a full constitutional challenge can be heard in November. Justice Megaw emphasized the need to protect the rights of youth, stating, “I determine the protection of these youth surpasses that interest expressed by the government, pending a full and complete hearing.”
The use of the notwithstanding clause is relatively rare in Canada, but it has garnered attention in the past due to controversies. Critics argue that it undermines the principles of the Canadian Charter. Meanwhile, similar pronoun policies have emerged in other provinces, such as New Brunswick, sparking debates about how schools address sexual orientation and gender identity. Recent rallies in major Canadian cities both in support of and against LGBT-inclusive education policies have highlighted the sensitivity and division surrounding this issue.
In Canada, the conversation on how to balance parental rights, individual freedoms, and inclusive education continues to evolve, with the notwithstanding clause now taking center stage in the ongoing debate.