In a move that has sparked controversy and garnered significant attention, Saskatchewan has successfully passed Bill 137, a contentious piece of legislation requiring parental consent for students under 16 to change their gender-related name or gender identity in school. The bill was passed using a constitutional override after a court had previously granted an injunction that temporarily halted the policy.
Parental Rights vs. Student Autonomy
Bill 137 underscores a parent’s right to be the “primary decision-maker” in their child’s education. It not only involves the pronoun change but also includes provisions for parents to stay informed about attendance, behavior, disciplinary actions, and grades. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe defended the bill, emphasizing its aim to provide parents the “right” to support their children during their formative years. However, critics argue that the policy infringes on the rights of trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse children.
Resignation and Protests
The controversial policy has not been without repercussions. Saskatchewan’s human rights commissioner, Heather Kuttai, resigned from her position, citing the policy as “an attack on the rights of trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse children.” Opposition leader Carla Beck condemned the move as a backward step in the history of Saskatchewan politics. Some students also joined the opposition, staging school walkouts in protest of the policy.
The Power of the Notwithstanding Clause
To push through Bill 137, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe invoked the notwithstanding clause, a mechanism that allows provincial legislatures to override certain sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This clause permits provinces to set aside specific rights for a five-year period. The move follows a trend in recent years where the notwithstanding clause has been increasingly used to advance controversial legislation.
Ongoing Debate on LGBTQ+ Education
This controversy surrounding how schools address sexual orientation and gender identity has become a contentious issue in Canada. It echoes similar debates in other provinces, as last month saw rallies held in major cities, with some advocating for more inclusive education policies, while others opposed such changes, leading to counter-protests.
As Saskatchewan moves forward with this divisive policy, the discussion around the rights of LGBTQ+ students and the role of parental consent in educational decisions remains at the forefront of national debate.